How to set goals you’ll be more likely to keep.
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, writing-related or otherwise. Something about the ritual feels contrived and ineffective — possibly because I’m an undisciplined, chronic procrastinator who loves finding loopholes in self-imposed rules. As esteemed behavioral economist Dan Ariely said a few years ago, “If you don’t have resolutions, you can’t break them.”
And yet here we are, mere hours before ringing in 2016. You want your blog to shine next year, you want to feel productive and energized, and you might think to yourself that maybe a little champagne-fueled commitment can’t hurt. And unless you’re one of the writing 1 percent — that group of three self-satisfied people who think that “writer’s block” is an actual block on which you write, prolifically — you’re right. Ceremonial rituals can’t hurt (why would anyone ever get married otherwise?).
So here are three ideas to ponder as you make — or consider making — your blogging resolutions for next year. They’re tailored to the skeptics among you, though true believers are certainly welcome to adopt and adapt them as well.
Make it about process
Every year, there are people who set out to publish a new post every week or even every single day (if that’s you, you deserve a badge!). Some follow our Daily Prompts while others come up with their own ideas. I genuinely admire anyone with that level of commitment to anything, but I also recognize that we can’t all aspire to a goal as lofty as that.
By setting up circumstances so that the good decision is the default, it takes more work to slip back into old habits.
— Scott Huettel, Duke University Psychology Department
Which is why a great resolution to make is not “I will publish every X days,” but rather “I will build an editorial calendar and stick with it.”
How detailed a calendar ends up being depends on your own temperament — for some, a loose statement like “I’ll post a couple of new recipes every month” is already more than enough. Others might need more specifics, and opt for a list or a chart to shape the serial posts they’d like to write (and their frequency), strategize how to balance their blog’s multiple niches, or make plans for contributions from guest bloggers.
The idea, in other words, is to create a framework that helps you succeed, rather than obsess over a number which you might come to see as arbitrary or even counterproductive.
Take pleasure in connections
Most of us live in cultures that valorize things you can quantify. That’s probably why writing events (and writing resolutions) often establish some numerical goal to achieve: write X words in Y days, publish Z posts over the next month, and so on.
It would be nice to change the culture, but it might take us a while. So, why not stick with numbers — but attach them to different, less output-focused goals?
If don’t already have a network of bloggers you care about and aren’t sure where to start, join one of our free Blogging U. courses in 2016 — they’re the perfect setting for finding other bloggers to interact with (while also working on your blogging or writing skills).
Sure, you can commit to three posts a week or 5,000 words a month or any other metric you feel comfortable with. But consider adding other types of goals to your list: find three new blogs to follow every week. Once a day, leave a substantive comment on someone else’s post. Try out a different blogging event every month.
You get the idea — make resolutions that push you to connect with people. These connections and stronger sense of community will only make it more likely that you meet your other, publishing-oriented goals.
Find a penalty you love
Self-flagellation shouldn’t be part of the blogging or writing process — all of us have work, family, and other obligations to attend to. Our lives are complicated, which is why they’re interesting and worth blogging about in the first place. (It’s also why you should never start a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long!” — see #2 here).
Instead of feeling bad for falling behind on your publishing, find a productive way to penalize yourself. I mentioned earlier my knack for finding loopholes within my own rules. These often take the shape of bizarre, convoluted negotiations with myself: “if I don’t finish this post now, I have to spend 30 minutes looking through my photo library for featured images for future posts.” And so on.
Tip: You can start a list of to-do items for your blog, from design elements to general maintenance. That way, whenever the muses are gone for the day, you have a solid plan B.
The idea is to establish penalties that aren’t too severe (but also not too much fun, or you’ll just intentionally skip your initial plans!) and that still serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things. Come up with a couple of “if… then…” scenarios. “If I don’t publish today, then I’ll audit my tags for consistency.” “If I don’t finish creating those custom Image Widgets I’d been working on, then I’ll come up with three post ideas to explore down the line.” Your “penalty” doesn’t even have to be blog-related. A 15-minute stroll through your neighborhood is a perfect way to not write — and might just inspire your next post. Or it might not. And that’s fine, too.
Whatever your blogging resolutions for next year may be, we can’t wait to see you here in 2016! Happy new year!