How to Set Work Goals for Technical Writers

Technical writers can use time, money, and milestones to help them set goals.
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Writing can be a difficult task and leave even the most experienced writer frustrated. You may wonder how to take a large project and break it down into manageable pieces, or you may ask yourself how to even begin an assignment. Technical writing is a unique challenge in itself, as it requires more than just a strong command of language and knowledge of technology. Tech writers also need to set goals that motivate them to get the job done.


Many technical writers use time as a way to establish writing goals. Timed writing goals usually fall into two categories: the amount of time you decide to write each day, or the speed at which you write material. Specifying a set amount of time dedicated to writing each day directly combats writer's block by forcing you to write, regardless of motivation or inspiration. Timing the speed at which you write, using logs, calendars, and technology, can help you become a more efficient writer.


Money is a natural motivator and drives many writing goals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that technical writers earn an average of $30 per hour or about $63,000 per year. Writers may set daily monetary goals, logging dollars in the same way they would logs hours. Some writers move away from the calendar, and set monetary goals by project instead of by time. In this case, writers try to target more complex or higher paying jobs with each assignment. They may even decline lower paying jobs if they are below their income goal.


Just getting words on paper can be the fuel many writers need to achieve goals. In a 2011 study by Harvard Business Review, researchers discovered a phenomenon known as the "progress principle". This principle states that the more frequently people experience a sense of progress, the more likely they are to be productive. So whether it is drafting a table of contents or finishing an index, writers who set productivity goals, and reach them, harness the energy of accomplishment even before the project is complete.


Milestones are major events in a writer's life that give them a sense of accomplishment, such as getting their first paid assignment, having a work published, or obtaining their first corporate position. Milestones may also be lifestyle-oriented, such as being able to work from home or while traveling, or working as a freelancer. Setting milestones reinforces big-picture goals and encourages you to celebrate each victory along the way.

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