Friday, January 24, 2014

Getting Down to Business: Planning Your Year

This month columnist Donna Alward is back with a new year's blog about planning your year and being both ambitious and realistic with your goals.

Setting yearly goals is something many people do, myself included. There's something about a new year that makes people ambitious and energized. The whole year is there, with all its possibilities. A blank slate and you can write on it whatever you want. Exciting!

Making goals is a GREAT idea. It helps you organize your thoughts. It gives you a strategy for the year ahead - both personal and professional.

Personal goals are ones like the ever-popular "lose 10-20-30 pounds", exercise more, take a vacation, or other personal items. I'm always struggling with my weight, but more than that I hate it when my body feels "old" so I'm more concerned about fitness and caring for my muscles and joints than the actual number on the scale. I've had a very busy last few years, so booking a vacation for the family is also a top goal. And on a personal "care" side, I plan to book monthly massages into my "regime". Massage is great for stress, not to mention the back and neck tension inherent in my job.

I also break down my professional goals into two parts: Writing Goals and Marketing Goals.

I've talked before about the key to success and how I've simplified it into one easy principle. Identify where you want to be and then every decision you make takes you a step closer to that goal. Keeping that in mind, look at what you want to achieve writing-wise this year. Make a list and then break it down into time chunks. What can you realistically achieve? And be ambitious. "Finish a book" doesn't quite cut it, IMO. "Finish the book, submit it, write the follow up partial by April 30" is more specific. The first sort of lets you off the hook. The second? That's a solid plan.

I'm contracted for books so my writing goals are pretty easy to establish. I've also got 2 backlist books that I'll have the rights back to this year, so my schedule consists of completing those books and the necessary steps to take them from first draft to publication-ready.

You also have to realize that goals like "get an agent" and "sell a book" may not be realistic because you aren't in control of every aspect of the process. But you can control the "make a shortlist of agents and send out round one of queries by such and such a date" or "Submit book to publisher by such and such a date". Once your queries and subs have left the building, that part is out of your control.

There are also things like contest entering that you can include. Things like "Enter the Golden Heart" or other contests you're interested in.  Either way, it's a good idea to make a list and get out a calendar and add in the entries you want to add.

I have a second list and calendar for Marketing Goals. I make a summary of the things I want to achieve this year, as well as timelines for different events/promotions. Again, look at what you can control vs what's out of your control. For example, you can say that you are going to start a newsletter and mailing list to keep in touch with your readers, but you can't control how many subscriptions you have - you can only take steps to entice people to sign up. My marketing goals are broken down again into 2 things: Promoting specific releases and General Marketing where I am trying to increase my following and engagement ALL the time and not just for a specific book.

Other people I know break their planning down into time chunks and not task chunks. So they'll plan out yearly, monthly, and weekly goals. Do whatever floats your boat. ;)

Anyway, what you put on your planning list and calendar for the year is a very personal thing and totally up to you and your goals and dreams and personal situation. All I know is that by having a basic plan I feel like I'm in control of my career and in the driver's seat - rather than at the mercy of someone else.

Here's to a fantastic, productive 2014!

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