Friday, 4 December 2009

Dangerous goal setting

Goals should be something one wants to achieve. They should be specific and they should be attainable.

I am pretty sure now that I am NOT going to achieve my goal number 36: To have written 50,000 words for my novel by 31st December 2009.

It absolutely is and was something I want to achieve. It is specific and at one point, at least when I wrote down my 100 goals, it seemed attainable.

BUT, while it may have seemed and even been attainable, my actions since 30th October have made it less and less so and, compounding this, it was probably not a wise goal to set.

I remember roughly working out how many words I would have to write daily to achieve this goal, around 355 words a day. There have been months this year when I have exceeded that and I hoped that having finished studying for the winter I would be able to easily achieve this.

However, I have been more tired than I expected after finishing studying (for some reason I never expect to be tired after a long period studying... but reality usually kicks in pretty quick). Also, I started taking my son to Judo classes which has eaten up another evening. Another evening I have used up by helping my church get our new building project finished. Throw in a desire to spend more time with my family after being so isolated the last nine months and I have had no more time to write and feel like I've had less energy too.

If I had been working towards a new daily goal of 355 words a day, I would have written 8875 words since the end of October. As it is, I have only managed 3714. That is an actual daily word count of 148.

I am disappointed I am not closer to 50,000 words. That will be a major milestone for me. I set such a high target because I have signed up for an intensive 60 credit level three course next year that will take me within 60 credits of completing a degree. (If you're curious, check out the course: Managing complexity: a systems approach). I am expecting it to be quite complex. Reality is I am not going to be able to set high targets for any other goals until this course is finished in October 2010 and as I've already identified another 60 credit course I want to do immediately after that, probably finishing summer 2011.

So, should I have written down goal 36? Probably not. If I had honestly evaluated whether I could achieve it or not, I should have concluded no. Writing 14,000 words in two months is achievable but for me at this time, it was a stretch target, something I hate when used in a work situation as it usually means an unrealistic goal that can only be achieved by sacrificing other equally important things such as time spent with family.

On the other hand, had I not set an almost impossible goal, I might not have had the focus I needed to identify and begin dealing with a major problem with the pacing of my novel. I still have a lot of work to do on the plot and pacing but I've made some good progress this month and even reached a stage where I was able to ask a few friends to give feedback on the first episode.

What do you think? Have you been able to learn from mistakes when setting your own goals?