The thoughts and work of Sam Witt

The 5 Step Plan For Getting Your Shit Together In 2015

This is the time of year when a lot of folks like to kick back in the Barcalounger, light up a pipe, and wax nostalgic over the past year while sipping from a snifter of fine brandy.

I’m not a lot of folks.

And I sure as hell don’t have time to think about what happened in 2014. No, friends and neighbors, this is the time to look ahead to 2015 and get our shit together before the new year washes us over like a tsunami of procrastination and inefficiency.

This is not some fancy GTD system. This is a down-and-dirty method for getting what you want out of 2015, using the simplest tools available. Ready? Let’s kick some ass.

The 5 Step Plan for 2015 Success


  • Somewhere to track your shit. I use a Hobonichi Techo, because it’s got a kickass planner for the whole year, daily pages, and is a dream to write on. Use whatever works for you. Get a Moleskine. Use Evernote. Maybe just an Excel spreadsheet. Use whatever is simple and easy for you, something you’ll have access to in your daily life and can quickly check.
  • Someone who gives a shit about you. This is harder to come by than the tracking tool, but surely there’s someone in your life who cares about you and what you do. No? Fine, I’ll be the person who kicks your ass when you need it. Drop me a note in the comments with your email address and we’ll see what we can do.
  • Something you give a shit about. The whole point of this exercise is make 2015 better than 2014, and you’re only gonna hit that mark if you care about something.
    These are the things you will need. That is all.


You get what you plan to get. Decide what you want out of 2015, and write that shit down in your tracking tool. For your goal to work, it needs to be clearly defined, have a definite deadline, and a way to measure success or failure.

Here’s one of mine to get you started: I will publish Night-Blooded Boys (the sequel to Half-Made Girls) on February 24, 2015.

This is about as simple as it gets. It’s defined (publish the damned book), has a deadline (February 24, 2015) and a clear success/failure metric (published on time = success, not published = failure).

Write down as many goals as you think you can manage in a year. Be ambitious, but be realistic. Failing to meet your goals can be demoralizing, so try not to bite off more than you can chew. On the other hand, you’re never going to get anywhere setting itty-bitty baby goals.

I recommend charting your course for at least the first quarter of 2015 now. If you can manage the whole year, that’s cool, but if your life isn’t that stable right now, do what you can. You can always revise and update your goals, as long as you’re not just shuffling your shit around to avoid having to get it together.


We are all really, really, really excellent at lying to ourselves. Who’s going to know if you just skootch that goal out a month? Who’s going to know if you lower your target sales by $100 a month? I mean, it’s just you and your little tracker, right? What’s a bit of fibbing between friends?
This is where you need someone who gives a shit about you and what you do. Maybe it’s your wife. Maybe it’s your side piece. Maybe it’s just that homeless guy under the bridge that you drink Sterno with from time to time. Maybe it’s your buddy from the Internet. All that matters is that it’s someone who you respect enough to listen to when they tell you to stop fucking around and get back on track.

Select this person from your Rolodex. Go to that person and say, “Hey, wanna help me kick all the ass this year?” Then tell them about your first goal and when it’s due. Make a pinky promise that you’ll get back to them on the due date and report in with your results. Give them permission to punch you in the nards if you do not check in, or if you fail in your noble quest. This person is now your accountability warden.

The purpose here is to make you responsible for achieving your goals. If you keep it all to yourself, it’s too easy to fudge and fib and bullshit your way out of success. Checking in with your accountability warden gives you the opportunity to crow about your kickass self or to crawl on your belly like a guilty slug if you miss a goal.

One note – I don’t recommend reciprocal relationships with your accountability warden, unless you’re both able to avoid the back scratching weaseliness of such an arrangement.


Having a goal and someone to goad you into achieving that goal is all well and good, but it’s not a magic bullet to success, kemosabe. You’ve got to draw yourself a road map, chart that shit out, so that you know how to get to that goal. Break the path to your goal into steps that will get you to the finish line. Using my example from the Step 1, here are the steps I need to accomplish to make my goal:

  • Write that book.
  • Revise that book.
  • Get a cover.
  • Line up some advertising.
  • Get that motherfucker off to the editor.
  • Revise all the shit again.
  • Format the masterpiece.
  • Ask my trusty mailing list for some reviews.
  • Offer it up on the Altar of the Almight ‘Zon.

Outlining a scheme for each goal will help you understand how to reach that goal. Each of these concrete action items goes into your tracker. Give them each a specific due date and a measure of success. Don’t skimp on outlining your schemes — these are your day-to-day guides for keeping your shit together. If you find yourself slipping on steps in a scheme, do what you need to do to get back on track. Those little slips and skips are the monkeyshines that will trip you up and keep you from reaching your bigger goals. Work the schemes, they’re the key to your success.


No one, no matter how cool they think they are, can reach their goals without help. Everyone needs a team to help them get where they’re going – I’ve got a kick-ass set of beta readers and a take-no-prisoners editor. My cover designer is awesome and ready to spring into action on whatever harebrained idea I dream up. Just as importantly, I’ve got the support of my family to remind me why I keep on chugging.

If you want to be truly successful and reach your goals, then you need these kind of allies. Introverts, and believe me I’m as just as much of an introvert as you are, may find this tough, but it’s a necessary part of achieving your goals.

In your tracker, at the top of each month, put the name of one person you want to add to your list of allies. It could be an influencer in your field. It could be someone you want to have as a mentor. It could be someone who reviews the same kinds of things that you create. Do something to connect with your ally, at least every week during the month you’ve targeted them. Don’t be a stalker. Don’t be an asshole. Just do something kind and helpful for that person. Tweet about something they’ve done. Retweet their tweets. Comment on their blog. Be nice. Be helpful. Be friendly. Grow your network. Make new buddies. Forge alliances.


Remember those metrics you baked into your goals way back in Step 1? You need to keep an eye on that shit. Track your progress EVERY DAY to see how well you’re doing on hitting those goals. If you’re slipping, you need to figure out a way to get back on track. If you know you need write 80,000 words in two months, then you know that means you better be hitting around 1,500 words a day during those two months. Only punched a grand on Monday? Then you need 2k on Tuesday to close the gap.

These metrics are critical to your success. They keep you on target and make sure your eye is never off the ball. For every goal, break the metric down into a daily requirement based on how long you have until the goal’s deadline bites you on the ass and how much work you have to do. For some things, this is easy – writers can break down the word count on pretty much anything into a daily goal. For other things this can get a little tricky – break it down into percentages and be honest with yourself.

At the end of every day, check in with metrics and evaluate your progress. See what’s working and, more importantly, what’s not. Make changes as necessary. Adjust things if they need adjusting. Do what you need to do to hit your goals.

I’ll be posting some of my five-step plans (mostly those based on writing) and will keep you all updated on how it’s going for me. Want to do the same? Drop a link to your blog in the comments below and we’ll all help each other get through the year.

Ready to get your shit together and kick some ass in 2015? Me, too. Let’s do this.

About Sam

I am the author of the popular Pitchfork County series of horror novels. I also write a newsletter with great reading suggestions and free fiction.

  • Kristi Hudecek-Ashwill

    I love your attitude and am going to download Half-Made Girls from Story Cartel. If it’s half as good as these rules, it will be a great book. As per their rules, you’ll be hearing from me. 🙂

  • Sam

    Totally missed this comment when it first came in! Wanted to say thanks for the review, and I’m glad you enjoyed Half-Made Girls. Two more books in that series are coming this month, and one of ’em is free. Stay tuned!

  • TNae Wilcox

    I’m interested in accountability for this five-step plan, but I don’t wanna post about it on my blog. Email results?

  • Whatever your accountability partner can work with is fine for that piece of the puzzle. My accountability is based on scheduling with my draft readers and editor, for example – if I slip a deadline, they let me know that I’m screwing things up for everyone. The key is that it has to be someone who’s opinion you value, and who isn’t afraid to kick your ass if needed.