Wednesday, September 30, 2015

How I set huge goals without getting crushed by them.

Friday's post got two comments by J.H. Moncrieff and Kelly Hashway (both ladies have awesome blogs, by the way), which basically came down to "How do you keep getting so much done?" and "How do you handle your discouragement if you achieve your goals?" 

Since it isn't the first time people asked me, I thought I'd go into my madness/method once more. Actually, I'm going to share my big secret: 

I set huge goals and then make a game of chasing them. 

If I think about it in an attempt to explain myself, it's a lot like a perpetual game of soccer/football/rugby/whatever else you can think of involving points. Or maybe I'm playing a game of Quidditch, because I remember that some of those go on for a while. The only thing here is that I'm both sides. Misha the writer/doer-of-things vs Misha the procrastinator. 

The more things in a day, the more times I score. And yes. I keep track. 

If you look closely, you'll see I have two Excel spreadsheets open. I open them up the first thing every morning. 

The first is this one: 

This is where I keep track of my writing/editing goals by month. This was September, but at the end of each year, I create a spreadsheet for the next year. (2016's is done too. I did it this month to take a writing break.) Basically, it started as a way for me to keep track of my rough draft's word counts and daily progress during NaNo, since counting by hand is a bit of a pain in the butt, so it's easier to only count toward the total and then subtract to find what I've written in a day. 

The big block on the left is for rough drafts and rewrites and the block on the right is for my edits. (I count edits by hour instead of words.) 

I have another block each month for critiques, but including it just makes the whole thing too small to see. Anyway, on all of the blocks, I color-code my progress so that I can see at a glance what I've been doing. I can also input monthly writing and editing goals (say 10k words and 15 hours respectively), and the spreadsheet calculates my totals, cumulative totals as well as daily goals and cumulative totals. In other words, this thing helps me keep track exactly the same way as NaNoWriMo's stats do. 

The other spreadsheet I have open looks like this: 

The words are pretty squidgy so it might be hard to tell, but you're looking at the month of September. Each color-line in the calendar other than turquoise represent particular monthly goals I've set. You know the ones. I set them on this blog on the last Friday of every month. The key to those goals are in the multi-colored blocks at the bottom. I try to keep themes. (Such as the Purple involves stuff I still have to do for The Vanished Knight. The dark green was for all my writing this month. Yellow was for my reading (and to count the average hours spent reading) and orange are my life goals.) Every theme/color has a primary, secondary and tertiary goal, as well as a space for me to mark them as in progress or complete. 

In other words, this little bad-boy is my score card. The things written in on the calendar aren't a to-do list. They're everything I've done. Every day. Saturdays and Sundays tend to be emptier because I let myself rest, and also because they're spent on less quantifiable things like spending time with my family or binge-watching series to recover from my hard work. 

This month, everything except for eight tasks (out of 24) had me making at least some progress (two of which were postponed due to circumstances beyond my control.) Of the remaining 16 tasks I set myself this month, I completed 4 plus a bonus task for that rough draft I hadn't set a goal for, so 5. Of the 12 remaining, I made significant progress on one. So all in all, I might not have finished the majority of my goals, but so what? Everything I did only sets me up to finish them next month or the next or whatever. But in the meantime, I know that very few of my weekdays (six) went without me furthering my writing goals in some way, and I compensated for those by working in on Saturdays. 

Also, to help keep things balanced, a quick glance at my word-count reveals that though I didn't achieve everything I set out to do, I still finished a whole round of edits, a full rough draft and about a third of my planned rewrite in one month.

In short, I won this round by a wide margin. Starting tomorrow, I get to see if (and how far) I can win again. 

And yes, this came is huge fun. There's nothing as awesome as marking things as complete when you have things to do and goals to achieve. 

What about the bad months? Oh I have those too. Usually, what I do is I focus on what I have achieved. (I almost always get something done.) Also, it helps me to keep a long term view in mind. 

How long-term? Well. The Five Year Project runs from 2014 to 2018, but the timeline I have (the one I always post on my update days) have projects pipelined. And to give you an idea, this is what the Project looks like visually at this moment. (Each row is a project, each column is a month and each block is a year.) 

Each orange block means something's been (or will hopefully be) published. If I can just get half of next year done, I'll be a happy camper, and currently, I'm pretty much set to get there. All those tasks that didn't quite get done in any single month still add up to me finishing things, so there's no reason to worry about any supposed failure. There are no failures here. Only failure to do things, and I know I will get to them at some point.

What about you? Do you set goals? How do you keep track of them? 


  1. My goals tend to be more flexible, since I never know when the baby will get sick or a kid will dive-bomb into the pool and require stitches. I organize by days. There are two hour-long blocks in the week for critiquing, three to five for reading (AKA research), and time every day for writing...if I have enough brainpower after schooling the kids. Here's to pressing forward, no matter how many difficulties get in the way!

  2. Your spreadsheets are so very impressive. I make goals, but I'm pretty flexible with them. I've got to set them around family and make sure that there is time in there in case something unexpected happens. I have a page on my blog for them, but I edit as the year goes on. :)

  3. Very interesting and I appreciate you sharing this. It's giving me ideas of how to become more organized. Your organization is a work of art!

  4. I'm overwhelmed by your system, much less the amount of stuff you get done.

    I'm three quarters through your book, and it's an awesome read- what you're doing is working!

  5. I don't keep track of my goals through a spreadsheet, although I've considered it. I make yearly ones and usually midway through I have to realize not everything will get done, but I still like to make big goals. I feel if I set the bar too low, then I won't push myself to see how much I can accomplish. It always feels so good to mark things off as complete.

  6. These spreadsheets boggle my mind! I couldn't keep up with something that expansive. I can hardly set daily goals for myself.

    Typically, I'll have monthly goals that I set at the end of the month before and each week are specific tasks I try and get done to achieve those goals. I need to start writing more daily, if anything though.

  7. You are amazing Misha. Your spreadsheets look a bit intimidating, but that's just because excel is my least favorite program. You go girl! You keep chasing after your goals. I have no doubt you will reach them all.

  8. How curious! I've started something similar this month to help me climb out of the rut I'd fallen into this summer. Goals feel so much more manageable now, and each one accomplished brings on a good feeling. Glad I'm not the only one who thought of something like this. :)

  9. I do set goals. At the start of every year, and then usually on a month-by-month basis. I've fallen out of that habit a little (a lot) this year, but I'll get back on track next year because I hate not accomplishing my goals.

    Those spreadsheets of yours are amazing.

  10. I agree with Alex. I'm not that organized. Everything writing is done by the seat of my pants.

  11. I don't set writing goals. I've found my children are far too time-demanding, so much so that I can't sit in one place long enough to even use a computer when I'm home. Thus all my writing is squeezed into time I can spare at work. Poor excuse, but kids are great at taking blame. :D

    Good job at making and surpassing your goals. Keep it up!

  12. I love that you set goals and hold yourself to them. Every time I try to do that for myself, and it's an issue of publishing, things go straight to hell. Largely, it takes me longer than I thought it would (or should) and I ruin my schedules because they become impossible. If I knew how long something would take, I'd probably be better at scheduling it out. As it is, I don't think I'm going to manage to release more than a book a year for a VERY long time. We shall see. Good luck, and keep up the hard work!

  13. Wow, you just made my head spin! I can't imagine being able to keep track of things that way, though I wish I could.

    I have to admit that just the word "spreadsheet" gives me hives, though.

    I do set goals, but they have to be flexible because of all the journalism, editing, and publicity clients I take on. I'll map out what I want to achieve by the year's end, and then I meet regularly with my writing group, which keeps me accountable. New projects I never anticipated always crop up, and I like being flexible enough to take advantage of them.

    Since my goals are extremely ambitious, I never get everything done. But I get more done than I would if I didn't set goals at all.

  14. I have a board over my desk which lists my long term goals as encouragement to do things towards achieving them. I also keep track of what I've done so I can see if I'm really making progress or just wasting time online and convincing myself that as I was at the desk typing all day I must have done some work.

  15. I have micro-goals! I write my daily goals every morning, but I also have weekly and monthly goals. Every morning (in theory) I check off what I got done the day before. :)

  16. This is incredible, you are highly organized... I am not that adept at excel... I keep thinking I need to take a beginners course so that I can at least do the basics and have spread sheets... You are doing great and I agree we should make our goals larger as we will never grow otherwise xox

  17. Crystal, you're my hero to write while having so many claims on your time.

    I also edit my goals quite a lot, Christine. Although I don't change the yearly goals, because I want to see how much of what I set actually gets done. I'm not punitive about not living up to my goals, though, because I know from the start that they're too ambitious to actually manage in one year.

    Thanks TBM. :-) Glad if you find the post useful in some way.

    Yay! Thanks Elizabeth!

    I look at it exactly the same way, Cherie.

    Madilyn, monthly goals are good. I've found the best way to get into writing daily is to set a small daily goal (say 500 words). It's really to just get into the habit. Eventually, it comes naturally.

    Murees I love Excel. It'd really have annoyed me to do every single calculation I wrote in every day. :-D

    It definitely works for me, David.

    M.J. I think you had a bit of a rough year, so don't beat yourself up too much. Once you set your big goal, sign up for my bloghop? ;-)

    Sometimes, simple goals are just the ticket, Alex. I just get bored easily, so I set a ton of goals so I have plenty of options and challenges.

    Shelly, I used to be laid back when it came to goals, and then one day I just realized how much time I'd wasted on meaningless things. (Like channel surfing.)

    Hahaha Loni. Quite a few mentioned their kids as reasons why they can't set fixed goals like mine. (I think you guys are awesome to write despite the many distractions.)

    Nah Rena. If you look at 2014 and see all the yellow blocks for Wo6C1 and Wo6C2, most of them were publishing problems on top of publishing problems. I just postpone and adjust my goals accordingly.

    J.H. my goals are actually a lot more flexible than the spreadsheets make them look. The fun thing about the way I keep track is the ease with which I can shift blocks around. (Cut and paste.) I'm in the same boat as you when it comes to achieving my goals. I know from the start that I won't actually achieve everything I set out to do, but I believe in aiming for the stars so I can land on the moon. :-)

    Patsy, that's a great way to do it.

    Derriereinchair, sounds like we go about goals in a similar way.

    Launna, excel is one of those underestimated programs that's really useful if you know how to use it.

  18. Wow. Impressive.You're so organized that your charts look like works of art.

    I tend to set grand goals and achieve them, only by taking small bites at a time...until I'm almost there and open my eyes to the finish line. Then I take huge bites.

  19. Your organizational skills are very impressive. Mine? Not so much. I tend to set flexible timelines for my goals, because there are a lot of variables in my life over which I have... and don't want... control. For example? One somewhat spur-of-the-moment retired husband, several gal pals, and thirteen wonderful grandchildren.

  20. Oh, hey, welcome back! I admire your powers of organization. That's way beyond either of us. Frankly, that's why we have each other. Knowing that the other person is waiting for a section to be finished puts pressure to finish things quickly. No one wants to be the guy that says, "Yeah, it's been 2 weeks and I haven't written anything. Sorry you keep waiting on me."

    If it was just solo, well, I'd probably never get anything done.

  21. Love it!! I do like my spreadsheets for work and for creating a series bible, but I don't think my right brained tendencies would let me do this! It's obviously working for you, though!! Nice :)

    I tend to think in scenes and set my goals that way. Your way is much MUCH more efficient!! :)

  22. You go, girl!
    About the only thing I use a spreadsheet for is visiting blogs around release days and tracking information when I'm outlining a story.
    By the way, I read the first in your series and really enjoyed it. I left a review at Amazon.

  23. Way to go, Misha!

    One thing that I've noticed about these huge goals, especially watching others fulfill their goals one step at a time, is that I keep feeling inspired to get things done. And, when I hit the end of the month, I realize I've accomplished more than I ever thought I could . . . every single month. Even when I feel like I've failed, I start tallying up my goals and find out that I had success, maybe not full success every time, but more than I would have if I hadn't set those mammoth goals and reached for them.
    Thank you so much for your dream goal hop, Misha!

  24. First, thank you for the kind words. :) Second, you've amazed me even more. These are incredible spreadsheets. I use my day planner to chart my goals and I LOVE checking things off. So I basically break my goals up into daily tasks. When I get ahead and start crossing off things for the next day, I feel like I won the lottery. ;) It is fun to make a game of it. Thanks for sharing your process.

  25. This is overwhelming and impressive!!


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