Log Your Work

Realize your creative potential and avoid procrastination by logging your work.

You can be more productive and make writing less adverse if you write in brief daily sessions. By keeping a log of your writing efforts, you can:

  1. Motivate yourself. By tracking your accomplishments on a daily basis, you can develop a better sense of how research efforts and invention strategies help you break through writer’s block. Tracking your work can help you maintain the enthusiasm needed to realize your creative potential: Logging your work can help you see how many different activities—such as locating sources in the library, talking over an idea with a friend, working in the field or laboratory, or just struggling to express an idea succinctly—are essential parts of the writing and research process.
  2. See the value of generative writing.As discussed in Understanding Writing, you can discover your best ideas when your write. The log provides an excellent tool to help you realize new directions in your research and writing.
  3. Prioritize. Keep focused on completing important tasks and do not get mired in busy work.
  4. Learn to write regularly. Logging your efforts each day can help motivate you to work on a project even when you are in a slump and unsure of how to proceed. Your writing log will demonstrate how small blocks of time spent writing can lead, over time, to major accomplishments.
  5. Provide a reward (or punishment) schedule. When they are not productive, some people apply “negative contingencies.” For example, if the writer enjoys showering, he may prohibit himself from showering. Or if a writer likes chocolate, she might deny herself. Alternatively–and this is probably healthier–some writers provide “positive contingencies”–i.e., rewards, such as time at the movies, massages, nice dinners out, etc.
  6. Record your efforts on a group project.Your teacher may ask you to keep a private record of your work in a collaborative group.

Many well-known professional writers and researchers report that they would never complete a project if they didn’t keep track of how well they were meeting writing goals and due dates.

“I started keeping a more detailed chart which also showed how many pages I had written by the end of every working day. I am not sure why I started keeping such records. I suspect that it was because as a freelance writer entirely on my own, without employer or deadline, I wanted to create disciplines for myself, ones that were guilt-making when ignored. A chart on the wall served me as such a discipline, its figures scolding me or encouraging.”
Irving Wallace

Examples of Writing Logs

1. Simple Log Sheet HTML This is an example of a log created with Microsoft Word.
2. Table Daily Log HTML This is a table example–i.e., a log in table format that has columns for various items the writer wanted to track.
3. Word Calendar Daily Log This is an example of a way to use Word’s calendar template.
4. Calendar Daily Log This example employs HTML and hyperlinks, enabling readers to go immediately to work when completed. Hint: You can download calendar templates that work in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, or FrontPage at Microsoft’s Template Page.

Note: The term Class of Writing was coined by Maxine Hairston, a writing theorist. For Hairston, Class 1 is routine  message writing, Class 2 writing addresses audiences yet doesn’t involve significant revision, and Class 3 writing requires a writer to be original and creative, often writing dozens and dozens of drafts.

Logging Work Facilitates Daily Writing

Rather than waiting for that illusive large block of time and rather than procrastinating until the last minute to begin researching and writing, you can ensure your success by using small blocks of time to accomplish your research and writing goals.

There are serious disadvantages to binge writing as opposed to regular writing as research has demonstrated. First, binge writing tends to stimulate manic-depressive behavior (Boice). Proponents of binge writing may enjoy the adrenaline rush of waiting until the last minute to research and write and then frantically putting words to one’s thoughts. Yet once the project is submitted, people often feel an emotional letdown—particularly if they were up late trying to complete the task. Second, binge writing does not provide authors with the emotional and intellectual distance they need to be critical of our ideas and presentation. As all of us who have binged at one time or another know, we can have difficulty critiquing drafts that we just composed. In contrast, when some time has passed since we completed a draft, we’ve experienced the surprise of identifying large numbers of problems with our rough drafts. Third, if binge writing leads to a less effective final product, then we are likely to face additional criticisms from readers. Finally, and this may be the most important point, binge writing is likely to result in greater emotional and physical stress.

Sitting in front of the monitor until all words dance together, furiously typing into the keyboard until the hands cramp and carpel tunnel sets in, straining our necks and backs by sitting stiffly for extended periods—all of these behaviors associated with binge writing may further our dislike for additional writing in the future, thereby ensuring a continuing cycle of extensive procrastination and bingeing. The value of regular writing as opposed to binge writing, like the story about the Tortoise and the Hare, is perhaps best depicted in the commonsense saying “Find a busy person if you want to get something done.” Successful researchers and writers have learned that momentum is essential to success, and momentum is enhanced by regular, daily writing. In short, as one wise author quipped, “Inspiration is the art of applying the seat of one’s pants to the chair in front of the word processor.”

Suggestions for Maintaining Daily Writing

  1. Log your research and writing efforts on a daily basis.
  2. Establish priorities and act accordingly.
    1. Set aside a minimum of one hour each day for writing.
  3. Reserve your most energetic time of day, if possible, for writing.
  4. Break each document into manageable sections.
  5. Establish due dates for first, second, and subsequent drafts.
  6. Write when you are sick and tired.
  7. When all else fails, establish contingencies. (In Bob Boice’s research, for example, he has found that people are very motivated when they apply negative contingencies. For instance, in one of his research studies he found that writers were eight times more likely to write on a daily basis if they agreed to submit money to a despised organization if they failed to write daily. In contrast, you can make positive rewards contingent on getting the work done, such as exercising, buying flowers, having cream in your coffee, eating sweets, or seeing a movie).