Knowing Your Personality
Before you set goals or schedules, you have to be honest with yourself about how you work. You are not going to change your skill set overnight. Your personality and strengths are likely to remain the same throughout your life, actually. So it's important to work WITH yourself, not against yourself.
Are you daunted by daily tasks or do they spur you on? Do you like BIG end goals or focusing on the little steps? Do you push yourself or are you more laid back?
Whatever way you work—it's not wrong. Just takes some figuring out.
I'm the type of person who can be easily overwhelmed by a BIG project. Some people can say "I will write a book in a year" and just set about doing it without much more. For me, that doesn't work. I'm a small bites kind of person, a day by day worker. If the goal is too big and too far out, I end up procrastinating and not finishing, maybe even giving up.
Especially when I'm working to get out of a slump, I set very small, accomplishable goals. They're always something I know I can meet even in the busiest of times. Right now that goal is one page each workday. I like small goals like these because when I meet them—and often surpass them—it builds my confidence. It's much better to meet a small goal than to keep missing a big one and feeling guilty about it.
When I'm in a more serious writing mood, my goal can be something like write a chapter each workday (I always take weekends off to regroup). When I'm editing, my goal is often three chapters a day. If have deadlines, I do the math and divide the work evenly for each day. I'm easily burned out if I work too much, so even if I feel like I can do more work I try to stick with my goals and not go over.
Making A Schedule
The hardest thing for me, I think, is finding time to write. But no matter the amount of time I have, I've learned that the only way to get it done is to make it a priority. Sometimes you have to save that TV show for later, or stay up an extra hour, or get up early, or whatever. There is time. There is always time if you make it.
My schedule has been crazy this summer, but for the first half when I was writing I would squeeze in time during the afternoons. Yes, I would turn on the TV for my kids, plug in my headphones, and try to get in an hour. It wasn't the most productive, but I managed...until I got all summer lazy at least.
For me, finding time to write revolves a lot around my kids. When they're in school, I try to make that my writing time. Before that, it was during nap time. When I was in school and working, it was in the evenings.
Most of the time when I sit down for writing time, I don't want to write. I want to check out blogs or WoW or whatnot. But I try to tell myself after—after I finish my goal. I always have some kind of small reward, be it watching some Hulu or having a scoop of ice cream. It's silly, but true. It gives me something to look forward to when I finish my work for the day, and it helps me keep my schedule because good things happen when I do. Positive reinforcement, I respond to it.
That's my basic method of keeping goals and schedules. I know it probably doesn't seem very complex or really all that organized, but it's simple and that's what I like. It's served me well over the years. One day at a time, I've written over a dozen books. It's crazy to think that each day, while small, has already amounted to so much.