As in anything in life, being able to accomplish your purpose (see previous post) requires setting a specific plan of attack. You may have a clear vision for where you want to go, but do you have a plan for how to get there?

notebooksAt least a few times each year I sit down to re-focus on my goals and to create a plan of action. Shortly after the ceremonial exercise of goal setting and then rewarding myself with a tasty treat, full of excitement and with sincere intentions to get down to what needs to be done, the notebook gets jammed in between other notebooks on my shelf and I tend to lose focus.  I know where I want to go, and I typically navigate in that general direction, but I easily get off course and often focus on the things that don’t fit within my plan, or I focus on the end goal, which seems overwhelming and some days unachievable, that I become paralyzed from doing anything towards it. When that happens I become frustrated and blame it on everything else – time, money, Jerry, work, and I question whether the goal is wrong.

That happens when I don’t create a specific course of action, clearly outlined, where I do something to work towards my goal each day.

Setting Clear Objectives

The ‘Chicken Soup For The Soul: Living Your Dreams’ book has a very well-written section about deciding what you want, dreaming big, setting goals that will stretch you, and then turning those dreams into goals with clear objectives. They describe it as creating goals that are measurable in space and time – how much and by when. They offer some helpful examples of the difference between a vague want and clear objective.

“If you were to tell us that you want more money, we might pull out a dollar and give it to you, but you would protest, “No, I meant a lot more money – like $20,000!” Well, how are we supposed to know unless you tell us? Similarly, your boss, your friends, your spouse, your brain, God, can’t figure out what you want unless you tell them exactly what you want and when you want it by.”

So lets use an example with artwork. If your goal is to approach a gallery about showing your artwork on consignment, generally you need a minimum of 10 pieces of original work to show them plus a portfolio of 20-30 images. I have heard it suggested that 20-25 original pieces in your completed inventory is ideal so they can view a larger body of work and have a selection to choose from (plus it leaves you with some work in inventory for juried shows and other opportunities that may arise). The reason galleries often want to see a larger body of work as opposed to 5 to 10 pieces is to look at the consistency in style and quality. They want to know you can do that many pieces of a consistent quality and continue to provide new work of the same caliber.

Keep in mind that the images in your portfolio and the original pieces in your inventory should include your best work, not every piece you do. That means you need to figure out how long it will take you to built up the inventory you need. To work with concrete numbers, lets say you know from experience that approximately 50% of your work is of the best and most consistent quality and you do about 50 paintings per year, that means that you will produce about 25 paintings annually that can be included in your portfolio and inventory to approach a gallery. So you know it will take you about 1 year to build up the amount of work you need. If you want to approach a gallery sooner or want more pieces available, then the timeline needs to be adjusted.

To make it easier to achieve and maintain focus, break down that annual goal into smaller goals on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. So 50 paintings becomes 4 to 5 paintings per month or 1 painting per week, which seems much more manageable and achievable.

I have been asked how much time I spend writing, so I will share my example. I want to complete a book within a year (by next summer). I know that an average book is about 80,000 to 100,000 words. Realistically, I know that I can comfortably commit to writing 750 words per day. To figure in some time off and days away, if I do that for 20 days a month then within 5.5 to 6.5 months I will have a first draft. That gives me another 6 months for re-writing and editing. That writing time doesn’t include the other commitments I have made, such as writing articles for my website and guest articles for other publications, as well as research, reading, marketing, and other things that go along with the business, so I also factor in time for that.

listFor myself, it helps me to have my goals and plan up on the wall in my office (rather than tucked away), and I write a list at the start of each month as well as each week, where I outline when I will do each task and for how long. I know that’s pretty organized, but if I don’t do that for myself then I got way off track and then get upset at myself for being behind.

Find a system that works for you and make those items priority. I know for myself that if I don’t do my priority items first thing in the morning before I do anything else (including checking email or social media, which can easily get me off-track), I have a harder time concentrating and dedicating time later in the day so I make sure to do them first.

“If you are going to triumph, it’s up to you and your personal efforts.”

- Jack White, writer and painter, in his article “Four Magic Words” published through the FineArtViews Newsletter.

Do you have a specific plan of attack for achieving your goals/purpose?