Zettelkasten

Count Your Words to Increase Your Productivity

So you are a knowledge worker? This means 90% of your work is about dealing with words. Blogger, writer, journalists – the biggest chunk of work is writing. “Writing” is just a short term for producing words.

Let’s be clear: productivity equals your output, counted in words. It is writing itself that equals the 20% which get you 80% of the results. If you want to improve as a writer, writing more is your best lever. And more writing leads to a myriad of other benefits:

Benefits of Writing a Lot (Besides Simply Writing a Lot)

Abacus
Photo credit Dom Sagolla cc
  1. You will meet every deadline in your life. Most people don’t know how to write a lot, so they set deadlines rather far in the future. Let’s take advantage of aiming low, but achieving high.
  2. You will write more efficiently. If you have the ability to write a lot, writing becomes a piece of cake. Let’s assume you know you have the ability to crank out 2000 words a day. How difficult is it then to write one blog post a day? Easy! You only need to tap in half of your potential. This results in much less stress if you really have to write to deliver something - and much more fun if you love writing.
  3. You improve your quality of writing much more. The more you write, the more you develop your style. You can crank out more training volume, so you will improve in a shorter period of time. Remember: You will also write more efficiently, so you get many improvements for your effort.

How to improve

In the new age of self-improvement, everyone knows the basics:

  1. Measure
  2. Experiment
  3. Evaluate
  4. Adjust

Why measure your daily words?

  1. Words are the entity you want to produce. So you don’t need to care about your work time or mood in the first place. These are only means to an end: Your word production. So measure that. If you write more, you are more productive. It is that simple.
  2. Daily words are independent of your project or motivation. If you can write a lot of words on a daily basis, it carries over to every project you begin.
  3. Daily habits are easy to maintain. Just try it. Write 500 words a day in the first week. The next week you pick just one day and write 3500 words. The former is much easier.
  4. Every improvement has more impact when you work on a daily routine. Let’s say you want to improve your typing speed. If you write on a daily basis, you will improve a lot faster compared to writing once a week only.
  5. Measuring itself improves your writing, because it’s motivating. You get immediate feedback of your progression.

Now you can tweak the routine

Since you count your words now, conquer your knowledge.

  • Write at your desk only at first. Compare the results if it is tidy or messy – do you write more or less in a clean environment?
  • Try a refreshing morning routine (some yoga, perhaps?) before you sit at your keyboard. Do you write more or less? Does it even impact your writing in the evening? (Hint: that’s very likely!)

If you count your words, you can dig really deep. Let’s say you write more when you’re in a café. What happens if you begin to broadcast white noise in your office? Is it the noise of the café that gets your juices flowing, or is it something else which improves your output? Only if you count your words can you take control over your productivity.

Update 2014-07-25: Meanwhile, Christian released the Word Counter for Mac to help you measure your productivity.

So do it: Count your words.


Christian’s Comment: Did you ever wonder how some people finish non-fiction manuscripts in no time? When we do knowledge work, our craft is to write. To be good at it, we need to be efficient at it. We don’t need to win a Pulitzer (right now), so let’s think a little about methods to increase our output, to get better and faster at writing.