You know that excited feeling you get around New Years when you’re looking forward to what’s to come instead of worrying about all the stupid shit you’ve done in the past year?
I love that feeling. So much that I want to have it 4 times a year instead of one. That’s why–instead of making goals and charting my course once every year, I do it every 90 days.
If you’ve ever made New Year’s resolutions and found yourself forgetting about them in a couple months you’ll get why the quarterly thing works best. Also, I’m no stranger to setting too many goals at once and not even knowing where to start, and doesn’t that just suck? That’s why 90 days is the perfect amount of time for goal setting.
Organizing your goals by quarter keeps what’s important right in front of you–you only have to focus on it for 3 months, and you know exactly what you need to do. You don’t have to worry about what you’ll be doing 10 months from now (which is often an act of futility) and you don’t have to commit to anything for longer than a quarter. Decide you don’t really like doing this new thing you’re doing? Great, you’ve learned something–now you get to look ahead to making better-informed plans for the next quarter.
This system is especially handy if you’re self-employed and must adapt your offerings to an ever-changing marketplace. I honestly don’t know how I ever had any real sense of direction in my career before it.
Why I’m Sharing My Goals
Pretty personal stuff, right?
The big reason is accountability. Another is community–the sense of togetherness that comes from artists/creative professionals sharing their hopes and dreams with one another. I love that, and I love staying in the loop about my friends’ personal and professional aspirations. (Or that of a neighborly internet acquaintance 😉 Share with me below!)
Another reason is that it’s just plain fun. I had a great time over vacation this past week and, nerdily enough, one of my favorite parts was planning out this quarter. I had a great time laying out my Q2 plans for this year and I put a lot of TLC into it–why not share it with others in the hopes that it’ll motivate them to work on their own goals?
The Best Kind of Goals
The best goals you’ll make will be measurable and controllable. A good test is seeing if you can determine your success with a simple yes or no by turning your goal into a question. For example: I want to read 3 career-related books this quarter. In July I’ll ask myself, “Did I read 3 career-related books this quarter?” No gray area here. I can answer this with a simple yes or no, so I know it’s measurable, and it’s also completely in my control.
Ah, controllable goals. I learned about that one the hard way. After 2 quarters of setting income goals and goals for other things I really don’t have ultimate control over, I learned from Karen Marston at Untamed Writing that the best kind of goals are action-oriented. It seems intuitive but it’s easy to forget when you envision your success for the next quarter.
Don’t promise yourself that you’ll “get 3 new regular clients this year.” Instead promise yourself that you’ll pitch to 2 prospective clients each week and rest easy knowing that you know exactly what you need to do to reach your goals. I gotta tell you–as someone who’s planned out her quarters first with uncontrollable goals and then with only action-oriented goals–doing it this way brings on a huge sense of relief. Everything about your plan is in your control and you don’t need to hold yourself accountable to anything else.
Sure, I still make income goals–but I prefer to call things like this wishes. Or it’d be nice to’s. It’d be nice to make a certain level of income this year, but because I cannot control the free will of other humans and since I count on the decisions of other humans to make money, I can’t say I have complete control over what I make this year. I can sure as hell use my quarterly plan to charge full speed ahead in the right direction, though, and that’s what I intend to do this quarter.
My Goals for April Through June
This is the 3rd time I’ve made a quarterly plan for my career and I’ve learned a lot about myself since the start of that very first quarter. I’ve learned more about how much work I can handle on any given week while still keeping up with other responsibilities like personal time, personal health, and family/friend time.
I do tend to overbook myself though–not in regards to clients but in regards to all other aspects of my business (like marketing and training) and again I overbooked myself for Q1 of 2016. I wanted to focus on my novel for 15 hours a week this past quarter but I just couldn’t do it.
I realized that I need to get some big work stuff out of the way first–like developing a welcome packet, offering a downloadable PDF portfolio, and building marketing campaigns. I know business will run a lot more smoothly once I get these big projects out of the way, which is why I’m putting the novel off until Q3 of this year or maybe even Q4. That way I can focus on a few big things at once, knocking them out each quarter instead of dragging all of them out endlessly.
So I’m only focusing on a handful of goals in each category this time around.
These goals are for the Maison with a Pen part of my life–the content building and client work part.
- Read 3 career-related books. Regarding either the career I have now and other career paths I may explore in the future (comedy writing, French translating, stuff like that). I love learning more about my craft so I always make time for instructional books/online courses each quarter. This quarter, I’ve chosen:
- Send out 6 mail-in copywriting pitches. It’d be nice to take on 3 great clients as regulars this quarter.
- Spend 12 hours on social media/engaging with blogosphere. That ends up being about an hour a week. I’ve been pretty shit at marketing via social media and it’s time to change that. I’m going to finally set up something to automate my tweets because I’m awful at tweeting regularly. I’m also going to start using Pinterest for business.
- Spend 6 hours brainstorming new ideas. That’s an hour every other week. Some sessions will be designated for blog post ideas, some for marketing campaigns, and some are just catch-all brainstorming sessions where I’ll lounge around with good coffee, my notebook, and a pen, ready to catch whatever floats up to the surface.
- Pitch 3 guest posts. I’ve never done a guest post before and I’d like to change that. I’m focusing more on this next quarter, but for now I’d like to dip my toe in the water with just 3 pitches (3 different post ideas to a handful of different people/pubs).
- Build my portfolio. Well, create my portfolio, if we’re being honest. I haven’t actually put one together yet. I’d like to have a nice web version here on the site and also have a more in-depth, downloadable PDF option.
- Create a welcome packet. Onboarding packet, welcome kit, whatever you want to call it. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while now and I can’t wait to finally get started.
I’m also looking forward to being a part of Unf*ckwithable Girlfriends this quarter. It’s a subscription service by Ash Ambirge at The Middle Finger Project and so far it’s been a gosh dang hoot. I love her, love the service, and am testing it out for 2 months ($25/month) before I decide if I want to continue with it indefinitely. Let’s be honest–I probably will. Ash is the best.
Notice how start an email newsletter, build my subscriber list, and create a course aren’t on there at all? That’s because I’m not focusing on any of that just yet. I don’t even have to worry about it right now–planning out in quarters helps give me laser-sharp focus and lets me feel good about putting stuff like this on the back burner.
It’d be nice to be a successful novelist and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be the next Flannery O’Connor when it comes to short stories. That’s what this part is about–personal project stuff.
- Write every single morning for 30 minutes. And not make it such a big deal about it–just doing the damn thing. Whether it’s developing ideas for the novel or working on short stories or simply practicing.
- Complete 1 short story. Got a good one in the works now.
- Pitch short story to 10 publications or until published. Lots of local art pubs here in Charleston I’d love to be a part of.
- Travel once. I’m not in the position to start globetrotting just yet but I like to travel–even if its to somewhere close by–a couple times a year just to remind myself that it’s the ultimate goal. I’m hoping to work away from home for months at a time in other countries as soon as I can afford it.
This quarter it’ll be Asheville, North Carolina with my mom. It’s lovely and mountain-y and I can’t wait to see the gorgeous Biltmore estate. This mid-May trip will be like a little getaway for me–reading, writing, ogling at the Biltmore, spending time in nature, eating good food, and drinking good wine. No work bullshit–just relaxation and good old southern living.
- Read 30 minutes every morning. Because reading is part of my job. And my number one true love. And I’ve found that I should do what’s most important to me early in the morning to make sure it gets done, so I spend every morning reading for 30 minutes, writing for 30 minutes, then getting to work. I already kind of do this one; would like to get a bit more consistent with it.
- Get social. I literally have an Evernote note called “Getting Social.” Ever worked from home all day by yourself? You will go insane if you don’t make it a conscious effort to fit human time into your busy schedule. So this is a big priority for me this quarter. I’m making myself go out and do things once a week–a big deal since I’m a big introvert and prefer spending time alone with a book. Or, y’know. Sleeping.
I’m thinking French conversation clubs on Meetup.com, yoga classes, and volunteering. And a writer’s club, if I can ever find one where the average age of all its members isn’t 80.
- Eat cleaner. I’m cutting processed foods almost completely out of my diet in April, apart from packaged coffee creamers and chocolate. Pretty much everything else is fresh. (I will NEVER give up sugary coffee.)
I’m using principles from The Stash Plan (which I love) and going back to how I ate sophomore year of college–super clean. I’ve fallen off the wagon a bit after college; time to get back to it. My running’s always better this way and I don’t wake up in the morning feeling like shit, so that’s a plus.
This one (a clean Stash Plan-inspired diet) is actually a 30 day experiment for me just because I can’t stand the thought of committing to something forever until I’ve really tested it out. I’m on day 3 of it now and I feel pretty damn good. I got this idea from Karen Marston at Untamed Writing, who champions 28-day experiments as a solid way to test and build new habits.
Not sure what I’ll be doing in this arena for May or June yet–I’m thinking about going all organic (pricey!) and adding ab workouts into my routine.
- Take Sundays completely off of work. This is a big one for me. I love taking advantage of my flexible schedule by grocery shopping weekday mornings and running errands before all the crazies are out. But this usually means working every single day to get my hours in.
I’m just going to try it this quarter and see how it goes. It’ll be tough–but you know what I realized? It’s a psychological thing. Having time set aside that you know will be just for you is essential when you work for yourself. Because when you’re self-employed, your work is never really done. There’s always more you can be crossing off your list, and that’s dangerous territory. You’ll go crazy. I have, a little bit–and I’m hoping a day just for me will help un-crazy me this quarter.
And that’s all, folks! I’m looking forward to working on each of these this coming quarter. I’m already doing a pretty swell job at keeping up with all of them.
I hope you enjoy learning about my goals as much as I’d love to read about yours. (Hint hint. Share with me!)
And the best part of all this goal-setting is? I know exactly what I need to do to kick ass this quarter. I wish you and me and everyone we know a kick-ass Q2 of 2016.