Goal Setting

According to my local radio, 47% of us forget to floss our teeth daily. 47%? That means more than half the population is lacerating our gums with mint-flavoured string every single morning. I don’t believe it. (Straw poll – leave a comment if you floss every day, proclaiming the fact loud and proud. I’ll send you a bag of sweets to bring you down to my level!) Personally, I discovered a long time ago that if I aim to floss daily, as recommended by my dentist, I just never do it. Maybe once or twice a year, just before an appointment with him.

But here’s the thing (and also the point at which this blog post becomes about writing again, rather than oral hygiene), if I set myself a more achievable goal, like flossing once a week, suddenly I hit the target. I even occasionally over-achieve and do it twice in 7 days! Crazy stuff.

With NaNoWriMo just around the corner, lots of writers are setting themselves ambitious goals right now. 1667 words in a day is actually not as much as it sounds, but doing that every single day, on top of your day job, life and normal writing commitments, for a whole month, is a challenge for many people. Winners of NaNo are right to be proud of themselves. Those who use it as a springboard to kick-start their writing for the rest of the year, even more so.

I enjoy NaNo and I hope to keep doing it for the foreseeable future, but for the rest of the year, I’ve discovered I work much better with achievable goals than crazy ones. When I started this blog, I promised myself one post a week. Now I’m up to three, with occasional daily projects like Voice Week, the 12 Days of Christmas and my recent series on Novel-Planning. And I still enjoy it, I still find topics to write about, and (most amazingly of all) I still find people reading them all!

Starting small works for me – give me a to do list with 5 things on it and I’ll do them all, by lunchtime. Double it to 10 and I’ll achieve 3 across the entire day.

So what I need to do now is work out how to apply this self-knowledge to my long-term writing goals, and in particular to the editing process which a couple of my longer pieces are waiting to undergo. Suggestions are welcome. I’m also interested: how does goal-setting work for you? Do you work better under the pressure of too much to do? Or are you a small-starter like me?

And how many times a week do you floss your teeth?

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “Goal Setting

  1. I floss once a day, mostly out of bleary eyed ‘first thing in the morning’ habit.

    And what I have come to discover is that the worst time to floss, is when you are half asleep. Blood everywhere 😮

  2. I find that I work well under intense pressure, so long as the pressure is short term. NaNoWriMo is great for me because I can deal with that kind of pressure for a month, but ask me to write 1,667 words a day (or even 1,000) without an end in sight and I shut down.

    I find the best way for me to achieve writing goals is not to set them, but sometimes that backfires and I don’t get anything done. Haven’t found the perfect combination yet to keep on target…

    • An interesting mix, Victoria. I know what you mean about long-term pressure; I think that’s why I can’t work with high-pressure goals anymore, because there’s no end in sight. It does still work for me for NaNo, so I can’t be completely burnt out yet!

  3. john from Scotland

    Well now no comment on flossing except I wonder if even the dentists do it at least daily as they recommend!
    On the target setting I too can be overawed if I have too much to do whereas a heavy but with an almost achievable workload I will achieve most of it. Perhaps a challenge to the academic amongst the visitors to do a thesis on the psychology of targets!!!

    • My problem with the almost-achievable list is that the same item gets procrastinated every day. I need to have an entirely-achievable list so that I have no choice but to do that last thing on it!!!

  4. I want to tell you I floss every day just so you’ll send me that bag of sweets 🙂 but I’d be fibbing if I did 😦
    I’m sure I could be an Olympic Gold medalist at procrastination if they added it to their list of sports! I haven’t signed for NaNo yet; my finger keeps hovering over the sign-on button. I keep reading about the many people who are already planning their plots etc but my inner voice reminds me about the three novels I’ve already started and not finished and I wonder if I’m crazy to even contemplate trying to fit 50,000 words into November when my to-do list is already longer than than that proverbial piece of string. I make lists, frequently, but if I don’t tick off everything I feel bad and that slows me down even further. I do tend to get more done if I have a lot to do rather than just a few things so I am thinking adding the NaNo might be helpful…and, long term, get me motivated/inspired to finish at least one of the other three come December, January or sometime in the next decade.

    • No sweets for liars! You’d blame me when your teeth fell out!
      If you haven’t tried it, i would say to give nano a try, mainly because it will help you find the writing time in your day. But also, you could always make one of those halfwritten projects your nano project, if you want to be a rebel!

      • Thank you – I’m very much a rebel hiding behind a ‘mild-mannered, eccentric writer exterior’ 🙂 And perhaps it wouldn’t be cheating if I called it a sequel, pre-quel or something like similar! And then I could satisfy my sweet-tooth with a bag of sweets as a reward for finishing on 30 November (and as a dangling carrot for the tough days) as long as I floss and brush carefully afterwards 🙂 I won’t tell my dentist if you won’t!

  5. Oops – I’m afraid I’m on the nerdy/OCD side here – I floss every morning and after every meal. 😦 Unfortunately such dedication doesn’t apply to setting writing goals – but I can live in hope…

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