Procrastination Is Fear of… What?

procrastinationDo you procrastinate on projects?

Do you put off tasks that can be done quickly, but are tedious?

Do you avoid certain activities for as long as possible (making phone calls, for instance) because your heart rate increases at the thought of doing them?

I recently saw the phrase “procrastination is fear.” It resonates with me.

Why do we put off things we know need to be done for our business – or to better ourselves?

Fear of success? Fear of no one liking what we do? Fear of rejection after trying? Fear that our goal (making it ‘perfect’) will fall short?

Do you procrastinate on making decisions? If you delay long enough, the decision will be made for you (in most cases), so, you actually do end up making a decision — to let time determine the answer for you.

I can procrastinate on blog posts because I want to be like Goldilocks and have everything “just right.” I fear the posts may be too short or too long and miss the mark.

I can procrastinate on making phone calls because they aren’t always pleasant or give positive results. And usually after dialing the number, I end up in voicemail and then fear my message isn’t clear enough.

Procrastination simply delays what needs to be done, so why not do it and be done with it? There’s a lot of psychology behind the topic of procrastination – such as, it’s something we learn to do. Here’s an article from Psychology Today that lists Ten Things to Know about procrastination.

If you know you procrastinate, you can find ways to push through it. Priority lists, to do lists, delegation, or perhaps adopting a ‘just do it’ attitude for a short spurt to see what happens (maybe you’ll like being productive!). Set a timer and make accomplishing something a challenge or a race. (The timer has become a great tool for me.)

How do you fight procrastination?

lisajjacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies and individuals tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Practicing Personal Cyber Security

Deborah Lee Luskin

Practicing personal cyber security is better than having your data kidnapped or stolen.

If the US elections can be hacked, so can your data. Are you protected?

I took my concerns and my computer to Steve West at Fearless Computing to see what I could do to keep my data safe.

MAC v. PC

“You’re already using a Mac,” Steve said, “which puts you way ahead of the curve.” This makes me feel a little better about spending significantly more for a MacBookPro than a run-on-the-mill PC. But truth be told, my first computer was a Mac. I bought it in 1984, before the internet was a way of life.

Well that’s changed, and so have the cyber threats that come along with connectivity.

RANSOMWARE

According to Steve, ransomware is probably a bigger threat than malware. Ransomware is malicious software that blocks access to computer data until a sum of money (usually in untraceable bitcoin) is paid. But if you’ve backed up your computer securely, what the kidnappers took is worthless, because you still have your data in another location.

Even back in the days of floppy discs I was meticulous about backing up my data. I kept three discs and backed up to a different one each day, so I always had the last three versions of my work. With Time Machine, I just have an external hard drive, which Steve says is not enough. He recommends I also back up remotely, to the cloud, and that’s on my “to do” list for this week.

back up, back up, back up!

Since I have more data than most freeware will cover, I’m going to spend $5/month on Carbonite, which buys me a year’s unlimited storage for one computer. I was initially skeptical of cloud storage, but Steve convinced me that since security is what Carbonite sells, they have a vested interested in protecting my data and their reputation.

firewalls & vaccines

I also spend $30/year on NetBarrier and VirusBarrier by Intego. There’s freeware you can download to keep a firewall between you and cyber infections, but you have to remember to run it. Mine is on all the time my computer is on, and am I ever glad it is. I’m currently judging a statewide writing contest, and one of the submissions launched malware when I opened it up. VirusBarrier blocked it. Whew!

Protecting financial data

Of course, it’s not just my work on my computer anymore; it’s also my business and my household accounts. In this modern age, I do most of my banking and bill-paying on-line, and a certain amount of shopping, as well. Without getting too fancy, there are a few safeguards that help protect your financials.

  1. First, use a password protected wireless area network. Better yet, connect via Ethernet.
  2. Next, when signing in to a financial institution or shopping site, look for the “s” in “https,” which stands for “secure.”
  3. Finally, use strong passwords that include upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. Don’t use the same password, and change them from time to time. And really: don’t stick passwords to your computer with post-it notes!
passwords

To limit the number of passwords I have, I make on-line purchases without logging in or creating an account. When that’s not an option, I use 1Password. This is yet another security program; this one’s designed to keep track of my passwords – and it does. All I have to remember is the password that unlocks it; the program does the rest. I chose 1Password on my brother’s recommendation and after a thirty-day free trial. It costs about $36/year.

disclaimer

There are other programs out there, including free ones. These recommendations are what I use. I don’t work for any of these companies, and I have nothing to gain if you use their products. So ask around. Do some research. Find the security programs that work for your budget and your needs. And then stay safe: practice good cyber security.

What do you do to protect your data?

One of the most life-affirming things I've done in 2016 is hike Vermont's 272-mile Long Trail.

At the Canadian border on 9/8/16 after hiking Vermont’s 272-mile Long Trail from Massachusetts to Canada.

Deborah Lee Luskin posts an essay every Wednesday at www.deborahleeluskin.com

New Year, New/Revised/Rebooted Plans

succeed-in-2017As 2016 came to a close and  I flipped the page to 2017, I reflected on my goals and dreams of 2016 to summarize the year.

It’s always a fun exercise to filter 12 months of sweat and labor down a few pages of one liners, but it’s also fruitful.

I noticed (as I do every year it seems) that I start out with a lot of gusto and have yearly goals written out, and have the first month broken out to weekly and daily tasks. I manage to keep the effort going, but the momentum slows by the end of the 2nd quarter (about June). In 2016, I barely had anything written down in October or November. Then I sputtered to life a little in regard to writing weekly goals, a little bit in December.

There are several resources on the Internet for how to review your prior year, and each year I like to seek out some new ways to answer the same questions.

This year, the question that struck a chord with me the most was “What were the things you wanted to do but didn’t?”

I found a similar question: “What goals did you blow off or fail to achieve?”

And what set me on a course of thought for a good stretch of time was the follow-up question: “Why?”

It’s one thing to take note of what you goals you missed, but it’s entirely different to pause and seriously consider “why” you missed those goals.

So many excuses can come to mind – life got busy, the kids, the laundry, night school, the weather, illness, not enough work, too much work, and so on.

But to make strides, you have to acknowledge the excuses for what they are – excuses, not reasons. Looking into each goal/plan I missed, I realized that the reason I didn’t achieve them is because I chose to not put in the effort. I failed to achieve because I chose not to plan, not to strive, and not to push myself forward.

I missed my fitness goals because I chose to not:

  • show up to races I’d paid for
  • get off the couch and get out for a walk
  • watch the portion sizes of the meals I ate

I missed some business goals because I didn’t put in the time and attention the tasks needed. It’s a harsh realization, but I can work with the truth.

In 2017, I already have new accountability and am working with a couple of mentors to build up a couple of areas of my business. I’m revising and rebooting some goals, letting others go.

Have you reviewed your 2016 goals versus accomplishments? If you missed any of your targets – do you know why you missed?

I’m wishing all of us a prosperous, productive, happy, and healthy 2017.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Try Something New and Take a New Step Forward

try-something-newIt still amazes me how often I hear people not only say they are afraid to try new things, but they actually avoid trying new things.

If you’re a business owner (or want to be someday), there are so many things you don’t yet know about that you’ll have to learn. If you don’t want to learn anything new, being a writer and/own business owner probably aren’t paths you want to consider.

We’re all born with a blank slate. Every thing has a first time. Why weren’t we afraid from the very start to learn to communicate, eat, move until we knew how to walk? Because we didn’t know any better.

Each writer has different strengths and interests and we come about them in various ways.None of us woke up one day as successful writers. We had to learn how to:

  • print / write
  • spell
  • read
  • craft sentences/paragraphs/stories
  • learn writing rules
  • understand grammar
  • come up with ideas
  • type
  • outline
  • research – through the Internet or, old school at a library
  • use a printer or scanner
  • learn to upload and download
  • use e-mail
  • and so on

Our businesses didn’t create themselves out of thin air – there are numerous tasks we need to figure out how to do when we’re a business owner.

Every little bit and piece of our writing business started with learning something new.  All things are brand new to us — at first.

Deciding to be a writer is scary in itself, isn’t it?

Pursuing writing as a career has its own anxiety, too. 

And there will always be something that makes us sweat – even a little – when it first comes to mind.

Where does the fear come from? Why do we get afraid of a project that’s a bit over our heads?

I’ve been there many times, and expect to be there many more. Being a little afraid is how I know I’m continuing to learn, improve, and build upon my current writing (and business) skills.

If you have the basic skills for a project, you shouldn’t be afraid to use them as a foundation for new work. If there’s a certain type of writing you are passionate about pursuing, go after it however you can – online classes, workshops, webinars, writing groups….

We all start with a clean/blank slate. It’s up to us, individually, to fill the slate with the skills and experiences we want and need.

Being nervous is a good thing – it means we’re aware and open to possibilities. It means we desire to push ourselves further.

If you don’t feel a little scared, you aren’t stretching yourself.

I encourage you to embrace the fear and push out of your comfort zone.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? I bet you learned a lot from the experiences – good, bad, or otherwise.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

It’s Thanksgiving Week – What Are You Grateful For?

This Thursday is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and many people have the day off (and some even have Friday off for a 4-day weekend).

For the most part I’ll have the 4-day weekend to do what I want, including working on my NaNo novel (National Novel Writing Month). I’m a lot behind on the word count, but I’m determined to hit that 50,000 word goal by midnight on Nov 30th. Very grateful for the quiet time!

I enjoy this time of year, in particular, to take more time to pause, reflect on the year-to-date, and to give thanks.

  • I’m thankful for my family, friends, roommate, and exceptional business associates.
  • I’m grateful for my accountability system that includes tools, of course, but most importantly weekly, monthly, and annual checkins with fellow writers.
  • I’m thankful for new writing opportunities.
  • I’m grateful for variety in many things – music, friends, work, projects, exercise routines, places to work, adventures to try, and places to visit.
  • I’m thankful for my new place – its convenience to everything important to me, its newness, layout, accessories, and size.
  • I’m grateful for technology that enables me to work from anywhere at any time.
  • I’m thankful for this blog – my co-bloggers and you readers – I’m always learning something new!

If you’re traveling this holiday – I wish you the safest and smoothest travels and hope you make great family memories.

If people are coming to your home, I wish you many hands to make meal prep easy and that you can find a few minutes to take a breath and appreciate those gathered around you.

(I’m also thankful for fleece socks, flannel sheets, new journals to write in, and new books to read.)

What are you grateful or thankful for as we approach the end of 2016?

Special note: Over the next few days, we’ll be moving nhwn.wordpress.com to nhwriters.org. If you have trouble reaching us, please be patient as the new domain name resolves. Thanks for your patience! The NHWN Team.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Patreon for Writers – A Fascinating and Evolving Space

patreon-byrneMaking a living as a writer is not easy. In fact, for the vast majority of people, earning their keep with nothing but words is nigh impossible … a pipe dream … a long shot.

Even so, we writers are a hardy (read: “stubborn”) lot who tend to dig our heels in when it comes to our writing dreams. And, thanks to the hyper-connected world of the Internet, we are no longer condemned to live out our writers’ lives in cramped garret rooms or the basement meeting rooms of local libraries and churches. With today’s virtual information highway, we can send our work out into the world, collaborate and converse with others, and even – gasp! – make money. Through the magic of the worldwide web, we can reach larger, more diverse audiences in real time and without having to go through a middle-man gatekeeper.

I am super grateful that I’m able to support myself and my daughter working as a freelance content writer. Over the last decade, I have built up a sustainable business that has kept our single-parent household comfortably afloat.

But, I want more.

Today, I’m paid to write what other people want me to write, and at the moment that consists primarily of website copy, ghostwritten articles, and eBooks, etc. for a variety of businesses across a range of industries. Someday, I hope to get paid to write what I want me to write. I hope to get paid to write stories and essays that are based on the unique thoughts that I’ve grown in my own head.

This is why I am fascinated by all the different ways that creative, entrepreneurial authors are making money these days. It used to be that there was only one path for a writer to take: traditional publishing. Then we added the concept of self-publishing into the mix. Today, innovative writers are also taking advantage of crowd-funding, including Patreon.

patreon-logoI am still in the initial stages of exploring the Patreon model, so I don’t consider myself an expert; but I thought it was worth sharing a few of the interesting pages that I’ve found in case you find the concept as fascinating as I do.

I’ve known about Patreon for a while, but didn’t take a close look at the platform until I saw a blog post from author Monica Byrne talking about her Patreon. I had read Byrne’s debut novel, The Girl in The Road, and was intrigued to learn that she had set up a Patreon with the hopes of earning a “bare-bones MINIMUM WAGE” that would allow her to write full time. As of this writing, Byrne is earning $1,612 of her $2,000/month goal via monthly donations from 359 patrons who pledge anywhere from $1 to $250 each month to support Byrne’s writing. (Most patrons fall into the $1 – $5 range.)

The basic idea is that “patrons” (meaning anyone who wants to support an artist or writer) pledge to donate a recurring monthly amount via an automated payment. Typically, pledge amounts start at $1 and increase by small increments – $1, $3, $5, $10, etc. Each pledge amount comes with specific “rewards” – sort of “thank you gifts” from the artist/writer. These can range from access to patron-only content (stories, articles, behind-the-scenes posts, Q&A sessions, etc.) to early access to new work, to real-world items (Monica sends handwritten postcards!) to acknowledgment in a finished work or even the chance to collaborate on a project.

Intrigued by this business model, I cruised the Patreon site to see what other kinds of writers were using the platform to earn “real” money. Here are a few of the pages that I found most interesting:

  • Mike Bennett, author of the vampire series, Underwood and Flinch: $2,005/month via 599 patrons
  • Wait But Why (aka Tim Urban and Andrew Finn), creators and publishers of a unique, long-form, (not-a-blog) website that covers topics from happiness and human nature to science and philosophy to general observations: $13,204/month via 4,303 patrons
  • Writing Excuses, a fabulous, four-person podcast on the craft of writing: $1,542/month with 290 patrons
  • N.K. Jemisin, a prolific science fiction and fantasy author who has been nominated for the Hugo and Nebula awards multiple times: $5,193/month via 964 patrons

As I said, I’m still just exploring this business model for writers, but you have to admit that it’s pretty intriguing. Patreon has a handy landing page just for writers if you’d like to get more of the facts. And if you have any first-hand experience with a platform like this, I’d love to hear your story.

Meanwhile, I’m pledging my monthly support to both Monica Byrne and the Writing Excuses team … and I have a feeling I may be adding to that list in the not-too-distant future.

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Jamie Lee Wallace Hi. I’m Jamie. I am a content writer and branding consultant, columnist, sometime feature writer, prolific blogger, and aspiring fiction writer. I’m a mom, a student of equestrian arts, and a nature lover. I believe in small kindnesses, daily chocolate, and happy endings. In addition to my bi-weekly weekday posts, you can also check out my Saturday Edition and Sunday Shareworthy archives. Off the blog, please introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.
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P.S. Fellow NHWN-blogger wrote a post about Kickstarter and the kerfuffle caused by one writer’s daring to ask her fans for money. Good For You, Not For Me is a great read by Lee Laughlin, and I very much enjoyed the reader commentary as well.

How to Handle Overwhelm

Getting overwhelmed can happen to the best of us. It can happen when we least expect it, but most often, I think, we at least have a glimmer of when it’s about to hit us.

Overwhelm can hit when, like Jamie recently and me back in December/January, your computer crashes in the middle of the workweek and it takes a while to get back ‘on track.’

Overwhelm can hit when you have slow periods with barely any work, then start saying ‘yes’ to any work opportunities that arrive, and within  days or weeks you find yourself with so much work you don’t know when you’ll sleep again.

Similarly, overwhelm can hit when you have a few projects (sometimes even one) that take much longer than you estimated, or that you consider ‘done’, arrive back on your desk needing rewriting or other fixes — and your schedule is full already.

What do you do when overwhelm hits you? My best advice is: step away. It sounds crazy when there’s so much to do, I know.

Step away from all of it. Breathe. Do something mindless or fun or at least not-at-all-related to your work. Re-focus. Re-prioritize. Develop a plan of attack. Move back into the work.

Family of live crabs overwhelmed and washed up by tide

Family of live crabs overwhelmed and washed up by tide

What made me think of this post was seeing an entire family of crabs wash up on the beach over the weekend. Two large crabs, some smaller crabs, and some incredibly tiny crabs all together washed up from a wave as the tide peaked. I imagine they had been swimming just under the surface, having a family day, and then they took a step into a current (perhaps rip tide) and lost all ability to control their own progress.

They became overwhelmed with forces outside of their control. They got left on the sand and struggled to gain their footing and regroup and just as they (almost) managed that, another wave washed over them, tumbled them around, pulled away and left them struggling again. This went on for many minutes. The struggle was real. The crabs weren’t going to drown, but they certainly were overwhelmed.

I thought that the couple of crabs that remained where they were each time the wave pulled and pushed against them – the ones that seemingly remained calm and let the water flow as it would – were the ones that were going to end the day on a good note. I felt the crabs that scrabbled for a grip on the sand and ran this way and that without any plan were going to end up bird food as soon as they exhausted themselves.

We can’t always let go or step away completely, but when overwhelm hits, we need to find a way to stay calm, focus, and develop a plan. Otherwise we’re struggling and may end up too exhausted to do anything at all.

What do you do when you sense overwhelm approaching?

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves researching topics, interviewing experts, and helping companies tell their stories. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.