Tag s | Time Management

Meet Writing Goals Like a Pro

Gregg LeVoy, in his book This Business of Writing, says:

All achievements begin as pictures in someone’s mind, and the more clearly they are held there, the more easily they can be hewn onto paper, stone, and playing field.

Businesses are no different. They work better when you have a picture to work from. If you can hold solidly in your mind the picture of what you want your writing business to become, without losing it in the static of a million competing impulses, all the better; and I envy you. Otherwise, write it down.

Years ago, after having been a pastor for seven years, I was transferred into an office job in publishing. I decided the relatively set work hours (unlike the 24/7 job of pastoring) presented an opportunity: I would write a book.

My two children were young enough that their bedtimes preceded mine by a couple hours, so I set a series of goals. I would write for the two hours (or so) between their bedtime and mine.  I had outlined a book of fourteen chapters, so I decided that I would complete a chapter a week on my trusty manual typewriter (oh yeah, that’s how old I am). If Saturday night arrived and my chapter for that week wasn’t finished, I determined that I wouldn’t go to bed until it was, even if it meant pulling an all-nighter. (Since I was no longer pastoring, I reasoned that I could always catch up on sleep during the sermon at church the next morning, which is hard to do when you’re the preacher, but much easier when you’re not.) I don’t think I ever had to write all night, but I did stay up late several times in order to meet my goal of a chapter a week.

Each Monday morning, I would take the typewritten pages into the office, where we had a scanner, computers, and an early word processing program. After fourteen weeks, I had a first draft of my manuscript, complete and digitally preserved.

That book didn’t become my first to be accepted for publication; but it was later revised, professionally edited, and traditionally published. And I think it happened because my special brand of obsessive-compulsive disorder translated, whether I realized it or not, into a few pro tips:

  1. Define your objective—what you want to accomplish (e.g., complete an article or a book, write a book proposal, book a writers conference, etc.).
  2. Break it down into the incremental steps it will take to achieve the objective.
  3. Set a specific, realistic, measurable goal.
  4. Give it a deadline, a time frame by which you’ll accomplish your goal.
  5. Build in triggers—rewards or adjustments, like my all-nighter trigger.
  6. Re-evaluate along the way if you get sidetracked.
  7. Start again at #1.

To be fair, I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing each of those steps. It was more instinctive than anything else. But that goal-setting process has since been repeated many times. It doesn’t guarantee success when I reach my destination, but it does help me get to my destination. And, often, helps me move on to the next challenge.



Leave a Comment

The Automatic Writer

My coffee maker is on a timer. My thermostat is programmed to different temperatures at night and by day. My computer screen even dims to a softer hue as the day progresses. I try to automate everything I can, believing that the fewer tasks I have to remember every day, …

Read More

Ever Had One of Those Days?

You are going along with your tidy t0-do list decorated with empty check-boxes waiting to be marked. And then, WHAM! You get hijacked like the rhino in today’s picture and carried off to some unknown destination. Hours go by and you are tossed to-and-fro by this new crisis and that new …

Read More

The Elephant’s Goin’ Down!

by Karen Ball

You remember the old adage:

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time!

As I’ve reviewed my calendar this week, I’ve realized that’s what I’ve got on the screen in front of me. An elephant.

Maybe two.

And they’re reaaaaallly big.

SO many things to get done before I board a plane early Wednesday morning and wing my way to Dallas for the ACFW conference. As if that elephant wasn’t big enough, there’s the one sitting there, reminding me that I won’t be able to work on anything on my list while I’m gone. As I take it all in, one thought fills my mind:


It would be so easy to just shut off the computer and go hide someplace. Like a nice, quiet closet. Where there’s no phone calls.

Or emails.

Or texts.

Read More

The Perils of Social Media

Facebook. Twitter. Shoutlife. LinkedIn. Dopplr. Google+. Plaxo. Blogger. WordPress. Shelfari. Goodreads. Writer’s loops. Conference loops. Endless loops.

By the time I finish updating my status, writing my blogs, tweeting, pasting my bulletins, my newest pictures, my URLs and YouTube links, recruiting friends, recommending friends, sharing reads, rating reads, ranking reads, ranking friends, tagging friends, responding to posts, responding to friends, responding to blogs, ranting, reblogging, re-bulleting, re-accepting (plants, gifts, pinches, bits o’ karma, flowers, flare, tickles, candy, drinks, siege warfare by angry goats and lil green patches–what the heck is a lil green patch anyway??) it’s time to repost my status–and respond to those responding to my status who are reading their walls, shuffling friends, organizing bookshelves, recommending contacts and waging mob wars.

By then, the day is over. I have missed my hair appointment, my deadline and a conference call, needed to go to the bathroom three hours ago, blown off dinner, ticked off my friends (who live in town and did not check my wall to see why I never showed up), neglected my Significant Other, alienated my family, and defaulted on my mortgage.

Read More