If measuring progress is an essential part of working toward goals, how does a writer know if she is on track? Do writers count words or time or both? Which approach works best for which types of writing?
In Stephen King’s On Writing, King shares that he starts writing in the early morning and writes at least 2,000 words each day. Sometimes he can reach his goal in a few hours; other days he is still writing in the early afternoon. He writes until he has written 2,000 words, and then he is free to go for a walk, read, and enjoy the rest of his day. This is the routine of a prolific writer for whom writing IS his day job.
Yet, when establishing the best way to track writing progress, people need to consider both the form of their writing and their lifestyle. King writes primarily fiction, while many business owners and entrepreneurs are writing blogs, articles, essays and books. If a writer is also running a business, interacting with clients every day, and parenting young children, the writing structures to which she can commit will differ from those of a full-time, established writer.
Here are four strategies business professionals use to track their own writing:
1) When writing a weekly blog, track how long it takes to create and edit the material each week for six weeks. Keep each blog entry to approximately 500 – 600 words. Note the time of day you wrote as well. At the end of the six weeks, add up the hours from each week and divide by six. The answer is the average amount of time you will need to schedule into your calendar each week for writing your blog. Round up your answer; some weeks will take more time than others. Did you notice that you write faster at a particular time of day? Use all the information you have gathered to set your writing schedule for the next six weeks. Track your progress again and see if it is consistent with what you discovered after the first six weeks.
2) If writing a book, create a time goal for each day and a total time goal for the week instead of focusing on word count. Track daily and weekly times carefully for the first four weeks to see where you have scheduled yourself well and where you may need to redesign. Your may choose to change your time goals in response to work or seasonal shifts, or when you are working with a specific deadline for the book. Engaging daily with your book–even if it is for fifteen minutes–is essential to staying connected with your material and for establishing your commitment to your writing.
3) If working on more than one writing goal, be mindful about how you will address multiple goals within your schedule. If you are committed to spending eight hours a week on writing your book, and writing your 500-600 word blog takes 2 – 4 hours a week, be sure you have twelve hours in your schedule dedicated to writing. If that is not possible with your current commitments, revisit your goals and your schedule. What are you willing to change? To set yourself up for success, the goal must be reasonable and your commitment to action needs to be reflected in your schedule.
4) Hire a coach, enlist an accountability buddy, or create a support team to work with you on each goal you set. Sharing your structures with someone allows you to see ‘blind spots’ you may have missed in your design. Communicate the level of accountability you want. A seasoned coach will be able to pace with you whether you are walking or sprinting toward your goal.