Back when I was going through leggedon I was swamped with things I needed to do. I had to remember to take drugs, exercise the leg, rest the leg, monitor what I was doing as well as what I was eating. At the time this felt completely overwhelming. I came close to breaking point on more than one occasion.
It was then that I made a decision that helped me and that I’ve taken forward into my writing.
It hit me that having loads of data was good. Having loads of data meant I could see what was working and what wasn’t and adjust what I did accordingly. More so, I decided that as a geek I could use technology to do a lot of the work for me.
So I got a fitbt to monitor how much I was able to exercise the leg, used an app on my phone to scan the barcodes of all the food I ate. It wasn’t easy – far from it – but it became manageable.
Likewise, when I was looking to change my writing processes I came to the same conclusion that data was good. Data meant I could look at what I was doing and see what was working and what wasn’t.
And so I started tracking my writing time.

Why?
Because I’d like to see how well I write, because I want to see whether using the new process helped my output or not (10k written over a 25 hour period over this past weekend says, yes, it certainly does), because I wanted to know if those early morning sessions were more productive than the late night ones.
Let’s be mercenary here. What I want to do is write faster without sacrificing quality. More words, means faster books, means more books, and yes, potentially more money (although, to be hones,t money has never been a huge motivator. This is publishing after all).
So over the last six months I’ve played around with spreadsheets monitoring my writing.
And being honest, I’ve gone back and forth over this. I’m terrible for remembering to note what time I start writing, I forget to log things like blog posts and non-fiction articles, I sometimes like to spend an afternoon writing something interspersed with social media and cat videos. But the aim is to be more productive and I’ve reached the conclusion that having a log of your time is worthwhile.
I wish I could present a fancy spreadsheet template where I plug in loads of numbers and it does spreadsheet magic but I’m not there yet. I’m currently on my third or fourth iteration of the spreadsheet but the important thing isn’t the format… it’s the data.
My first spreadsheet had date, start and end times and number of words, with formulas to give me words per hour and time spent writing.
I then went to one I found a template for NaNoWriMo where you entered your goal and it worked out your target for the month. That dropped the start and end times but it looked pretty.
In the new year I started using this one by Joe Ducie (http://joeducie.net/2013/07/19/on-keeping-a-writing-log-part-deux/).
And now I’m starting to combine all the features and make my own. It’s not very pretty… yet.
So what convinced me I needed a writing log? Actually it was when I was thinking about the article after this on my writing process. There’s a piece of information that’s proved critical to how I work, and how do I know this information? Why, it’s gathered from keeping these spreadsheets!
So that’s why I’m suggesting you look at keeping data now rather than recommending it X months down the line when I have a nice template with vlookups and pivot tables and all those good things. As I said, it’s the data that’s important not how pretty it looks.
As an aside when I started to combine all the various spreadsheets I’ve been using, I did notice an interesting fact that there was very little difference in the number of words per hour between the days I noted as being easy and the ones I noted as feeling like running through treacle. It’s little things like this that pop out of the data and surprise you.
So play around and start gathering some writing data, particularly word count with the start and end times. As I’ll explain in the next article, this lead to something that’s really, really helped me get some ridiculously productive days (as this past weekend proved).