Falling in Love with SMART Goals:
A Sure Way to Increase Productivity

© Cheryl Malandrinos- All Rights Reserved


Poet Carolee Sherwood contacted me the other day about a poll she was running at the Read Write Poem blog (http://readwritepoem.org/). The poll asked, "How often do you organize your poetry-related life?"

Nearly 30% responded, "Sometimes, but who keeps count"; while 8% admitted to not doing anything to organize their poetry lives. This included organizing poems, researching markets, submitting to journals, and scheduling writing time.

What I felt these results showed best was that many writers/poets don’t dedicate time to setting goals for their writing careers. I can understand part of why this happens. For a while I avoided setting goals solely because I figured I didn’t have the time.

But here’s the kicker—when you set the right kind of goals you end up with more time and produce more work.

Let’s explore how writers can use the SMART method to create the right kind of goals and increase productivity.

S = Specific

M = Measurable

A = Attainable

R = Realistic

T = Timely

When I began setting goals they were vague ones like:

  • Get published
  • Work on short story
  • Submit to more markets

 The problem with goals like these is that they don’t provide enough direction for you to move forward and you soon get discouraged.

Let’s take my goal of "submit to more markets" and see how we can apply the SMART method to get the results we’re looking for.


Here is the what, why, and how portion of goal setting. Write down what you want to achieve, why you want to achieve it, and how you are going to make it happen. In my case, it would look like this:

What: submit to more markets

Why: increase my income and create a resume that will attract larger markets

How: cut back on Internet surfing, delegate tasks I don’t need to do myself—like grocery shopping, cancel subscriptions for magazines I don’t read regularly, set aside a time each day to check emails and phone messages, create a writing schedule and stick to it.

This provides a plan of action which will help me achieve my goal of submitting to more markets.


My long-term goal is to submit to more markets, but that’s too broad and doesn’t allow me to see the progress I’m making. I need to have specific short-term goals that tie into the broader goal to gauge how things are going.

So, if I want to submit to more markets I can agree to:

  • Dedicate 30 minutes a day to market research
  • Compile and update a spreadsheet of potential markets to query
  • Write one 500-word article a week

Now I have a something I can achieve in a shorter time span that will provide me with a sense of accomplishment when I attain it.


If you set goals that you have no hopes to attain, then you’ll soon become overwhelmed at the mere thought of the tasks at hand. Your writing is only one aspect of your life. You probably have family and community commitments that also require your time and energy. When I set my goal of submitting to more markets, I had to realize that my time was limited by having one child at home full-time and my volunteering at church and in town. My volunteering is very important to me and I knew it wasn’t on the list of what I could cut back when I set my goal.

So, I committed to sending out two article queries a month, instead of one a week—which is what I would have preferred. I can always increase the number of queries I send out a month as my productivity increases.


The only thing worse, in my mind, than setting an unattainable goal, is setting an unrealistic one. I’m a junk food junkie. I love sweets of all kinds, and chocolate reigns supreme. To agree to totally give up sweets is not realistic. I can agree to eat fruits or a salad in lieu of a sweet every once in a while, but not to cut out sweets completely.

Going back to my goal to submit to more markets, my decision to submit two article queries a month is not only attainable, it is also realistic because I’ve based it upon what I know I can achieve in the time I have available.


Setting a timeframe provides you with a clear and measurable target to attain your goal. Keep in mind, the timeframe must also be attainable and realistic.

Going back to our example, I have set aside 30 minutes a day to market research. I’ve also committed to writing one 500-word article a week, and submitting two article queries a month. The timeframe here is measurable, attainable, and realistic.

All of these short-term goals work into the larger goal of submitting to more markets; giving me a sense of accomplishment as I attain each smaller goal, which keeps me focused on the broader goal.

Remember we talked about how SMART goal setting increases productivity? Looking at our example, I am writing four articles a month, but only submitting two a month. That means starting the following month I already have two articles that I can submit queries for. As long as I continue to attain my four articles a month goal, I can easily increase the number of queries I submit a month.

Proper goal setting is vital to achieve your writing dreams. And once you start, you’ll probably wonder how you ever tried to progress in your writing without it.



About the Author: Cheryl C. Malandrinos is a freelancer who specializes in time management and organization for writers. She has also written articles on everyday life in the 1800’s, gardening, parenting, and women’s health issues. Cheryl is also a virtual book tour coordinator for Pump Up Your Book Promotion. You can find out more about Cheryl by visiting her website at http://ccmalandrinos.tripod.com/ 






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