O: Over-Ambitious Goals

Goal-setting can be both exciting and stressful. Often we make goals at the beginning of the year, promptly forgetting about them or going off the rails. We also make smaller-scale goals for smaller aspects of our life, and generally these are easier for us to reach, but we’re still not perfect. I’m largely talking in this post about the former type, but this also applies to the latter type for those of us who tend to go for overachieving at times or wrongly estimate how much time we’ll have to do things. First, how do we end up making over-ambitious goals? Well, we overestimate our abilities; we tell ourselves we have to get these things done; we decide this is the year we’ll actually do what we said we’d do five years ago… There are a lot of factors that go into making over-ambitious goals. Sometimes we don’t know we’re going to have trouble with a goal until we try, and we think it’s better to shoot too high than too low (which is probably true). But then what do you do when you realize your goal was over-ambitious?

​Don’t Beat Yourself Up Over It

This is important. If you don’t meet a goal, it’s not the end of the world. Yeah, it’s disappointing. No, it’s not ideal. But it’s not going to kill you, under most circumstances. If your goal was to remember to feed the dragon every day and you missed a week, well… I’m sorry for you. But in general a missed goal is not actually as big a deal as you think it is, so don’t get down on yourself for messing up.

​Set a New Goal

Set a new goal, lower the existing goal, modify the existing goal, whatever. Don’t give up altogether unless it’s something you think you should give up on. Your goal was get three novels ready for publication by the end of the year and there’s no way you’re going to even get all three first drafts done? Lower your goal to something like “complete first drafts of book 1 and 2,” or something whatever is going to be a more reasonable goal. Don’t stop working toward that goal, just understand that you can’t make the entirety of it and adapt accordingly.

​Make Action Steps

Ideally you’ll have determined action steps when you made the original goal, but if you want to achieve a goal you need to figure out the smaller steps it’s going to take to get there. You want to go into freelance editing? Do research, figure out your rates, get testimonials, set up a page, figure out a payment method, determine how taxes work, etc. Figure out how long each step is likely going to take and set up a goal deadline accordingly. If you need it done by a certain time and the steps are going to take too long, figure out a way to shift them and whatnot to make the timeline workable. (No shortcuts.) That said, don’t try to force it.

How to prevent setting over-ambitious goals in the future

​Know Your Limits

Know how much time you have in a day, how much time you can devote to a project in a month, how many days in a row you can work without an off day, etc. Know your limitations to the best of your ability. Now, if this is early on in your goal-setting career (couldn’t think of another way to put that) then you may not know your limitations yet, and that’s fine. Start slow and figure out what you can and can’t do by experimenting with different workloads.

Don’t schedule above your limit.

​Make Action Steps

Like I said before, make action steps right from the get-go. Figure out what sub-goals a given project needs and figure out a deadline accordingly, or arrange the tasks according to the deadline (whichever is applicable). Cut it down as small as you need to, whether you split it up to all the sub-levels at the very beginning or split it into larger chunks and determine smaller goals as the need arises. For instance, you may say that you have four and a half months to completely edit a novel, so you split that into drafts by month and then just before a given month you split up that month’s draft by day and figure out how much work you’re doing per day.

Some projects also may require specific tasks, like hiring someone. You’ll likely want to schedule those specifically. If you have to finish the second draft between May and June and hire an editor by July for the third draft, you’ll probably want to schedule reaching out to an editor for sometime in the last week of June. If you haven’t even researched editors yet, that’ll need to be worked into the schedule. Specifically assigning these tasks times ensures you don’t miss them and takes some stress off of you to have to remember everything you have left to do.

​Regularly Check and Update Goals

Throughout the year (or month, or week, maybe even day) check your goals and see what needs to be modified. I know the goals I set for this year aren’t anything like what they need to be at this point, so I have plans to look over them and update them to be more attainable. I’ll be both removing and adding goals, I think, and figuring out a timeline to achieve them. I’ll often get halfway through a day and realize that something I’d set to do today isn’t going to get done for one reason or another and cancel it.

Make sure you keep your goals updated and attainable, but also don’t use that as an excuse to give up goals that you need to keep working at. The aim is to keep your goals going strong, not whittle them away until they’re gone.

How about you? Have you had to revamp your goals for this year? This month? This week? Do you have a habit of setting over-ambitious goals? (I know I do.) Let me know in the comments. :)

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