Here’s a post from Stephanie Burgis that I read a couple weeks ago: Lowering the goal posts.
I’m grateful I was never a total overachiever. I mean, sure, I went through grad school in a state of low-key simmering guilt because there was always something I should have been working on . . . come to think of it, being a writer is a bit like that too.
Which is why it helps, when you are plainly not going to manage a goal you had planned, to lower the goalposts. A little tiny bit of guilt is fine. It’s motivating, probably. But no one needs to live their whole life feeling like a failure.
Here’s the quote that made me laugh:
[My counsellor] asked me how I set my work-goals each month.
I said, “Well, I figure out how long I have until my next supervision meeting, then I figure out exactly how much I could get done if I work REALLY REALLY hard every day until then – and then I set that as my goal.”
…Then, of course, I got incredibly stressed as I neared the date of my next supervision session, realized how unforgivably, shockingly behind I was, and drove myself to the edge of burn-out (or beyond) desperately trying to hit that goal, every time.
This was something that, by now, my counsellor knew about me. So:
“Hmm,” she said. “Interesting. But…have you ever considered, instead, figuring out exactly how much you could get accomplished if you worked moderately hard on most days and didn’t get anything done on a few other days along the way – and set that as your goal?”
I stared at her, genuinely shocked. “I could do that?”
Talk about a life-changing moment!
This is pretty much how I set goals for myself, too. By planning to work moderately hard most days and completely blow off writing on some days. And by re-stating personal deadlines as needed. Right now, for example, I am working on the third Black Dog book. I really am! But the date I plan to have it completed has changed from January 15th to end-of-March to (now) the-beginning-of-May-probably.
Well, it’ll get done sometime this spring. Before I have a Real Deadline, probably. Though I would certainly hope and expect to have a Real Deadline or two (that is, a new contract, or preferably two) by the end of the year. Or, ideally, before the end of May, though that’s perhaps too optimistic.
Anyway, yeah. For all the workaholics out there: if you’re getting stressed, maybe you should try lowering your personal goalposts a bit and see how that goes!