A Simple 5-Step System for Reaching Your Creative Goals
This time of year, it’s impossible to avoid the topic of goal-setting. It’s less than two weeks before Christmas, and the New Year is quickly approaching. It’s a natural time to reflect on the past year, and consider what we want to accomplish in the coming year.
A little math
Let’s do a little math. What if you spent just one hour each weekday working on a major creative goal or project? Over the course of a year, that adds up to over 250 hours, or over six 40-hour workweeks.
What could you do with the equivalent of an extra six weeks over the next year? You could write a book, read a bunch of books, start a business, get healthier, learn a new creative skill, plan an overseas trip, write a musical, start a podcast, or any of a hundred other things.
One thing that I always keep in mind is this: any goal that improves my life also improves my creativity. Any goals related to health, finances, relationships, spiritual growth, or another area that enhances your life will also help you be more creative. In that sense, all positive goals are creative goals.
So how do you use a year to its full advantage? How can you make your vision a reality? Over the last couple of years, I have used a very simple, 5-step system for creating and tracking my goals. I encourage you to review these steps and use what works for you.
A 5-step system
1. Set goals that will stretch you, but are realistic.
When I think about my annual goals, I try to aim for 25% more than what I think is realistic. This way, the goal is still in the realistic range, but it will stretch me beyond what I think is possible. (For a great book on goal-setting, check out Ready Aim Fire! A Practical Guide to Setting and Achieving Goals by Jim Woods and Erik Fisher.)
I shoot for 5-7 major goals for the year. Any fewer than that, and it’s not as much of a challenge. Any more than that, and you will set yourself up for failure because you’re trying to focus on too many things.
2. Write down your goals where you can see them often.
A goal is not tangible until you write it down. I keep a list of my goals in Evernote app. I have a separate note for each goal, where I include the specific goal (i.e. “lose 20 lbs. by June 30”) as well as my motivations for achieving the goal (i.e. “Because I will feel better, look better, and have more energy for my work and family”).
I keep a list of all of my goals in an Evernote notebook called “Goals” (pretty creative title, eh?). I also have a shortcut to this notebook so I can quickly access it on my laptop and phone.
The tool isn’t important. Use what works for you. The important thing is that you write down your goals and why you want to achieve them.
3. Track your progress and adjust as necessary.
Every week, either on Sunday evening or Monday morning, I do a weekly review of my goals. I don’t make progress every week. In fact, sometimes I fail miserably. That’s okay because at least I know where I stand in relationship to the overall goal.
Each week I have a specific target for most of these goals. (I don’t work on every goal each week.) For instance, it might be losing 2 lbs., writing a certain number of words, or having a date night with my wife Melanie. I write this down in Evernote so it’s a concrete target.
I review my goals several times a week and make adjustments as necessary. I also establish targets one or two months in the future for specific projects such as a book launch or online course I need to finish.
4. Get support and accountability from friends.
You will reach more of your goals if you share your progress with others. Being a part of a mastermind has been very important in helping me make progress toward my goals. Every week when we meet, I walk through the goals I set for the past week, any progress I made toward them, and what I plan to do the coming week.
It’s important to have a supportive team who will encourage you to be your best, but will also challenge you to reach higher than you would on your own.
5. Make a little progress every day.
Darren Hardy, publisher of Success magazine, wrote a great book called The Compound Effect. The essence of the book is that successful people make positive incremental changes, and over time those changes produce huge results.
Every single day counts
Remember that success is a marathon, not a sprint. When you look at others who have been successful, remember that they have worked for years to get where they are. They have put in the time and are reaping the rewards of their effort.
Don’t get discouraged when you see the distance between where you are and where you want to be. Success isn’t a destination that exists in the future. Success happens every day when you make good choices that propel you toward a better future.
Every single day counts. In fact, all you have are days. Your life is just a collection of years, and a year is just a collection of 365 days. Make every day count.
When Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, he began with a detailed plan. What’s your plan? As an artist, you value creativity, fresh ideas and being spontaneous. But inspiration is worthless unless you follow it with action.
These 5 steps comprise a system that is simple, but certainly not easy. Nothing worthwhile is every easy. But over the course of a year, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish when you set goals and make steady progress toward them.
Do you have a goal-setting process? How has it worked for you so far?