Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Bottom-up Approach to Goal Setting

Most methods of goal setting revolve around top-down approach. They require one to set goals for 5 years, 3 years, 1 year, then break them down into months and weeks.

These always end up frustrating me, because what do you do when not everything is in your control, and your goals have to change depending on how things go? This is especially true for writers, or anyone in creative pursuits. Top-down approaches I think are more suitable for businesses, but for individuals (even if we are one woman/man business), going with the flow is as essential as having a goal.

For example, ideally speaking, in 5 years time I would like to have at least a few books published, and more on a contract.

I can make goals based on this. I can decide how long do I have to write each book etc. But what good is that when I don't know when my first book is going to sell? And once I did get the agent, I have no control over publisher's schedule or no idea of how much rewrite or edits an agent or an editor might require.

So while I keep the big picture in mind of what I wish to do with my life, and where I wish I would be a few years from now, finally - after a lot of trying - I have given up making concrete long-term plans.

Bottom-up approach is what I prefer. I know exactly what I need to do today, and this week, and even next week to move forward. As I take those steps, I know further ahead of what I need to accomplish, and on the way, whatever new things I learn or any deviations my goals or my life might take, I can instantly assimilate them into my goals using bottom-up approach, rather than have to rethink the whole thing if I were using top-down approach.

I have compulsive obsession with making lists (making them, not necessarily following them), so setting goals is right up my street. And as the oxymoron organised-messy fits me like a glove, I am striving to have little less messy and little more organised.

And carrying on with that line of thinking, I have ordered a new filofax. I know sounds very old-fashioned. I was considering buying a palm-pilot, but then figured I will have the same hassle I do now - I will end up writing everything all over the place, and will have to combine it (which is the part I never bother with), and simple palm pilots are not easy to get with all the smartphones or whatnots, and of course if it broke or whatever, then back to square one it is.

A friend of mine (whose birthday I forgot because it was written in an email) mentioned that she uses filofax for these things. And a light-bulb went off. It's perfect for me - especially with my stationary obsession - another new thing to write stuff in :-). I actually do have a cheap filofax-like thing from Next I bought years ago, but it's not a "proper" one, and it's got all marks all over it, so I decided to treat myself and start with a new, clean one.

Next step is to FINALLY buy a shredder so I can start getting rid of tons of paper I have accumulated, including old first drafts which need rewrite, and hence don't need to be kept. I see spring cleaning in my future - though with my way - it might last the whole year. :-P

How about you? Are you organised? With just your work/writing or with your whole life? How do you keep it all together?


  1. I carry a 79p notebook (different one for each project) with a Parker Jotter stuck in it, and I take it everywhere. :)

    Once I get back home from wherever I've been, I copy the notes I've made onto my PC. That's about as organised as I get. :P

    I have an old pocket pc (like a Palm pilot, but with Windows on it), but I just end up playing Solitaire on it, so I generally leave it at home. ;)


  2. Adam,

    Often I think simple is most efficient and organised. I have a bad habit of being a stationary addict, so can't resist all the pretty stuff :P

    And I love hand-written stuff, and I write everything, so that doesn't help with the simplicity of transferring, because I keep putting it off, or get distracted :P or worse, make new lists.

  3. I do find it really helpful to split apart those larger goals into the building blocks that make them. Once we do, we realize how much we really do have control over.

  4. Ooo organized me? Ha no. I'm trying though, really I am, I have to admit I have no idea what a Filofax is? I'd love to see a pic ;o)

    I think the Scrivener app has made me more organized than I ever thought I could be. I love it. It's right up my alley. I always have a ton of organizational stuff I don't use, and this one, I totally do. As for life? Yeah still working on that ;o) great post!!

  5. I'm a list maker. It's always a great feeling to be able to cross something off my list. Lists also help me keep focused (I get distracted easily).

    Last time I purged my filing cabinets I ended up with 16 bags of shredded paper for the recycling. I tend to keep a box for shredding in my office, I just need to remember to shred on a regular basis. :-)

  6. PJ,

    For the Goals I am sure about - for example, editing my current WIP, I break it down in section. But I find that many things and many plans change a lot because of the new things I am learn, so spending too much time on top-down goals means I just end up spending too much time on setting goals rather than finishing the tasks.

  7. Erica,

    Filofox is actually quite an old thing which has now come back into fashion and status. I had heard about them before, and seen them around, but never really though much about it. But for me, it's bit like moleskine - a classy little stationary. I know, I am a stationary snob.

    I ordered a bargain one, but store cancelled the order because it was out of stock - worked out okay in the end, because I found one I love even more from a differnt place. I will post pictures :-)

    I used to use Outlook applications but always found that when something went wrong (as it often did with my outlook), I was buggered. And not to mention when I used different computers. So I think hand-written is the best option for me.

  8. CR,

    Yup, I love it too. Making those ticks or crossing off an item. Gives a great feeling of having accomplished something :-)

    When I finally get my shredder, I am sure it's going to take me a week just to shred everything - and that's after I decide what needs shredding. But I do hope to get organised - eventually - and get rid of junk.

  9. I used to use paper planners - for years, actually. But as you know, I'm a convert to the Palm - and I sync it up with home/work computers, so I always have my schedule/lists/contacts with me. I use it for everything from writing schedules to blog stuff to grocery lists and daily to-do's...same as a paper planner, only a zillion times lighter to carry around. And I have nightly backups running that save on an SD card, so if something goes wrong, I can restore it to the day before.

    yWriter keeps my manuscripts organized (and runs from an SD card, so I use my palm as a card reader at work too, and have all my ms's with me. My "ideas" file is the only one that starts on paper anymore - everything else is digital.

    I'm pretty organized - but there's always something I wish were more so. ;-)

  10. Jamie,

    You are not organised, you are THE QUEEN of organising. I mean seriously!! if I was as organised digitally as you, I wouldn't bother with paper stuff either, but nightly back-ups, keeping everything in sync, is not something I can see myself doing. I have hassle enough backing up stuff on flash drive and then transferring to another computer. :P I get bored.

    Love the smoothness of your system though, but at least using paper gives me reasons to buy pretty stationary ;)