“How can you get where you’re going if you don’t know where that is?”
Surprisingly to me, the topic of goals seems to divide bloggers into two camps: the ones who think goal setting in any situation is of vital importance, and the ones who think that blogging should be more spontaneous and fluid.
I think they’re both right.
The great thing about blogging that perhaps other business ventures don’t have is the personal aspect. The sharing of stories, the authentic representation of real life people in the real world. Sometimes it’s hard to put structure on that, to say your blog must do X and Y if you are ever going to get to Z. Many people buck the idea of pointing their blog in a direction rather than let it evolve naturally. Plus some of us just really hate being told what to do.
The difference can usually be boiled down to the main reason you write your blog, and where you want your blog to go. Is it a creative outlet? A thing of passion? A bit of fun that isn’t meant to be stressful? Or are you hoping it will earn you some money, maybe some freelance writing work, some speaking engagements, or even a book deal? Maybe even a bit of both: a creative outlet that makes an income?
In order to reach a destination, you have to know where you’re going. And if you’re happy for some structure, a bit of guidance, and practical steps you can take to build your blog into a vehicle to get you where you’re going, then you need some goals.
I know – I tried to resist it for a long time, even though I planned to either monetise my blog or find online work from my blog since the day I realised you could (which, incidentally, was about five minutes after I started it). I liked seeing how my blog evolved slowly as I learned things. I eventually got my head around SEO, about building traffic, and about the importance of good design (that one took me a while).
But the day came when everyone was talking practical goals. That in order to take your blog to the next level, then you better have some stepping stones to get you there. Wandering around doing whatever takes your fancy can only last you so long. Although the scenery is nice.
The Value of Goals
There are plenty of positive outcomes of goals even if you don’t reach them.
Goals give you structure
This is particularly useful if, like most of us, you’re juggling blogging with your life, your other job, your family, and your other responsibilities. There’s often not a lot of time left in the day to blog and you hate wasting it. If you have goals you’d like to reach (post twice a week, get five new Facebook fans this month), then you’re more likely to work on something that will help you reach your goal rather than fall down an Instagram rabbit hole and an hour later you’re on your cousin’s brother’s best friend’s Queensland holiday photos from two years ago. You haven’t written a thing and now it’s time to go to bed. Having even small goals can help you to use your time more wisely.
Goals keep you looking ahead
While reviewing things of the past to figure out what worked and what hasn’t is an excellent tool to keep your blog on track, it’s best to spend most of your time in the present, looking toward the future. Goals can keep you on track by giving you something to aim for. You might feel like perhaps you’ve hit a plateau and are looking around to lift yourself out. You might have made a mistake (like all those years I didn’t think email lists were important) and want actionable steps to rectify it. Having a point you’d like to reach keeps you focused, and also provides a chance to feel successful when you make it.
Goals keep you accountable
I have been meaning to write an ebook for three years. Two years ago, I started it. I haven’t touched it since.
I had some vague plan of maybe working on it for 15 minutes a day, like Darren’s famous story, and I even added it to my daily “to-do” list. At one stage, trying to make it even easier on myself, I made it only five minutes a day to work on it.
Without a specific goal, though, broken down into manageable pieces (design a cover one week, write 500 pages on Tuesday the 15th, perhaps), my vague plan got me nowhere. That book is far from finished two years later because I haven’t been accountable to myself for getting it done. That’s two years of lost revenue.
I’ll say that again: two years of lost revenue.
I could have set a goal, broken it down into manageable chunks (exactly what I talk about in How to Blog Effectively When You’re Feeling Overwhelmed because hey I had a job and two toddlers and a blog and overwhelmed was exactly how I felt) and done it in steps, then I could have had that book ready ages ago.
Goals are motivating
Success is the best motivator. There’s nothing like that adrenalin rush you get when you pull something off. You put in hard work and you were rewarded. More of that please! You’ll move heaven and earth to make some time to get that stuff done because you know it works. It feels good to win.
Goals keep you in forward motion
If there’s anything I hear the most about bloggers a few years into their journey is that they can’t break through middle ground. They’re not quite beginner, they’re not quite pro – but what they’ve always done (which saw results in the past) just isn’t cutting it any more. Some people even like to rest here a while – but at some point, most bloggers want to keep growing, keep building their readership, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Setting practical, achievable goals can help bust you out of that rut, while reinspiring you to ignite that passion you had when you first started. Then when you reach that goal (and you find it was easier than you think), then you’ve moving forward. You’re growing.
Setting Practical, Achievable Goals
So we’ve established why goals are important (and if not vitally important to you personally, then at least useful). The next thing to do is chat about how you can make great ones – and actually reach them.
Write them down
Don’t fall victim to the vague plan, I like I did. Set aside a few minutes for brainstorming, then organise your ideas into goals you’d like to achieve. Stick them on your mirror, write them on a whiteboard, email them to yourself, save them into Evernote, write them in your diary – it doesn’t matter where, just write them down. People who write their goals down are significantly more likely to achieve those goals, and it can help you remember your main purpose. It’s fine if you change them later, but get them down somewhere first.
Don’t have many
The best way to overwhelm yourself and ensure you never get anywhere is to write yourself a long list of concrete goals that are impossible to uphold. The fewer in number you keep your goals, the easier they will be to reach and the more likely you’ll be to keep on the path. They need to be adjustable and malleable as your expectations and knowledge changes. You might like to have maybe one a month, or a set of 10 that are dependent upon the goal before it being met. Whatever will be the strategy you are most likely to stick to.
Make them S.M.A.R.T
You’ve probably heard it before – keep your goals specific (“grow my newsletter list by 50 this month” rather than “grow my newsletter list”), measurable (quantities are good here), actionable (something you do rather than something you are), realistic (by all means challenge yourself, but don’t aim for the impossible), and timely (deadlines are exceptional at getting you moving and stopping the “I’ll get to it one day” lie). Do each of your goals fit this criteria?
Break them down
It’s all very well and good to say you’d like to grow your newsletter list by 50 readers this month, but as specific as that is, it’s still quite general. How are you going to reach that goal? What’s the very first step you can take to reach that goal? You might like to break it down by weekly tasks:
- Create or upgrade your subscriber incentive by week 1.
- Add an extra sign-up box at the end of your posts by week 2.
- Write a post describing the value of signing up to the newsletter and pointing people to the new or updated subscriber incentive (and of course, where to sign up) by week 3.
- Offer a short-time only extra bonus for newsletter subscribers by week 4.
Set both short and long-term goals
I think most of us have a sort of goal or destination for our blog lurking in our grey matter somewhere, but sitting down and putting pen to paper can really help you figure out what you want and why you’re putting all this effort in. You might even surprise yourself with what comes out when you give it space to grow. So even if you think you’ve got an idea of where you’re headed, write it down anyway. Then run it through the SMART criteria – see if you can put it on a timeline, or make it more practical and actionable than it is. That’s your long-term goal.
Your short-term goals can be a mix of the broken-down steps you’re taking to get to the long term goal, and other small fun goals you set yourself to be just that little bit better than you were before. One of your goals might be to take a writing course, or to have a guest post published on your favourite site. It can be pitching an article to an authority site that you’re absolutely terrified to do – it can even be as small as simply finding out who to pitch to by Friday next week.
Have a buddy
It works for weight loss, so it can work for your blog goals too! You can have an accountability partner and chat together about your goals for the week or month and check in regularly to see how each other has gone. You can have the same goals as a friend and motivate each other to reach them (or even make it a little competition!). You can just email a friend a list of things you’re going to do, or you can even write them in a blog post and be accountable to your readers, like Crystal Paine of Money Saving Mom does in her goal review posts. Just make sure you tell someone (other than the cat) so you’re more likely to reach the goal rather than face the embarrassment of telling them you failed.
Keep track of them
I like the idea of saving a file or having a notebook for your goals and jotting down your progress. You can write down what you’ve done to try and reach them, whether it was useful or not – or you can just tick them off as you go. But check in regularly to make sure you’re on track and that they’re still the kinds of goals you’re interested in.
Plans (and blogs) can change, and what you might have thought was important at the start of last year now has no significance whatsoever. Set regular reminders in your calendar to review your goals and make sure they’re still relevant to you. You can change them, increase them, or throw them out entirely and start fresh. You might also meet some of your goals much faster than you anticipated, so you might want to set yourself some more.
Why You Can’t Set Goals
You’re too busy
I know, it’s hard enough to get through what needs to be done every day let alone step back, take a deep breath, and figure out the big picture. If you treat brainstorming and goal-setting like a non-negotiable task, and block out time on your calendar to do it, then you’re more likely to treat it with the importance it deserves. Make your first goal setting a time to create your goals.
You don’t know what you want
You will when you sit down and brainstorm, I promise. If you give yourself time to reflect and think about your blog and what it means to you and where, ultimately, you’d like to take it, then you’ll begin to realise there are milestones you’d like to achieve. Start with a few and when the time comes to review those goals, you’ll have come up with a few more to add to the list.
You don’t know how to write a game plan
Well now you do!
- You brainstorm
- You prioritise your ideas into short-term and long-term goals
- You run those goals through the SMART filter
- You break them down into manageable chunks, and you give those chunks deadlines
- You put a list of your goals somewhere where you will see them
- You email your goals to a friend for accountability
- You set your first step to see you on your way
See? No excuses now!
So were you like me and thought you’d be fine without goals? Have you had goals since day one? You might even have a buisness plan! I’d love to hear how you structure your steps to reach your dreams.
Stacey is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net: a writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd balancing it all with being a stay-at-home mum. She writes about all this and more at Veggie Mama (with the added bonus of good food!). Chat with her on Twitter @veggie_mama or be entertained on Facebook.