Stepping Up for 2018—The SMART Way

steps up to 2018“There are two types of people who will tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world: those who are afraid to try and those who are afraid you will succeed.”
– Ray Goforth

 

We’ve survived a full-week of 2018, ya’ll. 🙂 I hope it’s shaping up to be a good one for you—so far it has personally been 1000x better than 2017’s first week for me.

Last week I divulged some of my #WriterGoals2018 with you and already I’ve added a couple of projects I’m going to hold close to my chest…my to-do list grows! So, this week we’re going to talk about setting ourselves up for success this year by making our goal setting and goal chasing a little less scary.

I touched on this last week when I said that saying you’re going to write 80,000 words in X number of days is a lot scarier than saying you’re going to write 500 words per day. Taking any lofty goal—writing or no—and breaking it down into simpler terms will significantly increase your chances of turning that goal into a reality.

This is where the SMART method comes in to play. Sure, it’s simple enough to say your goal is to grow your business. That’s a perfectly sound goal to have, but it’s extremely vague. Wouldn’t you agree? Growth can mean all sorts of things.

Seeing as how I’m a writer, we’re going to use growing an author platform as our example but the SMART method can be applied to literally any goal. Let’s dive in!

SMART blog graphic v2

Those are just some of the words associated with the acronym SMART you’re likely to find if you choose to search the web for the SMART method of goal-setting. This concept is not a new one to me, though it is one I haven’t put into practice nearly enough in my life, and thus is probably one of the reasons I’ve fallen short on some of my goals.

I’ve chosen to apply Sensible, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely as my focus words for goal-setting this year, for reasons I hope become clear as we apply this to the example of growing an author platform.

Goal: Growing An Author Platform

Looking at the goal, what is the logical next step? If you don’t explore that, then you’ll be all over the place, not applying focus to any one direction. When you don’t see the arbitrary marks of platform growth, you’ll likely count your goal as failed. You will not have set yourself up for success. Growing an author platform should be viewed as the broad goal, or the ultimate goal. Now it’s time to break it down sensibly.

Sensible:  You can break your ultimate goal into as many sensible goals as you find necessary. At this stage, you’re really brainstorming impactful ways to make your ultimate goal a reality. I’m going to break our example into two sensible goals.

1.) Grow blog’s reach     2.) Grow Instagram following

Measurable: Here is where you want to define tangible results, as we’re still a little vague. Often people will combine these two steps together without even thinking about it, but sometimes this step is forgotten altogether, but it is very important.

1.) Grow blog subscribers to 500     2.) Grow Instagram following to 1000

Attainable: Do you currently have the tools for obtaining the goal? If not, can you readily obtain them? What do you need to make this attainable?

1.) Creating useful content and tools, hold more frequent giveaways, better visuals
2.) Utilize Instagram more often, create stunning visuals, use Instagram to get blog visits

Realistic: Are these goals feasible for you at this time? Do you need monetary funds to accomplish these goals? Education?

1.) Set a budget for giveaways, do not forget to include shipping costs.
2.) Research photography, photo editing, and shop around for fonts–keep in mind licensing for visuals and fonts.

Timely: When should you start working toward this goal? Do you have a target date for completion? How can you track progress to keep yourself on track?

1&2.) Start immediately. Track monthly progress using built-in analytics. Target date for completion is December 31, 2018.

Applying the SMART focus words will help you discover the feasibility of your goals. Let’s face it, sometimes we bite off more than we can chew—and that shit is disheartening. So I encourage you to take a few minutes and run each of your goals through the SMART method and set yourselves up for a more focused, successful 2018…

And I’m here to help! I’ve created some free, printable guides I hope will help you turn your goals into success stories.

photo (2)

 

 

Please excuse my horrible handwriting. Also, don’t feel obligated to try and make me feel better about it. I’m 32, I’ve accepted the fact my penmanship is sorely lacking.

In this document, my intention is for you to start with your ultimate goal. Your main goal. The over-reaching goal.

Then I want you to begin breaking it down with the SMART method.

 

photo

Obviously this is just for show and tell. 😉

Once you’ve broken down your main goal into more sensible goals, I’ve got you covered with the tools to turn that goal into a success. Give yourself a deadline, define your baby steps, acknowledge the barriers between the task and success, and brainstorm solutions.

 

Track your monthly progress so you can see if what you are doing is working or if you need to tweak things somewhere.

Focus on why you’re doing this by giving yourself a reminder as to what you stand to gain. Motivate yourself. And give yourself a reward if you complete it on time.

 

photo (1)

Do you need to stick to a daily or semi-daily habit in order to make these goals into realities? Got you covered there, too. I’ve seen weekly habit trackers, but I want to see my year as a whole as I progress, so I created a perpetual habit tracker with a reward sidebar. Brainstorm reward ideas for yourself to keep you motivated.

In my tracker X’s mean I’ve worked on my blog in some fashion, and I’m going a step further by highlighting my posting days.

 

Why these printables when there are so many organizational apps out there to help you stay on top of things? (I’ll let you know my favorite organization app in a few)

Because research shows that when you write something out by hand it will stick with you far better than if you type something out. Your brain and your hand have to coordinate on a different level than when you do everything digitally. Maybe it’s hogwash, but it certainly seems to work for me and I think it will work for you.

 

Copy of SMART Goals - Ultimate Goal Breakdown v2.0

 

 

 

 

Get it as shown:

SMART Goals – Ultimate Goal Breakdown v2.0

Get it in blue!

SMART Goals – Ultimate Goal Breakdown v2.0 BLUE

 

 

 

Copy of SMART Goals - Sensible Goal Reality Maker v2.0

 

 

Get it as shown:

SMART Goals – Sensible Goal Reality Maker v2.0

 

Get it in blue:

SMART Goals – Sensible Goal Reality Maker v2.0 BLUE

 

 

 

 

Copy of SMART Goals - Habit Tracker v2.0

 

 

 

Get it as shown:

SMART Goals – Habit Tracker v2.0

Get it in blue:

SMART Goals – Habit Tracker v2.0 BLUE

 

I sincerely hope these will be of help to you. I updated the borders to allow more writing room as well as I just think it’s a cleaner presentation.

For those of you who participated in the poll I did on Twitter to decide my second color, I say a fond thank you!

So, you’ve downloaded, printed, and started using those guides. What now? Now it’s time to get digital. There are countless organizational apps for every smartphone—how the hell do you choose which one to use? It may take some time and experimenting before you find the one that works just right for you, and there is no way possible for me to cover each and every one of them…I do have a novel to finish writing, after all. 😉 So instead, I’m just going to tell you about the one that is working super, awesome, amazing, wonderfully, perfectly for me right now.

That would be Trello.

photo (6)

 

The beautiful thing about Trello is that the website and the app communicate so flawlessly. As soon as you update something in one, it is immediately available in the other, unlike some of the apps I’ve tried where there is a weird lag and pieces of information go missing.

As you can see, I have a board for each of my writing projects, one for social media, and one for blogging and newsletters. Each one of those boards is a hub for ideas, pieces of inspiration, resources, etc.

 

 

photo (5)When you enter a board, you can add categorize your cards, and they can easily be shuffled around by the touch of your finger—dragged and dropped so things are just right.

I can’t show you the scenes for Alabama Rain, but this drag-and-drop-move-em-where-you-please feature is helping me execute this novel with ease.

Even if you aren’t planning a novel, this will help you prioritize and re-prioritize as things change.

Want to collaborate with someone on a project? Trello makes this super easy by inviting collaborators to certain boards, while allowing you to make other boards private. Couldn’t be easier!
photo (4)

See those little green rectangles with dates in them? That’s because I assigned those cards deadlines, and I have it set to give me a reminder the day before so I have no excuses for not completing my goals.

photo (3)

What about clicking on a blogging date? What good will that do? I’ve given myself blogging topics to alleviate the stress of always having to figure out what to write about. Not only that, but I can add in websites that will come in handy for researching that particular topic. I can attach pictures so I’m never without a blog graphic, and it doesn’t matter if I add it from my desktop or phone, because it syncs immediately: and if you use Instagram, you can probably imagine how valuable this can be.

As I complete a deadline, I virtually check it off and I get the happy green rectangle as a visual reminder that I have completed a task. This makes me a very happy girl.

 

 

Now that you’ve downloaded those free printables and properly broken down your ultimate goal(s) into manageable pieces, this will help you greatly when you start setting up your Trello boards…so what are you waiting for?

Oh, yeah. You’ve got to finish reading this blog post first. There’s something sorta, kinda special coming up. Maybe. It is to me, anyway.

You’ve done the aforementioned things! Fantastic! On paper, both analog and digital, you’re set up for a very successful year, no matter what your dream happens to be. That’s all there is to it, right?

Not even in the slightest. But what could possibly be next?

Doing the work, of course! You can plan and plot a novel and never write it. You can join a gym and never go. You can get an education and never use it. But that’s not what you’re going to do this year, is it?

This is the part where I can’t hold your hand. I can be your virtual cheerleader, but I cannot join you at your desk and help you crank out your best-seller, nor can I run your miles, lift your weights, or get you that promotion you’re vying for. This part you have to do on your own. And there are literally hundreds of thousands of websites, blogs, vlogs, etc. that will tell you how to coax yourself into being more productive and shake off that decade-old case of the lazies. I’m here to tell you, this will take a metric-ton of trial and error. It will be hard and frustrating. You will have to give up certain things in order to make your fantasies realities. Instead of spouting every conceivable way to boost your productivity, I’ll tell you a few of the things I have done.

  • This may seem extreme, but I got rid of my cable television. Years back, actually. It doesn’t keep me from sitting down to binge-watch something on Netflix from time-to-time, but I sure as shit can’t get mired in mindless channel surfing. If I watch something it is a conscious effort. If I do make the decision to forego writing in one of my WIPs for watching a movie or bingeing Californication for the fifteenth time, I will still use this “downtime” for working on my various social media platforms, making blog visuals, or even researching blogging topics. I rarely ever use my television time as an excuse not to work on my author platform in some fashion.
  • No matter what you do, there will only ever be twenty-four hours in a day, so you have to get creative on how to score some extra time to work toward your goals. I’ve taken back an hour or two each week by ordering my groceries online. This option isn’t available to everyone, depending on where you live. But if you can, try this for yourself and see if it will work for you. Several grocery stores have this option, but the two I use are either Walmart or Lowe’s Foods. (Lowe’s Foods charges $4.95 for this time-saver, but for me it is well worth it! I love their meats and fresh vegetables!) This small change gives me so much more time to write and it can really help your budget by keeping you from impulse shopping!
  • Positive reinforcement is wonderful, so I created a reward system. You’ve seen a hint of what might  be on my list of rewards. Give yourself a good mix of rewards. Cheap and easy, mid-level, and high-end. This will vary for everyone based on your financial means, but for me a cheap reward might be doing a special face mask or treating myself to my favorite smoothie. Mid-level might be going out for sushi, or getting that sweater I’ve been eyeing. High-end would be a new purse, a special day-trip. You’re catching my drift…I know you are.
  • If positive reinforcement is wonderful, negative reinforcement is painful. Which is why I’m utilizing that as well. I laid out my goals for you guys, and I’m going to have to fess up if I fail. If I fail, you’ll lose faith in me. It’ll be that much harder for me to gain your respect as an author and human being…I could let this spiral out of control if I wanted.

And I suppose it wouldn’t be a blog post on goal-setting and productivity if I didn’t toss this old chestnut at you: Show up and do the damn work.

So, I said something special was coming at the end of this blog post, didn’t I? Well, if you liked those free printable pages up there, I am offering additional free printables to my newsletter subscribers that are specifically tailored to growing your social media audiences. If you’re interested, you’ll need to subscribe here. The form is at the bottom of the page. (That’s right—I don’t annoy you with pop-ups!)

But wait! That’s not all! (I did that in my very best infomercial voice!)

I’d love to see you using the sheets I created. If you use them and like them, please snap a picture of how they’re helping you and tweet them (Or Instagram them!) using #WriterGoals2018 and don’t forget to tag me, @AilaStephens. In anticipation of these beauties helping you buckle down on your goals, I’m doing a little giveaway! I’m calling it the “Be Successful” toolkit.

What might you win, you ask?

A paperback copy of Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit
A really awesome book of motivational stickers for your planner
(not pictured) A super-helpful journal
(not pictured) A pack of my favorite writing pens
Coffee–DUH!
Tea–DUH!
+ Other little prizes to help make achieving your dreams fun!

Enter the giveaway. You know you want to.

Entries accepted until February 4th, 2018.

In the meantime, let me know in the comments how you’re keeping motivated after the luster of a new goal is beginning to wear off.

Until we meet again, my lovelies! xoxo


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5 thoughts on “Stepping Up for 2018—The SMART Way

  1. ktdaxon says:

    Love the Printables and will have to go back and reread more carefully all the useful information you’ve included! Thank you for taking the time to put this together. You’re amazing, poor penmanship and all! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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