Saturday, February 23, 2019

Update Day: Setting Goals

Believe it or not, it's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another Update Day. Since this post is about me finally setting my goals, get ready because it's going to be a long one.

To help you out, the first part is about how I'm doing and what I've been up to in February. Then at the first subheading, I start talking about how and why I set my goals.

I have to say, I'm feeling rather frustrated writing this. We're two months in and it still feels like I haven't really sorted anything out yet. I haven't been able to write since stopping in January.

It's just that nothing seems to fit into my days anymore except for work. I mean, I've decided on my goals at the end of January and have been keeping track of what I'm doing, but when I look at my "done" list for this month, it's all work-related with a few things like "unpack laundry" sneaked in.

Yeah. Right now, I'm still so busy that putting laundry (that I didn't even wash myself) into a cupboard is not a chore, but a daily goal.

So I'm finding that a tiiiiiiiiiny bit frustrating.

That said. I haven't only been working. The truth is, I feel like I've burned out last month much worse than I wanted to admit at the time. So much so that when I feel even a little tired (like after I've finished my work day), I just can't make myself write a much as a blog post, never mind working on fiction.

Instead, I've been working on some crafts. One of my best friends is expecting her second baby, so I'm busy crocheting a blanket. And when I don't feel like crocheting (because it's a bit less than nice to work with wool when it's this hot), I've been working on my needlepoint tapestry. I don't know if you guys even remember the one I'm talking about. I started it like three years ago.

It's a 138k-stitch monster of a thing. But I just felt like I wanted to work on it, so that's what I've been doing for fun. I'm finding it really soothing too, because it makes me not think about anything. How?

See those little ants running down one side of the black blocks, those are individual stitches. I'm working from a chart, and that means for every stitch I'm making, I'm counting up or down and then left to right. If I don't do that, I put the stitch in the wrong place, which is seriously going to suck because it's not really something that's easy to fix later. Because fixing a needlepoint tapestry stitch means ripping it and all of the other stitches I made with the same thread out and starting again.

So it absorbs a lot of attention and basically my usually noisy brain basically goes one two three four one two three stitch for hours on end.

But I digress. In January, I promised to share more information on my goals once I decided what they are, so here's what I did.

Starting Big and Drilling Down

Starting off, I decided to set multiple 5-year goals. These give me the framework of "Where do I want to be five years from now?" Some of them, I'm hoping to achieve in a shorter time, like my income goal, because I have already actively been working at that for a long time already. These goals are meant to be ambitious and can be as nebulous and "impossible" as I like. Why? Because the idea is to drill down into each one and find the things I can do daily to make them more possible. 

My Five-Year Goals Are: 

1) Earn $7500 a month from my writing and publishing skills
2) With a third of those earnings coming from publishing my own writing
3) Be healthier
4) The start-up I'm working on will be off the ground and self-sustaining
5) Do more art (that isn't writing)
6) Read more
7) Speak seven languages proficiently (if not fluently).

One thing worth noting here is that three of my goals is about "work" and three are about "don't work all the time, kid." It's basically about me looking to find a sense of balance. I can set up to ten of these goals, but for now I don't really want to do that because I think all of these goals are pretty big and all/consuming. So these are the ones I believe I can manage chasing at the same time.

From my five-year goals, I narrow down to my one-year goals. Now here is where I start to make my goals SMART.

For those of you wondering what SMART goals are, SMART is an acronym, which stands for:

S - specific, significant, stretching

M - measurable, meaningful, motivational

A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented

R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented

T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable

Mostly my goals are specific, measurable, achievable, reasonable, and time-based.

In other words, by drilling down from my five-year goals, I take things that are mostly out of my sphere of control and doing the things I can control. Because each step I take brings me one step closer to making those impossible things possible.

My One-Year Goals

1) Write/Edit 250,000 words
2) Publish Wo6C3
3) Write Wo6C4
4) Read 12 books
5) Get to a healthier weight 
6) Finish one of my art WiPs
7) Improve my French

The top three goals are all writing goals, because right now, the own-writing side of my career is more of a priority right now and together they are aimed to add to my first two five-year goals. 

I set the goal of 12 books because that equates to one book a month, which feels doable, even if it is somewhat of a stretch. 

Given the approach I've taken to losing weight, I'm probably not going to hit my goal weight in one year, but I hope to at least be in a lower health-risk class be the end of the year. 

My art WiP will probably be the baby blanket I mentioned, because that has a June deadline. But if I do achieve my art goal, I'll probably just set another. 

With regards to improving my French and also my seven-language goal... I already speak four languages. In order of proficiency, those would be English, Afrikaans, French, and Mandarin. However the French and Mandarin are really more faded memories because I don't practice them enough. So the idea is for me to freshen up those two first before I move on to my next languages to learn. I'm still a bit torn on what I want those to be. I can go a really easy way and go for something like Dutch (which is close to Afrikaans), Spanish (close to French), and Italian (close to French and Spanish). Or I can go for more useful to me, which would be Spanish, German, and Arabic. Or I can just go be really random and go for something like Norwegian, Japanese, and Gaelic. I'll see what I feel like when my French and Mandarin are up to scratch again. 

Back to my goals. I broke my one-year goals down into quarter goals, which got broken down into monthly goals, which get broken down into weekly and daily goals. 

I try to limit the number of my quarterly and monthly goals to around five each, as it's more about focus than anything else. Weekly and daily goals can go up to ten each, and can relate to any of the bigger goals I've set. 

So for example, even though my yearly goal is about my weight, I can set a daily goal that's about my mental health because it relates to my five-year goal of being healthier. 

But since my quarterly goals are pretty much impossible, given that I couldn't do anything towards them for two of the three months, I'm going to skip to listing my monthly goals. 

Goals for March

1) Finish the freelance editing job I was booked for.
2) Write/edit 10,000 words.
3) Crochet 21 afghan squares for the baby blanket
4) Finish unpacking (yeah six months in and I'm still not done.) 
5) Read one book

So with the writing/editing goal, I'm not really being specific yet because I just want to get back into writing again. Once I can get into that routine, I can get back to focusing on any one project. 

With regards to reading one book, I'm actually in the middle of two books. One I'm reading for work (but also because it should benefit my writing/publishing goals) and one is in French, so either one I read will actually contribute to more than just my reading goal, which is handy. 

Bu yeah. I've finally set myself some goals. Now it's a matter of figuring out how the heck I'm going to achieve them. 

What about you? Do you set SMART goals? How's your year going so far? 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Update Day: Taking Action

Usually, Update Day is on the last Friday of the month, but even though last Friday really sneaked up on me, I actually did remember. It's just that I've been so crazy busy this month that I had my first mini burn-out on Friday and that lasted straight into the weekend.

Yes, I'm fully aware that having the first burn-out of the year within the first month of the year has to be some sort of record. But let me explain.

I managed to rest for all of three days before the extra jobs (as in the ones not associated with my main contract) came in. And boy did they. I had something like a bumper month where I never had fewer than two jobs to do at any one given time, and all of them were on short deadlines.

The problem with that was... I need to work a certain number of hours at the contract job to ensure I get the monthly income I need to make rent etc. and my editing work just seriously started cutting into my work hours. Except... if I only did my editing work that came in, I wouldn't make rent. So there was the problem.

I didn't want to let anyone down, but I also didn't want to not get my contract hours in. So.... I started working between 18 and 20 hours per day (including weekends) to get everything done. I managed that, but then had to increase my daily contract work hours to make up the shortfall because the editing still took up most of two weeks.

And then I suddenly had three projects that I had to finish writing in a week (plus the research). This I managed. But I literally had to work non-stop on Friday to get everything in.

So when I was done, and I still had my blog post to write, I just felt like crying.

At which point I decided to give myself the entire weekend off with no screens (except Netflix) so that I could recover.

Fortunately for me, I did.

But the thing is, it made me realize that I had to change something for my own well-being. 

I worked until I was exhausted and that also made me feel sick. And if I kept it up, I definitely would have derailed in some way or the other. But that did give me the impetus I needed to make a change I'd been worried about for months now...

My freelance rates and turnaround times. 

See, when I got started, I really stressed how fast I can work and how relatively inexpensive I was. It was my way of getting into the market. It was good, and for quite some time, I never felt the impact. First, because I didn't have anything else to do. Then because I basically entered a quiet editing time while working on my contract. 

But this month when everything crashed together, I realized that I could no longer deliver work in seven days unless I was compensated for the fact that I was taking time away from my other contracts. 

So I completely restructured the way I charge for my work, which you can check out on Fiverr

I used to be somewhat worried about making this change. What if my clients didn't come back? What if I didn't get any more orders? 

But the last month has shown me that I'm willing to only work on my contract rather than 1) burn out because I have too much to do or 2) take a knock on my income because I wanted to keep my editing prices low.

So that's basically what my January was about. How about you? Are you also working on changing things this year? How is it going?

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Got Goals? Bloghop: Rethinking Things

Click here for more information or to join in.

I somehow managed to skip the entire month of December, which I suspect is something I've never done in all the years I've been blogging. But the truth is, I've been procrastinating on doing this post.

I've been looking for either that sense of optimism with which I attacked my goals pre-2014... or the grim-but-hidden-under-a-thin-veneer-of-optimistic determination I've resorted to since that damnable year, but as the end of 2018, I found very little other than introspection.

Yeah. As I'm writing this, I realize I'm either going to have to heavily self-censor before posting, or just accept the fact that sometimes, being honest means being a bit of a downer.

So maybe let's just start with some good news. That would be that I'm fairly certain that after five years of disaster following disaster... my family and I are doing... okay.

But the truth of the matter is that getting us here meant that I had to make some serious sacrifices in my writing, social networking, publishing, health... Basically almost every aspect of my life. So 2018 ended on a high note... But it also exacted the heavy cost of everything I'd tried to defer paying on for five years.

And... After the reckoning... I just realized that... I, the person you had known from this blog, had mostly been obliterated in 2014 and the years that followed. And as things grew harder and harder, the more I withdrew from social media, because I simply couldn't maintain a facade of being happy. And it's not just my social media. It's my social life in general. I have to admit that I largely withdrew from everything, simply because I couldn't stand the thought of lying, but also didn't want to be that person who complained and bemoaned their fate the whole time.

It didn't matter as much for the better part of five years, because there's barely breathing room to think about anything but surviving the next disaster. But now that the dust is settling, I'm starting to realize that almost nothing I had before is left to me. It's quite an isolating, indescribable feeling. Perhaps the closest thing I can relate it to was going into a war for my life and somehow managing to win... and still come home to discover I lost everything anyway.

Where does one go from there?

This is something I've been grappling with since November, but there are no easy answers. But this past five years have been the closest thing I've experienced to living in a story. Right down to the dastardly evil deeds, face-heel turns, and a massive climactic moment. Right now, I'm feeling like I'm at the resolution stage of that story. 

And I've learned I'm a being of incredible power and resilience. A force of nature of unlimited potential. 

But I find myself yearning back to easier times. Repeatedly trying to do things that hearken back to those times in the hope that if I can get back onto that track, I can go back to the same trajectory I had been on. 

The thing is... that's not possible anymore. 

It's kind of sad to realize, and yet, it's exciting too. Because at the heart of it, it means that I'm at a new chapter in my life. I get to start from scratch.

The problem I'm having as of now (and the reason why I left this post until the absolute last) is that I don't know how far I want to take this "from scratch" idea. Because I actually feel like I really have to re-evaluate my priorities and how I'm going about them.

Which means that some things that I've been doing for the better part of a decade might end up being cut out of my life or otherwise cut right down to the absolute basics.

So for now, I decided not to set any official goals other than my five-year goal of earning $7,500 per year from my writing skills. For now, I need to figure out what I want, in what order, before I lock myself in for the year.

How are you doing? Are you setting goals for 2019, or are you also holding off for a bit to figure out what you want?