Since it’s the beginning of the year, goal setting is probably already on your mind. And that’s a great thing! It’s good to have a clear picture of what you want and where you’re going in the year ahead. Unfortunately, research shows that about 92% of people who set New Year’s Resolutions don’t actually reach the goals they set at the beginning of the year.

So this week’s lesson is all about how you can become part of the 8% that actually succeed. :) In my opinion, the key to actually achieving your goals is to turn them into habits that you work into your daily routine. This way you make progress without really thinking about it. Now, it’s not easy to incorporate new habits into your life, but the steps in this exercise should make it easier.

Step one: start by outlining your biggest goals for the year. This might be something like writing and publishing your first novel, or quitting your day job to write full time. It’s important that you look at how realistic your goals are before committing to them — if you aren’t a really prolific writer or you have a family depending on you as the breadwinner, these goals might be too ambitious for you right now. Instead, you can commit to something smaller, like writing a certain number of short stories.

Step two: break down the big goals into small steps that you can work on every day. One of the major reasons people don’t reach their goals is that they get overwhelmed and discouraged, or they don’t know where to start. That’s why this step is helpful! If we’re going by the example of writing and self-publishing a novel, here are what the steps might look like

  1. Outline novel.
  2. Write each chapter.
  3. Get feedback.
  4. Revise.
  5. Have novel professionally edited.
  6. Have novel formatted.
  7. Find cover artist.
  8. Set a release date on Amazon.

Each of these steps could be broken down further into even smaller steps, and in fact, that’s what I’m going to ask you to do. Figure out, month by month or even week by week what you need to be doing to make continuous progress.

One more thing: if you’re like me, you tend to pick the most optimistic deadlines possible. This can lead you to feeling really overwhelmed if something goes wrong that delays you! Instead, plan in a few extra days, maybe even a week, longer than you think you’ll need for each step. You’ll thank yourself later. :)

Step three: define the obstacles keeping you from making your goals into habits. This is the crucial step most people leave out when setting goals for the year. For example, maybe it’s hard for you to actually sit down and write every day because you spend what little free time you have doing chores. In that case, you’ll need to figure out whether you can lessen the load or make those chores less of a priority. For example, you might vacuum less often or decide to leave the dishes until after you’ve done your writing for the day. You might even ask family to swap chores part of the time to lessen the load.

If you absolutely can’t cut the other time consuming tasks in your life, don’t be afraid to scale back. If you can’t manage to write every day, maybe set aside an hour on weekend instead.

Whatever you do, treat your writing as work. Block the time in your planner. Show up on time. Turn off your phone and ignore distractions. Once you start enforcing this boundary with the people in your life, it will be easier to make progress on your goals without constant distraction.