Friday, 16 May 2014

Goal Setting in Needlework

Many people like to set goals.  Not everyone, but many do.  On various stitchery blogs from time to time you may see what someone hopes to achieve over the coming month and, at the end of the year, summary posts featuring the finishes from that year, (often compared to the goals set at the beginning of the year and complete with the list for the year to come), are quite popular.  However, disappointed expressions from people who haven't met their goals are common too, so I thought a piece on goal setting - and achieving - in needlework might be of interest to some readers.

Many of you, I'm sure, have heard of the SMART goal, yes?  Meaning more than just a sensible goal, there are a lot of things in the popular acronym SMART that can help those interested in goals in any area of life, not just needlework and blogging, to achieve more and feel satisfied with their progress - feel that they're really going somewhere.

To maximise our chances of achieving any goal, it needs to be:


Now, let's see how we can apply that to goals we might want to set for our needlework.

1. Specific

A specific goal states a task clearly and is different from an overall aim.  It's, well, just more specific!!  To illustrate, overall aims can include things like:

- Learn to do stumpwork.
- Improve my embroidery skills.
- Increase the number of stitches I know well.

These have their place, (see point 4 below), but genuinely specific goals would be something more like these:

- Work through the Sew in Love tutorial for a stumpwork ladybird/strawberry/berry.
- Take a certain on-line or in person class or work a certain kit/pattern.
- Learn 15 new stitches - even specifying some or all of the 15 that interest you most.

Can you see the difference?  The first type is too vague and really too 'big', whereas the second is a very clearly defined task to complete.  This is probably one of the most important aspects of goal setting - making sure you have a very distinct picture of what you want to achieve.

2. Measured

This has a lot to do with the first aspect.  A measured, or measurable goal intrinsically contains a way of knowing if you've met it and, if not, how far you've got along your way.  If we look back at our three specific examples above, then we can see that it's easy to see the end point of the goal.  With the last one, learning 15 stitches, you can see how many you've done and how many are left.  So, always try to include some way of measuring your progress.  As I said above, a suitably specific goal tends to have a measure involved in it.

3. Attainable

Ever heard expressions like 'aim for the stars and be happy if you land on the moon'?  Not half bad for certain areas of life, but not quite what you want when you're SMART goal setting.  Here, you need to make sure that your goal is absolutely realistic and achievable.  What might that involve?  Well, although you're probably going to want to involve an element of stretch in your goal, you don't want to make it so daunting that it's a strain.  So, make sure that the learning element of any goal is within reasonable bounds and that the whole thing is something that you are genuinely able to do.

Another aspect of this is making sure the time frame you set (see point 5) is realistic.  If you set yourself a year's worth of goals to complete within a month, then you're almost certainly going to fail, and that's disheartening. Do make sure that you give yourself enough time to complete each task.  What may be a reasonably attainable goal in itself may not be if you have 20 others like it on hand.  So, keep your whole workload in mind when considering how manageable something is.

4. Relevant

This is where the overall aims we looked at in point 1 above come into play.  Each goal should ideally be relevant to some long-term purpose or larger field of study that you want to master.  If you look back at the top example in each of the sections of point 1, you can see that the specific task of working through a tutorial for a raised work berry, bug or something like that contributes directly to the larger, overall aim of learning to do stumpwork.  Of course, it's not the whole story, you'll need to do more than one small sample before you could consider yourself to have mastered stumpwork, but it does contribute.  Ideally, several smaller goals on your list will help you work towards each overall aim (presuming you have more than one, which isn't a requirement.  One is just fine too.)

Another example is that those who have a lot of half worked projects around may have 'finish all my UFOs' as an overall aim, but each individual goal would be best off being a specific project.  If you make sure that your set task is directly relevant to something bigger you want to achieve, you're much more likely to get on and succeed with it.

5. Timed

This last element is another vitally important one.  Many SMAR goals are set and are not achieved.  Why?  Because the last letter, T, is missing!  Without it, it's still not SMART and may well fail.  Lacking a stated time frame and/or deadline, the positive pressure to work towards that goal is not there.  My hubby often says 'The deadline provides the greatest motivation' and he's right.

Not that needlework goals should be turned into a high-pressure stressor, but having a set time in mind is a great help.  Often, challenges or special occasions provide these (not much point in my turning up two weeks late with the wedding ring cushion, right??), and sometimes we have to make our own.  Without them, often nothing happens.  The end result always remains elusive, always at the same, distant point on the horizon and we make no movement towards it.

So, what do you think?  Will that help you at all?

Above is a screenshot from one of my previous year-long lists - the round up post at the end of the set time.  When I set these more or less annual goals list, I list a number of set things under various categories that I want to do within that year.  I think I'm going to include my overall aims in future too, so relevance can be seen more easily.  Many individual items can be carried forward to the next year if necessary, but it's greatly satisfying to cross off each task as it's finished.  Most of the items can also be measured in terms of progress as well, such as a percentage of an embroidery completed, or number of chapters of a book read or studied.  I won't say that I get through the whole list each time (with serious health problems, things are unpredictable at best!), but I am able to get a lot more done than I otherwise might by carefully making a list of SMART goals and getting a real buzz from crossing them off.  Why not join me?  If you do, feel free to leave a link to your own list, if you'd like to share.=)

Text and images © Elizabeth Braun 2014


Unknown said...

A very interesting post were is lots of commonsense . This is something to think about . Thanks


Awesome!.. just lovely!

Elaine said...

Good question! I used to set myself goals and targets but I found I was getting really stressed if I missed them! I don't enter competitions and only give things away that are already completed, that way the process continues to be enjoyable for me. One thing that has helped is to try and set aside a block of time to work on my projects, I then work on whatever I feel like at the time :)

Elizabeth Braun said...

Yes, I keep challenge etc participation to a minimum, because I know I'd feel stressed if I fell behind. I also don't commit myself to gifts unless there's plenty of time these days.

I just don't set over-stretching goals anymore. I learned the hard way years ago on that one...

Making very sure that, barring emergencies, a goal is really within reach is crucial to avoiding upset from it.:-)

Rachel said...

I'll give this some thought, although I am not usually very good with goals!

Glenis said...

OUCH! "Work a Sew in Love stumpwork tutorial..." Yeah - right. Didn't I say "When I've retired..." ? Still true - even if not particularly "SMART" of me. :-)
I'll think about the missing T, but I'm NOT promising... :-)

zenuwpees said...

FELICITATION Elizabeth les broderies sont magnifique bon dimanche Marie-Claire

Carmen N said...

I did create some goals for myself this year - things like how many blog posts I wanted to do this year, how many projects I wanted to finish, etc. But now I feel like I could make them more specific. Thanks for the information!