Chunking Time

It’s the start to another new week, and a new time to (possibly) be challenged with accomplishing all you want (or need) to accomplish.

Having a To Do list is important so you know what needs to be done — but sometimes the list seems a bit overwhelming and you may try to multitask and end up starting many items while finishing few.

Chunking your time can help you be productive and get tasks done — especially if one of the tasks is writing. Isn’t it difficult to find the time to write when it’s one of a list of things to do?

I have two approaches to chunking: individual tasks and similar tasks.

Basically, you decide on the top 2, 3, or 4 ‘must-get-dones’ for the day and choose an amount of time to dedicate to each. Chunk that time in your schedule

Since I’m still using a paper planner, I use a highlighter to mark off time periods – a different color for each task/project. If you’re using an online planner, say, Google Calendar, it’s very easy to select different colors for different chunks of time.

What’s the benefit of chunking time? You can be fully focused on the task/project at hand knowing that you’ve dedicated the time to it. Other items will be done later, but for the chunked period, shiny object syndrome and procrastination gremlins should remain at bay.

Chunking time helps you relax – you know you’re attending to a priority and won’t have to hope to make up the time later. Sure a task may take multiple days, but chunk what you need and take some pressure off your shoulders.

I don’t think there’s anything worse than hoping to get to an item or saying “I’ll start that as soon as I finish this, this, and this.” Chunking is setting an appointment for yourself to be focused on one and only one task (or a set of similar tasks, such as making phone calls, setting appointments, replying to emails, and so on).

Writing can often fall off the plate for the day if paying work is present, but having a 1-hour chunk of time to solely focus on writing is encouraging. I know everything else will get done, but for this 1 hour (or however much time), I have the singular focus — it’s quite freeing.

Have you tried chunking your time before? Do you see the possibility with it?

Lisa J. Jackson Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She’s always trying new things in order to use her time most effectively. You can connect with her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+, and LinkedIn.

WIGs and Other Goals for 2014

When I looked at my WIGs for 2013, initially I was disappointed. I like to check off boxes and complete my To Do lists, so I was frustrated to see I only accomplished 5 of my WIGs for 2013—out of 37!

But when I reviewed my list, I realized almost all of them were truly WIGs—so completely and Wildly Improbable! I also realized that if I’d been offered some of the opportunities I set as goals, I would have refused them—so how could they be goals?

I wrote more of a Bucket List than a goal list last year so I’m changing things up for 2014. I’m still making a list (I don’t think I could stop myself) but I’m going to change my rules for myself. To make my list for 2014, each WIG (which now stands for “Wildly Improbable Goal” AND “Wildly Inspiring Goal”) has to be:

  1. Something I really want to accomplish in the year 2014;
  2. Something under my control (for example, I can’t control whether I get hired as a newspaper columnist, I can control how many times I query or submit to a newspaper);
  3. Something that feels good to think about striving for as well as attaining.

Looking at #3, I then ask myself the question: “How do I want to feel about my writing this year?”

I want to feel excited, capable, and peaceful about my writing.

With all of the above in mind, here are my writing WIGS for 2014:

  1. Rewrite my novel.
  2. Submit a short story to Level Best books.
  3. Submit to a writing contest 3 times.
  4. Schedule and complete a writing retreat.
  5. Set writing goals every week—put in calendar.
  6. Submit to critique group twice a month
  7. Host a writing retreat.
  8. Do JaNoWriMo, setting a writing goal each day.
  9. Write 12 blog posts for FDNH blog.
  10. Start nonfiction book.

While these goals are very concrete, they are also a stretch for me. Looking at the list, I feel excited, capable, and peaceful, so I think I’m off to a good start.

What are your writing goals for 2014?

Diane MacKinnon, MD, Master Certified Life CoachDiane MacKinnon: is a writer, blogger, mother, stepmother, life coach, and family physician. I’m getting organized for the new year and I’m so enjoying being in planning mode! Happy New Year, everyone!

My business writing year in review

Earlier this month, the NHWN bloggers met via Google Hangout. Lee has a nice summary of the evening here. One topic was to share our achievements for 2013 and share some 2014 goals.

The new year brings new opportunities and I’m excited with how 2013 has ended, and inspired for 2014.

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Celebrate 2013 accomplishments

Here’s a high-level look at my writing year, my 7th as an independent writer and editor. Some achievements include:

  • Financially, I blew my own mind by achieving 6 figures — my highest annual income ever. ‘Freelancing’ doesn’t have to equate to living on a tight budget (although my frugality is still well in place). Many happy dances and loud “Woo Hoo” shouts have echoed through the walls here, especially this month as the goal was realized!
  • 3 prior clients came back for more projects. I love building lasting relationships!
  • I wrote about small business ownership for American Express at their request. 
  • I published 4 NH-related travel articles in  a regional monthly magazine I loved. (It closed its doors in August, even though it was successful.)
  • I blogged here on NHWN weekly for most of the year.
  • I converted my website over to WordPress.
  • I have a business logo designed.
  • I joined a business mastermind group.
Make 2014 awesome!

Make 2014 awesome!

2014 business writing and editing wildly inspiring goals include:

  • Double my 2013 income
  • Gain 12 new long-term clients
  • Publish 12 writing-related and 12 small business ownership related e-books
  • Use business blog for writing and small biz ownership posts
  • Integrate my own photos into blog posts, especially with inspirational sayings on them
  • Publish NH and New England travel articles again

I’ve joined a business mastermind group and am now a co-organizer for a NH-focused networking group that plans monthly events. This year I also joined a local Chamber of Commerce and made connections with a networking group focused on New England. These groups will help me meet people (obviously), but also to build relationships and learn more about myself so I can continue to grow and improve overall.

Although my business has international clients, I have a strong desire to work with regional businesses where I can meet face-to-face. Technology is great and telecommuting is fantastic, but I feel there’s more to a client relationship when we can meet in person whenever possible.

I also write and publish fiction and poetry and those accomplishments and goals are separate from my business. Definitely ‘upping my game’ in that area, too!

If you need some help setting writing goals, this article may help: 15 New Year Writing Resolutions to Adopt in 2014 by David K. William of The Web Writer Spotlight.

What is one major goal you have regarding writing in 2014?

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.

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.