Developing Discipline

The most frequently visited post on this site is about pursuing multiple goals at the same time. Today, I’m going to share a little more about how I personally pursue multiple goals, and the kind of planning I do. Most everyone knows that having vague goals is about as useful as having no goals. For instance, if you are a writer and your goal is to finish a novel someday, chances are mighty low that you will actually finish a novel. Most of us need some kind of deadline attached to those goals.

I couldn't find an appropriate photo, so here is a beautiful pond lily.

I couldn’t find an appropriate photo, so here is a beautiful pond lily.

There is no lack of “epic” posts, blogs, podcasts, and motivational what-have-you on the internet. That’s not what this is. This post is about the nitty-gritty details of what you need to do to actually get things done. It’s so much more fun to be told “You can do it! You are awesome!” than it is to figure out when, where, and how you can do the work. Make no mistake: if you want to reach your goals, you have to do the work.

Following is a list of my goals for the summer, along with what I need to do, and by when, in order to reach them:

  • Publish my first novel, tentatively titled Disappearance at Pine Lake, by July 31.  This is a huge goal, with several pieces and parts:
    •   Complete the second draft by the end of May.
      •       In order to finish the second draft by the end of May, I need to work on it 5 out 7 days every week.
      •       I will share chapters as they are completed with my critique group. The goal is to get one chapter or section up for critique each week.
    •   Get the manuscript to at least three beta readers and a cover artist by the first week in June.
      •      I need to have approached the betas and saved some money while completing the draft. My potential cover artist said she would do it for $40.
    • Complete the third draft, using the suggestions and criticisms of my critique group and beta readers, by the second week in July.
    • Spend the final two weeks of July formatting and getting ready to publish.
  • Write a second non-fiction tip book by the end of August. (I plan to publish a whole series of tips books.) This one will be called 27 Blogging Tips for Busy Real Estate Agents.
    • Create an outline and begin fleshing out the tips by the end of May.
    • Draft the manuscript by the end of June.
    • Send the manuscript to 5 or 6 beta readers by the middle of July.
    • Edit and format the manuscript by the end of July.
    • Create a cover and publish in August.
  • Begin working on a co-writing fiction project in early May.
    • Add 1000 new words per week to the first draft beginning the week of May 10.
    • Edit one section written by my co-author each week.
  • Add three new clients to my freelance business by the end of September. I’m looking for three very specific types of new clients, and in order to find them I will:
    • Create a weekly marketing plan to target the three areas I’d like to find new clients.
    • Follow the plan.
  • Help grow a GIANT garden.
    • Spend at least 4 hours per week gardening.
  • Track calories eaten and exercise at least 5 out of every 7 days.
  • Take time off to enjoy my family and the world.  This list will grow, but so far I have these things planned:
    • go to the beach for a weekend in May
    • go to the Smokey Mountains to see the azaleas and rhododendrons in bloom in late May or early June
    • have monthly gatherings of my extended family (read: parties!)
    • go camping at least once a month
    • take several long (full day and overnight) motorcycle trips
    • get out in the woods in the evenings once or twice a month
    • have a backyard fire once a week
    • ride my bicycle to work once a week

In the midst of all that, I will also be working at each of my part time jobs 10-15 hours per week, exceeding the expectations of my existing clients, moderating and participating in my online critique community, and about 14,000 other things. I’m busier than other people, and I’m not better at reaching my goals. What I am good at, though, is realistically considering what I want to do, what will be involved, and figuring out how to make it happen — or sometimes IF it can happen.

It’s nice to think that we have the power to reach any goal we set out for ourselves. But sometimes it’s just not feasible. In January, I decided that I would publish three works of fiction this year. That is absolutely not going to happen. It’s not going to happen because I want to spend time on that last part of my list. Doing the fun stuff is as important to me as the work. Without family parties, camping trips, and time to relax, I hit burnout fast. Acknowledging that fact is difficult. I want to believe that I can work like a superhuman and do all of the things. And I can — for about two weeks. Then, everything crashes and burns.

How do you balance work, personal projects, health, and time with your family? Do you give yourself deadlines, or are you the victim of vague goals? What advice would you offer someone else pursuing multiple, complex goals? 

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