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First, let’s revisit the importance of goal setting even for creative types:

Do you think that because you are a creative type, goal setting is impossible for you? Well, I am here to tell you not to worry, and that in fact, it’s entirely possible. I totally get that it can be challenging when you show up to the studio to make art, to also find a way to stay on track with your goals and feel like progress is being made.

I also get that it’s so wonderful to create freely without any restraints. When we do this, it comes from the deepest parts of our soul and feels like the universe, the ultimate creator, is working through us to manifest that creation.

But aside from the free artistic play of creation, sometimes you really do need to get shit done. I know you can nod your head to that. So what then? The answer — goal setting for creative types.

The types of goals creative types should focus on:

First let’s get a few house items out of the way to make sure all us creative types are on the same page — enter process goals versus traditional goals.

What is a process goal? A process goal is what you will actually have to do to achieve a larger goal. For example, instead of setting a goal to win a boxing title, you might set a goal to keep your hands up throughout an entire boxing match. Process goals will make you a lot more likely to achieve your creative (and larger-scale) goals. Meanwhile, the traditional goal would be winning the boxing title.

This means that when you are thinking of your traditional goals, you want to also include and maybe distill in a bit more detail, your process goals. Those traditional goals or larger-scale goals are always great to have, but as creative types, we shine in the process.

Think about every painting you made, or if you’re not an artist, think about every creative work you have accomplished. You had the goal of a masterpiece, or let’s say writing a novel, but what drove you there? Where and when did you feel the creative juices pour out of you? In the process. The process of creating and making art is how you defined the outcome — the larger goal. It how you set a timeline to finish the novel or painting. It’s how you determine the cost of later selling the artwork or determined where to send your manuscript off to. In the process, you are specific on how you get to the end.

So it only makes sense that you set process goals, right? Yes, the answer is yes, in case you were wondering.

After you set your process goals, you want to make them, you guessed it — SMART.

Making your process goals SMART can help creative types get that specificity needed to achieve the process goals, or at least redirect focus back to the goals. What makes your process goal SMART? SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound. Having goals written in a SMART format ensures that the goal-setter is clear on what they’re trying to accomplish, when and how. We’ve provided a handy worksheet that you can fill in to make your process goals SMART, right here!

Here is a great example of a SMART process goal for a writer:

Large-scale (traditional) goal: Have the first draft of a novel

Process goal: Write 10 pages at least per week to complete my novel’s first working draft

Specific: I will carve time out my morning schedule to write 2–3 pages per day to get to 10 pages done end of the week.

Measurable: I will document my page and word count daily to stay on track, block out this time on my calendar.

Achievable: I achieve this by using the Scrivener app to organize my manuscript and Hemingway App to edit my manuscript.

Relevant: I will participate in writing groups to help keep me accountable and on track with my process goal, as well as get feedback on my writing. (We have a great group here in Austin for female writers to join!)

Time-bound: I will accomplish this by giving myself the optimal time of the day to work on this project. The total span of my goal runs a timeline of 12 months, giving myself a full year to do any editing and rewriting of sections, characters, setting, etc.

Want an example of a SMART process goal for a photographer? Download this sample sheet here to get started and get those creative goal planning juices for your photography business flowing! Don’t worry about implementing them right away — you’ll know when the right time is to kickstart it!

Now that you’re caught up on SMART Process Goals, let’s grow your tree — the ultimate visual planner tool for creative types.

Working on your process goals can be a bit intimidating, especially when defining the specifics of your SMART criteria. So think of all this coming together like a tree, initial in thought like a seed, and then sprouting from the roots into a solid single focused trunk to give birth to your beautiful branches and leaves. I call this beautiful metaphor for visualizing and planning goals as a creative type, the “Tree Planner.”

The “Tree Planner” incorporates all of what we talked about and outlined above — your SMART process goals.

When you follow this visual planner and guide for your goals keep in mind that in the Tree Planner, keep in mind your vision of what you want to ultimately accomplish.

Now let’s incorporate all the feels behind your why for building a strong, sustainable tree, that can withstand your inner doubt and wanting to give up.

I even link it to a more emotional side of your creativity — where the feeling for desire and wanting to accomplish something becomes solidified and even more subconsciously motivating for you. That’s right, feelings play a crucial role in goal planning for creative types.

Your WHY, tied to what you feel, want or desire is the roots of the tree.You can just have one WHY, but usually, our WHY has layers and there are many. Ask yourself why you want to accomplish this goal, and plant that seed this upcoming year, or over the next 5 years. Write down exactly what that is, however it comes out of your brain. There is no censoring this step. Don’t worry if it’s not specific or measurable, go with what you feel. Then look at your single or many WHY’s and look for any recurring emotional theme surrounding your desire and what feelings are associated with this desire. Those are your roots. Write them down.

As your roots sprout from the earth, imagine that process goal — the way in which you get specific on how you are going to get there and what you have to do to keep that seed healthy on track for growth! The trunk is your process goal. Write it down.

After you have defined your process goal (if you want more, plant another tree), you now need to make this process goal SMART. The SMART criteria can be broken into your main tree branches. I have labeled them for you in this visual — fill them in.

Now to take this a step further and let’s add 3 objectives. The objectives are your leaves growing from each SMART branch.

Objectives help get you to where you need to be. They break it down so your SMART process goal doesn’t feel unattainable and so far out of reach that you give up three months in. As creative types, we definitely want to feel that our larger-scale goal is planned well enough to be reachable and breaking it down makes it just that. Feeling stuck? Don’t worry, I have an example written out for you:

See this example for writers:

  1. Roots: (Your WHY’s/FEELINGs): I want to leave a written legacy and complete a work of writing in the world

  2. Trunk: (PROCESS GOAL): Spend thirty minutes a day writing my novel

  3. Branches: SMART -Get x pages written by October

  4. Leaf 1 (Objective): Set up a spreadsheet for my weeks

  5. Leaf 2 (Objective): Block out work and exercise time

  6. Leaf 3 (Objective): Input time to write blog posts and novel

Lastly, when finishing growing your beautiful tree to help lay out the steps you need to follow for accomplishing your goal, find another creative buddy and hold each other accountable!

I hope this was helpful, and not only ignites your creative energy around goal-based planning but more importantly helps re-frame goal setting for you! It is totally possible to set goals as a creative type, and with this visual tree planner, you can easily see all the steps that will help you climb higher (pun intended!) to reach your larger goal and make that vision happen.

Want more freebie resources around creativity, expression and the arts? Follow me on Instagram to get more creative and expressive worksheets!

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