The Power of the Small Goal

As I was struggling to beat my project-end avoidance habits and actually finish the 2nd draft of Rose from the Ash I stumbled back onto a system that I find useful but often neglect to use. We’re told to set goals, whether financial or project-based, for relationships and parenting and saving and travelling. Goals. Milestones. Everyone thinks they’re important but honestly they can be overwhelming.

My goal was to finish my book. Simple and yet on it’s own it was a huge undertaking. I know that from writing my first 3 novels. Starting projects is so much more appealing. I find myself world building for a project I won’t be able to start for three years yet. I’m playing with language creation when I should be editing. I made my own bullet journal. Yeah, I procrastinate hard sometimes.

So what’s working? Small goals. Finish the book is just too big. So when I had typing to do I set a daily typing goal – transcribe x number of pages onto the computer each day. I drew a box on my white board and put the goal number beside it and every time I reached the bottom of the page I got to put a bright orange check in the box.

I had 10 scenes to add to finish out the political plot line of the book and 10,000 words to go to reach my ideal word count so I made two lists of numbers on my white board. The blue numbers (16, 20, 23, 31, 32, 34, 35, 1, 7, 9) are the dates of the scenes that need to be written (on this world months have 36 days). 10 dates, 10 scenes. Every time I finish a scene I get to scratch a number off the list. The green numbers (56-64) are my thousand word mileposts. Every time I write another thousand words I get to scratch a number off that list. I hit 61,124 before I realized I’d passed the marker and actually cheered a little – loud enough that I startled my husband.

By breaking my goal (finish the book) into little tiny baby steps I’m motivated to continue. Sometimes I have to use bribes (I can only have a snack every 5 pages or every 2 scenes or I can get up and stretch at the next thousand word marker) but for the most part just being able to put another check on the board, scratch another item off the list, is enough of a boost to keep me going.

I love to do lists. I don’t always finish what’s on them, but I love them. I love crossing things off of them. I love that sense of accomplishment. So I’m celebrating every page typed, every thousand words written, every scene completed. And maybe I’ll beat these end of project blues long enough to reach the euphoric I FINISHED IT!

And then I can start on a new project. And that’s the best part.

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