New Year – New SMART Goals!

Every January 1st I take a little time to appreciate the wonderful writing opportunities, invitations, and surprises from the past twelve months, then I jot down a few goals for the coming year. As an author it’s easy to spend a lot of time on fun, useful activities such as school visits, book promotion, website updates, creating teacher resources, blog posts, etc. But if I’m not careful, my days quickly fill up not leaving much time to write or work on other goals. So at the beginning of each year I think about specific goals I most want to work toward. Keeping those goals in mind throughout the year helps me stay focused and be intentional in carving out time to pursue them.

This year, I also pondered ways to more effectively achieve my goals, so I did a little research (cause that’s what nonfiction authors do.) Among the many great ideas I discovered, one seemed the most practical, doable, and promising — set S.M.A.R.T. goals. This acronym is used in the business/management world with regards to setting project goals, but the five items represented by S.M.A.R.T. (below) are applicable for authors, illustrators, or anyone wanting to be more successful in accomplishing their goals. (And if you’re a writer or illustrator who doesn’t belong a critique group, you might want to make that one of your goals!)

So if you’re dreaming about your 2018 aspirations, you might want to keep the following in mind:

SPECIFIC: Make your goal(s) as specific as you can. Being specific helps you to focus and know what you’re targeting.

MEASURABLE: To know how well you are doing in reaching your goal, you need to have a way of measuring progress. So be sure your goal includes something measurable. Perhaps it’s writing a prescribed number of words per day or week, or creating a certain number of illustration samples in a month for your website or portfolio.

ACHIEVABLE: Ah, this one is a bit tricky. We’d all like to reach for the stars and go after our wildest dreams, yet we also don’t want to set ourselves up for failure. So when setting goals, try to keep in mind what is actually achievable.

REALISTIC: This may seem similar to “achievable,” but the difference is keeping in mind what’s realistic for you in your season of life. Given the time, energy, and emotional obligations you currently have with family, job, and other commitments, what goals are most realistic? Setting realistic goals may help avoid frustration and the temptation to give up.

TIME: To determine your success in reaching a goal, a time limit or deadline is crucial. You could aim to accomplish a particular objective by the end of the year, but if you don’t see noticeable progress you may become disappointed and quit. For a large, complicated goal, it might be helpful to break it up into smaller, more manageable tasks with individual deadlines.

Happy New Year from Picture Book Builders!

I hope you have a wonderful year filled with friends, creativity, inspiration, and of course, lots of great books!

And please share one or more of your 2018 goals. It’s inspiring to hear others’ plans and dreams. Then next year we can look back and celebrate our exciting achievements (both planned and unexpected)!
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Suzanne Slade

Suzanne Slade is the author of more than 100 books. A mechanical engineer by degree, she enjoys writing about science topics and fascinating historical figures. Recent books include: SWISH! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters, A Computer Called Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Helped Put America on the Moon, The Daring Dozen, Countdown: 2979 Days to the Moon, Astronaut Annie, Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, Dangerous Jane, The Music in George's Head: George Gershwin Creates Rhapsody in Blue, The Inventor’s Secret, and Exquisite: The Poetry and Life of Gwendolyn Brooks. Coming soon -- MARS IS, JUNE ALMEIDA VIRUS DETECTIVE! THE WOMAN WHO DISCOVERED THE FIRST HUMAN CORONAVIRUS, THE UNIVERSE AND YOU, and TBA titles from Calkins Creek, Peachtree, and Random House. Learn more about Suzanne and her books at:


  1. Great acrostic for the new year. Happy 2018!

  2. I’ve heard of SMART before and am involved in Julie Hedlund’s Anti-Resolution Revolution. One of my goals is to put more work out on submission. Last year I subbed 25 times and I plan to double that. I have a database now to track subs and a crit group to keep me accountable. May 2018 be SMART for you, Suzanne.

    • That’s a fantastic goal Kathy! And how wonderful you have a critique group to cheer you on and keep you subbing. Your comment reminded me I was going to add something about that in the post. Guess I’ll do it now! Thanks!

  3. This is great, Suzanne. I do the same sort of thing each year, writing goals (or “intentions” if I want to be easier on myself) in various areas of my life. I’ll be working on this today, in fact, so your post came right on time! Happy 2018!

  4. Yes, next year I aim to work both HARDER and SMARTER. Thank you!

  5. Sounds like a great plan Lynne! I wish you much success for 2018!

  6. Ooh, these are great, Suzanne! They feel so doable. I like making month-by-month writing goals. But I can get obsessed with those to the exclusion of everything else. So my main goal for 2018 is to is allow myself time for other creative pursuits. I have a nice list of art/craft projects to tackle this year.

  7. Now that you mention it, I usually write down goals on Monday for the week–but monthly goals would work well too. I do think those shorter goals help. Then on Friday it’s nice to review what I accomplished because in this glacier-slow business it’s easy to feel like you’re spinning your wheels and don’t finish anything. I LOVE your idea of allowing time for other creative pursuits. For example, I spend so many hours reading research every week I never make time to read books for fun. I was such a huge reader before I became a writer. Quite ironic!

  8. This is a great idea. I haven’t set any goals for the year yet (besides the one I always shoot for–sell another manuscript!), only a few for January. I should sit down and set some SMART goals for the year. Good luck with your writing goals!

  9. I also plan to submit more manuscripts. Thanks for the pep talk!

  10. Wow. I really love this “SMART” system for setting goals. So easy to be vague and in a way, unrealistic – especially with time. Thanks for sharing this, Suzanne.

  11. Last year was one of letting writing goals slip by the wayside, so this year I definitely need to make some SMART writing goals!

  12. Can’t wait to hear about your goals and successes this year Patty! Write On!

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