Search icon
Regional Writing Centre Logo

Productive Writer No. 4


Set Writing Goals

Have you been writing daily for several weeks now? Have you discovered how much more productive you are with one or more daily writing sessions? Here's another strategy to help you become more productive:


Set writing goals for each writing session. 


How many times have you sat at the computer with the goal of "work on my dissertation" or "draft my manuscript" or "write my conference paper"? It's hard to be successful with such a vague goal. It's easy to stop after 10 minutes because you actually did get some work done on your dissertation.


Create a specific goal for each writing session. For a 90-minute block, or a 15-minute block, put in writing (in a spreadsheet or sticky note on your laptop) what you intend to do. 


Write 1,000 new words. (90 minutes at 7:00am.) 


Draft the introduction to chapter 1. (30 minutes, after breakfast.) 


Outline the headings for chapter 3. (5 minutes while on the bus.) 


Insert the sub-headings and topic sentences for chapter 3. (30 minutes on the train.) 


Draft a powerful first sentence for my fellowship application. (5 minute walk between classes.)


Your goal should be something measureable and do-able. Something you can accomplish in the amount of time you have scheduled. You will become skilled at knowing how much you can write in an hour and whether you can successfully increase your pace to get more done in the time you have.


Setting goals also helps you to maintain a focus and concentrate on your writing. Get off track or distracted? Look at the sticky note on your laptop and remind yourself that you can't stop writing until you meet the goal. It works as your mission statement for the day.


It also can help you be accountable to yourself and others, such as a writing partner, a spouse, or a colleague. Email a friend, "I'm going to start writing at 9:00 this morning and write for an hour, planning to produce 500 new words for chapter 3." When you are done, email a report of what you accomplished.


Writing is a process that requires your assessment about what strategies make you more productive and successful. Setting goals can help your assessment be more accurate and lets you reflect and learn about yourself as a writer as you move your project forward.


What's your writing goal for today? (It can be "Write a gosh awful first draft!" We can all do that!)


Jan Allen, Associate Dean

Academic and Student Affairs

Cornell Graduate School