Success begins with realistic goals...

How to Set Realistic Goals and Find Time to Achieve Them

I was sweaty, breathing hard, and my legs felt like jelly when I finally crossed the finish line. And, it was so satisfying, I was ready to sign up for another run as soon as possible.

I was a 40-something non-runner. I was out of shape and overweight. And, yet, a friend had convinced me participating in a Susan G. Komen 5K Race for the Cure event would be fun.

You saw that bit about my not being a runner, right? And, 5K stands for 5 kilometers, which is 3.1 miles.

It was a daunting idea, to say the least.

But, I signed up anyway. And, I started a “couch to 5K” training program.

I followed the training… but, on the morning of the Race for the Cure, I hadn’t yet run a full 3.1 miles.

I showed up anyway. I took my place among the hundreds of other runners at the starting line. I was excited, scared, and apprehensive, because I didn’t feel ready… and, yet, I was determined to finish.

That was my only goal. To finish.

I heard a few other runners mention goals of finishing with specific times. I heard a group of friends pledge to each other they were going to run the entire distance this time without taking walk breaks.

But, I wasn’t there yet. Their goals weren’t realistic for me that day.

And, that was okay!

I ran — and walked — the race at my own pace. Remember, simply finishing was the win I was after.

And, I did feel like a winner at the finish line. It was amazing!

I’ve found the web-writing community — and even the larger copywriting community, as a whole — is very much like the running community. From newbie to experienced writer, we show up with different skill levels and abilities. We may have different goals, and each of our own “races” may look different, but we’re all winners when we cross the finish line.

So, let’s talk about how to set realistic goals you can feel good about and then finding time to show up for your race. Because, you can’t cross the finish line if you don’t show up.

Set Realistic Goals…

“Realistic goals” are a matter of perception. And, they’re situational. Unique to your personal situation. Yours don’t look the same as mine. Yours may not even look exactly like those of someone else studying the same course and learning the same skills at the same time as you.

And, that’s okay. Just like my goals were different from those of my fellow runners, your goals as a writer are your own.

Set goals that fit your life… your energy levels, your skill and experience level, and your available time.

If you’re starting with zero clients, a goal of making $25,000 this quarter to be on track to earn six figures may not be realistic. It may, in fact, cause undue stress and decrease your motivation, if it feels so far beyond where you are right now.

But, what if your goal were to create a very simple, basic website to showcase your writing services and build your credibility with prospects?

What if your goal were to decide on the one type of project you want to launch your business with? As part of that, you might set your fee for that project and develop an irresistible offer to persuade prospects to hire you.

What if your goal were to find and attend one virtual networking meeting or other event that fits into your schedule each week, so you can start telling other business professionals about that offer and ask them for referrals?

These goals would move you toward your ultimate goal of getting clients and making money as a web writer. And, they may feel more realistic, if you’re starting with zero clients.

If you’re still in the process of learning and developing your web-writing skills (and I suggest we ALL should be committed to ongoing learning, since the web is constantly evolving), what’s a realistic balance between learning and doing?

When you’re starting out, the scales may be tipped on the side of learning. However, keep something on the side of doing, as well.

As you learn more, you can start doing more, and, eventually, the balance will shift toward more and more doing. Which means more fully living your version of the writer’s life.

Action steps:

  1. Evaluate where you are RIGHT NOW in your writer’s life.

  2. Define where you WANT to be as a web writer.

  3. Articulate WHY you want to do that.

  4. Determine WHAT you need to do/be/have next to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

  5. Of all the things you need to do/be/have next, identify the one thing you can achieve in the next 30-90 days that will make the most impact.

  6. Identify two or three things you need to do/be/have that will support your one major thing.

  7. Ask yourself how you feel about your one thing and the supporting things. A mix of excitement and nervousness is good. If you’re feeling anxious, though, it could be a sign you’re biting off more than you can chew. Can you break your things down into even smaller steps that feel better?

Finding Time…

We all have the same 168 hours in a week. If you’re currently spending 45 of those hours at a full-time job, you have 123 left.

Think of it like a budget…

You have to pay your mortgage/rent and utilities. You have to buy food to eat. But, what do you CHOOSE to do with your discretionary income?

Likewise, in your weekly time budget, what are you choosing to do with your discretionary time?

To achieve your goals, you’re going to have to devote the time required to do the things that need doing.

There’s a reason I asked you to define your why, and it relates to this issue of finding time.

As humans, we make time for what is important to us. Just as we adjust our financial budget to find the money for the vacation, the new clothes, the new shoes, or whatever it is for you… we also adjust our time budget to find the time for what we find most valuable.

So, remember your why when you take the next action steps.

Action steps:

  1. Estimate how much time it will take to do the things you identified as steps toward achieving that one thing you chose to focus on in the next 30-90 days.

  2. Divide the total amount of time by the number of days you can devote to taking those steps. (It’s okay to give yourself days off, but remember consistency is key to achievement.)

  3. Once you have the daily amount of time you need, schedule that activity into your calendar. Actually block off the time as an appointment. Consider it one of your most important appointments, as it’s your commitment to your future self.

  4. Keep the appointments. Do the work.

You may need to change some things to free up the time in your calendar for these new goal appointments. You may need to reevaluate some of your priorities. If this is the case for you and you’re finding it difficult, I suggest going back to your why.

For example, if your goal is devoting X number of hours per week to your copywriting studies and marketing, why is that important to you?

Is your why important enough that you would get up 30 minutes earlier every day to take the steps required to get there? Is it worth redirecting some Netflix time?

If you take an honest look at how you spend your day, you’ll find time you’re currently spending on things less important than your why. Take that time and reallocate it to your goal appointments.

I had never run/walked a 5K before I did it. And then, I kept doing them, because I liked them so much.

I had never run/walked a half-marathon (13.2 miles) before I did that. And, it was so much more satisfying than what had become a “simple” 5K.

My running goals changed and developed along with my experience and skill level. Your writing goals will do the same.

It’s okay to start small, if that’s where you are right now. That can be essential to setting realistic goals.

Just show up.

I’ll be at the finish line with the rest of our writer’s community cheering you on.

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Michele Peterson

I'm a Freelance Direct-Response Copywriter specializing in web content and social media. I help clients attract new prospects, get new customers, and retain existing clients with engaging web content and strategic social media. I'm a Master Networker, having attended 400+ networking events in the past 3 years. AND I'm a proud Baseball Mom, Wine Wife, and BBQ Daughter who loves Christmas, Disneyland, and rescue dogs.

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