I presented to a writing group (actually, three groups) in Cambridge, and someone asked me a question I have never heard before: "you talk about counting--do you have to stop after 600 words or whatever?"
Good God, no! Once again: it's not the counting that matters, it's the feedback--specifically, the feedback on progress towards your goal. When most writers set daily goals, it is because it allows them to reduce the distance from their goal in a safe and measurable way.
I'm still grappling with this negative perception of the "counting and measuring" thing, so I thought I'd try to go totally non-numerical with some suggestions. Some of these are things I've done myself, because frankly I'm not the most regular and predictable writer myself! Perhaps readers of this LJ have noticed this...
In my previous post I referred to the "scene card" counter, who wrote a scene at a time. But she was also looking at the relative sizes of the two stacks: (a) to be written, and (b) written. Let me propose some others, which may be suitable for nonwritten media as well (kamenkyote...?).
1. Space covered (2-dimensional). If painting, duh, if writing, filling a page, a screen, a wall, or writing enough to fill your desk. (One writer whose name I forget wallpapered his bathroom with rejection letters--an interesting way to track your progress and get a bit of personal revenge...)
2. Size of stuff (3 dimensional!). Piles of paper, number of piles of paper, amount of a box, filling a manila folder, filling a hanging folder, filling a drawer. There's a certain satisfaction I got in college from filling one-ream (500-page) paper boxes with my completed papers at the end of the year. I think you could use all these as stages! An outline fills a manila folder at the first fold; a first draft may go to the second or third fold (depending on the length of writing), a novel-length manuscript fills a hanging folder or two.
3. Tactile. I'm guessing here, but would there not be satisfaction in layering on enough paint on a canvas that the entire texture is your paint and not the canvas itself anymore? You might have to paint like Van Gogh for this to work, of course.
4. Completed goals. I loved turning in papers in college. My dissertation became trickier, because there is no end, really, until you and your advisor say so. Though I did like putting them into those nice spring-loaded binders...
5. Anyone else...?