5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan


As a goal-oriented person, I am a big believer in checklists and assigned tasks/projects with deadlines. But traditional goal-setting never worked well for me. I need to have a core reason to get things done, something that answers to my life purpose. My search for a personalized, targeted system led me to developing a strategic plan, based on a track of meaningful short-term and long-term goals that make me productive, creative, and motivated.

What is a Strategic Plan?

I define a strategic plan as “a need- or want-targeted system of goals that makes a positive and productive difference in your life on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level.”

An example of a need-targeted system of goals could be eating eight servings of veggies a day; drinking 10 8-oz. glasses of water a day; exercising for 30 minutes every day because you NEED to lose 10 pounds to help lower your blood pressure.

An example of a want-targeted system of goals could be taking photography classes; setting up a craft room in your house; watching YouTube videos on scrapbooking because you WANT to create a scrapbook of your summers with your grandchildren.

Sometimes, it might be hard to tell the difference between what you NEED and what you WANT, and often, the two hit a crossroads. When that happens, your next step must be to make sure the goals you set as you develop your strategic plan are going to make a positive and productive difference in your life. That you have a reason for setting these goals. A strong, core, heart-centered reason will carry you for miles.

Each person will develop their own version of a strategic plan that reflects who they are, their life purpose, and the kind of journey they want to undertake.

For me, managing a coaching business, motherhood/household, environmental stewardship, and my fiction require an early morning wake-up (4:00), long bursts of focused work broken up by brief exercise routines, meditation, and healthy snacks, specific daily jobs that fall under an arc of weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly projects, and strict habits.

How do you know if you need to develop a strategic plan?

♦ Do you have trouble keeping track of your goals and plans?

♦ Do you end the day without accomplishing everything on your to-do list?

♦ Are you easily distracted?

♦ Do you feel unfocused, scattered, overwhelmed, disillusioned, exhausted, frustrated?

♦ Are your goals vague and unclear?

♦ Do you want to do things better/faster/easier?

♦ Is prioritizing tasks/goals difficult for you?

If you answered “YES” to any of the above questions, then developing a strategic plan might be right for you. Let’s dive in further.

Do you have trouble sticking with goals? Do you want to be more productive with your writing? Check out this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach on 5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan to help you respond and take action on your goals and move forward with your writing goals.

At the foundation of strategic plans are SMART goals.


Goals that are clear, well-defined, and answer most, if not all, of the five “W” questions: Who, What, Where, When, and Why.

♦ Who else will be involved?

♦ What is the goal?

♦ Where will this take place?

♦ When will the goal be achieved?

♦ Why is this goal important?


Measurable goals help you track your progress and also can let you know if you need to reassess. For many goals, you can repeat the 5 “W” questions here to figure out if your process is successful. Sometimes we set quality goals, but fail in our efforts to achieve the goal. This is a great place to make sure you are taking effective, actionable steps to fulfill your strategic plan.


Your goal needs to be attainable, otherwise your strategic plan will backfire. Setting something beyond the scope of your ability, resources, time, or knowledge will only lead to frustration. If it’s not attainable, that doesn’t mean you fuhgeddaboudit! Just back up, set smaller goals that act like stepping stones to this harder-to-reach goal. Once you complete those smaller goals, that once-evasive goal is now yours for the taking.


A relevant goal is one that makes sense as you develop your strategic plan and consider your life purpose. It has to be worthwhile and should connect in some way to at least another goal. If it’s a stand-alone goal, meaning, if it really has nothing to do with anything else you’re trying to accomplish, then ask yourself how you can make it matter more. If you can’t, then maybe it isn’t the right (relevant) goal for you at this time.

An example of a relevant goal would be to run 5 miles a day to train for a marathon.

An example of a stand-alone goal would be to read 50 books this year because that’s what your sister is doing.


Assigning dates and times (deadlines) can allow you to schedule days, weeks, or months in advance. Knowing when certain goals are supposed to be accomplished will also help you in scheduling other goals so that you don’t overburden yourself with too many big goals all at one time. Deadlines keep you on task, especially when you have multiple smaller goals to manage simultaneously.

Do you have trouble sticking with goals? Do you want to be more productive with your writing? Check out this post by Kate Johnston | Author & Story Coach on 5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan to help you respond and take action on your goals and move forward with your writing goals.

SMART goals are just the beginning. I further develop a strategic plan using specific “I” statements with clear-cut cause/effect so that I will actually respond and act. Modifications to my strategic plan depend on what it is I need to accomplish, how quickly it needs to be accomplished, and why.

I outline and personalize all of the action steps involved, making sure I care about the main purpose of what I’m trying to achieve.

For example, I don’t set a goal like “I have to work in the garden today.” Rather, my goal might state “I will weed and mulch the garden for two hours today because it’s supposed to rain the rest of the week. Plus this will count as my exercise for the day.” Not only does this fill the requirements of a SMART goal, but it is strategic in that I have made it personal. This goal matters.

5 Tips to Developing Your Strategic Plan

Add Positivity

I’m generally a positive person. I believe in the power of positive thinking and that the Universe gives back what you put forth. It’s hard to set goals for nasty tasks, but if I put a positive spin on it, then I’m more likely to get that task done.

TIP: Reward yourself for accomplishing a goal.

Assess Progress Every Day

Long-term goals or especially difficult goals can be easily lost in the busy-ness of Life. When you set yourself reminders or check-ins every day, you can catch yourself in the act of doing well or doing not so well. This also helps you figure out if you’ve set the bar too high, ultimately giving you a chance to readjust so that you don’t fail meeting the goal altogether.

TIP: Record your progress with a journal or photos. The tangible evidence will keep you honest!

Express your Goals

When you talk about your goals to your team (people who are supportive of your writing journey), you have a built-in accountability squad. Good teammates will ask how things are going with your goals, if you need help or if you need to vent, will remind you to get cracking. This outlet can be especially empowering.

TIP: Schedule a coffee date with a teammate and share your goals with each other; arrange to check in with each other once a month.

Back-up your Goal

Let’s face it. Not all goals get achieved. Woody Allen said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” This can be frustratingly true. But God doesn’t have time or the heart to screw you over twice (here’s my positive thinking shining through), so back-up your goal with another goal. I keep a list on my desk of quick (but annoying) tasks that aren’t overly important, which is why they keep getting shunted from one week’s to-do list to the next week’s to-do list. But they’re still things that, once they’re accomplished, would make a difference in my life in some way.

TIP: Housecleaning, organizing computer files/folders, or starting a recipe book.

Daily Steps to a Long-Term Goal

I think we all have huge goals we’d love to see to fruition. They’re so huge they often seem impossible. Crazy ideas. They’re so idealistic that they often take a back seat to our more practical goals, and we end up only fantasizing about them instead of acting upon them. Taking one little step every single day toward that long-term goal will help you realize that so-called impossible dream. Doesn’t matter what Day One is, just so long as you always do one small task (action step) related to that Crazy Idea every day hence. Acting on a dream is so much fun that you’ll find yourself getting caught up in it for longer bits of time.

TIP: start a private Pinterest board and collect images related to your Impossible Dream.


Here are my two cents I plop down anytime I offer writing advice: Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, I always recommend that you redesign and re-imagine recommended tools and ideas to fit YOU and YOUR needs. Writing advice is NOT a one size fits all. Rather, it’s like an adjustable waistband. Start with something known to work, that all the other people are raving about. Then play around with other options until you design something that is ALL YOUR OWN. You are more likely to stick with goals that are of your creation anyway!

How do you go about goal-setting? Any tips to share? Are you interested in developing a strategic plan? 

Have a writerly day

46 thoughts on “5 Tips for Developing a Strategic Plan”

  1. Excellent (and very timely) post. I’m really good at those vague sort of goals: “work in the garden today.” I think because, overall, their easier to set. The downside is, that makes them all the harder to obtain. I’m going to have to revisit my SMART planning.

  2. You make great points here. I seem to accomplish some things, but couldn’t tell you the strategy I use to make it happen. I wish that I could because I could apply that strategy to the things I don’t accomplish– and get them done, too. Strategy, it would seem, is not my strong suit.

    • Strategy is difficult to figure out, I agree. For the longest time, I didn’t know I had a strategy when it came to housecleaning and garden chores. It wasn’t until I actually mapped out a month one time that I saw what I was doing, and I was like “Oh wow, that was pretty smart of me! I’ll keep doing it that way because it works.” Sometimes it just helps to write it out in order to see what’s going on and what you need to do or change or fix.

      • Kate, I like your idea of keeping a monthly list [log?] of what I’m doing, then backtrack to see what my strategy is. Smart thinking on your part. I must be doing something right because I do accomplish things. But could I do things better/faster/easier? That remains to be seen. Thanks for the idea.

      • Reverse engineering (working backwards from a big goal or something you have already accomplished) is extremely helpful to figure out the smaller steps you took or might need to take. Also remember to factor in anything that might have had influence such as your mood, the weather, other people, etc. Good luck! 🙂

  3. Yes, springtime can definitely be distracting. I also find I do better if I prioritize and get the most vital things done first. All the smaller things fit in better than when I try to do them first and then run out of time for the most important (like family time, etc). Great reminder post, Thanks, Kate.

  4. I love how you apply the SMART principles to our everyday life. It’s a good way to approach our writing, because the more specific our goals are, including with timeframes, the more likely we are to reach them. We have to be especially diligent as writers because often no one is looking over our shoulder to keep us on track. Having reasonable goals helps us do this.

    • Took me years to realize that finishing a writing project requires more than me sitting at my desk and putting down words. Yes, that’s a key component, but if we don’t set deadlines and expectations for scenes, chapters, acts, etc., then the project could go on and on and on! I feel much more in control when I know that I have to complete a certain aspect to my novel by a certain timeframe. Of course, the trick is keeping yourself honest. Too easy to move those deadlines …

  5. Wah! But this sounds like work! 😉

    Seriously, this is the outline we keep for projects in my office, where results need to be tangible or we end up with unhappy clients. In a way, I suppose our readers are clients. We form agreements with them to tell a good story, to satisfy them in the way our story or book blurb promises. Keeping to goals like you’ve posted here, Kate, helps us stay true to and honor those agreements. I especially like the idea of sitting down for a coffee date with a friend once a month to assess progress. First, I need to find a friend, but then – absolutely – I will get on that step.

    • Haha, I know, it is work to set goals that actually “work.” I think readers are our clients, too. They expect something from us when they begin reading the first word–whether it’s a novel or a blog post. We wouldn’t be very good at our jobs if we posted half-finished blogs or published an unedited novel.

      As I mentioned to Carrie above, the only problem in all of this is that we have to be honest — far too easy to ignore or move deadlines, or alter the goals in some way that fits with our productivity levels. While we should assess our goals and change them if we’ve set the bar too high, we have to be careful that we’re assessing honestly and fairly and still challenging ourselves. That’s probably where the “friend” or “teammate” comes into play.

      Mayumi, do I really need to remind you that you have writer friends? Maybe they’re not in your physical neighborhood, but you have plenty in your cyber neighborhood. I’m happy to be your check-in friend! 🙂

      • I know, Kate. I just feel so selfish talking about my stuff to somebody, even a writer friend who would understand. If someone is paid to listen, that’s one thing. Though, does the hired person genuinely care, beyond the level of doing a good-enough job to be paid? There are projects at work I get sincerely excited about…but there are others I know I’m just phoning in. The latter is how I imagine most people think about my stories.

  6. This is great stuff. I like how bite-size and specific it is. Every season presents its challenges for me, but spring and summer are particularly challenging with kids and sports and weather and beautiful things growing right before my eyes! I am slowly learning the the one-size fits all is actually a myth. I used to really love to dive in and see how and what a published author lived and breathed and wrote (outlining, managing time, laptop or notebook, drinking, sleeping) and think, “that’s the key to success!” I still love those details (I’m also nosy), but the more I read and learn, the more I realize it’s not a cookie cutter process. The only thing that seems constant is consistency and hard work.

    Great tips. For me? Getting to the page everyday. Honestly, sometimes this doesn’t happen, but it’s the goal. It’s scheduled. And slowly slowly, the words add up. Bad first drafts are written. 2nd drafts, too.

    Want to be monthly check in buddies? I’m just taking your advice!

    • Remember that online writing workshop we signed up for with James Patterson? I was just thinking about that the other day, actually, and wondering how many of the people who signed up for that were able to follow his advice to the letter and have it work for them. While some of his advice was helpful, not all of it was really applicable to the general population of writers.

      Writing everyday is the best advice I can give to anyone who wants to take things to the next level. And you’re right, some days you simply can’t, but I try to make up for it on other days. There are those rare days when I have a whole morning to myself, and the writing energy is non-stop. I take advantage of those opportunities–even if there’s something else on the calendar. If I can move it, I will.

      Yes, I’ll be your monthly check-in buddy! I’ll email you and we can set something up!

  7. Smart plan Kate. Spring is a time for renewal, so why not renew goals? We all go at our own pace as you said but at least if we have planned goals and do our best to attain them we’re being productive. Some days ‘stuff’ does get left over on the plate, so we scrape it on tomorrow’s plate and work that much harder. I got way behind this winter on my bookwriting, but I’m back in the groove and that is motivating enough to keep all engines running smooth. 🙂

    • Hi Debby! Yes, springtime is a great time to re-assess our goals. For some people, this time of year is what they consider their New Year, and they set their goals now. I love that approach because it makes sense naturally. My year changes with the seasons because I have kids, so I have to re-assess on a regular basis to fit everything in.

      I agree with you about working harder to deal with unfinished tasks from the day before. Sometimes you just can’t get to everything every day. And that’s okay. If we beat ourselves up about that, we’ll never set any goals. Keeping a couple of hours open every week is helpful for this, because then you can get those hangover tasks accomplished.

    • P.S. Had to sneak in here and say how much I loved your post – Letizia – on music. I was listening to Haydn’s Symphony #96 as I read Kate’s post here, and then yours (always play classical when I’m writing and reading) and it was in the background. Not paying attention to it – until I read your words. So true!

      • I noticed that many people listen to classical music when they write (if they listen to music). Even my college-age students say that they can’t listen to their usual music genres as it becomes too distracting. I suppose sometimes we want music to be inspiring but in a subconscious way!

  8. Thanks for this post–I needed a refresher course on this! I struggle with being drawn to plans and to do lists vs that free feeling when I have a chunk of time to “just create”. Balance i suppose? 🙂

    • I am naturally organized and strategic in Life. I do not like spontaneity if it interferes with a plan I’ve already set in motion. This makes me pretty boring and predictable. 🙂 But it helps when I need to get my writing done–especially when I’m writing something that’s giving me a hard time. There is that part of my writing self that is drawn to organic creativity, where outlines and plans are despised. You’re right about the balance. It’s a matter of feeding that hunger of creativity while also making progress with outlines and strategies. 🙂

  9. Love it, Kate. Now I have eye of the tiger in the background and I’m ready to take on my goals with an ardent fire. Mathair and I have been taking a blogging hiatus and are getting back into the swing of things so we definitely needed this positive motivation. Thanks so much and have a great weekend. 🙂

  10. These are excellent points, Kate, and I need to do something like this. I’m very organized with my day-job work, and I really need to apply the same strategy to writing and other personal interests. This is a great post to keep for repeated reference!

    • Thanks, Jacqueline. I have to stay on top of my goals because they change often and are at the mercy of so many other people and their needs. I must protect my plans if I want to make any progress!

  11. I love how you break this down. You’re so right about personalizing a task rather than simply jotting down a ‘grocery list’ of goals that might otherwise get left in the shopping cart. Now. If you can come up with a winning game plan for the Sawx, I will be even more impressed. Just kidding, you’re quite impressive.

    Great stuff, Kate.

    • Cayman, I haven’t been able to follow the “Sawx” yet this year! They’re not winning?? How can this be? I’m distraught. *deep breaths* *beer* *deep breaths* *more beer*

      You’re right. I need to come up with a winning game plan for my boys. Right on it.

      • No, no, no. You keep doing what you’re doing. They’ll be fine without you. And besides, my boys will put out a hit on me if they know I conspired in any way to take down the Empire.

  12. I love that Woody Allen quote! I definitely need more specific goals because I’m not doing/never getting to the more general ones. I hope you’re finding the time to enjoy the blooming out there!

  13. Great explanation of a strategic plan! I teach Psychology and I spend a couple classes on SMART goals and milestones. It’s so important for success in life.

  14. great ideas. you are definitely right that we all have our unique ways to set goals and how to hold ourselves accountable for them. I am still trying to figure out a better scheme for myself. but I certainly won’t give up

  15. Kate, I am reading your Writer Uninterrupted, at the moment,and you are pushing me to write daily. For that I thank you. I will post a review of it as soon as I finish. In the meantime I have nominated your site for the versatile blogger award, and if you wish to accept it the guidelines etc are on : https://mudpilewood.wordpress.com

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