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How to Start the Year Working on Goals

In this second blog post on new year goals and resolutions I want to dive into what’s involved for me to get working on my creative goals.

In part one I explored How to Set Creative New Year’s Resolutions as a creative small business owner.

Starting Early with Working on New Year Goals

I’ve started work on many of my goals as I find by October of each year my mind is whirling away. Many of my goals are extensions from what is already evolving or in place. I also group my goals so I can focus on them better – creative, business and personal. Each category can be quite broad and there can be a lot of overlap – I am a creative business owner, there is a lot of my own personal definition tied up in that.

I do use quiet the time in January to work on writing out my goals and plans, for working with a calendar to put structure around my ideas. I often come up with too many ideas and have to prune it down to something manageable and working with a calendar is really useful approach.

Figuring out what you really want to achieve and what would be good to do is key, it helps a lot with focus.

A number of my goals are around putting more structure around ideas rather than having the entire project figured out and completed. I have note books for capturing these developing concepts. I see many goals as having phases, just like developing a website is a series of phases, so too are goals; they work together to something big down the track.

How to Start the Year Working on Goals

When setting your goals be clear about what you want in your life

7 Steps for Working with Creative Goals

My process with goals includes:

1. Being clear with myself about what I want in my life, looking at the “why” – what is motivating me. This helps me evaluate the bright shiny objects of new ideas and figure out if they need to become goals – do they fit?

2. Letting ideas flow and talking note of them.

3. Giving some initial time to explore a broader range of ideas and goals to see how they fit with the life I want to be living.

4. Putting some structure around the goals that make it through the above steps – what is involved in terms of research, work and testing? How long will they take, how much effort and focus?

5. Prioritise these fleshed out goals with the help of a planning calendar to see what fits where – there needs to be time for living too.

6. Set myself some rewards during the year for achieving goals – this can include any manner of things from buying art supplies to a massage to a holiday or even a complete day off! (Radical, I know!).

7. Put reminders in my phone calendar and my planning wall calendar to help keep me on track.

So it is about figuring out the goals, understanding them, planning the work involved and the deadlines to put in place, the support systems for making it happen and the rewards for achieving them.

5 Tools for Making Goals into Real Results

I’ve come to look at what I use as tools for doing the job, the job of achieving my goals, to make my year count. Here are five of the tools I use for making my new years resolutions a reality:

Planning Tool 1

 My planning journal where I capture ideas – basically it’s about getting the noisey ideas out of my head and onto paper so I can start sorting through them and figuring out what ties in where, what interconnects and gain a clearer view of my priorities.

Planning Tool 2

A planning calendar (a repurposed family organising wall calendar) that lets me plot out the year so I can see where things fit and when I need to prioritise specific activities. This is really important when your creative business includes designing time, testing ideas and then actually making the work yourself for a specific event each year.

Planning Tool 3

Using the calendar setting on my phone is really important for everything for when to pay bills online to avoid late fess (a great way to keep costs down), to birthdays to reminders about activities needed to get goals done. I finally realised that when I’m working I lose track of time and entire days and even weeks can get by me, becoming aware days later of what the actual date is and I’ve missed some birthday or deadline (never a good thing).

Planning Tool 4

I’m trying something new this year with a Make it Happen journal where I keep myself accountable through each week with the small tasks that go into making entire projects come together.

Planning Tool 5

I love post it notes for all manner of things, from getting ideas out of the head, planning activities, reminders in my diary and as pieces that can move on planning boards.

The Need for Planning Tools

I guess to some this might seem a bit of overkill but I’ve found that being a self employed creative person making my living directly from my own efforts in an isolated environment I really need some structured, practical tools to look after myself. Life gets complicated, family things happen, it’s way too easy to be busy and really not achieve anything and the year gets away again. I am my own boss, I answer to no one, only to cashflow really. I don’t have team meetings or stakeholder meetings, it’s just me. So I have to support myself and these sorts of tools keep me mindful of time and results.

Looking at a Real Life Creative Goal

Let’s look at the creative goal of my own book. I’ve had a desire to write a book for ages and I’ve told myself for years I can write novels in my 60’s. I am, by trade a journalist so writing is something I enjoy. But I’ve been wanting to get stuck into a book project and I regularly look at various ideas.

I’ve researched what’s involved in writing books – anything from a novel to a small business guide. I have friends who are self published authors and I understand the work involved over at least a year, if not two years. And still I want to write a book. There’s something about being in print, holding my very own book that appeals deeply to me.

Now I have a fairly solid idea of a possible book concept that would involve a creative collaboration with a girlfriend who I thoroughly enjoy working with. It turns out she’s been thinking about a book for years too. Hmmm.

We both like the thought of working closely together on this project and the ball is now in my court to put some structure to it, to flesh out what we’ve talked about and take it to the next stage. I know this will probably be about 30 – 40 hours work for me, maybe up to 80 hours. So given what I have on and what else I want to achieve I’m looking at having this back to her in months, rather than days or weeks. As a bright shiny object I would love to get cracking on it but it needs to fit with all the other bright shiny things.

We understand that this book will take a while to come together with a chunk of work happening in the planning and development phase. The content development will be another phase while the publishing with be the third phase with marketing overlapping and becoming the fourth phase.

For me, this book is likely to be part of at least two year’s worth of goals. I’ll be really happy if we have solid progress on it this year. That would be great. It would, of course be amazingly fabulous to have it published and out by November it would have to leap ahead a big bag of goals for both of us for that to happen. And really, the book is’t about making a chunk of money, it is a stepping stone and we each need to look to where the money is so we can keep our independent creative lives going.

In the mean time, I’ll look more closely at the book idea, figure out what’s involved, put some dates to the individual actions and see where that takes us.

Bright Shiny Objects

I’ve come to accept that I have way more ideas for designs, businesses, concepts, books, paintings, objects and everything else than I will have time and ability to do in life, at least in just this one life.

The only way I’m going to find satisfaction and financial freedom is by focusing on a few of these ideas and doing them well, well enough that they count in this world.

It’s by having a good look at them, recognising the difference between the bright shiny objects of today and the goals for my health, happiness and wealth that I can realise my dreams. Taking dreams from the ephemeral world of my imagination and making them into something solid and real in my daily life takes focused, consistent and determined work on my part.

The bright shiny objects can be really quite loud and noisome for many of us. They can be so very alluring, gently or rumbustiously taking us off track. For me if I keep stubbornly ignoring these powerful creatures then they seem to multiply and I’m buggered. But if I give them some structured time, write them day, turn them over and see where they might fit when, they are satisfied.

This is, of course, about me accepting my creative self. We all need to do it, whether we think we’re creative or not. For me to get to live the life I want I need to have some structure and make it work for me.

I’ve been making my living from my creative endeavours since 2001 and it’s only been possible because I’m determined and go after things. It’s been much easier when I’ve applied focus, discipline and goals.

Over to You

So it’s over to you. What’s working for you with achieving your goals? What have you learnt?

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