Get Your Think On: Setting Intangible Goals

by Kimberly Peticolas

Ever think you are measuring your productivity all wrong? There is a lot of talk about productivity and how to set goals. Daily word counts or page counts are common metrics used by authors now. Other metrics might be easier or harder. Some authors count productive as writing anything. Others want 5000 words each and every day. And then there are those who feel they are only productive if they write something that meets their goal for quality, regardless of quantity. But these are all tangible goals. Maybe what you are missing is the intangible.

The Intangible

There is one factor that everyone seems to be missing . . . everyone that is except today’s CEOs. Several years ago, a CEO I worked for told me that he was once advised by fellow CEOs to spend at least one hour each day just thinking about his business. Nothing else. Just thinking. Let’s ponder this concept for a minute. The country’s and world’s greatest business minds devote time to nothing but thinking about their business, goals, and new ideas for their company, products, etc. I really took this to heart when I first heard it, and it’s something I like to share with my clients. Never forget: Thinking counts as being productive.

The Art of Pondering

While I am not a published author (yet), this is a lesson I have applied to my business as an editor and consultant as well as my personal writing. I will spend time just thinking about my client’s projects or thinking about ideas, plot points, and world-building elements for my own work. Just letting them flow in and out of my mind. Usually, I try to have a journal or computer nearby to jot down any good ideas that come to me, but that is not my primary purpose. I really try to just think. And typically, if I come up with something really good, it sticks in my head. It is something I will continue to ponder and flesh out in my mind for several days. I’ve actually outlined entire stories and articles in my head before putting a single word down on paper. I don’t know about you, but that counts as being pretty productive in my book.

The Flip Side

Now, there is a flip side here. Just because thinking counts for productivity, doesn’t mean you should abandon your other goals. It is very easy to get into the trap of only thinking, and never actually writing. I should know, I have fallen into this trap before and it helps to have a schedule to stick to. It requires a certain amount of balance. So, to start, I would recommend choosing one or two days of your writing schedule and either adding thinking time to it (best case scenario) or substituting it for your writing goal. Stick to this schedule and try it out for a bit and make adjustments as needed to add or remove time. You won’t be sorry.

Now go on . . . grab a cup of coffee and get your think on.

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Kimberly Peticolas, Author Coach

Kimberly Peticolas, Author Coach

Kimberly Peticolas is an experienced editor, writing coach, and consultant working with clients from a variety of backgrounds. No matter your publishing goals, she’s here to help you achieve your writing dreams. With a la carte services ranging from one-on-one author coaching to detailed manuscript editing or proofreading, even extra help to improve your writing skills, Kim has you covered.

5 thoughts on “Get Your Think On: Setting Intangible Goals

  1. Very good point, that stopping to really think should count as productivity! I have a hard time “just” thinking when I’m in front of the computer — too many distractions — so I get most of my ruminating done on my morning exercise walks. That’s a good 45-60 minutes of thinking progress, and I get exercise too: win-win! But I’d like to get better at unplugging and thinking at other times too.

    When and how do you get your thinking in? Any tips or tricks?

    1. Hi Joy, thinking while you walk is a great method, especially if it works for you. I think the key is finding your own method. For me, I like to mix it up, so I do my thinking in several ways. But I agree that having a computer open in front of you can offer too many distractions. Same with your phone. Put the computer away, put the phone on silent, and try out different spaces to do your thinking. It can be hard at first to isolate yourself from technology and not instantly go looking for external inspiration. Find someplace you are comfortable and where there is no pressure. Somewhere you can really allow your mind to both ponder and wander.

      Good luck and I’d love to hear how it goes!

      1. Sometimes I can get some good thinking in while I’m washing dishes or cooking, as long as I don’t have the radio on. But even that can be too distracting. The shower is a great place to think through story lines, too. The downside to all of these is that they’re relatively short periods. That’s why the think-while-walking works for me. It’s a nice long, uninterrupted period of thinking, far away from other distractions, but I don’t feel guilty about “not doing anything” like I do if I just sit with my eyes closed, because I’m getting exercise.

    2. Walking around the Back Bay at Newport Dunes seems to do it for me – preferably when it’s dark. The rhythm of the walking, the scent of the water, the whispering of the trees stimulate something cognitively for me. The darkness helps with avoiding distraction.
      I appreciate this article! I do a great deal of writing in my head and this piece eases my guilt at not being more “productive”. However, I am glad that Kimberly added the admonition to take a reality check on whether we’re over-thinking and under-writing!

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