Battle of the Writing Productivity Methods: Word Count Versus Timed

By Jennifer Blanchard

As you know, there are many different methods for getting writing done.

You can set a deadline and write towards it; you can choose a word count and write towards it; you can choose a number of hours you want to spend writing every day and write towards it, etc.

With so many choices, it’s often difficult to know which one is the right method for you. And maybe there isn’t just one, but a combination of methods that work for you.

Although there are many methods for getting writing done, there are two methods that seem to be the most popular among writers: Having a word count goal or a timed writing goal.

But which one is best? Or is one best?

Word Count Method
If you subscribe to the word count method, you choose a word count goal (either a daily goal or a weekly goal). And when you sit down to write, you don’t get up until you hit that number.

Choosing a word count works like this:

  • Determine how many words you want to write in a given day/week. For example, maybe you want to write 500 words a day.Pick a number that you can comfortably hit. Or you can make it a bit of a challenge for you.
  • Once you have your word-count goal, determine when you can fit writing into your schedule.
  • When the time comes, sit down and write your words.

Pretty simple.

Timed Writing Method
If you subscribe to the timed writing method, you choose an amount of time (an hour, 30 minutes) and then sit down and write until time is up.

Choosing a timed writing goal works like this:

  • Determine how long you want to spend writing in a given day. For example, maybe you want to write for an hour every day.Choose an amount of time that you can you can fit into your day, every day. You can also choose to increase your writing time on the weekends.
  • Once you have your timed-writing goal, determine when you can fit writing into your schedule.
  • Sit down and write until time is up.

Also pretty simple.

But which method works best? Which method helps you get more writing done?

Battle of the Writing Methods
The timed-writing method and the word-count method seem to be the most popular methods. That’s because they both work. And they are both effective ways to get writing done.

But which one is most effective? Which one works best?

The Word Count Method

PROS CONS
  • An accurate way of tracking exactly how much writing you get done.
  • Specific–so you know how much you have left to write.
  • Makes it easy to divide a larger work into smaller pieces (like taking a 1,200-word article and breaking it up into two 600-word writing sessions).
  • It helps you have something concrete to focus on.
  • It can be a challenge to meet the word count on days when you’re not feeling as inspired.
  • Sometimes you might want to write more or less, depending on how you’re feeling.
  • It’s difficult to tell how long it may take you to write your word count, which can cause scheduling problems. Plus some days it might take you more time to write it and other days it might take you less.

The Timed Writing Method

PROS CONS
  • It gives you a specific goal (i.e., write for 30 minutes).
  • It gives you a timeframe to write in, which helps keep you focused.
  • You can easily track how many hours you spent writing.
  • It’s easy to find blocks of time in your schedule when you can write.
  • It’s more difficult to track how much writing you’re actually getting done.
  • Since it’s a timed goal, the amount of writing you get done will vary day-to-day.
  • If you get distracted during your writing time, you won’t get nearly as much writing done.

So which method is best? Which method takes the trophy home?

Winner: Do what works for you.

Yes, that’s right. There is no clear winner.

That’s because, while both of these methods work well, neither is the perfect method. It’s all about what works for you.

It’s easy to try and do what others writers do, but at the end of the day, your best writing will come from using a method that works for you.

So if scheduling an hour of writing time into your day works best for you, do it. And if writing 500 words a day works best for you, do it.

Because at the end of the day, it’s about getting writing done. No matter which method you choose.

My Personal Experience
Over the years I’ve used both of these methods on-and-off.

Here are my thoughts on them:

Timed Writing Method: When I first started out writing, I used to schedule writing time into my day. In the morning, for example, I’d do a 10-minute writing exercise. Then I’d fit in an hour of writing time at lunch.

What I found with this method, however, was that I was often getting distracted during my writing sessions. So I’d only be spending 20 or 30 minutes out of my hour session actually doing any writing.

Word Count Method: This method works best for me. If I choose a word count for the post I’m working on, for example, it makes it easier for me to stay on track and get my writing done. I may still get distracted, but then I keep re-focusing on my writing until I hit my word count.

Sometimes that means I spend three hours working on one post. But on the nights when I know I have a lot to do, the word count helps me stay focused, write without stopping and get my post done quickly.

Which of these methods works best for you? What has your experience been with using these writing methods?

For more on writing productivity methods and choosing the one that works best for you, read Butt-In-Chair.
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