Goal setting and monitoring for writers

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Over the past few weeks I’ve been testing a website to see if goal setting and monitoring helps writers improve their writing practice. The results show that those who write most regularly set themselves more goals and go public with them. It seems that ambition and accountability can help writing productivity.

A bit about the writers

The writers who took part were experienced, committed to improving their writing practice, and keen to write more often – 79% had been published and 90% wanted to write more frequently.

They were a tech savvy group with three-quarters owning a smartphone and just under half with a tablet computer. A whopping 94% were on Facebook and 62% on Twitter. When asked about goal setting and monitoring websites and apps (trackers) over a third said they used them – the most popular were for diet and exercise.

I asked whether they usually set, monitored or shared goals for their writing: 38% said they set goals, 19% didn’t and 43% don’t really call them goals. Of those that set goals only 17% monitored them. They were pretty ambivalent about sharing goals, with over half saying they didn’t know whether there was any value in sharing; equal numbers were either in favour or opposed to sharing (23% each).

Number of writing goals set

Writers set themselves varying numbers of goals, as follows:

  • No goal: 18%
  • 1 goal: 19%
  • 2 goals: 23%
  • 3 goals: 17%
  • 4 goals: 10%
  • 5-8 goals: 13%

Looking at the figures doesn’t really tell us very much – it’s a flat distribution with a fairly even allocation of goals. The average number of goals set was 2.5, but that’s not very enlightening. Is setting between two and three goals a good or a bad thing? I dug a little further to find out if there was any relationship between the number of goals set and level of activity and this is where it gets more interesting.

To write more regularly set more goals

I took the high goal setters as a group, those that set 5-8 goals. There was a strong correlation between those that set more goals and those that wrote more. In fact, 56% of the high goals setters were categorised as having high regularity of writing (based on the number of times they tracked). In the test group as a whole only 17% were classed as having high regularity.

Because it’s a small sample size I checked whether there was a similar pattern for those that set between 4-8 goals – nearly a quarter of the testing group. The correlation still stands. Writers that set more goals wrote more regularly.

Writers that went public wrote more

Another characteristic of those who set more goals is that they went public and shared their goals.

I wondered whether there was anything significant about sharing goals and found that those with high writing activity were more likely than the group as a whole to share their profile and goals. On the flipside not one writer with medium or high writing activity had set their profile to hidden. Going public with your writing ambition seems to help with accountability and productivity.

Key takeaways

If you want to write more regularly:

  • set yourself several writing goals, and
  • tell people about them.

I found it incredibly useful to reflect on my own goal setting after taking part in the test. Read  What I Learned About Goal Setting.

If you’d like to find out more about the website and research, drop me an email on towritetrack [at] gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @Eva_Bec



Bec Evans About the author: Co-creator of Prolifiko, Bec has spent a lifetime reading, writing and working with writers. From her first job in a bookshop, to a career in publishing, and several years managing a writers’ centre, she’s obsessed with working out what helps writers write.