guy climbing latter and viewing over the sunrise

Last week I talked to a group of college students about professional journalism, at which their professor expressed the importance of writing goals down. And while I understand the sentiment, I don’t necessarily agree. So long as you never stop working toward something better, why waste time with a pencil?

When I first started with freelance writing, practically every resource I came to encouraged the importance of goals. Personal goals, monetary goals, deadline goals – in virtually any aspect where expectations could be measured, these experienced writers said to create an expectation. Sure you might not always reach a goal, but having it there allows you to better evaluate where you’re at, and how to can make it happen the next time around.

Despite their insistence, I was hesitant. Making goals just seemed so … tedious. And without them, your failure isn’t on paper. But after growing success and with no way to measure it (which did not come quickly, BTW), I realized goals don’t necessarily have to be written down. Unlike our preschool counterparts, where stickers were awarded once a certain skill was mastered, adult goals can be different. They can be just as flexible as our jobs allow us to be.

We can have an idea of what we want and how we want to get there. We can have numbers and dates in the back of our heads. We can keep a motivational reminder on our computers or office walls. Just because we don’t print them out doesn’t mean the goals don’t exist. They simply need to be thought of and sought after at every single opportunity. (Often when “opportunity” means finding one, not just waiting for it to happen.)

Deadlines Without Dates

Roughly four years into the game, I’m still bad at making rigid goals. And why shouldn’t I be? I’m a laid back, flexible person. I dislike putting anything into concrete categories, so why should my work method be any different? Which is why, instead, I look to goal ideals. And then I find a way to make them work. I want to love my job, I want to grow as a writer, and of course, I want to make more money. Every day I work to make it happen. Through calendars, schedules, projects, or whatever other way, I continue to grow professionally. But the growth isn’t linear, like the grade school charts, they’re impractical, misshapen, and jut out in all types of directions.

Do my goals make sense to anyone else? No probably not. But at the end of the day (or at the end of the month or year), I’m professionally in a better place. No matter how often I check my “goals”. And while it may be unconventional, it’s also working.

Find the method that best captures your ethics and workflow to tap into this hidden potential.