Tackling The Big Goals by Michael Roberts

How are you big goals coming along?


Did you set up enormous plans at the beginning of ROW80 that are beginning to feel unattainable? If so, you’re not alone. We didn’t get in this whole goal-setting challenge to create easy achievements for ourselves.


We came to accomplish something.


Unfortunately, we feel even worse if we miss that big goal. We go through a mindset that goes something like, “This challenge is 80 days long, and I missed that one goal that was going to prove how awesome of writer I really am…”


Breaking Down the Bigger Goals into Lots of Smaller Goals


I’m currently reading “Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, and it’s already rocking my world. It’s the type of book that I heard about a long time ago now, and I kept meaning to get to it.


The authors have a few sections in their book that really struck me in regards to meeting your goals. Their first big idea: “Your estimates suck.”


If we can’t accurately estimate how long it will take us to get to the grocery store and back, how on earth are we going to nail down a more abstract process like creativity?


Going for the big goals that we think we’ll accomplish in 80 days might end up taking a year, or it could come to us in 60 days. Rather than putting all of our energy in one do-or-die type of test, we should instead create loads of small goals that add up to the major goal.


If I want to write 100,000 words in a month, I can’t think about the entire challenge. I have to think about the checkpoints along the way.  The process then goes something like this, “This week, I’ll focus on chapters 3 and 4. Since my chapters average at 4,000 words, I know that I’ll be keeping on track to reach the overall goal.”


You’re not suddenly writing less, but you are giving yourself a mental victory with each completed chapter. And victories are crucial to accomplishments.


Make Tiny Decisions


Another bit of advice that the authors give that I find extremely relevant to the creative process is to “make tiny decisions.” When we’re faced with a major crossroads kind of decision, we feel paralyzed about answering it in exactly the right way.


And with writing, answering a major question the wrong way could mean extensive re-writes. We have to get it right on the first go-round, don’t we?


Not really, but to take even more pressure off of ourselves, what if we focused on the smaller choices? Let’s say your character is faced with a massively important decision of going off to college and leaving her true love behind, or staying home and passing up that amazing scholarship to an elite university. That decision is going to affect the character and the story pretty dramatically.


Rather than endlessly fretting, you could simply write outlines out for either path that the decision could take. Notice that we’re already doingsomething here instead of just waiting for the perfect answer to come to us. After the outlines are complete it’s simply a matter of picking which story would be more interesting to tell.


It’s the same decision, but the drama of it has been reduced significantly. We’re not blindly throwing all of our hope on a plot decision because it felt right at the time.


And if we’re completely wrong about the plot decision, then we can easily switch course. After all, we already have an outline to work from.


Make Your Challenges Easier on Yourself


This week, look for ways that you can break down your big goals into smaller accomplishments. Can you lower the risk of each decision to help ramp up your creativity? The more you get comfortable with taking those risks and getting things done, the more you can do.


Michael Roberts



  1. Thankfully, I haven’t had to revise my goals for this challenge – yet. Does that mean I’ve met every one of them? NO!
    By the way, the idea of writing 100,000 in one month boggles my mind. Even if I was a full-time writer – instead of a full-time teaching assistant, full-time college student,full-time spouse and mother – the idea seems ludicrously unattainable.
    No chunk is small enough to make it digestible. Your post, on the other hand, it was just the right size at just the right time.

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