Are your long-term goals giving you wings or dragging you down? When life keeps getting in the way of your writing,
you may wonder if there is even a point to having long-terms goals. That’s why I find it more useful to concentrate
on short-term goals. And by short, I mean small. How small? How about mini?
The idea of mini-goals first came to me while reading Sonia Choquette’s Trust Your Vibes at Work. She writes,
“Forget ultimate goals, as they are too vague and impractical.” Instead, she recommends focusing on what needs to
be done now. Take for example a part-time writer whose long-term goal is to write full-time. Although it is a worthy
goal, the gulf between where she is now and where she wishes to be may be huge. Not exactly inspiring.
Instead, while not giving up on your dream, shrink your ambitions to a manageable size. Each week give yourself ten
mini-goals to accomplish. List whatever you need to do to get yourself going in the right direction. Do you need to
clear a space on your desk? Buy new folders to sort your papers? Read that article on writing better queries? Create
a character profile for your latest heroine?
Be specific when writing down your goals. As Choquette write, “If your goals are not focused, life gets crazy,
inviting anxiety and confusion.” Remember to make your tasks easy to accomplish or you may skip them altogether,
defeating the purpose of the exercise. Do not write down “study market books.” Mine each contain hundreds of pages –
way too much for my tired brain to even consider tackling. But if on my mini-goal list I write, “study five pages
from Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market”, I am much more likely to get it done.
Often, working on a mini-goal will lead to doing more than you had intended. The trick is simply to get started, to
have a goal simple enough you can jump right in. Your five pages of market study may lead to ten or more pages
without your even noticing it.
As you work on your goals, don’t be surprised if you get swamped with ideas for new ones. Jot them down. But don’t
allow yourself to start on them until the following week (unless absolutely necessary or you have made it to the
end of your original list). Do what you can to complete your present goals first. Not only will it help you stay
focused, but crossing out even a few tasks will give you a sense of accomplishment as well as much-needed proof
that you are making progress.
Consult your list first thing in the morning. See which tasks you can try to fit in or attempt to accomplish inside
your busy schedule. Always keep your list handy throughout the day. You never know when an unexpected pocket of
free time may suddenly appear, allowing you to get a mini-goal started or even completed.
At the end of each week, take a moment to look over your list. Note how many mini-goals you were able to accomplish.
More important, take a good look at those you were unable to do. Did they get left behind because they required too
much time and effort? If so, break them down some more: Make them truly mini.
Sometimes, life just gets in the way no matter how easy your goals. One week, you may complete only three goals
with two more barely underway. Simply carry the unfinished ones onto the following week and add new ones to make a
total of ten again. During a singularly unproductive week, I once carried over an entire list of mini-goals.
Thankfully, I was saved from wasting any more valuable time as my ready-made list helped me quickly get back on
This method is particularly useful for those who struggle with time issues, whether permanent or temporary. The
mini-goal list can also be an invaluable tool, if you suffer from procrastination. Since each one is so easy to
accomplish, you won’t need to figure out ways to convince yourself to get started. Add to the fun by rewarding
yourself each week you manage to complete all ten mini-goals. First mini-goal? Make that list!
When life interferes with my writing time, the writing newsletters I read are usually the first to be set aside.
That’s not a good thing since they contain important and timely information. Here’s my 10 mini-goal list for taking
1) Skim newsletter headlines.
2) Pick section that interests me the most.
3) Read section and highlight potential markets discussed.
4) Look up markets in market book.
5) Pick most likely market and study in more detail.
6) Brainstorm ideas for my selected market.
7) Pick one idea and develop it into a short paragraph.
8) Prepare a query for my market.
9) Revise and polish query.
10) Send query.
This way, I’m sure to send at least one query a week no matter how busy I am!
Writing for Children's Magazines, May 2017 Copyright Pascale Duguay