Via the blog of Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson, John Dumas highlights three skills to develop in order to be more satisfied with what’s gotten done amid everything that has come along in a given day: productivity, discipline, and focus.
Although it certainly can be used otherwise, a progress tracking system like the one Paul Silvia suggests in his book How to Write a Lot seems to work best for writing that can be open ended: by following a regular writing schedule, projects can regularly and reliably come to completion. What happens, however, if one is working under a deadline (be it self-imposed or not) and, therefore, needs to develop a writing schedule backwards from this due date?
This spreadsheet is at least an elementary attempt to provide a tool for performing such a task. Yet, one obvious limitation of this spreadsheet method is that all the writing projects are arranged serially along the completion timeline rather than allowing for working on more than one project at once.
If anyone else should find this tool useful and has refinement suggestions, I would be very interested in seeing them. These formulae appear to work on Google Docs exactly as they do on Excel when that program is operated on a Windows platform, but to my understanding, Excel calculates dates differently on Mac OS than it does on Windows, so Mac users may need to adjust this spreadsheet’s formulae.
In How to Write a Lot, reviewed in the previous post, Paul Silvia provides his own progress monitoring system as an example (39–45). Since finishing the book last month, I have been adapting Silvia’s database format to a Google Docs spreadsheet that will track some additional data in addition to the data that he finds helpful. Since it has been helpful thus far, I thought I would make the blank spreadsheet available (with just enough dummy data to give the formulae included some substance) as well as the one below with some sample data.
Some Additional Details
Column E: I am working on estimating the average number of words that I write in an hour (including time for research), and thus far 175 seems fairly close, hence that value running down the E column. Behind this number is actually the formula =350/2—for an average of 350 words on one of my standard pages (including footnotes) and an estimated 2 hours for writing that page, though I have a sense that something like 2.25 to 2.5 might be more accurate.
Column F: An overall daily goal calculated based on =[Column D]*[Column E].
Column G: The results of a word count (including footnotes) at the beginning of the day. As the spreadsheet above shows, however, I did not start tracking beginning and ending word counts until May 29.
Column H: The results of a word count (including footnotes) at the end of the day.
Column I: A daily progress total based on =[Column H]-[Column G]. Cell I2 computes the average daily progress.
Column K: A daily progress measure against the daily goal based on =[Column I]/[Column F]. Cell K2 computes the average amount of the daily goal that is actually met each day.
Column J: The cells for each work day use the formula =IF([Column K]>=1,1,0). If a given daily goal is met, Column K = 1, or if it is exceeded, Column K > 1. In either case, this formula returns the binary value 1 (= Yes). Alternatively, if the daily goal is not met, the formula returns the binary value 0 (= No). Cell J2 then averages the values in Column J to determine the portion of the work days that meet the daily writing goal. The significant disparity between Column J and Column K appears because, as would be expected, some days have been more research intensive and other days have seen more writing.
Column L: Column L indexes how much “life happening” has affected the actual writing progress made versus the progress that was planned. A negative number indicates the number of planned writing hours that were spend on some other task(s), and a positive number would indicate additional, unplanned time devoted to writing. Cell L2 provides the total number of writing hours that actually happened over or under the planned number of writing hours.
If something like this spreadsheet seems like it would be helpful, a nearly blank version, again, is also available. If others have similar tools or methods that they have found valuable for research progress tracking and management, I am sure readers would find those helpful as well.
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