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Turn New Year Goals into Action

systems goals for writersBy Helen Kaiao Chang

During the new year or the start of a business, we are often filled with lofty dreams of what we can accomplish in the coming year. A solid business plan helps. Visionboards and mind maps are also excellent tools for visualizing long-term and medium-term goals. [link to above blog]

But how do you translate those dreams into short-term goals? How do large goals become measurable results you can accomplish?

By breaking them down into specific tasks and marking those tasks in your calendar.

Putting goals into your monthly and weekly schedule turns your vision into measurable steps with a deadline. This enables you to take daily action towards your dreams.

Short-term goals

I use my calendar to write down monthly targets, drawn as mind maps. I like to list a combination of personal and business goals, because that keeps me balanced.

I use a paper calendar, because the act of drawing taps into my creativity. But you can just as easily use an online or software calendar. One software program I like is www.goalscape.com, an intuitive program that allows you to create goals, with milestones and deadlines.

To truly work towards my dreams, I review my long-term and medium-term goals, then determine what short-term goals I want to accomplish during a month. But I don’t always do that. In fact, I usually only review my long- and short-term goals once every six months. I feel more facile that way. Either way, the point is to think about your monthly goals at the start of each month.


In my monthly calendar, I draw mind maps on the right, and mark the calendar on the left. The mind maps show different topics, in priority from top to bottom for that month. Each mind map then lists tasks in that area I want to accomplish that month. For example, in January last year, spirituality was my first priority, so it appeared at the top. Next was my writing business and health. And so on.

Under the writing business, the goals I wanted to achieve for that month were: clear my space and get organized, set intentions for the year, and clarify contracts. I broke down the monthly goals further into weekly goals. For the week of January 17 last year, my goals included: set up desktop computer and finalize contract with client X. These specific tasks stemmed from the monthly goals of organization and contracts.

You can also break down weekly goals into daily to-do lists. For some reason, I got tired of doing daily to-do lists. Too much organization, I think. Weekly goals are good enough for me. But do what works for you.

As I accomplish each task, I check them off. First weekly, then monthly. If I don’t accomplish something, I re-evaluate or push it to another week or month. Then I create new goals.

No Goals

Not every goal is achieved. Not every task gets done. In fact, some months I don’t put anything in the calendar, because I didn’t finish everything from the previous month. Or I’m just plain tired. In October 2010, for example, instead of mind maps, I wrote down a lamb shank recipe I found in a book at a bookstore.

Sometimes I just have to give myself time to catch up or renew myself. The week of June 13, I had the goal: “Nurture and love self.” The week of September 26, I wrote: “Have fun snorkeling!”


Goals can change. Something I may have wanted at the beginning of the year may be impractical or irrelevant later. Or I may decide that some goals are more important to complete than others at a certain time. For example, finishing a client’s book can be more important than updating my website in some months. It helps to be flexible.

Grieve and Release

I also give myself permission to grieve unattained goals. During the financial crisis, my income dropped in half. I let myself grieve that year’s financial goal. Sure, it was justified, but it was still a loss.

This past year, I did not achieve a particular goal for a personal writing project. That’s ok. I still made a lot of progress, and I achieved other big goals. I released that particular goal, so I can set new ones for that project next year.


It’s important to celebrate achieving your goals. This gives you energy to create new ones.

I treat myself to nice lunch dates, go for long swims and spend afternoons at the beach.
The rewards makes the goals worthwhile. That’s when I feel like I am living the life of my dreams.

What do you do to turn goals into tasks? How do you let go of goals you do not reach? How do you celebrate goals you do achieve?

Helen Kaiao Chang is a ghostwriter, editor and journalist. She can be reached at www.ghostwriter-needed.com.

Two newsletters:
Abundant Freelance Writing – a resource for freelance writers including 3x a week job postings.
Writing With Vision – for those who want to get a book written.

Photo by Helen Chang

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • I’m a big fan of David Allen’s Getting Things Done — and breaking goals down into next step action items. That’s how I tackle accomplishing goals.

    I wish I were better at celebrating the goals I achieve! Maybe THAT ought to be one of my goals! 🙂

  • Lauri

    I know that notepad!

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