Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The Surprising Joy of Goal Tracking
I finally decided to get my act together and use Goodreads more in 2013. I've had an account since 2011, but like many things, it's taken me time to use it well. And I decided, in conjunction with realizing I couldn't let graduate school take over my entire life, that I needed to set a doable reading goal for 2013 and then actually strive to reach it.
I entered the reading challenge, and challenged myself to 36 books: 3 per month (on top of any articles I need to read, beta jobs I do, or academic books I read for my dissertation).
Here's the really surprising part--in 2012, I challenged myself to 35 books, didn't think about what I'd have to do to reach that goal, and didn't do a very good job of using my "currently-reading" shelf. Instead, I tried to input my books when I finished them, and always had a "currently-reading" shelf that was full to bursting with the books I was "kinda" reading at any given time (you know how it is—the three you set aside, the one you intend to absolutely start...tomorrow...etc.)
I read 5 books. Or at least, I kept track of 5 books.
Fast forward to 2013. 36 books is 3 per month, or about one every 10 days. It means if I read on my commute, I'll do okay. I've cleared my currently-reading shelf to only what I'm actively reading every single day—one or two books, max. Every time I stop reading a book, I make a progress update, so that I can see the bar inching closer and closer to 100% on any given title.
And I'm 4 books ahead of schedule. I've read 12 books so far this year, and beta read a thirteenth.
Tracking, it turns out, is fun. It's why NaNoWriMo is so much more fun than drafting a novel by yourself, and why such a greater percentage of NaNo writers finish their goal versus those who just say, "Oh, I'm going to write a novel." Seeing that little bar inch forward toward your goal is heartening, and fun, and the added competition aspect of NaNoWriMo puts people even more in the "must get it done" mindset. Like I do when I'm writing a NaNo novel, I find myself checking my GR progress every time I click "finished" on a book. Seeing the progress toward the goal is fueling me to do whatever I can to achieve it, and I'm having a blast.
Meanwhile I fully intended to enter WriteOnCon's Pitch Fest this week, with my rewrite. But I missed the deadline of finishing my rewrite by a HUGE margin. But now, armed with this knowledge, of just exactly how well the Goodreads challenge is working, I know I need to start tracking what I'm doing so I can see my own progress as I go. I've started with 750words, a website where you commit to writing 750 words each day. Every day I do it, a green "X" appears on the date, and every day I don't, the box stays white. It hasn't been perfect, but it does up the pain threshold for the days that I don't get my little green X.
So...onward! Toward my goals...but with tracking.
Do you track your writing goals? Publicly? Privately? Any cool tools I should be aware of?
Jessica S. Schley was once a pusher of very important papers for a small commercial nonfiction house. Nowadays, she divides her time between bookselling, being a grad student, and writing contemporary fiction for young adults.
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