How should we approach setting goals to make the most out of them? Setting goals for our work is only helpful insofar as the goals we set are ambitious enough to propel us but realistic enough that we can reasonably meet them without getting discouraged. Sustainability is the key here. If you set a series of goals that you have almost no hope of meeting, you’ll get discouraged and quit even bothering to try to meet them. Still, don’t set simplistic goals that you can meet without working hard or you aren’t getting most out of yourself.

It’s tempting to do just enough to feel like you were productive and quit for the day. Instead, use goals to push yourself a little bit further than you would go on your own. It will take some trial and error to figure out how you work, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Maybe you work by the hour or the day. Maybe you’re better equipped to meet average weekly or monthly goals. Maybe you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment only when you complete a section or an entire chapter. Try different things to see what works then stick with what does! And remember, sometimes you have to call a day a wash and start fresh in the morning. The goal will still be there and, if you’ve set it properly, will still be something you can reach.

Some words of advice:

  1. Word count is more reliable than page count because page count can be manipulated by different word-processing programs, by font sizes, by fonts in general, by kerning and margins, by any number of conscious and unconscious choices. Word count is a more standardized metric for measuring productivity.
  2. Keep an outline and check off completed elements on it. It’s a small trick, but those little things can help you feel like you’ve accomplished something important!
  3. Set small goals; meet them; then set larger ones. Strive to meet those, too, but if you repeatedly fail to do so, reevaluate them and reset them to something more manageable.
  4. Share your daily/weekly/or monthly goals with a writing partner, your significant other, or a good friend. Make sure this person is someone who will feel comfortable holding your feet to the fire.
  5. Hire a writing coach to help you identify goals and establish a plan for meeting them.