Are you thinking about next year?

opportunity-396265_640Nanowrimo’s been over for a while now, which hopefully means that you now have something that can loosely be defined as a novel and have even done some celebrating.

Having finished your novel, done your celebrating, and fully recovered from both, you’re likely now remembering that Christmas or whatever holiday it is that your family happens to celebrate–because religious or not, everybody seems to celebrate something at this time of year–and realizing that you’re drastically behind on your holiday shopping.

With all these things on your mind, have you stopped to think about what you’re going to accomplish next year? Have you started making plans?

“New Year’s Resolutions” might not be effective, but having a loose plan for what you’ll accomplish next year well before it begins can help you stay aware of your progress and stay on track throughout the year.

One easy way to create a plan for next year without setting yourself up for disappointment–it’s amazing how much your life can change in a single year–is to create two separate lists of goals. One will be the bare minimum you want to accomplish next year. It will include three or four big things that you want to accomplish no matter what happens.

This list might look a little bit like this:

  • Edit my 2010 Nanowrimo novel twice and get feedback
  • Edit my 2006 Nanowrimo novel based on feedback
  • Edit & submit fantasy novella
  • Blog regularly
  • Build a consistent income from writing related work

This might seem like a lot, and it is, but if every edit takes around three months–which is about how long both rewrites I did last year took–and your blog posts aren’t extremely long, this is exactly enough work to keep you busy consistently throughout the year, even if you have to do other work to pay the bills.

After you’ve created your “bare minimum” list, it’s time to think about what you’d actually really like to accomplish next year. Everybody has commitments outside of writing, and you’re probably already aware of what some of your commitments will be next year.

Your second list will be a list of everything you want to accomplish, barring serious injury or something else that causes you to lose a large chunk of time. 

Most of us have a pretty solid idea of how much time there is in a year, but we often underestimate how much of that time will be committed to things we don’t really enjoy and overestimate how much we can actually accomplish in that amount of time.

When we write out our lists of goals, we tend to think optimistically, believing we will be more disciplined next year than ever before, that we will get more writing related work done than we have ever before. So we write lists that are half a mile long, and when we look at them a year later, we can’t help but cringe at the sinking feeling of disappointment.

Yet without big dreams, often we accomplish nothing. So go ahead and write out your crazy, detailed list that makes it look like you know everything will go smoothly next year. Leave it somewhere just visible enough that you’ll be reminded of your big dreams once in a while.

What have you accomplished this year? What do you think you can accomplish next year? Share your thoughts–or your lists–in the comments below!