by Francine Puckly
A new year. A blank slate. An empty calendar.
With the holiday drain behind me and a relatively quiet month ahead of me, I sit down during the lull of New Year’s Day and begin my dreaming for the year ahead. A deep breath, a freshly brewed cup of chai warming my hands, my favorite pens and loose-leaf paper. These are my companions as I lay down my 2012 aspirations on paper.
I learned early on in this writing journey that I cannot establish my career and writing goals in a vacuum. My love of family, music, photography and travel are intertwined with my writing life. My annual goals must encompass my personal and other creative goals.
In addition, one-year goals feel too small to a procrastinator like me. One year isn’t far-reaching enough to encompass the larger creative projects and life goals I have. When I consider the size of the mountain I’m climbing on my way to publication of long manuscripts or in saving enough money to take a safari, I have to look beyond twelve months to put these plans in motion.
I begin with three-to-five year goals. For me, giving myself these extra few years allows for vision. I don’t feel as constricted or filled with the same level of anxiety that short-term goals often induce. I dream bigger and better because the timeline is “so far out there” I don’t have to worry about the reality of each step…yet.
So I sip my tea and let the questions roll in front of me. First, what was good about this past year? What were my accomplishments, and most importantly, did I astonish myself this year? Did I break out of my shell and try something new? Did I achieve a goal that I thought was impossible? Were my disappointments avoidable or just part of the journey? What goals were unrealistic? And are there any goals from last year that aren’t worth pursuing anymore?
Once I have an understanding of the recent past I can look forward. Where do I want to be career-wise in five years? Will I have one or two manuscripts ready for publication? With respect to travel, will we have taken the trip to Montana as well as vacationed in Spain? What is an affordable and realistic timeline? Then I consider my passion for photography, music, and outdoor exercise. I enjoy these activities and am happiest when they are part of my daily and weekly life. I make sure they are incorporated into my calendar along with other activities.
I break these five year goals into relatively solid yearly goals for the next several years. Only then can I begin filling in the details or activities necessary to meet my 2012 goals. These goals translate into quarterly, then monthly, and finally weekly tasks. All of the activities should move me toward the December 2012 goals, keeping an eye on 2013 and 2014 as well. These goals and tasks are my guiding beacon in the months ahead.
My planning process is not rocket science, but this exercise is something I look forward to each year. I steal a couple of hours away from the holiday hubbub to make myself and my dreams a priority. Just for a day. Just for a week. Just for a year. Because in front of me is a new year, a blank slate, an empty calendar, and a small list of carefully chosen and achievable goals.
For more blogs, check out Francine's past blogs on goal setting and other writing topics at www.24carrotwriting.com.