Track Your Progress in 2014

My initial thought was to do this every 3-6 months, but then I thought this could easily work every month.  It depends on what works best for you.  If you’re in a familiar routine already, you probably don’t need to consistently evaluate your progress.  But if you’re trying something new, you probably should check to see how things are going more often.   I’m going to assume that this is new and treat it as something that needs frequent checks.

1.  Write your goals and routine down.

The good news is, you can change your goals and routine whenever you need to, but it helps to write them down so you can see them.  I bought a binder and three-hole puncher for this.  I like to type out my goals and daily routine (making a routine for each day).  Then I put them in the binder so I can look at it.  Another way to do this is to buy a monthly or weekly planner and write these things in there.  But either way, writing them down will help you track your progress.

2.  Write down what actually happened.

At the end of each day, mark down what you actually did.  If you have a better memory than me, then you can write this down every couple days to a week.  What might help is if you have a column for expected goals and your expected routines and then have another column next to it with what you actually did.

3.  After a month, look over your papers.

How did the month go?  Are you happy or disappointed?  Why?  What worked?  What didn’t?  Does something need to be rearranged in your routine?  Are there any goals that need tweaking?

Were there any unplanned interruptions?  If so and these interruptions stopped you from reaching your goals, then are these interruptions something that might happen more often or aren’t likely to happen again?  If they are going to be regular, then try adjusting them into your routine.  If they aren’t likely to happen again, then I wouldn’t adjust my routine for it.

Real life is going to happen (and it seems to happen after getting into a routine).  Try not to get discouraged.

4.  Three months later, track your overall progress.

Are you forming good daily habits that are sticking?  Are any old (bad) habits creeping in?  What can you do to reinforce the good habits and get back on track from doing the old ones?  (Maybe you get to watch a movie you’ve been wanting to see as a reward.)  Do you need to change your goals?  Are you completing your goals faster than you thought?  Great.  Are there new ones you want to add?  Are you behind on your goals?  What do you need to cut back or adjust?   (As a side note: it’s okay to cut back on your goals if you need to.  We aren’t robots.  Sometimes we lose momentum as we’re going along in a story.  While you can sometimes push through a rough spot, at others, you might need to trim back the workload and let your mind relax.  Just because someone can write X number of books in a year, it doesn’t mean you have to.)

What are things beyond your control that are hindering you from reaching your goals?  While you can’t always remove those things, it might be possible to make decisions that can make them less of a nuisance in your life.  For example, my husband makes it a habit of talking to me while I write.  I can’t control what he does.  Though I’ve moved to other rooms in the house, he still finds me.  I wouldn’t say he’s a nuisance, but the interruptions do break the flow of writing.  During 2014, I’ll be looking for ways I can change things to help in this area.  This might require me to go outside the house, set up a “man cave” for him, get a lock on my door, or something else.  That is what I’ll have to look for in the upcoming months.

5.  After making adjustments, track your progress a couple months later.  Then repeat as often as necessary.  

Has anything improved?  Has anything remained the same?  Has anything gotten worse?  Are you satisfied with things the way they are?  If something worked, what was it?  Can you do something to repeat your success?  Say you completed a full-length novel a month sooner than you expected.  Was there anything you changed in your routine or goal setting that helped achieve this end?  If so, see if you can replicate it.

There might come a time when you no longer need to track your progress.  Or maybe you’ll want to keep tracking things.  This is a call only you can make.

6.  Hopefully, you’ll discover the best way to make most of your writing time.

Keep in mind that what works for one author might not work for you.  A morning person who thrives best from writing before everyone in the house is up should write in the early morning hours.  A night person, however, should write when it’s best for them, not in the morning.  The same is true for whether you work on one book at a time or multiple books at a time.  And just because someone outlines a book, it doesn’t mean you have to.  Also, just because one author wants to write seven books in a year, it doesn’t mean you have to.  Everyone’s situation is different.

There’s a lot of advice out there on how to effectively write a book and while it might be great advice for someone else, it doesn’t mean it’s great for you.  That’s why keeping track of your progress is important.  The goal of doing this is to help you find the method that works best for you.  And if you can find the method that works best for you, you will make the most of your writing time.

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Next time, I’ll discuss rewarding yourself for small victories and why it’s important to keep learning.

23 Comments

  1. I like the suggestions (though given my sometimes volatile schedule I’m not sure how much of them I’ll be able to do). Thanks Ruth.

    1. A schedule that changes often is a lot harder to do. I’m guessing you pretty much write whenever you can find the time. I loved college, but I remember how hectic things were back then. There were semesters where I didn’t write at all.

      1. Oh, I don’t know if I’d be able to survive a single semester without writing! This past semester I had to swear off writing in order to focus on a mountain of homework. It ended up adding to a mountain of stress.

        1. I can see that. Writing is one way I de-stress. My husband thinks writing adds to my stress, but not writing it what does it.

          1. tell me about it. It got so bad that one weekend I downloaded a hypnosis MP3 and listened to it for a week straight just to feel normal again. With writers, writing is more than just a skill or a gift sometimes: it’s a way of living and being. And without it, sometimes we’re just not at the top of our games.

            1. Exactly. We write because we have to. 😀

              1. Spoken from the mouth of a pro.

  2. I think I should probably just get you to come kick my butt from time to time. LOL.

    Seriously, I think writing down your goals is key to making them happen. I like to use spreadsheets or Evernote for all kinds of things. I certainly would like to be more productive than I’ve been in 2013. This is my least productive year since I’ve been publishing.

    1. It’s hard to stay motivated when sales aren’t what they used to be. I’ve been having to struggle with that part of it. Plus with you, you’ve had a lot of bad things pop up, and it’s hard to work when you’re dealing with those. And you work. Those all add up. I understand why 2013 wasn’t as productive as you hoped.

      I’ve heard of Evernote but haven’t used it. I love my calendar on my computer and the word count widgets on my blog. I like having a visual look at the progress. It helps me stay motivated, especially on days where I don’t feel like writing. But I have had to learn to let go of the idea of writing every day. I’m hoping to set realistic goals for next year so I can have a better success rate of meeting them.

  3. My sister and I have done this. It works! I think the most crucial part is comparing the goals with what you actually accomplished. It helps you learn how to set realistic goals.

    1. That’s awesome! I am guilty of setting unrealistic goals and need to go back and readjust what I’m doing. It sounds easy to say I can write X number of books, but I have to remember to factor in real life.

      1. I know what you mean. When I started writing, I was a junior in high school on summer vacation. I finished a book in nine months. I’m hoping to finish my current project in under five years

        1. It’s not easy when it takes so long to write a book. I wish we could imagine the whole story play out and have it already written out. 😀

          1. Yes, I agree. It’s easier knowing what should happen than coming up with words to describe it 🙂 that would be a time saver.

  4. lornafaith says:

    I’ve always kept goals in my head before… So writing them down and comparing your goals and routines with what actually got done seems like a great idea! Getting out a pen and paper now. Thanks Ruth for the motivation:-)

    1. I hope it helps. 😀 I was used to keeping my goals in my head, too. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to work my goals into a realistic plan. Hope writing your goals down helps you better reach them!

  5. M T McGuire says:

    There is a lot of excellent food for thought there. Having only really started to evaluate my performance recently, I have found it a great help. It’s definitely worth taking the time if only because often, when you look back and evaluate, you’ll find you’ve done a lot more than you think.

    Cheers

    MTM

    1. I like the idea of seeing how much you got done. There are times when I wonder what I did for the day. If I made a list and see all the errands I got done, I feel much better.

  6. Excellent post, Ruth. I find a weekly planner (Ruth’s suggestion) beside my computer helps me. I write down what I want to accomplish on a particular day and check it off when finished. If I do not get that item done, I erase the entry and move it to another day. Hope you had a Merry Christmas and wish everyone a happy New Year. God bless.

    1. Thanks. 😀 I live by my calendar. And you know how I am. If I don’t write it down, I’ll probably forget it. 😀

  7. I have drafted my goals for 2014 (i.e. written down) and like the way things are shaping up now, but I also see the need to revisit them over time to see how they and I are working. Thanks for the insight to how this could work.

    1. I hope you have a great year in 2014 with reaching your goals. 😀 I have done a rough draft of my goals, but what I need to do is polish them up.

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