Sunday, November 11, 2007

Realistic Goals

The perfectionist sets standards and goals that are unrealistic and unreachable. A good goal is specific (so you'll know when you reached it) and attainable -- that is, some action you can actually to to attain a certain result.

The goal of emptying out the closet and throwing away the things I no longer want is specific and something I can do. However, Flylady would say that goal is still too big. Better is, 'I'm going to work on the left side of the shelf in the closet for 15 minutes.'

I think I understand that, but now I want to translate that to writing. I was noticing last week (before I was struck with this realization of perfectionism) that my writing goals for the day had gotten vague and grandiose: "Work on Chapter 10." That could be anything from writing ten pages of prose to staring out the window to finishing the chapter entirely. (In fact, I think much of the time that was the hope that lurked at the back of my mind when I set that very poor goal.)

The reason you make the goal specific is so you'll know when you've completed it. "Work on Chapter Ten" could conceivably be considered finished after giving it one second of thought. Or, at the other end of the spectrum, only when the chapter is finally completed to my liking, which could take weeks. On any given day I could work all day and still not complete the goal. Which is probably why I so often feel like I'd accomplished nothing, even though I'd worked for hours. Because I've set the wrong goal. Or set no conscious goal at all, relying merely on that "work on Chapter 10" thing.

So this week, I'm going to set more specific and reachable goals. "Work on chapter 10 for 3 hours." That can be broken down into 15 minute increments: "During this 15 minutes I will read through the beginning of Ch 10 which I wrote on Friday and make whatever notes or changes as occur to me." Or, "I will address the notes I've made, one by one." Or, "I will make the changes I've proposed," or "write one paragraph of description of this place."

Small achievable goals. And with the timer going off every fifteen minutes, I will also remember to stop and stretch!