Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Worthless Stats

I have tried a number of ways to track my writing. I used to keep a daily word count on a spreadsheet. I even blogged about it way-back-when.  It didn't last long. I've searched for apps, for tricks, for foolproof methods.

But in fact, the most consistent tracking I've done for my writing is all in my head:
  1. I remind myself every morning to write.
  2. At lunch time, I tell myself that I haven't written anything worth keeping yet.
  3. After lunch, I nag myself that I need to get started or I'll run out of time.
  4. At 3pm, I give up, knowing it's too late to get anything done before the kids come home from school.
  5. When I go to bed, I tell myself that tomorrow will be better, and I will write a magnificent chapter, maybe 2. 
  6. I wake up the next day and begin again at #1. Then repeat. Every. Day.

Today I finally found a way to break the cycle of disappointment. 

I stumbled upon the A Year of Productivity website via a Lifehacker.com link. I may have spent more time than I should reading through the productivity tips and experiments conducted by Chris Bailey, but I found something that let me step out of my cycle at #2...

Productivity isn’t about how much you produce, it’s about how much you accomplish

When I first started my year of productivity, I created a Stats page so I could share exactly how productive I was every day. Every day I posted the number of words I wrote, pages I read, and hours I worked, because I considered these to be pretty good measurements of how productive I was.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Unless you run a factory, measuring your productivity based only on how much you produce gives you only a shallow, limited picture of how productive you are. In fact, if you come up with an intelligent and creative approach to a problem—let’s say that you find a way to write 500 words in 100—when you measure your productivity simply by how much you produce, you’re much less productive!

It’s easy to get caught up on measurements and statistics, but as far as personal productivity is concerned, statistics are secondary. Productivity isn’t about how much you produce, it’s about how much you accomplish.
I think I knew this, somewhere deep inside, but I didn't believe it. I keep hearing other authors talk about word counts and daily counts, and I thought I needed to meet or beat those numbers. So if I didn't hit that magic number, I considered the day to be a failure. Writing became a loathed chore, an easy thing to procrastinate. Hence my lack of actual WORDS floating out there in the world (and on amazon.com). I touched the files, even played with the letters and spaces, but didn't get anything done.

I am really enjoying A Year of Productivity. There are so many articles and ideas that appeal to me. So I will go back there later today. After I finish one sentence that has been waiting for me for weeks.

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