How to Set Goals

sundialI am a failure at meeting big goals.

This year I tried to game the system — my personal system, I mean. I signed up for on-line goal setting challenges. I read books about setting goals. I wrote down all of my goals. I opened an Evernote account and wrote all of my goals there. I downloaded Evernote onto my phone.

Finish current novel. Return to previous “new” novel and finish that, too — by July! Put together a new poetry manuscript. Submit 50 sets of poems for publication. Submit all short stories. Lose ten (more) pounds. Declutter house. Submit novel to ten contests. Attend PNWA conference in July. Send novel to 30 new agents.

After setting it up, I never opened my Evernote file again. I did not finish the work I had planned for either of the novels. I did not submit any poems or stories. I entered one novel contest and didn’t even get a reply, let alone a place. (Scratch “attend conference” off list.)

Not long ago I confided in my friend Priscilla Long that it isn’t working. What do you want? She asked me. I want to make progress, I said. Specifically? she prodded. Okay, I hemmed and hawed a little, then answered, I want to write for four to six hours a day.

You can’t work for four or six hours, Priscilla said. You can only work for fifteen minutes. 

Oh, I said.


“Be Gentle with Yourself”

It’s so irritating to realize (at my advanced age!), that this lesson, which I have already learned and more than once, must be circled back to and learned again.

It’s the wisdom of small steps. It’s the wisdom of accumulated effort. I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, or if Priscilla, having gone through this with me numerous times before, just knows that it’s true for me. But I have to start with fifteen minutes. I have to turn over my quarter-hour glass, or set my phone timer, or go to and set that. Then, I focus. I can focus, intensely, for fifteen minutes. Frequently (usually) I end up working for fifteen minutes 2 or 3 times in a row. Frequently (usually) I end up working for a few hours. But it starts with fifteen minutes.

I am a genius at meeting very small goals.



2 replies
  1. Bea dM
    Bea dM says:

    Your original Evernote goals made me smile – somehow they have to be big to feel like goals 🙂 I do like the little 15 minute blocks, and might try a quarter hour glass too!


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