Set A Goal You Can’t Miss by Jennette Marie Powell

It’s a new year. A new start. One you undoubtedly entered thinking “this time, I’m not going to slack. This time, I’m going to meet my ROW80 goals, every one of them, every week. This time for sure!”

Only to find that once you get into it, it’s not so easily done as said. Maybe your enthusiasm has waned, like it inevitably does for three-fourths of those New Year’s resolution-makers you saw at the gym the first week of January, but who’ve stopped showing up by February.

Or maybe you’re just setting your goals too high. Maybe you’ve forgotten some other commitment you made this week that will take time (I’m guilty of this on a regular basis). Or maybe you’ve encountered the inevitable monkey wrench in the form of needing to work late, a kid needing extra help with homework, or illness. I’ve seen a lot of this with NaNoWriMo, that one-size-fits-all writing challenge that’s anything but. Of course, we hear of other people besides writers having to-do lists and goals they can’t possibly accomplish in the time allotted.

We never think our goals were unreasonable when we initially set them, yet for so many of us, it seems like we never get through as much as we want.

Sound like you? Maybe it’s time to try a different tactic. This is what I call the Writers’ Boot Camp way. It need not just apply to writing; it will work for fitness or any other big task.

Writers’ Boot Camp is a workshop taught by author and former Army Ranger Todd Stone, which I had the opportunity to attend a couple years ago when he presented it to my RWA chapter. If you have the chance to take it, do! He may even show up to teach the workshop in a camouflage kilt (he did for ours! J).

Anyway, he started out the workshop talking about goals. Usually, we’re encouraged to set goals that are attainable, but not necessarily easily. Stone takes the opposite approach: he suggests setting a goal so low, you can’t help but make it! Here were the examples he gave:

“Can you write a page a day? If you’re not sure, how about a paragraph? Or even a sentence???”

Yes, that small. Thing is, we usually are able to go much further – so we get more done, AND we have that sense of accomplishment in saying “Yes! I met my goal!”

This could easily be applied to decluttering, getting your house in order, or working on a big project of another sort. And yes, fitness too, since many of us regularly set fitness goals. Don’t think you can hack a half hour on the treadmill? Just get on, and shoot for five minutes. Chances are, you’ll end up doing much more, if not the full workout!

So if you’ve had trouble meeting your ROW80 goals, try setting smaller ones this week—small enough that you know you can’t not meet them. Write five pages. Write one page. Write just one sentence. Or heck, just open the file!

How are you doing on your goals, whatever they may be? Have you ever tried this tactic? How did it work for you?


Jennette Marie Powell



  1. I do this depending on what goal I’m trying to reach. With running, I “aim” for 2 miles daily, knowing I might make it out maybe 2-3 times per week; if I aim lower than “daily”, I won’t get out there at all! But with writing, I do the exact opposite, and set the bar extremely low: 300 words daily. I still might only do the actual writing 2-3 times per week, but I almost always get closer to 800 words during that session. This odd mix of aim high / aim low has been a long process in the making, and I’m still tweaking it to obtain maximum results. I think most of all, regardless of how high you shoot, being honest with yourself and acting accordingly is paramount.

    Love to see this type of advice, which flies in the face of general convention. There is no one perfect recipe that will fit each individual, so it’s great to have a cornucopia of ideas from which to choose — even when the choices are polar opposites! 🙂

  2. This might work better with my way of thinking than setting ambitious goals – otherwise it’s like the ‘have had one biscuit, may as well have the whole box’ mindset.

  3. I love your attitude Jennette! And I love Todd Stone’s tactice for meeting our goals! Baby steps works for me. I think we all feel overwhelmed at times. And then to add one more thing to our list, well it’s like the straw that broke the camel’s back. The important things is that we’re making progress, no matter how small. It gives us a feeling of achievement. Awesome post, as always! 🙂

  4. Ashley, it works well for me!

    Gene, you’re welcome! Hope it’s useful. 🙂

    Andi, you’ve got it – we each should experiment and find what works best for us – thanks for your input!

    Marina, LOL I unfortunately eat too many treats that way – but it works great for writing goals!

    Karen, you know I’m all for baby steps – thanks!

  5. When I sponsored a ROWnd, I met a lot people who were struggling with their goals. Since I had my own struggling experiences, I suggested something that I hoped helped. I told people to just write Five Sentences… It’s similar to the One Minute Writer (which is a very helpful site for inspiring some words).

    And to go back in ancient ROW80 history there was Kait’s suggestion of a test mile. Granted, some people are setting that as their daily goal… Yes, small steps! Small pebbles…

    Boy, this post is reminding me of a lot of my favorite “just get some words down” sites. Thanks! And also thank you for the Writer’s Boot Camp info and image.

      1. It is great; the only problem I see (and you method fixes it) is people set their “test mile” really high. Or they don’t adjust it for the type of work they are doing…. It takes more time to write structured work than to freewrite and draft, etc..

  6. Jennette, I loved this! It’s true that you get encouraged when you meet goals, not when you miss them over and over. When I’ve had too-ambitious rounds, I wind up feeling ineffective and discouraged, even if I did accomplish something. Thanks for the tips!

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