Discipline,  Motivation,  Organization,  Self Talk

Fantastic Fridays: Visible Progress

How do you celebrate your hard work as you make your way through a long project?

How do you keep track of your progress?

When you are part way through writing or revising a book or a report or a multi-part project, it’s easy to get tangled and frustrated. You have done a lot of work but you might not have anything tangible to show for it.

That’s why it’s a good idea to create a way to track your progress. This isn’t about ‘keeping yourself on task’ or ‘creating discipline’ and it is definitely not about beating yourself up if you don’t accomplish a specific thing on a specific day. This about finding a way to make it obvious to yourself that you have been working and that your project is moving forward.

Background: a person with long hair, wearing a denim shirt, holds a large analog clock. Foreground: a beige rectangle with white text that reads "Fantastic Fridays: Visible Progress."
Image description: Background: a person with long hair, wearing a denim shirt, holds a large analog clock. Foreground: a beige rectangle with white text that reads “Fantastic Fridays: Visible Progress.”

Visible Progress

So, how can you make sure that you have evidence of your progress?

If you are hand-writing your work, you can see the pile of paper or notebooks accumulating. Keep them where you can see them!

If you are revising a paper manuscript, you can use bookmarks or you can pile up the edited papers. Watching the draft pile get shorter while the edited pile gets taller will be good for your brain.

But what about if your work is digital?

If you are working on a screen, you can adjust the settings in your program so you can see your word count. That will be definitely encourage you to keep going – at least while you have the screen on.

(Some programs even let you set a project target wordcount so you can see how today’s work adds to your progress.)

You can also keep a spreadsheet to record your efforts toward your goal.

(Please make sure not to be hard on yourself for how your efforts vary from day to day. Everyone has smooth days and rough ones and we’re all just doing the best we can.)

Analog Tracking

But, if you’re like me, that digital encouragement is great but it gets a bit hazy when you aren’t actually in your writing program or looking at your spreadsheet.

That’s when an analog tracker comes in handy.

I’m sure you have seen some people’s elaborate bullet journal trackers.* If you enjoy making creative and detailed charts, you’ll have a great time creating one of those trackers.

Or maybe you’re like me and my writer-friend Gabrielle. We gravitate to something functional and fun that doesn’t take a lot of preparation.

Gabrielle has recently been working on summaries of each chapter in her book so she can keep track of all of her plotlines and events. She decided that a visual record of her progress would help. So, she created this great chart and gave herself a star sticker for each summary completed.

A white sheet of paper with the words 'Chapter Summary AEE' at the top. The page is divided into squares which are numbered from 1-49.  The first 42 squares have star stickers in them. The 49th square is marked with a green X.
Image description: My writer-friend Gabrielle’s marvellous progress chart: A white sheet of paper with the words ‘Chapter Summary AEE’ at the top. The page is divided into squares which are numbered from 1-49. The first 42 squares have star stickers in them. The 49th square is marked with a green X. Photo credit: Gabrielle!

I LOVE Gabrielle’s chart. It hits all of the high points for me – a clear purpose, a bit of colour, a low-key reward for each part, and an obvious sense of progress.

Choose How To Track

If you have a good sense of your progress through your project, you may not need to track at all.

However, if you find that things drag a bit in the middle, a progress visual may be the perfect thing to help you keep going.

It doesn’t matter *how* or *what* you track. You can colour a square on a piece of paper. You can make a pile of pencils to represent your efforts. Maybe you’d like to track words, or time spent, or chapters, or the letter e.

Really, anything goes, as long as you can help yourself see how much work you’ve done.

And, of course, that you can find a way to celebrate your progress as you go.

Write on!

*If not, google Bujo trackers and you’ll be astounded by the art and the variety of trackers.

Christine Hennebury’s storytelling career began when she was four and her parents didn’t believe her tale about water shooting out of her nose onto the couch – they insisted that she had spilled bubble solution from the empty jar in her hand. Luckily, her skills have improved since then. Christine makes up stories, shares stories, and coaches other people who are working on stories, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Find out more about her  at  christinehennebury.com