Monday, July 11, 2011

Wall Calendar Translated

I've always been a calendar girl. Not in the pinup sense, but in the milestone tracking sense. Even mundane tracking appeals to me. I actually still have the calendars I used all four years in college listing daily homework assignments. Back then, I tracked which parties I went to on the weekends as well. There's a novel hiding in those date books, just waiting to be written someday...

If you've read some of my recent posts, you know I follow Austin Kleon, an artist from Austin, TX. He had a recent post about Jerry Seinfeld's plan for productivity that tied my calendar obsession to my writing, and I'm loving it, so I thought I'd share.

Briefly, Seinfeld used a wall calendar and tracked the days he wrote with a big red X. Then he saw his progress and hated to break the writing chain. It helped him reach his goals, and I knew right away that it would help me stay on track this summer.

I created a Google doc spreadsheet for the remaining months of the year. Using Conditional Formatting (under Format menu) I added color coding for word counts for new books on one sheet and hours of editing for revisions on another.

  • 0-500 words or 15 mins. = RED
  • 501-1000 words or 30 mins. = ORANGE
  • 1001-1500 words or 45 mins. = YELLOW
  • 1501-2000 words or 60 mins. = GREEN
  • 2001-2500 words or 75 mins. = BLUE
  • 2501-3000+ words or 76+ mins. = PURPLE

Now the document automatically shows me good days and bad days by color. I'm working towards all purple days because purple is Lucie's favorite color. My editing minutes are low, but I found that I needed more incentive to work on the edits than new writing. This way, even on a busy day I know I'll search harder for time to edit. Slow and steady wins the race.

Not much purple yet, but I'm hoping for a big day today. And once I start a purple chain, I'll work even harder not to break it. If you're interested, at the end of July I'll post my updated spreadsheet to show my progress.


  1. I love this idea! I've been thinking of getting a calendar and writing down my word count every day. I usually don't track my writing time, just what I've produced, but that's an interesting idea to do the time.

  2. Katie - I've only been doing it for a few days, but it's really keeping me honest. I tended to round up when I wasn't tracking, but now I stick to the minutes/words and end up getting more done. I'd love to know if it works for you!

  3. I've kinda done the same. I use OneNote to do my draft writing,I like all the tabs and use them for research, characters, time line, storyboarding. In one tab I keep a table and add writing times, and word counts. Seems to work.

  4. WordBlindProse - I haven't tried OneNote - I'll check it out. I also use Scrivener for drafts most of the time. It has great word count goal features and other treats for writers.

  5. I love this system! The visual method provides excellent feedback. (And I like the way it looks in your blog, too!)

  6. Thanks, Tamara. I can't wait to see how it looks at the end of the month.

  7. I think this is a great system to maintain self-honesty. I'm terrible for that, I lie more to myself than to anyone else. This is a good way to keep up steady productivity. Thanks for sharing!

    Take care!


  8. Ben - I did the same thing! I kept telling myself I was getting lots of work done until I started tracking it and realized I wasn't doing as much as I thought. Hope this helps you keep on task.

  9. Omg! I do the exact same thing! Well, I used to for NaNoWriMo. It's a good way to track your progress and see when your good days were and when your bad days were.

    - Megan

  10. Megan, that's a good idea to use it for NaNoWriMo. I plan to participate again this year - hate the timing with the holidays, but love that it forces me to write, write, write.