Resolutions & Goals: 5 Tips to Make Them Stick

Writers are notorious for setting ambitious new year’s resolutions and goals, then beating themselves up for not achieving them. At least that’s what I’ve done the last few years. The result? Around this time of year I always feel like a failure, despite the things I managed to accomplish. But no more! I’ve come up with some tips to make them stick, so that at the end of 2016 I feel like a success!

Resolutions-Goals-5 Tips

#1 Be specific about resolutions, but vague about the end-of-year goal. Up until now, I have always done the opposite: I set specific end goals (like finish a novel) and vague resolutions (write more). This hasn’t worked because vague resolutions are not actionable plans and therefore don’t help achieve goals. So this year I’m being more specific in my resolutions (write at least 1 hour every day, before bed set writing goals for next day, etc.) and more vague about that end-of-year goal (make progress on my novel). Why am I not setting a specific final goal? Because that sets me up for disappointment and failure. Writing isn’t a science (at least not for me); there aren’t measurable steps I can take that will guarantee the desired outcome. The best I can do is make resolutions to improve my writing process, and when that leads to accomplishing something, whatever that turns out to be, I’ll be happy with it instead of despairing over The Big Goal I failed to achieve.

#2 Make small goals. As I mentioned in #1, I’m keeping my end-of-year goal vague, but that doesn’t mean I’m not working towards anything. Instead I’m creating daily, weekly and monthly goals to keep me motivated and productive. Not only are small goals quicker to achieve, they are easy to adjust, meaning if I get sidetracked by something mid-month I can get back on track without irreparably messing up a year-long deadline schedule.

#3 Learn from the past. After a few years of not achieving my goals, I made a calendar of deadlines for those goals. Did this lead to me meeting those goals? Nope! But at least now I can clearly see the reason why… because in that calendar I had a column with what I actually did each week versus what I’d planned to do. Using that information in this year’s calendar, I can better estimate how long it will take me to complete various stages of my novel, and therefore create more realistic and achievable goals.

#4 Only set goals I can control. This means not making goals like, “Get an agent this year.” Why? Because I don’t have the power of mind control over other people, so I can’t make this happen. Instead resolve to query agents by a certain date.

#5 Make some purely fun resolutions and goals. I have totally forgotten about this one for the last half decade! My goals and resolutions have been entirely writing focused, but all work and no play make Heather a dull girl. So this year I’ve resolved to go on at least one trip, whether my budget is $200 or $2000. I’ve also resolved to do something social at least once a week, even in the dead of winter when I don’t feel like going outside.

So that’s how I’m planning to keep my new year’s resolutions and goals. What about you? What’s your plan?

PS – For 2016, Robin and I are changing our blogging schedule. Instead of both of us posting every week, we are going to alternate Mondays. So today is me! Next Monday is Robin. And so forth. We will also do the occasional #WeekendCoffeeShare when the mood strikes, as well as host amazing guest bloggers throughout the year. First up is Alex Hurst with a post about working as a slush pile reader. Stay tuned!

Author: Heather Jackson

Heather is a freelance screenwriter, game writer, and novelist based in Toronto. For more, visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @HeatherJacksonW

18 thoughts on “Resolutions & Goals: 5 Tips to Make Them Stick”

  1. Like the idea about fun resolutions..I also think one should be: DO NOT overreact to all those ‘I wrote 25 thousand words today/my book is at no 1 in (someobscure) Amazon Chart/I signed a deal with a top agent ..stuff.

  2. I especially like the idea of having some fun goals and resolutions. Makes it a whole lot easier to sit down at the desk in the morning if you know part of the day might be your favorite thing.

  3. This is great advice, Heather, I can only second everything. Making small goals which are achievable quickly is important and a great motivator, and leaving room for fun is just as vital. Great list!
    I may have to keep you guys in mind for hosting a blog tour later this year ^^

  4. I had planned to finish my 5th novel by January 1st (A big goal when you work full time. But it didn’t happen and now I feel guilty. Then I remind myself, hey Laurie, it’s not like the book police are waiting to publicly shame you. You’re not going to have to wear a giant I for incomplete.
    Still it kinda feels like I do have a sharp one sewn on my back. Ouch.
    Wish I’d set smaller goals…

    1. That’s right, the book police are not coming for you! Though I often feel the same since my friends and family are constantly asking, “Are you ever going to finish that book?” Ugh. Yes. But books take time. So be kind to yourself and celebrate achieving the small goals!

  5. Sound advice. Brilliant, really. I’ve seen so many writers make resolutions (or goals) like you mentioned in #1. It’s much better the other way round, like you’ve said. Happy 2016. 🙂

  6. These are really excellent tips and tricks! I don’t really do resolutions, but I did set very specific goals for this quarter, and I think i’m doing pretty well at them~

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