Blogging challenges. Like any other “challenge” you sign on to, they’re designed to, well, challenge you to achieve, do new things, push yourself in something. As you’ve probably noticed, social media is full of challenges to quit a bad habit or start a side hustle or get a firmer booty, especially this time of year. They’re all thrown out there in the hopes that we’ll find some growth, create good habits, or just have fun with a new group of folks.
In my case, this blogging challenge thing forces me to sit down and think about this project every day, to actually create something of value for 31 days solid. I dig it. Are you into blogging or journaling? Wanna play along? If so, you can join us all here. Big thanks to Linda at Witte’s World Blog for spurring the motivation.
SMART goals, if you’re not familiar, are these goals you create for your end game that are actually achievable. Conveniently, that’s what the “A” stands for. We use them all the time in teaching to help meet the expectations we’re hit with from the state and local boards of education.
A SMART goal is something that’s specific. Even though the acronym starts with the “S,” it’s really in getting through the “mart” part that you get to the specific outcome. No worries, though. We’ll come back to how this just kind of naturally happens through working the others.
For an example, my first SMART goal for blogging in 2019 is “I want to create at least one post a week with quality content related to living, playing, and healing in downtown Memphis.” Lemme show you how I came up with that.
The “M” stands for measurable. So, let’s starting thinking numbers here. How many/much? How do you know you’ve reached your goal?
How not to measure: every new year, gym memberships increase in droves because everyone loves to do that whole “new year, new me” thing. The goal? “I want to lose weight.”
Okay, great. How much? How quickly? Talk to the doctor about that to see if your body can even do that? What diet changes are you making? Can you stick to them? What lifestyle changes are you making? Can you stick to those, too? Bet you’re already seeing how that’s destined for failure.
For my blogging challenge, this Day 1 task is to set five SMART goals for January blogging. So instead of just saying “I want to blog all the time and change the world” (destined for failure), I need to come up with something I can measure. That’s why my “I want to create at least one post a week with quality content related to living, playing, and healing in downtown Memphis” works. I can measure my posts. I can count weeks. (Additionally, I’ll be writing a post a day for the challenge, too!)
I can’t just stop here, though, because what does quality even mean? How will I know if it’s a quality post? I don’t have any parameters on that yet. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.
I already told you “A” was for achievable (or attainable per some models), so let’s keep looking at this. Is an additional one quality post a week achievable for me? Right now, I’m on a work vacay for the holidays, which is awesome, but I also know that when I go back next week, all hell is going to break loose. I’d love to think that I could pump out 3-4 posts a week, honestly. And maybe I can. But I want quality posts, too, not just filler.
Knowing what I’m about to walk back into, though, I believe that one quality post a week is achievable with my typical work schedule. That gives me time to gather material, create original images, draft and proofread, dote over it all in my perfectionist nature, and publish. I can do that. If I get more time than that and knock out a couple more? Awesome. If not, I’ve met my SMART goal and I haven’t let myself down. That’s the key to sticking with them. Don’t undershoot, but don’t set yourself up for failure, either.
That leads to the “R” – realistic. (In some places, you’ll see them use the word relevant instead. I don’t think that suits our purposes as much here.) I could absolutely set a goal to post 3-4 times a week because, why not? There are seven days in a week! Surely I can blog on half of those.
However, I teach college writing for a living. I have about 140 students. Each paper I assign is a minimum of 5-6 pages long. There are 4 per semester. There are other assignments alongside those papers. Everything requires me to read it, comment to/conference with the student about, and all of that work has deadlines. Then there’s all the other demands of my teaching job. ‘Cause… paperwork.
And a much as I’d love to just sit down and write to you guys all the time, it doesn’t pay my rent – yet! Until then, when it comes to setting my SMART goals, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t also make myself homeless. No bueno. Knowing what I’ve got coming up on the calendar and how fast life is about to start moving again, I know that one post a week with quality original material and researched resources is a realistic goal to set. I can do that.
You’ve probably guessed by now that the “T” is all about time. For my first SMART goal, I said one post per week. You don’t have to measure your realistic and achievable goals by the week if that doesn’t really work for you. Instead, you can go for biweekly, monthly, quarterly, and so on. Just depends on what you want to accomplish.
I like the divide and conquer method and agree with Linda from Witte’s World when she says that she tends to “get off track if [her] goals are too far off on the calendar.” I do that mess, too. I can procrastinate with the best of them, and if you’re reading this and nodding your head knowingly, then tighten up that timeframe a touch. Don’t set yourself up for failure in the home stretch of your goal setting here.
I could totally tell myself that I want to post that quality content about living, playing, and healing in downtown Memphis by saying that I’m going to do 25 posts a quarter, but you can bet your bippy that I’mma roll into that 8th or 9th week maybe a third or halfway to my goal thinking, “well… crap.” Easier to just start out not doing that to yourself. You’re not going to attempt something that makes you feel completely overwhelmed.
Full Circle – Getting Specific
I hope you can see now how going through the steps for M, A, R, and T bring you naturally to the S, the specific. You have to start your goal setting somewhere, so don’t be afraid of the oh-so-lofty “I want to write blog posts every day and change the world.” That’s your basic idea. Then you start honing it down and making it measurable, achievable, realistic, and time sensitive so that you know specifically what you want to accomplish, how you’re going to do that, and by when. You can make real action item lists once you work the process.
Which brings me back to the idea of quality posts. Remember I was all, “What’s that even look like?” and “How will I know it’s quality?” For this goal specifically, I am in charge of what quality looks like, but I also understand that this definition needs to be pretty fluid. I might think something’s awesome. It might tank something fierce.
So, as part of specific, the “S,” I want to at least get some starting parameters laid out. For me, a brand new blogger operating a lot on trial and error, I have to be willing to reflect on what’s working and what’s not. When I look at other people’s blogs, I do a little research for myself. What do I like to see and read? What’s quality mean to me? I’ll apply as much of the acronym as I can.
Quality is measurable in the amount of shares, comments, pins, and traffic a post receives. I don’t have actual numbers on what I think that should be, so I’m going to start recording the trends in my analytics. If I see that a topic resonates more with my peeps, then that’s something to take into consideration. Just because I have a lot to say doesn’t mean a lot of people want to hear it. As I study the trends and adjust in my little experiment, I’ll be able to determine what’s a realistic expectation, too.
Subjectively, quality to me means the material is relevant to my community goal of showing downtown Memphis as a great place to live, play, and heal and to my personal goal of sharing how it’s doing those things for me. Half travel guide. Half therapy. I want to create original images from the actual moments whenever possible. I want to be as authentic to the stories as I can be without hurting or incriminating others, whatever that might mean.
5 Blogging SMART Goals for January
- In addition to the challenge posts, I will create at least one post a week with quality content related to living, playing, and healing in downtown Memphis. Hopefully more experiences like my beautiful Christmas one will come my way.
- I’ll research two bloggers a week and observe the things that I like and find useful about their sites that I can incorporate in my own way.
- The legal stuff is important, so I’m going to have that together by the end of the month.
- Let’s sort out some of this affiliate marketing so that I can apply to one by the 31st.
- Pinterest – I do solemnly swear to have a presence by the end of the month.