five year diaryI was reading a great friend and amazing author Talitha’s blog the other day. She’d written a post on productivity tools, a lot of which I use or totally wish I did) and I thought of my biggest productivity tool: my five year diary.

I’ve brought this up before, but for those who don’t want to go back and read the post, a five year diary is a diary where the same date (eg/10th of January) takes up a whole page, but that page is broken up into five sections of five lines each. One section for each year. There’s just enough space for some quick notes like ‘bought my tickets for the Brisbane Writers’ Festival. Wrote a new 4,200 words in Keys, Clocks, Quests (total count now 75184). Tried fixing start of Nightfall based on group feedback, but everything I think of just doesn’t work.’ (actual entry from August 5, 2013).

The diary helps keep me accountable for what I did that day. If I did enough with my family or at my day job to fill the space I don’t feel guilty about doing less writing and editing, but if I can’t fill up those five measly lines, I feel bad – real bad – and I work harder to ensure I do something the next day.

I think productivity and accountability are wrapped together very tightly. It’s like setting goals (or making New Years resolutions). They fall apart if you don’t work on them and if you don’t recognise you aren’t working on them, hold yourself accountable and pick up your game then of course you’re going to fail, because you gave up.

That’s not to say incentives aren’t a handy method too. I was super excited at the NaNoWriMo camp last year to get stickers for every 5,000 words I wrote (yes, I’m over 30 and I love stickers, people who say they don’t love stickers are LYING).

Talitha has a very interesting method of shifting marbles from one jar to another each thousand words which combines incentives (a visual representation of how much you’ve achieved) and accountability (all those marbles you haven’t ‘written’ stuck in the unborn jar making you feel guilty). If you want to know more, go read her post.

Do you have a productivity tool which you find particularly helpful, even if it’s not for writing productivity?