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Tormented by Toothless Writing Goals? Try These Tools

Competitie voetbalwedstrijd /  League soccer match [1]

Whether you’re ready to renounce slackerdom, or simply hope to increase your writing production, you’re probably contemplating what you want to get out of 2013. With this post, I hope to set you up for success.

Begin with a step recommended by psychologists, coaches, and efficiency experts. Draft goals with teeth by using the SMART format [2].

Though you’ll see variation in what each letter stands for, here’s the gist:

Examples of SMART writing goals:

The mere crafting of SMART goals is seldom sufficient.

Most of us begin the new year with good intentions, but we’re vulnerable to stumbles and detours, particularly if we lack external accountability from agents and editors. We develop sieve-brain and conveniently “forget” our daytimers and spreadsheets. Eventually we stop tracking our progress.

The good news is that it’s never been easier to increase external commitment, whether to oneself or others.

From the Friendly to the Hardcore, Options to Increase Accountability:  

1. Writing communities and forums:

On the pro side, these are often free or inexpensive places to gain encouragement. They provide a big variety of writing experience and wisdom.

On the con side, they:

2. Critique groups:

In order to qualify as a member, some critique groups establish minimal standards of words crafted and feedback provided. Does yours? If not, if it’s free-form, it might suffer from the same drawbacks as the option above.

3. Accountability Partner:

A single person with whom you’ll share your goals and track your progress on a predetermined frequency. (Often done weekly, monthly, and yearly. Some supplement with daily, rapid check-ins.)

4. Mastermind Group [4]:

Typically a group of 5 – 8 people who meet weekly for one hour. (In person or online via Skype, Google+, etc.) In a given session, they focus their efforts on one pre-appointed individual who recaps their goals, progress, and obtains advice and feedback where required. If time permits, other members check in briefly.

Whether you go with an accountability partner or a Mastermind group, you’ll want people who are:

5. Personal writing coach:

There are teachers and published writers who call themselves writing coaches. Some freelance editors provide deadlines and one-on-one coaching. Since this is potentially expensive, and an area ripe for scam artists and the unqualified, be diligent if you go this route. Do background checks and get referrals.

6. Habitforge.com:

I’ve been using Habitforge for a few weeks now and am surprised by how much I enjoy it. It’s cloud-based. The website asks you to name a habit you want to establish, the reasons you want to accomplish it (both positive and negative), and it sends you daily email reminders.

You can decide if you want to set a 21-day goal — the estimated time it takes to establish a new habit — or a repetitive, long-term one. You can tweak individual goals to be private or public. There’s also a community grouped around common goals.

If you’d like to try HabitForge for free, go through THIS LINK [5] . (You’re allowed one habit indefinitely on the ad-supported version.) At some point, if you decide to upgrade to a year’s membership with support for unlimited, ad-free habits, Writer Unboxed has been able to get you a discount by becoming an affiliate.

Use the coupon code “Writer Unboxed” at checkout and receive 25% off their $10 annual fee.

Want to connect on Habitforge after? I haven’t cleared this with the Mod Squad, but I bet they’d let us share usernames on WU’s Facebook page [6].

7. Stickk.com:

Hoo boy. This site is fascinating [7], and the most hardcore I’ve found, probably because it’s been established by Yale economists and legal types. To participate, you:

Why haven’t I gone this route when I know it would be a powerful tool?

Frankly, at first the requirement for some deep thinking. Faced with that kind of skin in the game, I had to retool my goals along more realistic lines. Ultimately, though, I’m not crazy about the site’s privacy policy given how much information it requires.

However, it’s a highly educational place. Nothing would prohibit an individual from recreating the model elsewhere. Do check it out, if only to learn.

When you establish goals, do you use the SMART format? What’s the best way you’ve found to hold your feet to the fire?

About Jan O'Hara [8]

A former family physician and academic, Jan O'Hara [9] left the world of medicine behind to follow her dreams of becoming a writer. She writes love stories that zoom from wackadoodle to heartfelt in six seconds flat: (Opposite of Frozen [10]; Cold and Hottie [11]; Desperate Times, Desperate Pleasures [12]). She also contributed to Author in Progress, a Writer's Digest Book edited by Therese Walsh.

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