When it comes to setting goals and making progress with your creative projects, there are so many ways to mess things up.
You can make your goals too big and unattainable. You can make them too small and unadventurous. You can set goals that don’t align with your values or don’t fit in well with your existing activities.
But there’s a more subtle goal-setting error I often see among musicians, writers, and artists of all kinds.
And it’s sneakily deceptive. Here’s an example …
Several years ago I taught the “Music Marketing 101” course I created for Berklee College of Music. One of the student activities was coming up with a set of goals related to music publicity.
Many students stated their publicity goals like this:
- Send out 25 press kits to music magazines
- Identify 25 bloggers who cover our genre and contact them
- Pitch the lead singer as a guest to 10 targeted music podcast interview shows
Those are solid music publicity activities. The only problem is, they aren’t strong goals.
What do I mean? Consider this:
Suppose you set a goal to identify 25 bloggers who cover your genre and contact them. Next, you do your research and compile a list of two dozen bloggers. Then you send personalized emails to all of them.
Mission accomplished! Time to celebrate reaching your goal, right?
Not so fast.
On one hand, you should celebrate, because you just did something that most self-promoting artists never do. You made a commitment to take action and you actually followed through on that commitment.
So if you did that, congratulations!
However, let me ask you: Was identifying 25 bloggers and sending each of them an email your ultimate goal?
Your ultimate goal should be to actually “get publicity” for the band. Identifying the bloggers and sending them emails was simply a task to move you toward the goal.
It was a means to an end, not the end itself!
The best way to set goals is to make a clear distinction between goals and action steps. Goals are the specific and measurable final result you want. In the case of music publicity, your goal might be stated as:
Get exposure on 10 music blogs by October 10.
But what has to happen to get those ten bloggers to cover you?
There are any number of action steps you could take:
- Do online research and identify the best blogs to target
- Email the bloggers
- Leave comments on their blogs
- Meet them at industry conferences
- Connect with them via Twitter and other social media sites
- Ask friends for blog recommendations
Look at all of those possible activities! And that points to another problem with stating an action step as your goal. It limits you to that particular task.
When you set a goal that is a broader result you want, it opens the door to many possible ways you can get there. It expands your thinking.
Once you have a clear, big-picture, results-oriented goal, it’s your job to choose which steps will help you reach the goal. Once those tasks are identified, you should take action on them.
But it’s vitally important that you not confuse the tasks with the ultimate goal. They fall into two separate categories!
One (the goal) is the destination. The others (the action steps) represent the route you take to get there.
And this principle applies no matter what type of goal you set — writing a book, recording an album, planning an event, booking gigs, building your online presence, and a whole lot more.
I hope this helps you set your sights on what really matters as you move forward with your creative projects and your marketing.
What do YOU think? Do you separate goals from action steps? Did you find this helpful?
Leave a comment and let me know!