3 Goal Setting Approaches for Nurse-Writers that Can Maximize Productivity

Once you’ve hung your shingle as a freelance nurse-writer (woot!), you need to constantly nurture your business so it flourishes. Without goal-setting, that’s just not gonna happen.

How do you juggle client work with prospecting with invoicing with negotiating with updating your website with cooking dinner with helping the kids with homework with making sure the dog gets walked with…

It’s exhausting just to contemplate.

The key, of course, is goal-setting. In this post, I’m going to walk you through several techniques to help you find a goal-setting method that works for you. Because, as with so many things, the precise technique you use is less important than finding a technique you’ll actually stick with and use to advance you to your goals.

Many Paths to One Goal

Before I dive in, I want to emphasize that any goal can be reached by taking multiple paths. There’s no one right or wrong way to set goals. The key to effectively using goal-setting lies in understanding something about your personal working style. But if you don’t have much insight into that yet, don’t worry. Part of the fun of being an entrepreneur is constantly learning about yourself and engaging in self-growth.

Perhaps I shouldn’t even frame this post as “goal-setting” strategies, because really I’m setting out ways to look at goal-setting. I hope one of these resonates with you.

1. Money-Based Approach to Goal-Setting

Money can be a strong motivator. And, let’s face it, financial freedom represents a key reason why many nurses turn to entrepreneurship. You can make far more money as a writer than you ever made as a nurse.

If money motivates you, try taking a financial approach to your goal-setting. I recommend you start by setting an annual revenue goal, and then breaking that down into chunks you can accomplish.


  • Annual revenue goal: $50,000
  • Monthly revenue goal (50,000/12): $4,167
  • Weekly revenue goal (4,167/4): $1,042

Now, if a figure of $1,042 per week in revenue freaks you out because it sounds huge – insurmountable! – I want you to take a deep breath and think of it in terms of projects.

In terms of projects, $1,042 could break down as:

  • 2 blog posts at $500 each
  • 1 thought leadership piece for a corporate client
  • 1/3 of a brief white paper
  • 1 consumer health article
  • 1 infographic script

Could you accomplish any of those projects in one week? Of course you can! In truth, you can probably write two $500 blog posts in a day – and think what that will do for your bottom line.

Once you’ve set your revenue goals, then it’s just a matter of prospecting for the work.

2. Time-Based Approach to Goal-Setting

As nurses, we tend to be highly organized and efficient. That can work to your advantage if you opt to take a time-based approach to goal-setting.

If you’ve taken my past advice, you’ve already designated regular “office hours” to spend working on your business. As I’ve said before, when I was first transitioning to writing from nursing, I set aside every Saturday morning from 8:00 a.m. to 12 noon to work on my business.

To use a time-based approach to goal-setting, make a list of all the tasks you want to accomplish. Next, rank them in priority order.

Now, assign a certain number of minutes or hours for completing the first several tasks on your list. Let’s say you’ve listed:

  1. Locate contact info for three new prospects and add their info to my Prospects spreadsheet
  2. Add clips to my website and update my bio
  3. Rework my LOI
  4. Write a new post for my blog
  5. Review my books

And let’s say you have four hours to work on these tasks.

Now, you can assign a time frame for each task. There’s no science to this. Just decide how much time you want to invest in each task and note it down:

  1. Locate contact info for three new prospects and add their info to my Prospects spreadsheet: 2 hours
  2. Add clips to my website and update my bio: 1 hour
  3. Rework my LOI: 20 minutes
  4. Write a new post for my blog: 30 minutes
  5. Review my books: 10 minutes

Voila! You’ve filled your four hours of office time with a solid block of productivity.

To maximize this time-based approach, you must articulate your tasks very specifically. If you simply write “prospect for clients” as task #1 then you will go down a rabbit hole from which you will never emerge – because when will that task be “completed”?

No, to effectively leverage time-based goal-setting you must be very specific in how you word your goals.

And then, when the task is accomplished or the timer expires – move on! Yes, this sometimes will leave you with loose ends to add to the top of your priority list next time.

The reason I suggest this approach instead of continuing on a task until it’s completed – no matter how long it takes – is because it’s very easy to work “forever” on task #1 and still not finish it. If that happens, then four other tasks also do not get accomplished. And then you’ll feel as if you spent four hours in the office and didn’t accomplish a damn thing.

But if you begin with a list of five tasks and manage to accomplish four – while leaving one nearly completed – then you’ll feel your time in the office was well-spent that day.

3. Project-Based Approach to Goal-Setting

This is generally the method I use, and it works fantastic for my personality.

The project-based approach is somewhat similar to the time-based method, but it’s specific to projects, without any time frames involved. Here’s how it works.

Write down a list of tasks you want to accomplish that day. Rank them in priority order.

Now systematically work through them one at a time, completing each task before moving to the next. When you finish all the tasks, give yourself permission to leave the office for the rest of the day.

I have found this approach works best under the following circumstances:

  1. You have the ability to set your agenda for an entire week at a time
  2. You have carefully defined what constitutes “finished” for each project/task

Being able to apportion projects across several days helps me see where I might have holes in my schedule to plug in additional projects (like brief administrative tasks) to maximize my efficiency. But it’s crucial to determine what “finished” means for each project or task on your list. Otherwise you risk the rabbit hole effect again.

The Importance of Rewarding Yourself

No matter which approach to goal-setting you take, you absolutely must reward yourself for accomplishing your goals. If you don’t, what’s the point of all this?

For me, the two greatest benefits of freelancing are money and time. Thus, I reward myself with both of those things at every opportunity.

If I exceed my revenue goal for a month, I treat myself to something at the antique store. If I accomplish all of my tasks for the day, I swan out of the office to watch movies and eat popcorn.

These rewards represent powerful motivators to me. You should choose rewards that motivate you.

What goal-setting approaches do you use? How do you reward yourself? Post your thoughts in the comments!

And, hey, don’t forget to subscribe to the weekly RN2writer newsletter for more great content!

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