My Word Count and Deadline Tracker [Updated for 2021!]

This word count tracker is a killer productivity tool. It’s a spreadsheet that works in both Excel and Google Sheets. You’re welcome.


This blog post is the “user manual” for my word count tracker. Download the spreadsheet and follow along. You can bookmark this blog post, too, and if you forget, there’s a link to this post in the spreadsheet.

Download it:

Enter your name and email address, and my robots will instantly send you your free word count tracking spreadsheet.

If you want to use this in Excel, just download it. If you want to use this spreadsheet in Google Sheets, then just upload it to your Google Drive. Simple as that.

Design Philosophy

This word count tracker is a simple tool. I made it this way because I am easily distracted: I will definitely play with cool features instead of writing. The philosopher said “know thyself;” since I do, I eliminated the distractions, which was faster than developing will power.

Another reason that I made this simple is because I am more likely to use it. I don’t have to fiddle with a bunch of steps: all I have to do is note down a few things and my projects seem to track themselves.

But Wait, There’s More!

This word count tracker comes with a bonus functionality. While the first sheet gives you a daily word count goal based on a deadline, the second sheet tracks a project based on a daily word count goal. So, if you don’t have a deadline, but you still want to track a project, this word count tracker can do that, too.

Sheet 1 — Beat Your Deadlines

When you open the first sheet, it should look like this:

An overview of the deadline and word count tracker spreadsheet.

If you want to, obviously, you can add your project name at the top, where it says “Your Project Name.” I keep this as a master file in my productivity tools folder. When I start a new short project (a story, for example), I save a copy of this file in the folder with my project. I keep my master file clean.

Setup: Word Count, Deadline, Start Date

To set this file up, you need to change three variables: your total word goal, your deadline, and your start date (column I, cells 9–11).

A close up of the variables you need to change on the deadline tracking spreadsheet.

Set your total word goal to whatever you want your final project length to be. Your deadline is, obviously, your deadline. You can play around with different start dates to determine how many words per day you would need to type based on when you start it—a very helpful feature for planning projects. (Notice that you can only have a year between your start date and your deadline.)

When you finish your inputs, the “Number of Days” cell (column I, row 12) will update to tell you how many days are between your start date and your deadline. The “Daily Word Goal” cell (column I, row 13) will tell you how many words you have to type every day, starting on your start date, to finish on your deadline. I always set my deadline early to allow for editing, but you must live your own life. Column A, the “Date” column, will also populate with the dates between your start date and your deadline.

An example of the default start date in my word count tracker.
The default start date is January 1st, 2021.

Daily Usage: Starting Word Count, Finished Word Count

As before, if you are starting a new project with no words written, you are ready to go. If you already have some words written, enter them in the first “Start Count” cell (column B, row 9).

When you finish a writing session, enter the total word count of your document in the “End Count” column. The start count for the next day will populate automatically.

An example of how to fill out my word count tracker.
Make sure you put the right end count in the right date!

If you miss a day, just enter the start count for that day as the end count (if you leave the cell blank, it breaks the sheet):

An example of what to do if you skip a day of writing.
Someone is skipping!

This sheet also has a daily notes column, if you need it. I usually don’t use it, but I find it helpful often enough that I decided to keep it in.

Data Breakdown

The overview data in columns H–J, rows 15–18 will help you see whether you are on track to meet your deadline.

A close up of the overview data breakdown in the word count tracker.
These will break when you enter dates in the past. To fix, just enter dates in the future. Why are you trying to rewrite the past, anyway?

These are self-explanatory, but with one key metric: New Daily Word Goal

  • “Words Completed” keeps a running total of the words you’ve finished.
  • “Days Remaining” calculates how many days you have left from the day you opened your file until the deadline.
  • “Words Remaining” shows how many words you have left to write before your deadline.
  • “New Daily Word Goal” is the key metric: the spreadsheet calculates how many words you have to type every day until your deadline in order to meet your deadline.

Sheet 2 — Crush Your Word Count

When you open the second sheet, it should look like this:

An overview of the spreadsheet.

Just like before, you can add your project name at the top, where it says “Your Project Name.” I keep this as a master file in my productivity tools folder. When I start, e.g., a new short story, I will save a copy of this file in the folder with my short story. That way, I always have the main file safely tucked away for further use.

Setup: Total Words and Daily Goal

To set the file up, you only need to change the two green numbers in column J, rows 9 and 10. The first number, set to 30,000 by default, is your total word goal—that is, how long the finished product should be. The second number, set to 1,000 by default, is your daily word goal—that is, how many words you want to write every day.

A close up of the variables you should change.

Set these numbers to suit your project, and you will see the orange numbers update. (Keep in mind that this is set to track a project up to one year.)

An example of the changed variables.

Here, I set my total word goal to 50,000, and my daily word goal to 750. That means I’ll finish in about 67 days (yes, that’s a rounding error; no, it won’t break anything).

A Difference: The Days Column

You’ll notice that column A will populate the cells with the number of days you have left on your project. This column will update automatically: if you meet your daily goal, the length stays the same; if you beat your goal, it will take you fewer days; if you miss your goal, it will take you more time.

Unlike the deadlines sheet, this sheet will automatically populate the total number of days. You will manually enter the dates in this sheet — remember, this sheet isn’t about meeting deadlines, but about crushing word counts.

Here is an example of what it will look like when you meet your goal (on the left) versus beat your goal (on the right):

Daily Usage: Date, Starting Word Count, Finished Word Count

For each writing session on your project, first enter the “Date” in Column B (the one that says Date). Then, check your starting word count.

If you are starting a brand new project, this is easy. The spreadsheet is set up with a starting word count of zero. Just start writing.

But, if you start using this to track a project you have already started, make sure and update the “Start Count” cell (column C, row 9) to your document’s current word count. Here is a side-by-side comparison; the image on the left is a new project, the image on the right is a project with 5,000 words already written:

When you finish a writing session, note your final total word count and put it in the appropriate row in column D, the “End Count” column. The spreadsheet will do all the math for you to figure out your daily word count. The spreadsheet will also update your starting word count for your next writing session. Here’s what that looks like:

An example of the word count tracker's automatic update feature
After two writing sessions, I’ve finished 2,230 words. I have 27,770 words to finish.

Don’t change your start count during the next session. If you edit and end up with fewer words, just enter your total as the new end count. You’ll end up with a more accurate picture of how your project developed.

Another example of how the word count tracker automatically updates
For instances, if you edited on January 3rd, but didn’t write anything, for a net loss of 230 words. It happens.

Data Breakdown

In addition to the running totals, you’ll see some overview stats update in columns I–K too.

An example of the word count tracker's overview stats updating automatically

These are self-explanatory:

  • “Words Completed” is a running total of how many words you have typed.
  • “Days Remaining” is the number of days it will take you to finish your project if you hit your daily word goal every day.
  • “Words Remaining” is how many words you have to finish your project.
  • “Most Recent Work” lets you know the last date you worked on a project at a glance (useful for projects if you’ve spent a long time on them).

Lastly, if you need to keep some notes about a writing session, you can enter them in column G (the Daily Notes column).

That’s it. That’s the whole sheet. Like I said, it’s simple. It takes me no more than a minute to log my daily words. That means I’m more likely to use it. That makes it more useful.

Next Steps

I hope that you find a lot of use in this word count tracker spreadsheet. Please share it far and wide (subject to the minor limitations found in the licensing agreement).

This is a simple project, but are here are a few features I have considered adding:

  • Data visualization: I like to graph progress over time.
  • Monthly Sheets: It might be nice to track progress over a year, rather than on individual projects.
  • Project Management: I want to develop some tools to track characters, plot lines, bibliographies, and the like.

What else would you include? Are there any features you would change? Let me know in the comments.


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