Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Be SMART: Prioritize Your New Year’s Goals

With the new year only days away, many people will be making resolutions that they probably won’t keep, regardless of their good intentions. I don’t mean to sound pessimistic; after all, I like to set goals each year too. However, I’ve observed that if people actually kept their resolutions, the media probably wouldn’t report on the same ones every year.
That raises the question: Why don’t people keep their resolutions?
A couple years ago, my supervisor introduced me to the SMART mnemonic for setting and achieving objectives. Whether you’re applying it to your professional or personal life, it may help you define your goals or refine them as the year progresses.
In short, SMART stands for:
“S” – Specific
“M” – Measurable
“A” – Attainable
“R” – Relevant
“T” – Time-bound
Here’s a practical example: You’re a writer. Your goal is finish your rough draft by July. That sounds like a specific goal and a time-bound one. However, it lacks “meat.” You have to flesh out the details. How are you going to measure your progress and attain the goal? Perhaps you have to reserve so many hours a week to write or set word count benchmarks.
By nature, I am a planner, so creating a list of SMART goals isn’t difficult for me. I’ve discovered that the heart of the matter is setting priorities. As the year begins, I find myself “taking on” too much– and I know I’m not the only overachiever out there.
For 2012, the magic word for me be “prioritizing.” Perhaps it will be the same for you.
As I look back on my list of goals for 2011, I am happy to say I was able to cross several off the list and honest to say that some will be rolling over to 2012. But that’s the beauty of a new year. As Anne Shirley told Marilla in Anne of Green Gables, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”
What are your goals as a writer this year? How do you intend to stick to them?

Monday, December 5, 2011

What We Can Learn from “A Wonderful Life”

One thing I enjoy this time of year is watching the Christmas specials like “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life.” One of my friends recently reminded me of a line that guardian angel Clarence tells George toward the end of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Clarence says, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
We as writers can get easily discouraged. An e-newsletter I receive from American Christian Writers noted that writing is a profession with a 99 percent rejection rate. Ouch.
By nature, we want to succeed. As writers, we want to make a difference. However, many times, we simply can’t know what impact our writing is making in other people’s lives.
I like what Helen Keller said. Though she was not talking about writing, I can see an application for writers. She said, “I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.”
That reminds me very much of something Jesus told his disciples in Luke 16:10. He said, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”
As Clarence told George, we may never know what an “awful hole” we would leave if we weren’t around. We may not be able to see the impact of our writing, but we can trust that at least in some small way, our writing is touching someone’s life. So press on.