I’ve been tracking my daily word counts since January 1 as part of my participation in 10 Minute Novelists’ 365K Club, and I have to say that I’m an enthusiastic convert.
It’s a simple thing that really makes all the difference. So I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 reasons why you should be counting every word.
- “What gets measured gets managed” — According to Peter Drucker (a management consultant, educator and author), the only way to manage your success is to measure it. Tracking word counts is an easy way to measure your daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly output, and to start making the tweaks you need to succeed.
- Motivation, daily — I am actually charting my progress in several different ways, to see which are the most motivational for me. I’ve created a monthly worksheet, to chart my daily, weekly and monthly output, and then I write monthly goals on the bottom of the page, along with the amount of words I wrote the previous month. I also have a “Don’t Break the Chain” chart, which has Xs for each day I write, and several spreadsheets charting word counts and what I wrote. Each system has its own merits, but the overall goal is the same: keep on keepin’ on!
- Don’t break the chain — Once you get started with word tracking, it helps to keep track in a very simple way. The Jerry Seinfeld “don’t break the chain” approach is one of the easiest. All you have to do is write every day, and then cross off the day when you’ve completed the task. After three days in a row, you’ll have a “chain.” Your goal? DON’T BREAK IT.
- Graphs are pretty — Have you ever charted your daily word counts in a graph? It’s awesome! Especially if, like me, you typically work on multiple projects at once, and you set up a system to show how much progress you’ve made on each project. Colorful and helpful! (You can check out my January and February graphs here, if you’re curious.)
- Celebrate every victory — Along the lines of daily motivation, tracking your progress helps you celebrate every victory. Have a day where your word count has blown you away? Highlight it! Do a little victory dance! Enjoy that success, and reward yourself. It really is the little things that add up over time, and taking a moment to savor your word counts really is a motivating factor that will help you keep pushing forward.
- See where you fall down — On the flip side, we all make mistakes. We all fail. Charting your successes also means that sometimes you’ll have a big fat zero for your word count, and that’s humbling. Sometimes you’ll take the zero on purpose; everybody needs a day off, after all! Sometimes it’s due to life getting in the way of your writing. Be sure to note why you have the zero, and soon you’ll be able to see exactly where you make excuses for yourself. Even that can be a motivating force, if you’re determined to let nothing get in the way of your daily writing habit.
- Improve on good habits — Just being able to see your successes on paper will encourage you to improve on those good habits. At first, I needed to leave the windows open for each of my charts, in order to remind myself to write each day. I made Post-It notes and stuck them to my monitor. I left the paper word tracker on top of my agenda. Now, I don’t even need the reminders; it’s become a good habit to write something every day, even if it’s just a personal journal page or two.
- Diminish bad habits — Similarly, seeing your bad habits staring you in the face can give you a good reality check. When you see yourself slacking, for reasons within your control, you can put your foot down and do the work instead of shirking it. And if the reasons aren’t in your control, at least you can keep track of whatever’s pushing you off course. You choose your own adventures here, and making the daily choice to write can make a world of difference to the rest of your daily habits.
- Find your groove — Feeling stressed? Not sure what time of day is best for you to write? Need a little guidance? Check your word counts! If you’re uncertain about what times and places work best for you, start tracking the times and locations along with the number of words you’re writing. Eventually you’ll start to see patterns, and once you can see the patterns, you can work to put yourself into that creative groove more regularly.
- Finish that book — Best of all? Tracking your word count means you’ve got goals in mind. For me, I’ve got books I need to finish. Setting self-imposed deadlines, with a daily minimum, helps me reach my goals. So whether you choose 250 words a day or 1,000 (or even 10,000!), you’ve got an endpoint in mind. Deadlines are what get projects finished. Word counts are the daily chipping away that leads to finishing your book.
What did I miss?
What are some other reasons you like to track your daily word counts?
Want to track YOUR words?
In an effort to spread the helpful message of 365K Club’s commitment to daily word tracking, I’ve created my own Buttontapper Word Tracker. Want a free copy? Just sign up for my newsletter and you’ll receive a link to download it ASAP.