Tracking Writing Progress

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.

In this post:

Paul Silvia
Paul Silvia

Zotero 2 Beta Launches

Zotero is a bibliographic and research management addin for the Firefox web browser. The latest test release, 2.0b3, succeeds Zotero 1.5b2.1 with some substantial improvements, particularly by increasing Zotero’s flexibility and usefulness for research collaboration among several, different Zotero users.

In addition to the resources on Zotero’s website, Tommy Keene has a good quickstart guide over at, and he plans to post a fuller review and guide for Zotero 2.0 fairly soon.

PDF Markup Tool

I recently found a thread on the Zotero forum that mentions the PDF XChange Viewer, which is supposed to allow users to markup PDF files.

Especially if you use Zotero, you may want to use PDF XChange as your default PDF browser plugin. After installing PDF XChange, you may still need to do the following:

  1. Open PDF XChange.
  2. Go to the “Edit” menu, and click “Preferences.”
  3. Under “Categories,” click “File Associations.”
  4. Check “Display PDF in browser,” click OK, and close PDF XChange.

Also, if you have the Adobe Acrobat plugin installed in Firefox:

  1. Open Firefox.
  2. Go to the “Tools” menu, and click “Add-ons.”
  3. Go to the “Plugins” tab, click the “Adobe Acrobat” plugin, and click “Disable.”
  4. Close the “Add-ons” window.
  5. Go to the “Tools” menu, and click “Options.”
  6. Go to the “Applications” tab, and find the content type “Adobe Acrobat Document.”
  7. For this content type, select the “Use PDF XChange Viewer (in Firefox)” plugin for the action type.
  8. Close the “Options” window, and restart Firefox.

Thus far, PDF XChange seems to be working quite well. Comments are not yet searchable in the most recent build, but searchable text from the PDF itself remains searchable. So, at least initially, PDF XChange looks like it might help save trees, cut printing costs, and streamline workflow.