Creating Bite-sized Life Goals

Happy Friday to all! Today I am fortunate to have the amazing Carrie Mumford as my guest. Let me tell you a little about Carrie before we get to her post: 

Carrie Mumford is a writer and editor living in the wild Canadian West. She writes short stories and non-fiction articles, and is working on her first novel (in 30 minute bites of time). When she’s not writing she can be found chipping away at her certificate in publishing, trying to learn CSS or watching knitting videos on YouTube (which is infinitely more entertaining than it sounds!).

Take it away, Carrie!

What do sushi and life goals have in common? More than you might think.

Have you been out for sushi with friends (or even worse, on a date), only to find yourself faced with an over-sized nori roll that’s just a little bit too big to fit in your mouth? If you’re a sushi lover like I am, I’m sure you can recall running into this problem, and even if you’re not, just imagine a roll of rice and fish or vegetables, precariously held together by a paper-thin piece of seaweed. It’s a dining disaster waiting to happen.

Now I’m not sure if this is what most people would do when faced with this problem, but I go for broke: I stuff the whole roll into my mouth. This inevitably ends in failure – the roll breaks and I end up awkwardly leaning over the table, seaweed hanging from my mouth with most of the goodies from inside the roll sitting on my plate. I recently made the exact same mistake when creating one of my Life List goals.

I was thrilled when I read about the Life List Club on Marcia’s blog. I had been creating a list of goals while writing my morning pages, and the Life List Club seemed like a fantastic way to share these goals with others, while also cheering fellow writers along their personal journeys. Since I had been thinking about my goals for a few weeks already, it was easy to come up with a list of 10 (which I’ve now expanded to 15). I wrote my Life List, posted it on my blog and felt very proud of myself. I had a plan! I was going to get things done. I was a girl on a mission.

In the weeks after I created my goals, I took small steps towards fulfilling several of them; I figured out how to fix my blog header; I found a writer’s conference to attend; I polished a short story I hope to submit to a contest. But each time I checked in on my goals, there was one that stood out. My dreaded 10th goal: “Finish the first draft of my novel.” For some reason I was not any closer to reaching this goal.

When I initially wrote my 10th goal I thought, “A year is a really long time to write a novel. No problem.” Last week it dawned on me that since I wrote that goal, I have written exactly zero words on my WIP. Thankfully, during a sushi fueled moment of insight, I realized why I was not making progress on my dreaded 10th goal: my goal was not bite-sized.

As Marcia mentioned in a recent post, small changes can add up to a big result. As writers, it’s easy to get caught up in the macro. You want to be a full-time writer. You want to be published. Or, like me, you might want to write a novel. Whatever your lofty writing goal is, it’s easy to find yourself frozen in fear when faced with it. The good news is that many of these goals can be broken down into small, attainable steps that will keep you motivated along your journey.

For me this meant revising my goal to include a commitment to spend 30 minutes every day writing my WIP. A very small amount of time, but, hey, I have a whole year to finish it. I imagine that this will be refined over time, but for now, to make sure that I’m able to commit to my goal and still have time to work, live and eat sushi, 30 minutes feels right.

And you know what? It’s working. Now instead freezing in fear when I think of the hundreds of thousands of words I need to write, I think, “You only get to write for 30 minutes. Go!” Rather than trying to stuff the whole nori roll in my mouth, I’m biting off one small, manageable chunk at a time.

Have you created your Life List? Are your goals lofty or bite-sized? What mind tricks have helped you read your goals?

Thank you so much for spending time with my readers, Carrie!

For great book reviews and writing tips, please check out Carrie’s blog here and follow her on Twitter @bibliogeek


21 thoughts on “Creating Bite-sized Life Goals

  1. That is exactly how I tackle my goals! Though I never thought of the sushi analogy. I keep all of my goals in an online goal organizer designed to help cut the roll into bite size pieces, so to speak. It’s so much easier and a lot less overwhelming to not think “what is my next huge goal!” and instead think “ok, what little step is next?”

    Thanks for the great post!

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    • Thanks Emily! I love sushi too. I took myself on a writer’s date for sushi last week (hence the idea for this post). Sushi + writing seem to go well together!

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  5. I’ve definitely been guilty of biting off more than I can chew. I’ve recently embraced the idea of baby steps for working towards my goals. It’s a lot easier for me to keep up with that. 😀

  6. still contemplating my list but you are right…make it bite sized…so as I figure this out I will keep it small…it will make the weeding more bearable…great post!!

  7. I’m with Pam. So busted. Thanks for giving us sushi-sized pieces of advice to make our writing goals more manageable amidst all the other responsibilities!

  8. I have run into that problem, and I also choose the route of stuffing the whole thing in my mouth. Only then I end up choking, I guess a large goal can have the same affect, choking the life out of your drive. Great post!

    • Ha! Glad to hear I’m not the only one who takes that approach! A large goal can definitely be choking if we try to complete it all at once. I’m all for setting lofty goals, but now I know that they should be broken down into small, chew-able bits – to prevent choking, of course 😉

  9. Oh, snap. One of mine is definitely NOT bite-sized, and it pretty much mirrors the one you discuss here! I too said I’d finish my novel in a year. I thought that by saying “draft of” I was doing enough downsizing – that meant getting it written from start to finished, not perfectly honed and ready to roll. But I’m having the same experience you are with no making much progress on it, and I’m pretty sure your post is also telling me why. Need to think about how I want to revise that goal – I think I may try an “X # of words on the novel per week” approach.

    • I thought the EXACT same thing, Pam! Writing “draft” feels like there’s so much less pressure than “final, edited, perfect version of my novel, ready to submit.”

      I considered a word goal myself, but I’m not certain how long my novel is going to be (could be a novella, in fact), so the time goal seems to be working better for me. I might alter that though once I get going.

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  11. Good point! I love the spin. The picture of you with seaweed hanging from your face made me laugh. Honestly, this is why I do NOT eat seafood of any kind. *yuck* Hmm, it’s ironic because I actually love the sea, just not eating it.. Thank you ladies, for making me smile. I too believe that small bites can go a long way, and I am still trying to convince myself to start acting like it. Being an all-or-nothing gal has a way of stuffing your face one moment and starving you the next.

    • So true Lyn! All or nothing can be very daunting. It seems to be a theme for a few of our posts today (like Pam’s). All or nothing is just not sustainable.

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  13. Excellent analogy and advice Carrie. I love the old saying, “How do you eat an elephant? One forkful at a time.” Great post!

    Thanks for hosting Marcia, you’re site is always a treat.

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