Accountability: How to keep writing using rewards and people pressure

Whether you’re writing a blog or a blockbuster, it can be a lonely and difficult old business – but it doesn’t need to be and in fact it shouldn’t be if you want to keep going. It’s important to keep yourself motivated and moving forward by making yourself accountable – both to yourself and to others.

Accountability can help you write

We all know that keeping going with writing day after day – isn’t easy.

If you are writing a long project or building a routine of writing regularly you will need support to keep motivated and on track to meet your goals.

One proven way to keep motivated is to reward yourself for the effort you put in.

Power ups to reward yourself

If you’ve ever played video games you can think of them like little power-ups to keep going and moving on to the next stage.

However, it’s really important that the reward you choose is proportionate to the effort you put in.

For example, a few chunks of chocolate after a daily writing session and a bottle of champagne when the book is written (and not the other way around!)

Read: Held to account, top tips from an accountability hero >>

Make your rewards proportionate

6 ways to use rewards and power-ups to keep you writing

So, what rewards and power ups can you use to keep moving forward with your writing?  Before you start cracking open the champagne, here’s our 6 golden rules of reward-setting:

1. Power-up the effort, not the outcome

The amount of effort you put into writing can’t really be measured by words on a page. Sometimes writing in short energetic bursts can move your work on in leaps and bounds. So, think of your power-up to reward the effort you put in. Think quality – not quantity.

2. Make the reward fit the achievement

We believe there are four different levels of power-up and once you know what these are then it’s time to start setting the reward that’s appropriate to each.

For example:

  • WARM GLOW: Here, the writing itself is enough to make you feel pumped.
  • FIST BUMP: When you’ve just had a good writing session and feel pleased. Treat yourself with something free or inexpensive.
  • WOO-HOO!: Make sure you reserve this power-up for when you’ve made an important milestone in your writing.
  • HERO: Now it’s time to party! Here you deserve a bigger reward – when you’ve smashed your goal in full.

4 types of writing reward

4 rules of writing rewards

4. Don’t pump up the power too much

It’s important to reward yourself with power ups – but not too much or too little – and do it at the right stage. If your reward is too small then you’ll lose motivation with your project. However, if your reward is too big and grand then it all becomes about getting the prize rather than what you need to do to get there.

5. Find the power-up that works for you

There’s no such thing as a universal reward – one person’s treat is another’s trick – so think about what will motivate you. The key thing is to understand what each type of reward is for – and then apply this to you.

6. Turn your procrastination activities into rewards

If you’re struggling to find ideas for rewards and power ups, take a look back at your procrastination characteristics – you can read about these here .

For example:

  • If you know you get distracted by Facebook, make a Facebook session your reward for reaching a certain point in your writing.
  • If you’re a TV addict, make that next Box Set of Game of Thrones the thing you reward yourself with when you’ve finished a chapter.
  • If you love chatting to friends, promise yourself a good old natter with your bestie – once the day’s writing is done.

> Take action

Look back at your initial goal and the first step and come up with ideas for proportionate rewards.

Complete the following sentences and if it would be helpful, share with someone you know will keep you to account (see below!).

  • I’ll reward myself for completing my first step with…
  • I’ll celebrate meeting my big goal by…

Using other people to keep you accountable

Research finds that the most productive writers are also the ones who take advantage of other people – ruthlessly! Research conducted by psychologist Dr Gail Matthews from the Dominican University of California backs this up.

She found that people who share their goals with a friend – whether these are fitness, diet or creative in nature – and send the friend weekly updates on progress are on average 33% more successful in accomplishing them.

We’ve compiled five of the best methods you can use to keep you accountable:

  1. Just tell people! Yep, this one’s pretty simple but it’s surprising how many people embark on a writing project in secret. Just telling one other person – and asking them to check in on you regularly – is a great way to keep you moving forward.
  2. Writing groups: Joining a writing group – either online or face-to-face – is a great way to keep writing isolation at bay and learn from other people who might be at the same stage as you.
  3. Writing contracts and collaborations: Another method that many writers swear by is to sign up to a ‘contract’ with another writer. This isn’t a metaphor but an actual signed contract between two parties committing the writer to write for a certain period of time each week – no excuses?
  4. Writing challenges: Taking part in a joint challenge with other writers or having shared goals is a great way to keep the motivation flowing.  If novels are your thing, check out the annual NaNoWriMo writing push.
  5. Beta readers: Beta reading involves partnering with another writer and agreeing to share and feedback on each other’s work – to an agreed deadline. This is a great way to not only keep writing, but gain valuable feedback on your work.
  6. Use a StickK: If you know that you’re procrastination prone, you sometimes need an extra shove in the right direction. One method to use is to publicly declare that you’ll give money to a cause you dislike if you don’t meet your writing deadline! Check StickK out online!

Accountability works

Read more writing productivity secrets

Keeping focus: How to kill your procrastination gremlins for good >>

Tracking: How to use reflection to optimize your writing routine >>

Writing goals: How to achieve your big writing dream in small steps >>

Scheduling: How to find the time to write in 5 easy steps >>

Routines: Why writing systems beat willpower – every time >>

Chris Smith About the author: Co-founder and writer in residence at Prolifiko | Ex-philosophy lecturer | maker of unpopular short comedy films.