I was in a bit of a writing slump over the past two months or so, and I tried to solve it by trying to get as long a streak as possible of writing every day.
I managed to go three days in a row, and then failed.
Now I’m using a writing plan that I drew up for myself, and I’ve gone 7 days in a row with more words written each day than I planned, and I’ve written more each day than I did during my short-lived streak. Why is that?
Streaks are something that we think helps us move forward, create habits, but I think they only give us the illusion of being helpful. Yes, if you’re on a streak, you really don’t want to break it — especially if it’s a long one. But streaks don’t motivate you to finish your daily goal early, or go beyond the goals. Streaks let you postpone things to the last minute — after all, you only miss your goal when the day has passed. They are inflexible — you set the same goal for each and every day, no matter what.
Plans allow you to do just that — plan your daily goal to accomodate your life. Busy day? Set a smaller goal. You have the day off? Set a more ambitious goal. They also don’t set you back to zero if you fail, and encourage you to try for at least a partial success, because not everything is lost if life happened and you didn’t meet your goal. There’s also less of a pressure with a well made plan to “keep extra words for tomorrow”. If you have something to write, write it.
Just like athletes use training plans and not training streaks to prepare for a race, writers should use writing plans and not streaks to get their daily words in.