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Keeping up consistent word counts can be tricky. Reward and/or accountability systems are a great way to stay on top of your writing schedule.
Calendars work well because they are a clear and present reminder of your schedule and the limited time available (as well as the unrelenting march of days). Planners are fun and pretty, but even a plain black square can get you where you need to be. Color code it, highlight it, put it in ink, but get it on there and make it a priority.
Sticker sheets are a cheap, easy way to track your progress. Tack them on your calendar or tick them off the sheet as you go. As a bonus, many are sold in handy 70, 90, or 100 count sheets—perfect book length at a thousand words per each sticker.
Time clocks are great for word sprints. I have a $9 hourglass from Walmart that runs sand for 30 minutes (shown). Egg timers work, phone alarms work, anything you have. The great thing about an hourglass is you can make a deal with yourself on unproductive days: I will sit here and write for at least one sprint. If nothing much happens and you’re miserable, at least you gave it an honest shot. Nine times out of ten though, once you start writing the sand runs out without notice and you continue and continue to type.
There’s nothing wrong with buying yourself a treat when you’ve gotten in a good streak, but sometimes taking a break is just as good a reward as anything. Take a walk outside, breathe the air, stretch your legs, and your brain will thank you. Even if you can’t get outside, a walk to the kitchen to grab a cup of joe can feel like a much-needed break after a long battle with words.
Anyone who’s participated in NaNoWriMo knows the value of accountability. Online trackers can be the motivation you need to stay on top of word goals. If posting live isn’t your thing, spreadsheets, phone apps, and writing software can do the job as well, many with pop-up alerts to remind you to get your butt in that chair and those words on the page.
What’s your favorite system? We’d love to hear what works for you.