10 Goal Setting and Time Management Tips for Writers to Kick off the New Year

This is a guest post by Lisa Sullivan


WritingHappy 2016, fellow writers! A new year brings new writing goals and ambitious plans to achieve them. To help you along, here are some goal setting and time management tips for creating  and achieving your 2016 writing and time management goals.

1. Eliminate distractions.

  • If you sit down to write, then write. Do not use writing time to check social media, websites, email, text messages, Angry Birds, etc. Do not let mindsucks, timewasters, and energy drains tempt you away from your writing. Set clear boundaries with people and pets to let them know that writing time is writing time.

2. Separate writing tasks.

  • Multi-tasking (switch-tasking) is proven to be unproductive, so focus on one writing task at a time. Schedule prioritized time for brainstorming, drafting, revising, editing, proofing, planning, promotion, research, business/admin, etc. Draft, revise, edit, and proof when you are freshest. Promote on social media at peak times to maximize return.

3. Organize your space.

4. Empty your mind so you can focus on writing.

  • When something besides writing is on your mind, it clouds your productivity. Deal with it then get back to writing, even if it takes days, weeks, or months to resolve. Journal about it, talk it out, or workout to clear your mind for a more productive writing session. Similarly, take frequent breaks – the mind focuses best in 20-minute chunks.

5. Set goals that are not just achievable but motivational.

  • Goal setting is not the same as goal achievement, and goal achievement (in my lexicon) is not the same as goal accomplishment. Goal achievement, in a nutshell, means you visualize where you want to end up then plan and strive to complete incremental tasks to get you there. To stay on the path of completion, you must believe you can achieve, make a reasonable plan, and commit. Goal achievement is the logical conclusion to the milestones you have completed on a prescribed path. Goal accomplishment, on the other hand, is emotional and thus more powerfully motivating. What pleasurable, emotional feeling will you get as a result of completing your writing exercises? Holding your book in your hands? Getting accolades, awards, or royalties for your work? Connecting with your readers? Leaving a legacy? Starting a new career path? Doing something you’ve always wanted to do? Finishing something you started a long time ago? Overcoming barriers or fears? Dispersing your message to the masses? Making yourself/your mom/your spouse/your kids proud? Whatever that emotion is for you, pinpoint it and hold fast to it because it will best lead you to goal accomplishment (in contrast to goal achievement). Emotional motivation is a much more forceful predictor that you will reach the end of that long, lonely writing path than setting word count goals and deadlines will be. The bottom line is, you know you can do itso ask yourself why don’t you or why will you?

6. Associate with supporters.

  • Beware! Some people in your writing circles wear masks of amity, but their face underneath is one of enmity. To them, getting published and selling books is primarily a competition, and YOU are their rival. …Ditch those people! They do not want to help you achieve your goals at all. Associate with those who are genuinely supportive of seeing you achieve your writing goals, and help or thank them profusely in return.

7. Strike while the iron is hot.

  • Does a great idea strike you while bathing or driving along the highway? When, without warning, the next scene of your WIP starts to fill your mind, stop what you are doing (if you can) and capture it – and keep going with the moment until your imagination iron cools. You never know:  that brilliant idea may never strike again or in the same way later. There’s no reason to wait for a scheduled writing time to make great progress. (Just ask Bob Dylan.) Write it down, type it up, or leave yourself a voice mail message right then and there. So what if you are the one who looks like you are talking to yourself in the car but, unbeknownst to all, you are recording voice memos on your smartphone about a new scene idea or character brainstorms? If it helps you reach your writing goals, then do it.

8. Take care of yourself.

  • Be well rested, healthily fed, and free of stress to be the most productive writer you can be.

9. Deal with Writer’s Block.

  • Either plow through it (i.e., keep writing) or give your mind a break – the words WILL flow again. On the other hand, are you truly suffering from Writer’s Block? Maybe you are procrastinating. In that case, read my book for more tips on how to overcome procrastination.

10. Stay dedicated.

Now, go forth and write your novel! Make it happen this year. Enjoy the journey with smiles and good times. Best of luck to you in 2016!
© Lisa A. Sullivan, 2016

Lisa SullivanLisa A. Sullivan is an award-winning trainer and recipient of the American Society for Training and Development West Virginia Chapter’s Workplace Learning Professional of the Year and the Federal Executive Association of the Eastern Panhandle’s Manager of the Year Award. She is also owner of publishing house LASBooks,  the author of the Time Management Workbook, a blog, and four other books.  Her fiction work has finaled five times in different contests over the years.

Join her free Time Management Workshop at the Hedgesville Library in Hedgesville, West Virginia, Saturday, January 30, 2016, at 10:30 a.m. Follow Lisa on Twitter @LASBooksWV.

Planner Tips: Using My MAMBI Happy Planner

Today marks the first entry in my new “Tools and Tips” series! Being an avid planner for the past 17 years, I figured my first set of planner tips should revolve around my (mis)adventures with my new MAMBI Happy Planner and how I use it to keep me on track and accountable to my 2016 author and personal goals.

I’ve been using the Passion Planner the last 2 years for personal and professional organization, but as a creative being, I found myself wanting something more to keep me engaged in my writing and personal goals. Luckily, several of my author peeps are avid planner horders and I came across the Happy Planner.  This planner provides a weekly layout I really, really like and lots of space to note tasks, events, and random bits of creativity. 🙂

Being the anal, perfectionist that I am, it was overwhelming to tackle a new planner. What if I mess it up, or use it wrong, or…. See, this is how my crazy mind works. 🙂  So I hit the internet to see how others were using their planners.  Since the primary focus of this planner is to track my personal and author roles, the videos I found didn’t exactly cover all the angles I needed. So I brainstormed a list of possible uses for my Happy Planner and I will implement and tweak these until I come up on the best use and practices that work for me.

MAMBI Happy Planner planner tips
MAMBI Planner

And without further ado, here is my very first week spread!

Since this is was for the very first week of 2016 and I was fresh off of a one week, intensive goal planning spree, I felt a little bit of the dark side of the Force would be needed to hit the ground running and incorporate several new routines into my life. (gym, gah!) This is my planner after a little bit of decoration and my initial notes for the week.  I need plenty of white space to avoid visual clutter and for flexibility to add items as my week progresses, so I won’t decorate as much as some others do.

For now, I use the left hand side to note the major tasks I need to complete for the week.  In order to keep me focused on my overall mission, these items are all attached to a specific role (more on those later) I want to focus on in 2016.  Since there is only so much I can plan for an entire week when I sit down on Sundays, I’ve learned to be flexible when it comes to actually accomplishing my set tasks. Seeing all I need do that week listed on left works for now.  As I traverse the week, I pencil them in as I see fit.

I’m currently using the daily columns to track my meal plans, appointments, key reminders, and my writing tasks.  I’m still on the fence as to how to best use the 3 boxes per day, so for now the top box is for important reminders, appointments, and that day’s breakfast smoothie.  (I may move to a Big 3 focus for this box in the future.)  The middle box is being used to note my writing and author related tasks.  I use the last box for my household, mom, and “me” roles, such as dinner plans, family activity reminders, etc.  The 3 red star stickers are both visual interests and denote my gym days this week.

As of right now, I have no idea how to best use the weekend boxes since I tend to go “off grid” on Saturdays and Sundays.  And since I do love motivational quotes, I like to randomly pepper in a few each week to provide a bit of uplift.

MAMBI Happy Planner Tips

Here’s an updated shot of my planner a little later in the week.  Each morning I take a glance at it and determine all I need to do and what activities I want to do that day.  Knowing me and my propensity to take on too much, I try to limit the top box to the 3 major items I need to keep in mind for the day.  I also think I need to limit the number of tasks in the middle box, but for now it helps to see them even if I don’t manage to accomplish them all that day.  It’s simple enough to move them to another day later in the week (as you can see by my many arrows-lol)

So, here are this week’s big wins:

  • Using the left hand side first to list out the week’s most important tasks
  • Using the top box for my main priorities for the day
  • Easy to look at–not going overboard on colors and decor

Here are the areas I plan to tweak:

  • Better use of the middle box
  • Neater penmanship (it’s a struggle)
  • Brainstorming more ways to bring in additional role functions weekly

So this ends my week one recap on the Happy Planner weekly layout.  I’ve made a few adjustments in my weekly spread which, I’ll share next next week before I dive into my monthly planning tips.  In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at this week’s planner theme before I started writing in it. You just gotta love those cute elephants! 😉

MAMBI Happy Planner tips


NaNo 2015- A Different Journey

NanoNovember is NaNo month and it’s ALL about the words during Nano. Bad words, good words, sloppy words… It doesn’t matter, as long as you write them all down and string them together in semi coherent sentences.  And I had every intention on being all about the words in November, I even managed to eek out a few hundred on a new synopsis.  But I found myself taking steps to re-focus and re-dedicate myself to my writing vs. actually producing the words for Nano.

In the long run, I think this was more important to my writing and success as an author.  Especially after I’ve been seriously contemplating stepping away from the keyboard for a while.  Yes, I love writing and feel driven to do it, but life has been more than a challenge, and a bit of a distraction occasionally :-), the past 4 years.  And yes, writers must learn to write through the ups and downs, the good days and bad.  But there comes a point when you know you need to step back or risk compromising your sanity and good health.  I reached that point over the last year.

But when it was time to walk away, I couldn’t. Story ideas came to me.  New characters came to me.  New worlds suddenly became more visible.  The clouds, while still there, were thinning out a bit.  So when November comes around, I must (why, I don’t know, but it’s a compulsion) jump into NaNo and write like the wind to reach that 50k goal for the month.

So I used my Nano time to reclaim my focus and discipline.  First up, time management and planning assistance.  Even though I’m currently using the Passion Planner for my 2015 needs, I find I need more space to write down things and a different layout in order for me to make full use of it.  Currently, it works well as my weekly “big picture” tracker for both my every day personal life and my full time job.  So I investigated new planners for one that would primarily be used for keeping my writing and personal life on track.  I settled on the Happy Planner by MAMBI.

PlannerI like the fact that (1) it was very affordable vs. some of the other planners I was looking at.  On top of the already low price, I got an additional 40% off with a coupon at Hobby Lobby. 🙂 And (2) it as a lot of space to write and the flexibility to adapt and use it how I want vs. me being firmly locked into a layout I find difficult to multipurpose.  While researching this planner, I’ve found that lots of people decorate their planners with stickers, decorative tapes, etc. I like the idea of using my planning time to express some of my creativity, but I plan to keep it to a minimum.  I can’t function with too much visual clutter and distraction.  But I have to admit, playing with stickers and colored markers can be good for the soul. 🙂

I’m hoping by the time January rolls around, I will have adapted the perfect working layout for me.  Stay tuned, as I may do a video when that time comes to show other authors ways they can keep themselves on task.  I only came across one author (thx Hildie!) with a video on how she uses her planner. I wish there were more authors’ planner videos out there, but I was still able to glean tips from those I watched.

living writeIn addition to adding “official” weekly planning into my life, I’ve also been reading Living Write by Kelly Stone. I ran into Kelly again at this year’s Moonlight and Magnolias and  took her workshop “Life’s a Bitch, but Then You Write“.  This was a really good session, full of tears that I don’t think anyone expected to flow.  But we all felt lighter afterwards. I decided then that I needed to address my real problem(s) behind my lack of will and gumption to write.  So I picked up Living Write and I’ve been taking the time to read through and digest it. I manage at least one chapter a week and I have found it to be helpful so far.

Now, I am working on my 2016 Writing Plan and setting SMART goals. I plan to have it 100% ready to go, with deadlines, by 12/31. It’s a lot of hard work, but also exciting.  My writer’s spark is being stoked.  It’s not a roaring flame yet, but it’s building.

In the meantime, me and my trusty CP have decided to try to Nano, in spirit, our way through December.  Fortunately- or unfortunately depending on how you look at it- we tend to go through the same cycles in our writing journeys at the same time. We’re both planning and excited about what we intend to accomplish and where we intend to go in 2016.

Viva the words!

Nicki Salcedo: The Spitfire Princess

Nicki SalcedoI was a tomboy as a kid. I used to sit directly on the ground and poke my fingers into dirt. I’m grown now and still have my tomboy ways. I don’t mind spiders or snakes, but I hate shoe shopping and frilly dresses. Give me a net, and I’ll go chase fireflies. That’s about as ladylike as I get. It’s not that I’m fearless. I have one phobia, much like the heroine in my novel ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS. I am afraid of mascara.

I thought I might change when I started reading romance novels. But I stayed the same. I fell in love with cowboys and dukes and knights. I wondered if they’d fall in love with a grass-stained girl. I wondered what they would think if I was the one to rescue them.

I’ve lived inside every book I’ve ever read. I vowed never to write stories where the ladies fainted or swooned. I would spit fire like a dragon. I would win the heart of the handsome hero, and I would never ever have to do the dishes.

Good things dreams come true. I wrote ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS as a present to my tomboy self. The Spitfire Princess in me wanted to have her day. My main character is Ava Camden. She is a princess of sorts, but she is scarred physically and emotionally. She is wealthy. She lives alone on a vast estate. She is brooding. She saves the day. And not once in the entire book did I make her wash the dishes.

What kind of hero deserves a Spitfire Princess? Read ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS and meet Graham Sapphire. He’s tall and handsome with a few scars of his own. He is the beauty and a protector in this reversal of the beauty and the beast story. What kind of kid were you: a daredevil, bookworm, prankster, tomboy, or a girly girl? What kind of adult are you: beauty or beast? Tell us in the comments.


All Beautiful ThingsThank you so much for stopping by! To show her appreciation for your visit, the beautiful and talented Spitfire Princess Nicki is giving away an ARC of ALL BEAUTIFUL THINGS and a t-shirt from Belle Books!

To enter, you have to:
1. Like Nicki’s FaceBook page
2. Like my FaceBook page
3. Leave a comment below about your inner spitfire-ness by telling us what type of kid you were, and what type of adult you are now.

Ways to get additional entries into the giveaway are outlined in the Rafflecopter giveaway below, for those extra motivated to win a free ARC of this awesome story.

Good luck! The winner will be announced tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. cst




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Nicki Salcedo is a graduate of Stanford University with a degree in English and Creative Writing. She was born in Jamaica and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a member of Romance Writers of America© and a Past President of Georgia Romance Writers. Nicki is a two‐time recipient of the Maggie Award of Excellence and a Golden Heart Finalist.

She lives in Atlanta with her four children, husband, and a cat. Nicki thinks everyone should write and loves connecting with readers. You can find her at:


The First Step

deskIt’s nearly the end of another year, hence I always feel compelled to do my audit & recap of the current year, while working on my plan for the upcoming one.  2013 has been a year of more downs than ups, but that’s life for you.  On the positive tip, I’ve met and made connections with a new group of talented and successful authors, both published and unpublished.  And let’s not forget that 2013 saw the birth of La-Tessa Montgomery as a PUBLISHED AUTHOR!!! (Can I get a WOOT WOOT for that one 😉 ).

There will be rough spots and bumps in the road, without them you won’t be appreciative of the smooth patch when you hit it.  There has to be hard times and pain, because without them you wouldn’t fully enjoy and appreciate the good times.

All that said, I am happy with 2013, but I could have done much more.  It’s the end of the year, but I’m excited about what I have coming up.  I have a couple of irons in the fire that are ready to come out.  With that said, I challenge everyone reading this, myself included, to stop wallowing and get to doing. Regardless of what it is you are trying to accomplish, get up and make take some tangible action, no matter how small, towards getting it done.

I came across this quote a few years ago and woke up with it on my mind:

    The first step binds one to the second.  ~French Proverb

I woke up this morning energized and ready to go, a feeling that I’ve not had in a good 7 months or so.  What was the catalyst? In response to 2  upcoming opportunities, I sat down yesterday and developed my plan to accomplish them.  With this planning came To Do Lists.  And with To Do Lists comes the need for action on my part to accomplish these tasks. While doing this, new ideas and projects sparked to  life.  With no conscious effort, I have now have tangible leads to follow, on both the business and the creative side.

I said all that to say this, action begets action.  If you are content to be still, making absolutely no positive action towards your goal, you can’t be upset when you’re in the same spot days, months, or years later.  Authors are full of dreams regarding our works.  We want to hit all the best selling lists, we want to be on everyone’s To Read list, and we want to be included in every book club’s discussions.  Oh, and what if our book is optioned into a movie?  We can see ourselves on locations shooting scenes, the red carpets, being #1 at the box office…

We need these dreams, they help sustain us through the birthing process that is writing.  But in reality, sometimes we get caught up in too much dreaming, and not enough pushing.

I’ll leave with this:

“One cannot hope to publish the story that is not yet written.”
~La-Tessa Montgomery