It’s that time of the year again–the current year is coming to a close and a fresh, new start is so close we can almost taste it!
How did 2016 treat you blogging-wise? What have you accomplished? Where did you struggle? (Tell us in the comments below!) Overall, where do you want to go in the coming year? If you have big dreams (and I hope you do!) it’s important to create an action plan to make those dreams a reality.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to remember that you cant change anything if you don’t change anything.
Sounds simple, right? But it’s harder than it sounds! Creating change takes planning and hard work, but the more you plan, the easier it will be to accomplish those lofty goals of yours!
So–where to begin? If you break your goal setting down into these five steps, it’ll be much easier than you think!
Schedule at least an hour to really sit down in a quiet place and think. Even better if you can get out of the house, find your favorite coffee shop, and bring only a pen and notebook. Eliminate distractions, and focus solely on your blogging goals.
What things would you like to change about your site this year? In which areas would you like to grow the most? Don’t just think about your blog traffic, but other areas too–fine-tuning your brand, aesthetic, photography, different things you’d like to write about, etc. How do you feel about your blog in general right now? How would you like to feel about it?
Where would you like to be at this time next year? Write down everything that comes to mind–treat this like a brainstorming exercise.
2. Create an action plan
Now, step 1 was for dreaming. Step 2 is getting realistic. Look at what you wrote down during your hour of self-reflection. What are the recurring themes? Can you put them into buckets? What priorities rise to the top? How specific can you make these goals? Write down 4 (yes, only 4) big, yet attainable goals to tackle in the coming year. I like to choose four specifically so I can break them into quarters (aka 3 month chunks) to make them more manageable. Now, this doesn’t mean that I can’t have a goal I’m implementing year-round, but I’ll focus on putting the bulk of the steps into place within a given quarter. For example, if I want to grow my traffic to X number in 2017, I’ll focus on how much I need to increase by quarter, and spent Q1 getting the steps I need to in place in order to create a system to boost my traffic. Make sense?
This brings me to my next point:
3 months at a time
I prefer to break up my goals in three month increments. For me, anything more than that seems like biting off more than I can chew. By tackling my priorities quarterly, I feel like I can really focus on what is important in the near-term. Three months–that doesn’t sound too bad, right? Think of it more like single-tasking vs. multi-tasking.
Mini goal paths & checklists
Big goals are accomplished by tackling little mini stepping stone goals that lead to the big thing. If you don’t plan out your goal paths, chances are, they aren’t going to get done. The more specific, the better.
For example, if one of your 3 month buckets is improving your photography, your 3 month goal paths should be tasks that will allow you to accomplish that. Things like “Complete photography course, invest in new lens, purchase lightroom, and complete Lightroom editing online course.”
Establish a routine
Now, it’s easy to write down how you’re going to accomplish your goals, but equally as important, is making a plan for WHEN you’re going to put in the work to ensure they’re accomplished. Take a look at when you can work blogging time into your schedule. What do you need to change? Do you need to get up earlier? Stay up later? What changes do you need to make in order to make succeeding a reality?
3. Be realistic about your finances
If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that we’re big believers in the fact that you need to make investing in yourself and your blog a priority if you really want to take it to the next level. Notice how I listed “invest in lightroom” and “invest in a photography course” in the examples above. Of course, these are just examples, but chances are, if you want to be on the fast track to accomplishing your goals, you’re going to need to throw down some cash.
Now, of course, do not take this to mean that you should be buying a new camera instead of paying off your student loan debt. Be realistic with what you can and can’t afford.
On the flip side, I often run into people who say they “can’t afford” to invest in their blogs, when in reality they can, they just aren’t choosing to. There are two ways you can approach your budgeting to find more funds for your blog–ask yourself: “What expenses can I eliminate?” And/Or “What easy revenue streams can I add?”
Stop eating out so much. Take your lunch to work. Start babysitting twice a week. Get a freelance gig. Clean out your closet and list some stuff on eBay.
Once you get creative, you can find the extra money stream–I promise.
K. Figured that out? Now, make note of the things you want to invest in this year, and break that down by month. How much do you need to save per month in order to build up to that point? What are you going to buy when? For example, if you need to save up for a lens and a photography course, that might take a few months, so your “photography” bucket should be scheduled for later in the year.
4. Get organized
I will be the first to admit, organization is extra work. It’s a pain in the ass. I have to go out of my way to make myself be organized, and it isn’t fun. But it works. My productivity is increased ten fold when I have a plan of action. Figure out what tools you’re going to put in your toolbox to make blogging easier for you.
We like to use Asana to keep track of projects. Blair prefers to print out her editorial calendar and write it by hand. I prefer to do mine in Google Calendar. Whatever works for you, plan out HOW you are going to stay organized, and it will be easier to keep on track with your goals.
(By the way, I share more tips on staying organized in this post.)
5. Schedule monthly check-ins
Blair recently wrote about scheduling monthly check-ins with herself on her blog, The Fox and She, and I absolutely loved this idea. Next time you have a free minute, pop in a recurring monthly meeting with yourself in your calendar. It’s helpful to schedule it in the middle of each month, where you can reflect on your goal progress. This ensures that your goals are always top of mind, and if you’re behind, it gives you enough time to kick your butt into gear before month-end.