One of my favorite things to talk about is goal setting, partially because I wouldn’t be where I am today in my writing career without them. I used to ponder vague dreams and wishes like “someday I’d like to…” or “wouldn’t it be cool if…” but those visions stayed on the perpetual horizon until I learned how to create SMART goals.

Specific. Measurable. Achievable. Relevant. Time-bound. True goals have teeth in them and are attached to actual dates on the calendar. They relate to my overall life’s mission but can be broken down into specific action steps so I always know what I should be working on this week to make progress toward crossing that finish line.

I’ve shared some of my time management strategies before (here and here), but thanks to a Dream Keeper planner from Susan May Warren, I’ve taken my planning to the next level by breaking my yearly goals down into four quarters. Which to use a running analogy in honor of my track-running middle-schooler, is like breaking the mile race down into four distinct laps.

As a former track and cross country coach, I know all about pacing. Yes, it involves math, but doing the calculations to determine a pace for each lap lets the runner know if they’ve gone out too fast, need to speed up, or if they are on pace to reach their target time at the finish line.

So, in honor of runners and all goal setting aficionados out there, I’d like to take this post to remind you that we are essentially one lap (or quarter) into our year with three to go. Often we start off the year (or race) with a bang and burst out of the starting gate like the rabbit in the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. However, by now we’ve either slowed to a crawl or somehow found a steady pace that we can maintain through the laps to come.

Personally, my goals for the year were centered into the areas of writing (new stuff), marketing, craft (growth), and other areas including fitness, relationships, and projects around the house. In the interest of full accountability (and in hopes to encourage or inspire a few of you along the way), here were my first quarter goals and an honest reflection of my pacing:

  • Writing: I knew I had a lot of pre-launch guest blog posts to write, but also wanted to have a great start on the first of several novellas/short novels for my castle project by the end of March. All of the pre-launch things were done in January and I’m on track to have the first draft of a medieval Scottish Highlands romance done by the end of the month. Check.
  • Marketing: Big picture, I wanted to be consistent in sending a monthly email to my list and to do a promotion or two to grow that list. Also, with Focus On Love releasing February 13th, I knew that this quarter would naturally be focused on a successful book launch. Check to all of the above.
  • Craft: After dusting off a large pile of to-be-read craft and business books I’ve collected but never read, I created a list with the goal to read one book per week or two. I’ve got eight books read and am on track to finish another three by the end of the month. Check.
  • Fitness: Okay, so my goal was to do some light weight-lifting several times a week and hit my daily step count goal in order to keep my weight steady (if not drop a few pounds) while getting generally healthy enough to be able to do several scenic hikes later this year. Fail. Stress led to over-eating and couch-potatoing and I’m still trying to find a consistent habit chain or routine to make this a bit more of a no-brainer.
  • Relationships: The goal each month was to go on an intentional date with my husband, get together with a few friends, and do some sort of activity or outing with some of the family. I’m one date away from completely checking this quarter off, and being intentional has kept me fully present during those opportunities. Check.
  • House Project: Since I knew there was a book launch and a stack of books to read, I decided to tackle one project–catching up on the family photo album. This would involve sorting what pictures I already had, downloading the rest from various phones and tablets, getting them printed, organizing my supplies, and sticking them onto pages. Fail. Honestly, I found myself overwhelmed by the size of the project, found excuses to use my little free time toward a different goal, and now have a half-completed puzzle taking up most of the table I would use for this project.

So, now what? As the days tick by toward the start of the second lap (or quarter) of the race (or year), I’m already making adjustments and know what needs more attention. My second lap goals are:

  • Writing: Once the Scottish Highlands story is done, I need to do revisions/rewrites on Sing a New Song before the end of April. Then my focus is on pounding out new words to fast-draft/first-draft two more castle stories.
  • Marketing: As I shift into maintenance mode to continue marketing my existing books, my focus will be on Amazon ads, article markets for more business exposure, and continuing promotions to grow my email list. I’m also helping lead two trips of young writers to a castle.
  • Craft: I’ve got another dozen books on my to-be-read pile and would like to get through at least ten of them this quarter.
  • Fitness: This will be a point of emphasis this quarter so I can get in shape for summer and Colorado hikes and swimsuits and just general energy to be able to enjoy time with my family. I have to find a habit routine that works and might need some sort of reward system in the interim.
  • Relationships: Keep on connecting regularly with monthly dates, monthly get-together-with-friends, and intentional outings with the family with an emphasis on being fully present.
  • House Project: That photo album has to get caught up and done…with a new plan in place to document family events going forward without this much work. Can we say digital albums? If time, I’ve got a crochet project to finish so I’m free to start something new in the third quarter.

What about you? What were your big goals for the year? Are you on pace to reach the finish line this December? Do you need to pick up the pace? Would breaking your remaining tasks down into three sections help you to make steady progress?

Goal Setting: One Lap Down, Three To Go
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