An important step in organizing your time is to set goals. Your goal could be time-based, e.g., spend an hour writing every day. Or it could be productivity based, e.g., edit 250 pages per week.
Set goals not only for your writing, but for other aspects of life also, like how much time to spend with your kids, on volunteer work, or on home improvement projects.
You’ve probably heard this before, but goals need to be SMART:
“I want to write a novel” is not specific enough, and it’s only measurable in that you can tell when it’s done. It’s not time-sensitive because you haven’t given a deadline.
A smart goal would be “I want to write 10,000 words of my novel each month for eight months.”
Assuming 24 working days a month (six days and four weeks), that requires writing about 417 words a day. Only you can decide whether that’s attainable and realistic for you. I can write 600 words an hour, so 400-plus words a day would be totally do-able for me if only I would really protect that time. Unfortunately, lately I’ve been using that time for paying jobs and volunteer work and … umm … writing blog posts.
An important aspect of planning your daily or weekly writing goal is tracking your own productivity. As usual, I have a spreadsheet for that: Sample Writer’s Work Log
Knowing how many words an hour you can write will not only help you plan your goals, it can help you answer questions like “are you a fast writer?”
An agent at a conference once asked me this. I’m like…duuuuuh I dunno. That’s when I started tracking. Now I can at least say “I write about 600 words an hour.” Whether that’s “fast” is relative, but at least it’s measurable.
Daily and Weekly Goals
Both Randy Ingermanson and James Scott Bell recommend weekly goals. Actually, Ingermanson recommends both.
“On Monday, my first task is to write down a list of the things I think I can get done during the week. If I get them all done by the end of the day on Friday, then the week is a success.” — Randy Ingermanson
In The Art of War for Writers, Bell points out that if your goal is set weekly instead of daily, missing a day is less demoralizing. “If something comes up one day that prevents you from writing your quota, you just make it up later in the week.”
Then, Ingermanson says, make a daily plan of things to do. But he has a caution: “…we tend to overestimate what we can do in a day but we often underestimate what we can do in a week.”
Often we plan to do a lot in one day, and then we feel guilty when we don’t finish it all. Forgive yourself when this happens. Examine why it happened. Did you not stick to plan? Did some unexpected issue need to be taken care of? Or did you overestimate what you could do in a day?
Analyze the circumstances, adjust your plan for next time, and press ahead.
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