This post may contain some affiliate links for your convenience (which means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission to help keep my blog up and running, but it won't cost you a penny more). For more information, please read my disclosure policy.
Do you have a dream?
An idea that’s been rolling around in your head for awhile now? Something that you know you were meant to do or to be?
Have you been procrastinating on getting started?
I’m going to challenge you to stop putting off your dream right now.
Instead of “someday,” define your goals and then plan a year of steps you can do to reach it.
What can you do in a year?
Can you do anything in a year?
Some dreams take longer than a year to make happen, but a surprising number of things can be accomplished in a year. Even if you can’t get to the finish line, a year of focused and intentional work will bring you a lot closer than you are today.
Let’s put it this way. Where will you be in a year if you do nothing?
Every year brings you an opportunity to create something new.
That’s why New Year’s resolutions are so popular. We instinctively know that new beginnings bring new opportunities.
But you don’t have to procrastinate and wait to start on January 1st. You can start a year of change anytime.
A year ago, I was working an evening job that paid really well but which was depressing and ate away at my self esteem.
Today I have regular dinners with two friends who also quit their jobs there in the last year.
We call it the Survivors’ Meetup and it always begin with us congratulating ourselves for choosing to walk away from the toxic and create new purpose for ourselves.
All three of us are in much happier and lucrative jobs now and we can’t help but shake our heads at former coworkers that were utterly miserable but simply didn’t have the courage to take the leap and find something else. They’re still there, still miserable and complaining.
This is how bad job situations stay that way.
Most people are more uncomfortable with making a change than they are with staying in a bad situation.
Do you have a good job? A well paying job?
And is that job bringing you satisfaction or are you constantly dreaming of where you’d rather be?
To get to that next place – the next job, your own business, a big relocation, writing a book – requires work.
Defining, in as much detail as you can, that dream helps you break it down into goals and tasks.
Let’s say that you want to write a book about parenting in the next year.
The average non-fiction book is about 50,000 words, which is 200 pages. So you might break down your project like this:
- Write a proposal for your book. This is your mission statement of the scope of the work. What will the book be about, what particular slant will you have, what you already are bringing to the project, what you need to research, what tools you’ll need (possibly a word-processing program specifically designed for book manuscripts, such as Scrivener; a grammar and spellchecker and more). This is basically a project outline.
- Write an outline of your chapters and what you will cover in your writing.
- List the research you need to do and factor in the time you need.
- Create a work schedule to complete your first draft in 6 months.
- Block out time for at least 2 edits and rewrites plus final edit and having a proofreader review it.
With these larger goals in place, you can now break it down this way, also noting when you plan to do the tasks. Note that you may find that you need more, or less, time than this. We’re just looking at how to break goals down to achievable tasks.
- Week 1 – Write proposal – next weekend, estimated time about 4-6 hours.
- Weeks 2-3 – Write outline – one hour a day for two weeks, getting up early during the week to do it. Break each chapter down to its content.
- Weeks 4-5 – Research – one hour at home and lunch break at work for two weeks. You might assume that you have been doing this research for a long time already before tackling a book. But there is always more research to be done so factor the time you think you’ll need.
- To write approximately 200 words in 6 months, you’ll need to write about a little over one double spaced page a day. Even if you reserve writing to weekends, that’s only 7 pages a week. If you want to give yourself even more time, write 2 pages a week and you will be done before a year.
So how long do you need to write a single page each day? Not a perfect page. Not a page edited for grammar or spelling. Just a page that picks up from the last one you wrote and takes you to the next one you’ll write?
With a good outline in hand, you are never going to be waiting for inspiration or be struggling with what to write about next. You’ll know what comes next and you can knock out a page in very little time. But give yourself some cushion and plan for an hour a day. Some days you’ll find that you just can’t stop at just one page and you knock out 3 or 4. That’s fine but once you budget your writing time and commit to doing a page a day, do it. If you’re going to be away from home, grab a notebook and pen and the last few pages you’ve written and write your page in the car on the way to Disneyland, or on the plane on your way to business meetings.
By scheduling your goals and steps, they become achievable actions that you schedule as part of your days.
Every dream can be analyzed and broken down to goals and tasks in the exact same way. Why don’t you try it?
And then come back and tell me where you plan to be a year from now.
What’s next? How about some great goal setting hacks?
Dreams are wonderful but that’s all they’ll ever be if you do nothing about them. Start setting some goals that will take you towards the future you want, step by step. These hacks will help you work smarter, not harder!