The ABCs of Specific Goals


I practiced something in November, December, January, February, and March that I have not bothered with at all through April and May, and I feel that this is largely the difference in productivity in the first five months, and the lack of productivity in the last two months.

The difference is not the goals that I set, but how I've managed those goals. In other words, the goals are the same, but I've stopped making daily, specific to-do lists, have stopped biting off little chunks of each goal, and have settled for a more abstract direction.

It was “Do ABC for XYZ.”

Then it became only “Do XYZ.”

Without the specific goals (the ABC), I have had trouble understanding exactly what I need to do each day, and more often than not, I've done nothing.

Having future goals as opposed to present goals is important, but future goals are usually going to be more abstract. “Finish your novel” is not very concrete, whereas “Rewrite chapter 1 on Monday” feels specific and tangible. I can bite into it!

With nothing but abstract goals, I get lost, unsure of what to do, where to go, how to do what I need to do. Following daily, specific goals helps me break down the tasks and get to where I'm headed. Just checking off a list each day is a great motivation and provides the extra oomph! of feeling accomplished.

For the last two months I've only had the goal of getting a few stories and a few nonfiction books done. The deadline was by the end of this year. Very vague, of course. And as a result, I've managed to write one rough draft of one of the nonfiction books, and rewrite one short story, woeful production compared to what I was grinding out in December and January. 

In the first five months I managed to publish a novel, two short stories, posted blog posts regularly at three a week, and market all of that.

I at first thought this was due to the hangover of editing and publishing my first novel. But then something happened on Sunday. While meditating, I had ideas for several blog posts. I wrote them down in the form of a to-do list, and later that evening I wrote the rough drafts of those ideas, and managed to complete one other task besides.

Voila! I suddenly had one of the most successful and productive days in weeks, no longer struggling to figure out what to do. I had my work cut out for me, and with clear direction, I found the work easier.

The same happens when I write rough drafts or work on rewrites. If I have an outline to go by, some direction, I'm a much faster writer. I can then manage 5,000 words a day, sometimes even 10,000 words. Without a detailed outline, I can cover just 1,000 or 2,000 words in any given day.

This is a perfect example of my output for five months compared to the two. November through March were each “5,000 words a day” months. April and May have been “1,000 words a day” months. That's a 5:1 ratio. I was five times more productive then than I am now. Shocking!

And all because I was keeping specific goals. Hard to believe I can reach my destination faster with a map than without one, right?

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5 Responses to The ABCs of Specific Goals

  1. It's much easier to get things done when you break it down into smaller manageable goals. Glad you got a lot done and hope you continue to do so.

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  2. This is exactly what I've found to be true in my own writing and editing. The year of writing a daily devotional gave me such focus and drive - I was on a schedule! When I dropped to being committed to only two a week, I actually went through what I called my "mourning period" - missing my routine and unable to pluck up the energy to begin editing my novel.
    Glad to share that sad time has passed, and I am on my editing schedule. It's working!
    By the way, if you haven't already, you can go to my new fb page, The Glade, which will track the progress of my novel from editing to publication.
    Blessings, J.R., and thanks for a wonderful post!

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  3. You said it well!! That is exactly what I do. Daily specific to do list, that are steps to reach my future goal

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  4. Couldn't have said it better. I try to keep my goals as specific as they can be. Might need a little bit more thinking but it points me exactly to where I want to go or what to achieve.

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