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Have you ever thought about setting creative goals? These goals specifically revolve around your creative projects or hopes and dreams for your creative life.
How many years have you been telling yourself you wish you could [insert your dreams for your creative life here]? This is a practice I started a couple of years ago and though it might seem obvious, I was really surprised how it allowed me to incorporate more creative time into my schedule as well as move forward on projects that had been on pause for a very long time.
How to Set Creative Goals
Looking back over the year is the foundation to this process. Before you get started with brainstorming creative goals for the coming year (or months, if you’re starting mid-year), you’ll need to address the past year.
Here are some great questions that Ruth Soukup asked in a newsletter a few years ago:
- “What were my biggest accomplishments this past year, and how do I want to top them next year?
- What were my biggest lessons this year, and how do I want to avoid making the same mistakes in the upcoming year?
- What am I most proud of?
- What would I most like to change in the year ahead?
- What am I never, ever going to do again?
Though these questions were originally asked to a business-related audience, you can adapt them for your creative life. Write or type out your answers to these questions and really take the time to think them over. I find that I process things more clearly when I hand write so you might want to give that a try (even though typing is faster!)
Even better—write this year end evaluation out in the planner you’re using for your life, creative business, or blog so you can reference it in the coming months.
As you answer these questions, try to not self-edit. You might notice that there things you meant to do last year that fell off your radar. Rather than judging that, just let it be. There’s no reason why you can’t pick up some of those goals, refine them, and put them on this year’s list.
At the end of my review time, I like to take a sheet of paper and write out everything I’m thankful for, specifically in the area I’m reviewing. This is incredibly important, and you’ll feel awesome after you finish this gratitude list too.
Once you’ve reviewed the year, it’s time to set goals for the next year.
Creative Goals 101
What is the overarching goal you want to meet by next year? Would you like to be more proficient at brush-lettering? Maybe you want to learn how to knit a scarf. Having a goal that is broad will make it easier to narrow down the separate steps you’ll need to take to make it happen.
Narrow it down
Once you have a goal of something you’d like to accomplish, list the steps you’ll need to do in order to make it happen. If you don’t know the exact steps because you’re new to the activity, do the best you can. Your steps might be something like, “Look through local community college catalog, sign up for a class, buy supplies and book, etc.”
The clearer you can be with these steps, the better. It’s difficult to set specific goals if you don’t have a map to get there.
Also remember to include the approximate amount of time you’ll need; you can have all your supplies lined up, but if you don’t figure out when you’re going to work on your projects, they’re not going to happen.
This is one of the most difficult parts of goal-setting for me. I like to set tons of goals and as I write those, I think of others that “need” to be on the list. The problem with the never-ending goal list is unless you have absolutely no other responsibilities, it’s really difficult to be successful.
Recently, I heard a creative coach say that you need to set only one to three intentions per week (that stem from broader goals.) Doing more sets you up for failure and burnout. As it’s true in pretty much every area of life, being steadfast and methodically working through goals and projects works better in the long run, both for your creative process and your sanity.
That said, try to only make three creative goals for the year. (You can always add more later!) The year is broken into three-month segments or quarters that you can use to further break down those goals.
Remember that goal-setting is a year-round endeavor
If you happen to finish your first three creative goals for the year, then take some time to sit down and reassess. I like to sit down several times during the year for this process. I’ve recently started reassessing on a quarterly basis because it feels more doable to look at what I have or have not accomplished in three month chunks.
I also do a quick check in once a month when I’m on a creative retreat. This is where I do minor readjustments to priorities and add things to consider in the future.
I check my habit tracker (pictured below) to see if I actually did make time for hand-lettering (or whatever creative project I’m focusing on for that month.) During this time I’m able to see what worked well for that month and take note of it.
Something I started last year is tracking my habits and goals on a daily basis by using a habit tracker. ” It has been a huge help for me because I was having trouble remembering whether or not I actually was working on certain goals on a daily or weekly basis during my once a month check-in. I would look back at the month and think, “Hmmm, well, I intended to draw every day but I can’t really remember if I actually did that. I guess I did . . . maybe.”
Now I fill out my goal and habit tracker at breakfast every morning for the day before (it takes seconds, and it’s fun to color :)) and am able to see at a glance whether or not I’m making progress. I have found it helpful to have all of my goals ranging from small to big on the same page so I can easily check them. A lot of goal and habit trackers only track one thing at a time. I also can put things on the tracker that I only need to remember to do once a month or once a week which I love. (If you’re interested, you can get your printable habit tracker for $1 here!)