Holidays can be great for productivity

Christmas is on Wednesday. Smack in the middle of the week. So, not a very productive week on the surface, right?

Many people scramble to keep up with work, holiday shopping, and plans to participate in family and other holiday events.

It can be stressful.

But if you plan for it, the holidays can also be a great time to be productive in your business. Honest.

I find the last two weeks of December to be my most productive of the year. If I’m organized at the start of the month, everything can be accomplished before Christmas.

December is the one month that I schedule the first 3 weeks in detail (instead of a week-by-week approach I take the rest of the year).

Seeing everything that needs to be done written out early on keeps the stress to a minimum.

Lists, tasks, goals, and the success journal are front-and-center to help, of course, but I also implement another visual tool.

I use a full-size monthly wall calendar for holiday-related tasks and use post-it flags for to identify the tasks. Holiday shopping, groceries, sending out Christmas cards, phone calls to family, attending events — all of these have colored flags and are stuck to the applicable day in December. 

Not the best pic, but example with 'flags'

Not the best pic, but example with ‘flags’

The green flags are tasks that can be easily moved (if need be); dark pinks (since I don’t have red) are the events that most likely won’t change; yellows are tasks I can do at home; and orange flags represent the miscellany that involve scheduling/pre-planning.

If an errand can’t be done on one day because of weather, it can easily be moved to another day. If I don’t get to a yellow task on one day, I move it to another.

Knowing I’ll have downtime during the last 2 weeks of the month is motivating. I don’t want any flags on my calendar after Dec 24.

This year, Dec 26-Jan 3 will be quiet workwise since deadlines fell on Dec 20th and most people won’t get back into the swing of things until the first full week of January.

I’ll be spending the ‘quiet’ days wrapping up year-end paperwork, clearing the desk, and getting ready for business to open on Jan 4th.

If you run your own writing (or any) business, you can’t stop working just because the holidays come along. But you can enjoy the holidays and get your work done, too. I takes a little proactive planning (that’s redundant, but makes my point), but it’s well worth the effort.

Next week, my post will be summarizing my 2013 year and giving you a glimpse into my 2014 plans. I’m quite excited about what’s coming up, since this year… oh, wait, that’s for next week!

Have you had experience planning out December in order to enjoy some ‘downtime’ at the end of the month?

I wish you a productive end of the year!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Wildly Improbable Goals 2013 Update

It’s that time of year again! Time to look back and see how far I’ve come this year. Back in January, I posted my Wildly Improbable Goals for 2013 and encouraged you to do the same.

Now it’s time to do a little reflecting and celebrating!

I recently wrote about times when I use my goals (Wildly Improbable and otherwise) to berate myself and feel bad—that is not what this post is about. I choose to feel good about everything I’ve accomplished and to use the goals I haven’t achieved to help me think about ways I can make changes so I can achieve them in 2014.

So, here’s my update:

WIG: Become a published author in 2013.

  • Okay, this one didn’t happen. I did, however, make a lot of progress with my writing (see below) and this goal is one I’m going to keep for 2014.

WIG: Publish a magazine article in a magazine in 2013.

  • This one didn’t happen either. I did do a lot of research on magazines and find out which ones I’d like to submit to, so I’m well set up for success next year.

WIG: Become newsletter editor for Martha Beck Inc. in 2013.

  • I applied for the job and didn’t get it. I tried, that’s the important thing. I feel good about the whole process and plan to apply again when the opportunity presents itself.

WIG: Polish and pitch my novel in 2013.

  • I did do this, sort of. I worked on my novel and I did talk to an agent about it, but my novel has morphed and I’m not sure exactly what genre it fits into anymore—so my conversation with the agent was more a fact-finding mission than a pitch. It was still fun and exciting!

When I wrote my WIGS, I also wrote out first steps to reach my first WIG: Become a published author in 2013. Here’s how I did:

First Steps:

  1. Have something for critique every time my writing group meets (every other week.) I did submit to my critique group, but definitely not every other week. I’m proud of myself for sticking with it for the whole year. At one point, I went back to my novel (on the advice of my writer’s group) and looked at every scene in my novel and figured out the goals, motivation, and conflict for each—very instructive!
  2. Write in journal every day—prompts, free-writes, anything that fosters my creativity. I have kept up with my daily journal but can’t say I actually wrote every single day, although I did write most days. I have journaled a lot more this year than I did in 2012. I did prompts and free-writes, which I love, as well as my regular journal writing. I don’t think committing to do anything every day is going to work for me.
  3. Print out novel and line edit by March 1st. Did not do this as I realized I had “big picture” rewrites to do (which I made a good start on!)
  4. Commit to monthly accountability meeting with L. Did this and found it extremely helpful.

Lessons learned: It’s nice to have WIGS, but it’s also nice to have smaller goals. Also, I’d like to figure out a way to note my progress on totally abstract things like “Spend more time in the zone and less time feeling blocked and hopeless.”

I’m always going to be a person who makes lists and set goals, but I’ve learned over this past year that I need to check in with myself (physically, emotionally, spiritually) before I make my list for the day.

One of my favorite quotes is the following, which sums up current philosophy on goal-setting:

We vastly overestimate what we can accomplish in one day and we vastly underestimate what we can accomplish in five years.

–Peter Drucker

What happened with your WIGS this year?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD: is a writer, blogger, life coach, mother, stepmother, and family physician. I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks of family, fun, and festivities, and then I’ll be back to my desk, setting my goals for the new year and creating a calendar that includes all my favorite things (especially writing!) Happy Holidays!

Get that “one thing” done today — move forward

We’ve talked more than once about having business goals written down so you know how to get where you want to be with your professional writing career.

blankplannerThese are yearly goals broken down into monthly goals, then into weekly goals, and eventually down to a daily task list. The idea is to keep yourself, and your business, moving forward.

I do my weekly planning on Sunday nights, so when I start Monday I know exactly what to start working on. Worst case is that I do this planning on Monday mornings, and best case is that I do the planning Friday night so I can have the weekend off!

I digress. I’m guessing that I’m not alone in having at least “one thing” on the list that is carried over from week to week too many times. It’s “one thing” that should be done to move the business forward, but it seems easier to keep putting it off — for some reason.

Do your reasons (excuses) sound like any of these:

  • Ugh, that requires a phone call, it’s too early/mid-morning/lunch/afternoon break time/too late, all I’ll be doing is leaving voicemail. I’ll call tomorrow.
  • I’ll do it after I do this, this, and this.
  • The holiday is coming up, I’ll wait until after so the email doesn’t get lost in the overflowing Inbox.
  • I’m not in the right frame of mind for that today.
  • I need to let it simmer in my head for a few more hours.

Whatever the “one thing” is, it’s not something we cross off the list — we know it has to get done, so we keep moving it forward, again and again and again.

Today is Monday, it’s after a holiday, let’s call it a fresh start. I’m going to do my “one thing” (log last quarter’s income & expenses – Jul/Aug/Sep) and be done with it so I can keep my business moving forward. How about you?

Before you do anything else, do that “one thing.” 

Don’t over think it — just get it done.

Happy Monday! I wish you a productive week!

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

Anatomy of a non-fiction book proposal

Last week’s post on the structure of a book proposal for a fiction series resulted in a few requests for the structure of a non-fiction book proposal. There are some similarities. The biggest differences are that you need to include a table of contents and your sample pages should *not* be your first chapter.

Here’s the breakdown (skeleton):

  • Overview – Your first challenge is to describe your book in 2-3 paragraphs (500 words or less). Include the title and subtitle; target audience; anticipated length of the manuscript; when you’ll have the manuscript complete; and what makes your book unique and worthwhile. –I’ve seen a suggestion to consider this the copy that appears on the back cover of the book, in a publisher’s catalog, or even as the brief review you’d see in Publishers Weekly or the NY Times Book Review. Think big, but be concise.
  • Target Audience – identify your core readers – those most likely to buy your book. Research the market and try to find some hard numbers to use to identify the market size. Also include tangential readers – those non-fiction readers who may be drawn to the subject matter of your book. (i.e. a lot of your book relates to horseback riding, so a potential market is a horse enthusiast)
  • About the Author – Talk about your credentials and experience. You want the agent/publisher to completely ‘get’ what makes you uniquely qualified to write and promote this book. You can also include social media and other platforms you are already established on in this section, or include it in the Marketing and Promotion section below.
  • Competitive Titles – This is a list summarizing those books and authors you see as major competitive/similar titles. Also include an explanation about why your book is different from each title you list. This section serves two purposes: you’re proving there’s an established audience who will find your book interesting and clearly showing how yours is different enough to compete with them.
  • Marketing and Promotion – Whether you have created/started your author platform already or not, this section needs a lot of content. In this section, explain your comprehensive plan for actively promoting your book and how publicity needs to be focused. List magazines and other media outlets that your target audience pays attention to and identify the outlets you (and your publisher) will focus on to get your book reviewed. Name people who will write blurbs for you (you’ll need them before your manuscript is completed). What are the topics and target outlets, based on the subject matter or your expertise, that will allow you to obtain speaking engagements? List types of groups and organizations that will be interested in having you speak. Identify portions of your book that can be excerpted in magazines and relevant journals; include up to 10 publications you feel will publish the excerpts. And don’t stop there! Include other promotional ideas you can pursue: speakers bureaus, hiring a publicist, getting on relevant mailing lists, leading/speaking at workshops, your book tour ideas, and whatever else you can think of.
  • Detailed Table of Contents – Don’t skimp in this section. Be very specific about summarizing every chapter. This section can range from 3 to 20 pages or more. The agent/publisher is looking for the details of what is inside your book. (I highlighted ‘detailed’ to emphasize that you don’t want to skimp here.)
  • Sample Chapters – Non-fiction agents and publishers generally don’t want your first chapters submitted as samples. They want a couple of chapters from inside the book that will give them a good snapshot of your writing style, the content, and the structure of the book.

Also, if your manuscript lends itself to images or artwork, you’ll want to include details about them – ie. whether you will supply all relevant images/art, whether you’ll need to obtain permission/licensing, whether it’ll be in color or b&w, and so on.

I hope this helps you as you start working on a non-fiction book proposal. If you discover anything else that should be included, please let us know!

Lisa J. Jackson Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys New England’s crisp fall mornings and warm sunny days. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

Beginning Memoir Writer

A former client, (I’ll call her Jane) recently contacted me, not for coaching, but for some writing advice. She’s been wanting to write down her story (you’ll agree that’s a great idea when you read it) but wasn’t sure where to start. She’s been writing journal entries for years and she’s ready to take her writing to the next level.

Since she wants to write a memoir, I recommended she start by making a Life List. I got the term from Denis Ledoux, the author of Turning Memories Into Memoirs, but I’ve heard other writing teachers recommend a similar technique.

Briefly, I told Jane to think of all the things that happened to her in her life, and make a list. One way to break it down is to think about each decade of your life and start filling in events. I like to write my life list on the computer so I can easily add events in between other events. It’s something you can do once but come back to over and over, adding events whenever one occurs to you. Sometimes it helps to create a time-line on paper and add dates and events.

I also recommended that my client get and read the book, Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. That’s the book my friend and mentor, Martha Beck, recommended to me when I told her I wanted to be a writer, and it has served me well over the years.

Once Jane has some memories listed in her life list, she can start writing about different memories. There’s no need, at this stage, to follow any kind of order. She can write whatever memory has the most “juice” for her that day. She can follow Ann Lamott’s guideline of adding “Sh**ty First Draft” to the top of each piece to take some of the pressure off or just tell herself that she’s just going to write down what she remembers.

Lastly, I recommended Jane start to see herself as a character when she writes her memoir pieces. Jane told me that all of her writing up until this point has been very emotional outpourings into her journal.

“That’s great,” I said, “now you can do back and write about the same events from the perspective of an older, wiser you.”

Jane has all the raw material to write compelling memoir, now she has to write with a little distance–about the character Jane, who went through these events, not knowing how it would all turn out–but, Jane, the author, does know, and can lead her readers on a satisfying journey through her experiences.

What else would you recommend for a beginning memoir writer?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon is a writer, blogger, life coach, and mom. I’m working on rewriting a novel and I’m starting to take notes for a nonfiction book that’s been in my head for the last 10 years or so.

Anatomy of a book proposal

l’ve recently been offered the opportunity to write and present a 3-book proposal to an agent for a new mystery series.

As I delve into this for the first time — ever — I thought I’d share what I know and am learning from the process.

So, to start, here’s the anatomy of a book proposal:

  • Overview -> on average, this is a half- to one-page description of the premise of the series, with a lot of focus on the protagonist. You want to catch the agent’s (and publisher’s) attention here so she’ll keep reading.
  • Synopses -> this is plural because for a 3-book proposal, you need to have 3 synopses. They do not have to be long at all. In fact, they range from a paragraph to a half-a-page for each of the 3 books. I’m thinking of them as extended elevator pitches – the way I’ll describe the books if I have a couple of minutes to talk about them.
  • Author bio -> this is probably self-explanatory, but the bio needs to represent how the writer has the background and/or experience to write the proposed series. Including links to published works is acceptable, but the 1-2 paragraphs should be narrative.
  • Comparative titles -> List 3-5 titles of books or series, along with author names and publishing houses if you know them, comparable to what you’re proposing to show there is a market established.
  • Marketing or social media platform -> depending on your experience, this section can be wrapped in with the author bio, or be called out separately. Authors need to have a platform, even if they land a contract with a ‘big’ publisher. This section should include details on your involvement with social media, how you can promote your own work, as well as listing any statistics or details on the topic you are writing about.

Let the agent know what you know about the potential pool of readers. For example, if your books relate in some way to adult evening community classes, you can include something like: there are x number of people who attend adult enrichment classes each year.

  • Sample pages -> depending on how long you write, this can be one or a few chapters, but you want to have 30 (or so) pages of the first book ready to send along with your proposal. And for me, since I’m proposing a mystery series, I have to make sure that I have a dead body in the first 30 pages.

Overall, other than the sample pages, the proposal should be in your natural voice. Write it as though you’re speaking with the agent and only use $5 words if those are part of your natural vocabulary. You want to catch the agent’s attention and make her want to work with you and help pitch your books to publishers. (It’s an entirely different discussion about finding the right agent for a manuscript.)

The total proposal you send in will range from 20 (if you’re sending a short chapter) to 45 pages.

Lisa J Jackson writer Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys New England’s crisp fall mornings and warm sunny days. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

Eagle Vision vs. Mouse Vision

Early this year I spent about four months of my (writing) time reworking a short story for submission to an anthology. I edited, rewrote, shared the story with my critique group, and rewrote again. The week the story was due I was in New York City with my family. I stayed up late tweaking the manuscript and got up early to do it again (and again, and again.)

When I finally mailed the manuscript, I knew I couldn’t have done any more–I also knew the story wouldn’t be accepted.

It wasn’t until the story was out of my hands and on it’s way to the editors of the anthology that I saw the “fatal flaw” in my story. I realized, in that moment, that the story didn’t work on a fundamental level. I saw that it was a good story, and I also saw how I could have made it better.

A part of me was disappointed, but another part of me realized I had to go through the process of preparing the story for submission and sending it off in order to get to that epiphany.

The clarity gained from the experience of writing the best story I possibly could and actually submitting it was priceless.

In my coaching work, I often talk about “eagle vision” vs. “mouse vision” with my clients. Eagle vision is the big picture view, seeing everything from a great height and distance, as the majestic eagle does. Mouse vision is seeing just what’s in front of you, the very next task, as the busy mouse does. I believe that every aspect of our lives benefits when we are able to use both these types of vision–and, if you asked me, I would have said that I used both routinely.

However, I jumped right into mouse vision with my short story and didn’t take the time to stop and use my eagle vision to view my work as a whole, at least not until after I sent it off.  If I had switched my focus from “zoom” to “panoramic,” I think I could have made my story even better.

But I don’t feel that I wasted my time because I learned a valuable lesson: In writing, as in life, eagle vision and mouse vision work best when they are used alternately.

Diving into the work of rewriting (mouse vision) works best only after a look at the big picture (eagle vision) to make sure each task gets me further toward my goal of creating the best story I can. Also, pulling back from the work periodically throughout the editing process to make sure I’m still on the right track is important.

And, finally, no writing is really wasted. It’s all part of the journey toward becoming a more skilled writer. After submitting that short story, I know I’m a better writer than I was before I wrote it.

What lessons have you learned from your writing life?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon, MD, is a wife, mother, stepmother, writer, life coach, and family physician. I’m slowly but steadily putting in the hours in hopes of becoming a published author. In the process, I’m having a great time!

How to be a freelance writer – 5 tools for smart planning and time management: Part 1

roaring lion

“How do you get so much done?” is a question I hear from friends, colleagues, and clients pretty frequently. I don’t say this to brag. Like every other successful freelance writer I know, I hustle. I make hay while the sun shines. I burn the midnight oil (and, sometimes the candle at both ends). I get stuff done because I have to. (A deadline is a great motivator.)

What I do is not magic. I’m not an incredibly fast writer, nor have I figured out how to survive without sleep. (If you crack that mystery, please let me know.) What I do have is a system and some basic project management skills. Today, I want to share them with you because if I can help even one working writer reduce the chaos and tame the stress, it’ll make my day.

In my two-part series on the secrets of successful freelance writers I encouraged writers to become good project managers. One of the most important aspects of providing strong project management is creating and managing project schedules. You need to be able to provide an up-front plan, stay on top of it, and revise as things develop. You also need to be able to help keep your team (including your client) on track and on task with friendly reminders and nudges.

But how on earth can you expect to stay on top of all of that while you’re also trying to handle your own marketing, client meetings, and the actual writing?

It may seem impossible, but it’s not.

There are 5 tools I use to help me get a handle on (and manage!) my schedule – from the Big Picture to the minute details and everything in between. In this post, I’ll share the first two:

The Writer’s Big Picture: Good, Old Excel

You know that saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees? It’s definitely applicable to the freelance writer’s life. Often we are juggling so many projects and tasks that it’s easy for things to slip through the cracks – things like an interim deadline, client call, or – you know – feeding the kids.

Whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed by my workload, I take a breath, step back, and look at the Big Picture. I do this using a basic Excel spreadsheet that I designed to help me create a visual overview of my workload and pipeline (jobs that I think are coming soon). This 30,000-foot view always helps me to feel a little bit saner.

I call the spreadsheet my “Workflow Doc.” Here’s what it looks like:


Workflow spreadsheet sm

And if you click here, you can download a copy of the actual Excel document.

To use it:

  1. List your clients and projects down the left-hand side
  2. Define the current and upcoming months and weeks across the top (I like to look at four months at a time, but you can look at two or three if that seems more manageable.)
  3. Using the color key at the bottom (which you can’t see in the screen grab, but it’s there), color code the project cells to indicate what type of work needs to be done for each project during each week. I use the following phases: Initiation, First Draft, Edits, Development, and Launch. I know that each of these phases will require a different level of attention from me. For instance, the Initiation phase is typically just a meeting or two and will usually only require a few hours while the First Draft phase may require several solid days. The Edits phase might need about 30-50% of my time, while Development (typically the phase during which the project has moved from my hands to either a designer or a developer) may only require 10% of my time for small edits and adjustments.

After you have the chart filled out, you’ll easily be able to see any potential train wrecks, where you have time available, and opportunities to “massage” schedules in order to make your life less crazy. For me, being able to see everything on paper is a lot less scary than just having a vague sense that things are barreling out of control. Even if I fill out the spreadsheet and see that I am, in fact, in a load of trouble, just knowing exactly what kind of trouble I’m in makes me feel better and gives me the information I need to start working on a solution.

The Writer’s Project Plan: A Gantt Chart

The next level of detail is the individual project plan.

Confession: in my past life, I was a project manager, so I have better-than-average tolerance for all things budget- and schedule-related. That said, learning the basics is not as difficult as you might think.

When I was a full-time project manager, I used Microsoft Project to create project schedules in a Gantt chart format. Now that I am on my own (and on a Mac), I don’t have MS Project anymore, so I needed to find a simple (preferably free) tool that would let me create Gantt schedules. After much searching, I settled on an online service called ViewPath, which has the baseline features I need and a free option. Perfect!

Here is what a basic Gantt format schedule looks like:

sample gantt

I could spend several posts talking about how to build a schedule, but here are the basic steps:

  1. Make a list of all the tasks that need to be completed. For a basic writing project, these might include initiation tasks (discovery meetings, research, outlining, etc.), writing tasks (first drafts, revisions, final edits), client management tasks (presentation and review meetings), and so on.
  2. Put the relevant tasks into your Gannt chart in the appropriate order. (I group each set under a sub-head to make the overall schedule easier to read.)
  3. Identify where there are “task dependencies” and “link” those tasks in the Gantt chart. For instance, you cannot start your research until you have had the kickoff meeting and received the reference materials from the client. You can’t start on your first draft until the client has approved the outline. You can’t make revisions until the client has provided feedback. Within the Gantt chart, you can connect the end of one task to the beginning of another to show these dependencies. The beauty of this is that, within the scheduling software, when you move one date (say the client is two days late with feedback), it automatically moves all the subsequent dates so that you know what impact the delay will have on the overall schedule.
  4. If you are so inclined, you can assign resources to each task.

You can, of course, go into all kinds of additional detail, but those are the basic steps. Once you have created the schedule, you can include it in your scope of work so that everyone involved is on the same page in terms of timing. In this way, you are providing a better experience for the client and making your life easier because you’ll have an even better sense of exactly what has to happen next.

… but, we’ll get into the nitty-gritty of managing individual tasks next time.

Here’s the thing – managing your time and your projects well is a critical part of freelance writing success. Without these skills, one of two things will happen: 1) You’ll miss deadlines and lose customers (and, eventually, your business will fail), or 2) You’ll push yourself to work ungodly hours and burn out (and, eventually, your business will fail).

I don’t want that for you. We writers need to stick together and help each other out.

I hope that my Big Picture and Project Plan tools help you find some additional sanity. Next time, I’ll share with you the three tools that I use to manage my time and projects on a day-to-day basis. Until then, keep writing, keep breathing, and if you have any questions – leave ’em in the comments! 

 

Jamie Lee Wallace is a writer who also happens to be a marketer. She helps her Suddenly Marketing clients discover their voice, connect with their audience, and find their marketing groove. She is also a mom, a prolific blogger, and a student of the equestrian arts, voice, and trapeze (not at the same time). Introduce yourself on facebook or twitter. She doesn’t bite … usually.

Image Credit: iam_photography

Have you planned your week yet?

It’s Monday, do you have your plan for the week made out yet?

  • If Yes — congrats! You’re on your way to a productive week.
  • If no — what are you waiting for?

Do you know — specifically — what the top 3 tasks are that you want to have accomplished by Friday?

  • If Yes — Fantastic!
  • If no — how about a top 1 or top 2?

Do you know what little steps you need to take this week to reach your annual goal for x? Of your big goals for the year, each has several smaller steps needed. Have you been on track to reach a goal by 12/31?

  • If Yes — you’re on fire!
  • If no — why not take some time today to look your goals over and evaluate yourself?

calendarAre there a lot of carry over tasks from last week to this week? Have they been carried over previously?

  • If yes, do these tasks absolutely have to get done? (maybe they are just taking up space on your ToDo list)
  • If No — way to keep on track and take care of things!

I spend some time each Sunday evening planning out my week. I have my tasks broken into 7 categories: writing, editing, marketing, reading, business, volunteer, and personal.

Some weeks are more focused in one category than another, but there’s always at least one thing in each category that gets attended to. In order to reach any goal, we have to take consistent steps toward achieving them. Writing these actions in a calendar is the best way to make sure they don’t get lost along the way.

It may be difficult to make time to plan your writing and business schedule for the week, but a little time invested at the beginning of the week and reap large benefits by the end — because you’ll see results, and results lead to more results.

How is your week looking?

Lisa J. Jackson Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys writing short. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.

3AM is too early, but it’s where I needed to start

Traveling is always an adventure. Planning ways to get where you need to be, or where you want to be, can translate to goal setting for writing projects, too.

In planning a recent trip, for instance, I knew what time I wanted to arrive at my destination in order to make the most of a few days. Translate that into a writing project and it would be knowing the requirements of the final written product.

Next, for the trip, was to figure out the major points that would allow me to get to my destination. I started with “before noon,” “most direct,” “least amount of driving.” For a writing project, that equates to a specific deadline, i.e. “by Friday” or “by the end of the month,” and so on.

Then I had to do some research, since my destination required airfare. I searched various airlines for flights and prices. In a writing project, I would be using the Internet or setting up interviews as the piece started to come together.

Next was selecting the best combination of arrival/departure flights to get me where I wanted to be and back again (full circle, of course!). For the writing project, I’d start seeing the article/story in my mind and know what details to focus on to get me to the specific word/page count.

And then it was all about filling in the details — planning specifics for the week, packing, stopping mail, setting up pet sitting, and so on. The writing should come easily at this point, as it’ll be about filling in the blanks or coloring within the lines (if I may).

So, the result of the planning for my trip meant a 3AM wake up, but it allowed me a full first day (and last day), and was totally worth it. If I booked a flight based on a ‘usual’ day, I wouldn’t have arrived at my destination until 5PM or later — an entire day lost to avoid being tired. But taking the time to plan is always, in my opinion, worth it.

Starting with the end in mind is a great way to attack a writing project, too. The starting point may be a surprise, but by working with the end result in mind, you know you’ll be starting in the right place.

Do you usually start a project with the end in mind?

Lisa J. JacksonLisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who continues to find new opportunities through LinkedIn. She loves writing about NH people, places, and activities. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, and Biznik.