It’s the third week of January and I don’t have my yearly goals written out or a plan in place to reach them. For a gal whose to-do list generally has its own to-do list, this is rather nerve-wracking, to say the least. Just thinking about it gives me heartburn.

But somehow, I haven’t been able to sit down and map out a master plan. Part of it is the niggling suspicion that the system I’ve been  using may not be working for me anymore.

When I pulled out last year’s goals, I realized I’d met almost none of them. And the schedule I’d set for myself had lasted about two weeks. But I had a fabulous year! Opportunities I’d dreamed of for years, but not planned for (like the writing trip with Wycliffe Global Alliance last summer) were amazing and incredible. But I can’t check them off my neatly articulated “goals” list.

I’ve read blogs and articles until I’m cross-eyed. Overall, the advice seems to fall into two camps: rigid goal setters/planners vs less structured productive-habit proponents.

I’ve been a card-carrying member of the first group for years and the rules are simple: set measurable, achievable goals and then divide your calendar into the steps/days/months needed to accomplish them. Then get busy.

The second group seems a bit more loose-y-goose-y–which my creative side really likes. Which is not to say this approach advocates laziness or “hoping things will happen.” There is a healthy block of self-discipline involved and it includes ways to measure progress, but this approach doesn’t require minute-by-minute scheduling. Basically, the idea is that if you change your life habits — like setting a daily word count or getting up an hour earlier each day–you will set yourself up to succeed.

Some argue that both approaches are really just differences in semantics, and maybe they are. But for anyone trying to accomplish some creative endeavor, we have to trick our minds into getting past the mental blocks and moving forward.

I think this year I’m going to try the second approach. I will incorporate some productive habits into my life and see where those take me.

What about you? How are you going to angle your life towards success?