I read about a group/blog called YA Buccaneers that run a NaNoWriMo prep/Fall Writing Bootcamp. The workbook you get if you sign up walks you through creating goals and coming up with ways to meet those goals on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis, as well as suggesting you come up with rewards to give yourself proper motivation. They also have a Facebook group and recommend getting involved with the community on Twitter in order to use the sense of shared experience to encourage you, but I have yet to check those out.
I combined the ideas in the workbook with goal creation strategies I learned from my last job, working to craft SMART goals that would further my larger professional aims. Fortunately, a few months ago I’d made a diagram of ways I could further my career, and I was able to borrow heavily from that in order to choose smaller goals to work on in the next few months.
After my run-in with SMART goals in a corporate setting where I only marginally felt connected to the mission of the company with my daily work, it was nice to find that for things I actually care about, they can be really useful. SMART stands for (among other variations) Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound, and making sure my goals are SMART help me to not be too vague in my definition of what is “done”. It took me a few hours to come up with my goals, and another hour or so to brainstorm what good rewards might be, but I’m happy I took the time to do the exercise well. Now when I show up for work, I can pull up my goals and pick to do something that directly benefits the goals I predetermined would advance my writing career. There’s still freedom to choose and be creative, but I can leave at the end of my writing time feeling like I did what I was supposed to be doing instead of wondering if I did enough. I know my goals are realistic and measurable, and it frees up creative brain to do its job.
My friend texted me a few weeks ago and told me that the free app of the week in the iTunes store reminded her of me so I should check it out. It is an app called MindNode and it is awesome! The first map I built was of the professional goals I brainstormed a few months ago, which I called “Get Published”. I had originally done the drawing on a dry erase board, and then switched it to post-it notes when I wanted to move the pieces around and refine them. Digitizing it helped me further group and define the concepts, plus now I have it handy on my phone at all times.
The second map I built for my writing goals for the next few months. I broke it out into the three areas I am focusing on, and then added forks for each small task that makes up the larger task, so I can check them off as I accomplish them. It’s great to be able to show it to other people, and visually see what I’m asking myself to accomplish. Turns out I just really like to think in trees. The app is apparently $10 now, so I’m super delighted to have gotten it for free, but also happy to give them the advertising they were probably hoping they’d get from giving it away.
The structure I set up for rewards was to build a dream day. The last day of the bootcamp period is October 31st, which is a Monday and a day I normally devote to my writing job. When I complete all the tasks in one of the three major areas, I earn the opportunity to sit and read a book all day (I love reading whole books in one sitting!). If I complete two tasks, I get to take myself out to lunch that day, get a beer, and keep reading. If I complete the trifecta, I get to take myself out to breakfast, too. The day sounds extravagant and lovely and I want it! Plus I’ve already picked out my book (Landline, by Rainbow Rowell).
I won’t know until I do the retrospective on this if my rewards felt commensurate with the difficulty of the tasks I set out for myself, but I did my best to create challenges and motivation, and it would undermine the whole affair if I let myself question it further at this time.