September: The End is Where We Start From

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.   ~T.S. Eliot

The end is where we start from

September’s first task was to clean my desk.

September: Summer ends, and we begin the push to the end of the year. Summer ends and work resumes in earnest.

September: the first thing I did was clean my desk.

The very act of sorting books, papers and projects has helped me choose what to place front and center of my attention and which to shelve for the time being. This simple act has given me focus, structure and deadlines.

September is full of promise and hope. So are a clean desk and the deadline of a year’s end just over the horizon. I’m feeling hopeful and focused to be back at my desk after a summer of grief.

This September: I’m adjusting to the memory of loving parents who are not longer alive. I’m peering through the murky fog of mourning and see hope and promise in the slow death of the garden as it gives up its bounty. I hear the crickets singing summer’s end and know the silence of winter is coming. I welcome the gradually shortening days as the earth tilts away from the extended daylight that makes summer so luxurious. And I welcome the shift that allows me to sit at my desk with focus and energy to blog, to teach, and to advance a novel that’s starting to sing in me.

September is like taking a breath: I inhale cool air of intention and exhale the warm air of summer’s ease.

September is a time to focus and write.

What does September mean to you?

www.deborahleeluskin.comDeborah Lee Luskin lives in southern Vermont and blogs at Living in Place. She is a freelance educator, a radio commentator, and an avid hiker. Learn more at



OneNote – A Tool for Organizing Lists, Tasks, Projects, and More

onenote_exampleTools, tools, and more tools, right? There are so many online and mobile options for helping with productivity that it’s impossible to keep up with them all.

Here’s one I find quite beneficial.

I’ve been using Microsoft’s OneNote for a couple of years now. It’s part of the Office Suite (for Mac and PC), but also an individual, free download for tablet, computer, or phone.

Example of a ToDo list (boxes to check off)

Example of a ToDo list (boxes to check off)

I use OneNote to:

  • Plan trips – everything from itineraries to packing lists to pictures and videos
  • Make lists – for groceries, household needs, gifts, books to read, movies to see, TV shows to check out, music and bands I like, people to follow or connect with, birthdays…
  • Coordinate projects for clients – there is a feature where you can share a notebook with 1 or more people and enable them to edit/update, too. Collaboration is powerful!
  • Track tasks – for myself, my parents, organizations I have an active role in…
  • Collect ideas – for stories, blog posts, articles…

It’s easy to insert URLs, pictures, documents, videos, and more into this app.


What’s included on the “Insert” tab in OneNote

A feature I appreciate: similar to Google Drive, changes are saved automatically; there is no need to click a ‘save’ button.

A big benefit of this app (for me) is that it is available whether or not I am connected to the Internet. I can be on my phone and look at and add or change content easily. The application synchronizes with the desktop version whenever possible, and vice versa.

I seldom need access to my grocery shopping list or items-needed-at-Walmart list, so I’m always updating those through my phone. Most other lists are through my laptop. The versatility and ease of use make this application a handy resource to help me stay organized — and eliminate the need for notes on napkins and scraps of paper.

There is even a tab where you can draw – with or without a stylus pen – as a way to grab those creative images or ideas that come to mind.

I find OneNote versatile and handy and love having one place where I can keep track of a limitless number of things.

What is your favorite productivity-enhancing tool?

*The above commentary and review reflect my opinion and thoughts on OneNote. It does not imply approval or acceptance from other NHWN bloggers. I was not compensated for this review in any way.

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.

Can We (as writers) Have Too Many Journals or Notepads?

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

Small sampling of my journals and notebooks

I enjoyed all the responses to my post last week about personal libraries and how many books we have, don’t have, need to get rid of, and so on.

On a similar track… I’ve always enjoyed journaling and my mom and friends know that, so I’m always receiving beautiful journal books for special occasions.

I can use journals for:

  • Personal thoughts
  • Notes about individual novels I plan to write (someday)
  • Short stories that need to spurt onto a page
  • Travelogues
  • Trip planning
  • Story idea collecting
  • 5-year journal for brief snippets of my day
  • Morning pages
  • Poetry
  • Personal growth (some journals come with daily exercises)
  • Wines I’ve tried
  • Books I want, are recommended, have read, have reviewed…

I also have a collection of various types of notebooks and note pads and use those for writing workshops, writing group exercises, conferences, and so on. It’s difficult to pass up back-to-school specials on some spiral bound notebooks or pads of paper – so I have a lot!

Do you find different uses for different types of journal books, notebooks, and note pads? Do you have a favorite type of journal or notebook that you use most often?

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.

How Do You Manage Your Personal Library?

too-many-books-too-little-time-to-readNo matter how many times I downsize my library, it still seems I have an abundance of books to read.

Not that I mind at all, of course, but space is an issue.

I spent a good chunk of Sunday sorting through all my books, yet again, because I really needed to finish unpacking (moved at the end of Aug and still had boxes upon boxes).

There were boxes of books in my new placet and also in a large outdoor storage unit that I’ve downsized to a small indoor one. It’s crazy.

If I still had my home, my library would be at least 2 of the 3 bedrooms, with piles of books in every other room, too. As it is now, I share space with a roommate, so have very limited shelf space.

In sorting, I discovered a few categories of books:

  • To read and review
  • To read for pure pleasure
  • To read for personal development
  • To keep for reference / research
  • To keep because they are signed
  • To keep because I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements as editor
  • To keep because I want to read them again “some day”

I think it’s too many categories and still too many books, but I feel I’ve trimmed my personal library down to the minimum. Many books need to remain boxed and put away – but at least I know what’s in each box now!

I have my car’s trunk full (literally) of books to donate. As long as I know someone might read them, I don’t feel too bad, but, still, it’s difficult to part with books that have been on my shelves and TBR (to be read) pile for years. Do you have this problem too?

I used to keep an inventory of titles I had in an Excel sheet, but that got overwhelming. I’m on Shelfari and Goodreads, and even with those easy ways to track my ‘library’ it’s still overwhelming.

If you have limited space, how do you manage your personal library? Have you moved to an e-reader to reduce paper books? Do you have books packed away? Do you keep an inventory? 

I’m curious to know how you manage your personal library. Please share.

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.

Organizing Your Writing Projects with Trello

I admit it: I’m  a bit of a software geek. I can easily spend hours researching and playing with different kinds of project management, tracking, and collaboration software products. I love the way these digital tools help me wrest order from chaos and streamline my workflows and communication.

At the moment, I’ve fallen quite hard for a combination of Asana/Instgantt/Google Drive to help me manage my more complex client projects (the ones with longer lead times, more moving parts, and additional team members). However, I was recently reminded of a simple but powerful software called Trello, and I thought it was worth sharing it as a simple, beautifully visual, and FREE way for writers to track and manage all kinds of information from product status and submissions to lead generation and story ideas.

Here’s a 5-minute video that will give you an overview of how the software works:

The ways a writer can use Trello are almost endless:

To Track Submissions: Move “story” cards through a series of lists that track a story’s progress through the development process:

  • New Idea
  • Pitch in Development
  • Pitch Submitted
  • Ready for Follow Up
  • Accepted
  • Edited
  • Delivered
  • Payment Received

To Track Networking/Lead Generation: Similarly, you might move “contact” cards through a series of lists representing the stages of relationship development with colleagues, editors, and potential clients:

  • Outreach Targets
  • Contact Initiated
  • Ready for Initial Follow-Up
  • First Meeting/Conversation
  • Ready for Second Follow-up
  • Project Initiated/Assignment Secured
  • Back-burnered

To Track Project Status: However you break your projects down, you can use Trello to track progress on each element by moving task cards through workflow step lists:

  • To Be Scheduled
  • Scheduled
  • In Progress
  • First Draft Complete
  • In First Revision
  • In Second Revision
  • In Editing
  • In Proofreading
  • Complete

To Capture Reference Materials: Though I generally prefer Scrivener for this, many people like to use Evernote or even Pinterest to collect and organize story-related reference materials. Trello can be used in a similar way if you create cards for each story element and then organize them into category-based lists:

  • Characters
  • Locations
  • Time Periods/Time Lines
  • Style Guide
  • Artifacts and Props
  • Themes
  • Miscellaneous Details

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. Introduce yourself on FacebookTwitter, Instagram, or Pinterest. I don’t bite … usually.

Time Tracking – Getting It Right

As a self-employed writer, it’s important to be able to track your billable time. Even if you charge per-project rates instead of hourly, you need to know how much time each step of a project takes.

Of course experience is the best teacher. How many of us have confidently been able to say, “It will take me 2 hours to create xxx for the client.” And then when the asset (document, powerpoint, etc) is delivered, we realize it took the better part of a day to finish the deliverable?

Time tracking is much more than the time between start and finish.

You need to find a method that works for you, is easy to manage, translates well for billing/invoicing purposes, and doesn’t take up MORE of your time.

Here’s something that may work for you. I know it’s changed how I track time.

Use paper or an online document or worksheet and create 4 columns for your current project (i.e. a Success Story for Company Y). Label them: Task, Estimate, Actual, and Tracking. (The Task and Tracking columns will be the widest)

Each row is going to be a task for a current project.

For the Task column, fill in a task in each row. Example, if you’re to write a success story, tasks can include: “Schedule interview with subject matter expert,” “draft questions,” “outline story,” “write story,” “edit story.”

Tracking timeIn the Estimate column, fill in a number for how long (total time) you think each task will take in minutes.

I bet you think the Actual column speaks for itself and it involves setting a timer or watching the clock. But I’d like you to try something new.

  • Select a ‘time interval’ — 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, etc. (5 or 10 minutes work well as manageable intervals). Note the interval beside the Tracking label (ie. Tracking – 5 min intervals; or Tracking – 10 min intervals).
  • Now find a timer, use your watch, or find an app that counts down. (This is the ‘something new’ – Counting Down). Set the timer/watch/app for the interval you chose, say 5 minutes, and start the countdown when you start the particular ask.
  • As you hear the bell, buzzer, alarm go off at the selected interval, make a mark or fill in a ‘1’ in the appropriate task row under the Tracking column.
  • When you finish the task, add up the tick marks or tally the total number of 1’s from the Tracking column and multiply that by the time interval you selected (i.e. 5 minutes) and fill in the Actual column with the total time.
  • Review the variance(s).

More often than not, tasks take longer than we expect, and tracking time shouldn’t involve a lot more time out of your already full day. By having a timer that counts down and sounds off every 5 or 10 minutes, you can be focused on the task and simply take a second to note the alarm, then continue working until done.

Getting time estimates correct is an important part to your overall success.

What do you think about this time tracking idea?

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.

Back up Back up Back up Back up

Have you ever heard that you should back up your data? It’s an important philosophy to embrace, and with today’s technology there isn’t any reason to ignore it.

A couple of years ago I got an external hard drive and backed some folders and files up; nothing regular or on a particular schedule, but I backed things up every now and then.

Last January I started backing some things up ‘to the ozone’ (the cloud) to give me a piece of mind in case something bad actually happened to my computer *and* the external drive.

I thought of it as business insurance  that would allow me to re-create what I needed, if I ever needed to.

You know where this story is going, right?

My computer was having issues most of last year – freezing up at random times and not letting me do anything except a cold reboot (shutting it down via the power button, NOT recommended).

I knew the system needed to be cleaned up, but it was always “I’ll get to it later” and “I can’t drop my laptop off somewhere for a few days, I need to work!”

I pushed my luck to the end: My laptop died last week. Just. Stopped. Working.

It was a weekday (work day) morning. One moment I was productive, the next simply staring open-mouthed at the screen.

Shock, awe, anger, disbelief, all the emotions of grief and loss filtered through me. Anger was prevalent.

I brought the system to a geek shop and within 24 hours had the system back with a brand new (quite empty) disk drive and a fresh version of the operating system.

Nothing is retrievable from the original disk. I need to rebuild what I had.

So, what about the back ups?

An analysis helped me realize I had most data; I can re-create what I didn’t back up. But, then I remembered Outlook. Where was the PST file stored? Did I back that up?

For the last few days I didn’t think I had any version of the PST and it was crushing me to know I lost so many emails. But, as I was writing this post, I looked, once again, into the files I backed up and found a December version of the PST file! Yay! Not the most recent, but at least it’s something!

My tips:

  • back up your data regularly
  • know what data is most important to you and/or your business (and know where the folders and files are located in a file structure)
  • if you download and install software online, print out the install instructions and product keys
  • if you install software from disks, know where those disks are
  • unless you can bring your system to the vendor, or have the vendor come to you — get references (now, while your computer is working) of computer shops that can help you if you ever have system issues

It’s one thing to mourn the loss of vacation photos, it’s another to realize your entire business has to be rebuilt.

Don’t let your productivity drop to zero if/when your system has problems. Prepare for a worst-case scenario now, and it most likely won’t happen. But if it does come to fruition, you’ll keep moving forward.

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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.

Planning out the year – where do you want to be 1 year from now?

Happy New Year!

Many folks are getting back to work today after enjoying some downtime during the holidays. If you had some time off, I hope it was refreshing and re-energizing.

If you didn’t have time off, I’m with you. This was the first holiday season I can remember where I didn’t have downtime, so I’m starting 2016 a bit rushed – or at least not as prepared as I want to be.

A new year is a good time to set intentions, goals, plans (whatever word you prefer) for the upcoming 12 months. Of course you can start at any time, but January is quite popular.

Here is how I am capturing my goals (and dreams) for 2016:

Start with the big picture:  One year from now, what do I want to have accomplished / done / tried (in any or several areas)? ie. business, personal, relationships, health, free time, financial, community/charity

  • Focus on one area at a time (if more than one) and capture big steps; tasks and ‘things’ that are definitely required to achieve the outcome. I don’t worry about “how” anything will get done. For now, I write down what I see as required to reach the final outcome.
  • Take one ‘big step’ at a time and capture the next level of tasks to achieve the big step.
  • Repeat as often as needed until I have as comprehensive a list as possible. There are going to be steps or tasks I am unaware of, but they’ll work themselves out.PostItFlags
  • Transfer the goals and tasks to post-it flags (I like how many colors there are and they are easy to move around, and they have a little bit of stickiness to them). I use one color for each area, and number supporting tasks so they can be realigned later on.
  • Pull out a 12-month calendar (seeing all 12 months at same time) and start placing the tabs onto the months when I want them accomplished. Sure all the BIG overall goals may end up in December, but the smaller supporting tasks will spread out over the remaining 11 months.YearAtAGlance_example
  • Once I have the tasks spread out over the year, I can immediately see which months are a bit too heavy and which are too light, so I move flags around until the year feels comfortable.
  • Then I work with my actual calendar and start documenting the tasks into months and weeks. (I move my visual paper information into a scheduler).
  • And I get to work!

Are you starting to tackle 2016 this morning, or are you a little behind in setting goals, as I am?

Here’s to a successful and prosperous year!

Lisa_2015Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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.

Scheduling Time for Yourself While Freelancing

Today is Columbus Day in the U.S.; it’s one of those holidays that some people have off and some people don’t.

Many of my friends have it off. I told them I didn’t. Each of them said, “But you work for yourself, you can take it off if you want to.”

And each of them is correct. I could take it off if I wanted to, but I don’t. I actually find working holidays to be quite productive — since they generally tend to be very quiet (fewer phone calls and e-mails). But that’s me and the personal choice I make as the owner of my own business.

Here’s how I plan my time off. Maybe it will give you some ideas.

2016_calendarFirst, I find a 12-month calendar, such as the one here on the right, that I can print out, make a couple copies of, and mark up.

I start by drawing a line through the dates I will be on vacation. You may prefer to put a big “X” in each box, or highlight the dates in a certain color.

Next, I go through and mark off the holidays (and personal days) I intend to take — those where I will *not* be in the office and *not* doing any work.

Then I decide which conferences, workshops, seminars, and so on I’d like to attend (as far out as I can) and also mark those dates.

I quickly have a visual that shows me the days left that I will be working. Maybe I’ll have to rethink some plans – for instance, it’s crazy how fast my November fills up. I’m never able to do all I want in that month.

This is where a fresh copy of a 12-month calendar comes in; the reassessment phase. It’s where I determine which days off are most important and which activities may fall by the wayside. I mark up the fresh copy with the re-evaluated dates.

Now, you may not know all the dates you want to take off, but holidays, vacations, personal growth, and personal days are great dates to start with. Knowing what dates you don’t want to work helps you schedule your time on the days you do work.

This is a high-level look at the year ahead, but can be a great place to start before figuring out how you will meet your budgeted income and expenses for the year.

Do you schedule your time off in advance, or go week to week and decide based on your workload?

LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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.

ToDoIst – A Productivity Tool for Managing Tasks

l have fellow blogger Diane to thank for introducing me to ToDoIst, a productivity tool that’s all about managing tasks.

This a personal review about how I use the free version of the tool. It may or may not work for you, but it’s something to consider if you find you want to keep track of tasks you have to do – for work or play; business or personal.

The name comes from “To-Do List”, of course. Just remove the “L” — ToDoIst.

The synching between platforms is a breeze. No matter if I’m accessing my account from my Android, or from IE or Chrome, on a home computer or another system, all categories and lists appear whenever I go to access them.

Within the past week, ToDoIst has changed a bit (image below, left side is prior look; right side is new look)- boxes to tick off are now round instead of square, there’s a lot more white space, and  the tool recognizes more natural language when creating a recurring activity. (ie. if you say “every Sunday” it will know what you mean).


At a glance to the top left of the tool, I know how many tasks I have to do “today” and for “next 7 days”.

Glancing a little further down the left side, I see how many tasks per category exist. I have categories such as: Business, Personal, Work, Errands, and Volunteer. The categories come in handy when, for instance, I only want to see what Business-related tasks I have coming up, whether it’s today, tomorrow, or months from now.  And colors can be assigned to categories, so the visual experience is heightened. For instance, if I know my ‘business’ tasks are blue – it’s so easy to see how many blue items are listed!


I can create to-do lists for each project, too. Sometimes I list all the tasks at one time, have them all due ‘today’ and then, since it’s so easy, change the dates accordingly once I know I have all the tasks listed. Knowing that the list exists and that I can easily find it and review items at any time, gives me a peace of mind I hadn’t had before.

All of the right side of the screen is the actual list of to-do-items for today. To add an item it’s a simple click of the “+” icon at the top of the screen, writing a description, selecting a due date, and selecting a category (if I want). The item is added to the proper date and I don’t have to worry about it until I need to see it.

The premium version of ToDoIst includes features such as graphs to show you your productivity (how many tasks you had for a day/week/month vs how many you completed), and more.

Do you use ToDoIst? Or do you use another task manager app? Wunderlist, Remember the Milk, and Toodledo are others I’ve heard about but have not tried (yet).


LisaJJackson_2014Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with manufacturing, software, and technology 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