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I’ve always had a thing for paper planners. (Since I’ve already admitted to being a nerd, this may not surprise you, but) one of the things I was MOST excited about when I started middle school was to finally get my hands on a school-branded assignment book. While I try to stay cool with higher-tech organizational tools, I just can’t seem to let go of my old-school planner.  In my office job, I figured out an easy way to keep track of pretty much EVERYTHING within that one little book, and I’ve adapted that system for my freelance needs over the last few months.

Something that I’ve added to my planner routine since becoming my own boss is monthly goal-setting . One of the biggest challenges of being on my own is the lack of feedback from others. While I have regular dialogue with editors about my work, it’s not quite the same as the ongoing conversations I used to have with my bosses about what my next steps within the company might be. I’ve built that concept into my personal process by spending time at the beginning of each month jotting down goals — both professional and personal. I’ve been doing this since September, but have decided to share it with you today in hopes that it might be a helpful tip for you in whatever work you do — and to help keep me accountable for my own “stuff” as we near the end of the year!

Something I love almost as much as a paper planner is crossing boxes off my to-do list, so I’ve had to learn to resist the urge to make my goals too attainable. I try to list at least a few items that are a stretch to ensure that I’m constantly motivated and hustling. If I don’t achieve a goal one month, I shift it over to the next month. No shame in my game there!

Check out a few of my goals for the month of December (by the way, how is it already December???):

  • Cut down on sweets before the holidays. As I’ve shared before, I have a raging sweet tooth. Since I’m generally very healthy, I try not to obsess too much over what I eat, but after a little too much Thanksgiving, I’m doing a mini-cleanse for the first half of the month. Sweets and desserts are a total trigger food for me — once I start snacking on them, it’s hard for me to stop — so I’m cutting those out for now and also laying off the booze so I can feel my best for the rest of the holiday celebrations!
  • Break into at least one new outlet. A big challenge with freelancing is juggling multiple streams of income and reminding myself to constantly explore new projects. I never want to stop exploring new opportunities, so I’m continually pitching stories to new outlets. I’d like to make progress with at least one new publication before we hit 2017.
  • Run five miles. Three years ago, I trained for my first half marathon, and I’ve been running them every spring since then. My favorite race is the Brooklyn Half Marathon, which I run each May. I train really hard starting after New Year’s and usually switch up my routine away from running once the race is over. In December, I like to start gearing up again so it’s not too much of a shock for my body when I start running more regularly in January.
Crossing the finish line at this year’s Brooklyn Half Marathon!
  • Hit 35 blog posts. This is post #25, so look for ten more before the end of the year!
  • Confirm first copyediting gig. In addition to writing, I’ve always enjoyed copyediting, and I’m currently in conversations with a few people about taking on those projects on a freelance basis. I’d like to confirm one of those this month. (If you or someone you know needs something copyedited, feel free to reach out!)
  • Write another piece for The KitchnI had so much fun writing this essay, and working for this site was a great experience overall. I have a few pitches in right now and have my fingers crossed that I’ll have the opportunity to write for them again.
  • Expand the reach of Finding Plan A. I’m always grateful for my audience here on the blog, and I hope to continue growing it. Please do continue to share the site, and encourage anyone interested to subscribe so it comes directly to their inbox (instructions here)!
  • 20 pages OR a substantial outline for my book. My biggest profesional insecurity is the BOOK I’ve always wanted to write (just typing that out here for you to read gives me butterflies!). Since I’ve made space in my life to write, focusing on that book is a major priority, but I’ll admit that I’ve really struggled with getting it started. Lining up paying gigs has been my immediate priority, but I know I need to stop making excuses and really dig into this project. I don’t really believe in New Year’s resolutions, but I am planning to jump into the book more starting in January. I’d like to go into 2017 with 20 pages or a substantial outline. In both October and November, my monthly goal was to have 50 pages written, which I think may have spooked me a little. This month, I am setting my sights on something a little more attainable in hopes it will be the kick in the butt that I need to get working!

Now that I’ve put this list out into the world, I feel a little extra pressure to get it accomplished! Thanks for helping to keep me accountable — your support (and tough love) means a lot.