The new year has been in progress for a couple of months. How well are you sticking to your new year’s resolutions? How’s the writing coming? How’s the new draft? Have you stalled? Are you working…but not very quickly? Is there a chance you could be doing better?
If these questions made you reflect on your writing habits, that’s good. It might be time to reevaluate how your productivity is going. I know it’s time I reassessed. I bought a calendar at the beginning of the year to record my writing and reading, and I’ve got to admit there are a lot of blank days. If you’re also feeling like it’s time to reset, don’t wait for the next new year or an arbitrary start date. Establish good writing habits now with a few simple tweaks.
Set Concrete Goals
Don’t just say that you want to “write more.” Decide on a specific, measurable goal and then break that goal up into daily chunks. Let’s say you want to write a 100,000-word book. That’s only 274 words per day for a year. That’s pretty darn do-able. Of course, that won’t account for the time you spend plotting, planning, or editing, so you’ll need to write more than 274 words per day to account for that. If you upped your daily word count goal to 350, you’d get your draft done in 285 days. That’s probably more reasonable, especially when you consider that life is bound to get in the way of writing on some of those days.
The key here is not use squishy, arbitrary benchmarks. Don’t say that you want to “write more” or “read more” or “be more productive.” How will you measure that? When you don’t know what to write or don’t feel like it, what will motivate you? How will you know if you’re doing well or not? The answer is to make concrete goals and then track those goals. If you aren’t meeting them, what can you do about it?
Track Your Progress
Much like the importance of setting specific, measurable goals, you also need to track your progress to see how well you’re doing. I’ve seen advice to make a productivity schedule, but I do it by writing it on my calendar. You can write in your word count or hours spent on a project. Another option is to jot down what you accomplished.
Adding visual aids like a colored check mark for days you hit the mark or putting an X on the days you didn’t will give you an at-a-glance view of how well or poorly you did for the week. When you see it on a monthly calendar, you’ll have a better understanding of what you’re actually getting done versus what you merely wish you had done.
Tracking Helps Mindset
Tracking specific, measurable progress is crucial not only for your actual success but for your mental health. It’s so easy to get into the mindset of feeling weighed down by this huge goal that you fail to realize you’re getting somewhere. When you hit 10,000 words, it feels like a drop of water in the ocean. It’s not, of course. You’re 10 percent of the way there on a 100k book, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much more there is left to go.
Tracking is most valuable before you get into a rhythm. Motivation comes with success, and success starts with action. Action must be tracked, or it might be confused with thinking about writing instead of actually writing. When you look back on your week and see that you wrote 2,500 words, you’ll feel excited about writing 2,500 more next week. Pretty soon, the work that felt so hard will be exciting. You’ll see that you really are writing new chapters, solving plot issues, and fleshing out your characters. That action will spawn motivation, which will result in a finished draft.
It doesn’t matter if your new year got off to a sluggish start. Today is the day to create a specific goal, start tracking it, and improve your mindset. Establish good writing habits right now, so that you can be proud of your progress come Near Year’s Eve.