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How to Find Time for Yourself

How to Find Time for Yourself

I have a new guest post over at Lifehack.org today.

If you find difficulty carving out time for yourself, this article will provide you with ideas and inspiration to get it done!

Please take a peak and let me know your thoughts!

Lifehack.org: How to Find Time for Yourself

Please Share!

How do you find time for yourself? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or make a purchase at Amazon through one of my links. Thank you!

 

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0

Get the Creative Time You Need: 3 Simple Tips

Time to create

We All Need Creativity Time

We all need creativity time. Everyone needs time to think about their personal life vision and time to create the daily and weekly plans that will bring that vision into being. People in business need to: think of creative solutions to client problems, strategize creative ways to build business, and dream up the next generation of products and services. Parents need to create routines for the home and their children. And creative people need time for writing, painting, coding, designing and so on.

The Problem

Life is so full, that creativity time gets squeezed out. And our propensity for procrastination doesn’t help. We contribute to squeezing out our creativity time by fettering it away on lower priority tasks first. Why? Because in many ways they are easier to do. Creativity takes a lot of energy and mental gymnastics. So what’s the solution? It’s right there in front of you. And it’s been there all along. Here’s where to find the time and places to make it happen.

Where to Grab Creativity Time

1. Mindless Tasks.

All the things that you need to do on a daily and weekly basis that don’t require thinking are potential opportunities for creativity time. Here are some examples:

  • Exercise time
  • Laundry – folding, hanging up, etc.
  • Driving
  • Commuting
  • Putting kids to sleep – (if you lay down with your kids while they go to sleep)
  • Waiting in Line

Now it’s not ideal creativity time because you won’t always be able to record your thoughts and ideas right away. That’s ok. This will force you to keep it simple. Use that fact to focus on just one idea during any of these opportunities. All creativity requires a certain amount of brainstorming before you can start writing down your ideas or making sketches or laying out plans. In fact, sometimes the act of writing down ideas can halt a certain amount of creativity. So use these small times to brainstorm a bit. After the brainstorming is done, as soon as you are able, write down your ideas or use Jott to send a voice message to yourself which will be converted into text and emailed to you.

2. Air Travel

This is a great place to hunker down to pure creativity time.

  1. If there is a TV , leave it off!
  2. Leave your computer turned off, too.
  3. Put on a set of headphones to give other passengers notice that you’re busy. (Noise canceling head phones are one of the best things you can buy for yourself if you travel frequently at all. Even if you don’t they are great whenever you need to drown out noise.)
  4. Start by closing your eyes and brainstorming first.
  5. Get out a pad of paper and a pen or pencil.
  6. Create!
  7. If you need to, make a pact with yourself to “treat” yourself to leisure items (music, reading, TV) once you’ve completed a preset amount of creative work.

3. Closed Spaces
This one is a little different than the first two in that you need to create the time for this one. It also may strike you as a little strange, but therein lies it’s power. The idea is to confine yourself to a small space where you won’t be interrupted by any distractions. Some ideas are:

  • Sitting in your Car – Anywhere you can park your car is fine. In your garage, on the street, or in a parking lot. Does your spouse ever ask you to go shopping, but you don’t enjoy it? Well how about coming along for the ride and once at the store, you remain in the car for some distraction free creativity time! This is one of my favorites. My mom loves to shop. I don’t, or at least I can’t afford it. She goes shopping and I wait in the car and do some writing. Being in a different place helps me to think more creatively.
  • A large closet with a light or (smallest room in your house) – obviously, make sure you can’t get locked in and that there is enough air to breathe. 🙂 Small spaces are good because there is not enough room to have distractions.
  • The bathroom – sitting on the “throne” with the lid closed, sitting in the tub with or without water in it.
  • A dresssing room – I haven’t tried this one, but I bet it could work. If you have a friend who needs to go clothes shopping, but you don’t need anything, you could wait for him/her in the dressing room and do some creative work until they come in. If you feel strange going into one of the the dressing rooms you could just wait on the bench or the floor by the dressing room attendant. This one isn’t for everyone, but it could work for some.
  • Nook in library or bookstore – ah, peace and quiet. I don’t know about you, but I get very inspired creatively when I’m in either of these places. Find a small quiet corner away from distractions and let the creativity flow.
  • Tent. Do your kids have a tent? If not, consider setting one up. All you need is a blanket and some kind of furniture to place it over. Go inside. Where are you? Pretend you are somewhere other than your living room or back yard. Let this fictitious location inspire you to find new ways of thinking about your project.
  • What are your ideas?

Please Share!

What are your most unusual and useful hacks for finding creativity time? All comments big and small are very welcomed!

 

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18

How To: Your Content in PocketMod Format!

pocketmod

What is a PocketMod?

If you haven’t already heard of them, PocketMods are an origami-like 8 page mini booklet that is constructed by folding 1 sheet of paper. PocketMod was developed to be a customizable calendar, todo list, and more that you can carry in your purse or pocket. Click here to see their cool free online customization tool. Now they also offer the free PocketMod Converter which will convert any 8 page PDF document into a one page PocketMod format ready for printing and folding.

This guide will show you how to create your own mini booklet with your own content whether that be text, photos or graphics.

Offer Your Content in PocketMod Format

Click over to some of the PocketMods I’ve created to get an example how you could use this booklet format.

Some ideas that would make great PocketMods:

  • Blog posts
  • How to manuals
  • Guides
  • Photos
  • Motivational information
  • Reference information: i.e. calories, daily checklists, etc.

How to Convert Word Document to PocketMod Format

1. Create your Word Document. Needs to be 8 pages, of which any number can be blank.
2. Text Size: Arial size 24 or larger works best.
3. Insert pictures if desired.
4. Convert Word document to PDF. I use this free online PDF converter service which emails the PDF to you.
5. Save PDF file to your computer.
6. Download PocketMod Converter.
7. Open PocketMod Converter.
8. Click “Open PDF” and open your PDF file you just saved.
9. Choose “Output Page Size” from the dropdown menu on the converter. The default is letter size.
10. Click “Save as PocketMod.”
11. Name and save the file.

Printing and Sharing

Now you’re ready to:

12. Print and Fold. Click on “Learn to Fold the PocketMod” link on the converter for instructions.
13. Sharing: Upload to a file sharing host. I use MediaFire which is free and allows me to track the number of downloads on each file they host for me.
14. Post link to your website, blog or share via email with friends.

Enjoy!

Click Here to Download These Instructions in PocketMod Format!

Please Share!

Please share links to the PocketMods you create here in the comments! All comments big and small are very welcomed!

 

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13

So You Want to Be a Writer

I am a writer.

Make Your Dream Come True

Becoming a writer is a dream that many of us share. I’ve always loved writing and only recently realized that I became a writer by the simple act of writing. No one bestows this title on you. To acquire the title of “writer” all you need to do is write! And the good news is no one can take it away from you. This article will give you all the resources you’ll need to become a writer, outlining the various ways you can express yourself, with helpful resources for digging in. This guide is intended for writers at every stage: dreamer, newbie, explorer, and old-hat.

1) Journaling

Let’s start with the easiest form of writing, journaling. At it’s most basic, grab any notebook and start with these words “Dear Diary…” If you want to get fancy you can buy yourself a nice leather bound Moleskine notebook and maybe a nice pen which you use for the ritual of writing. The only thing that matters is that you follow your inspiration. What should you write about? Your dreams, your problems, other people’s problems, solutions, anything. It’s a great tool for understanding yourself so that you can grow and improve your life. And it’s really fun to go back in time and read what you wrote last year…or even 5,10 years ago!

2) Blogging

When you’re ready to share your writing with the world the easiest way to do this is with blogging. Blog is short for “Weblog.” It is a place where you can post material to the internet which is stamped with the date and with whatever labels or categories you’d like. You can have a blog that is a diary or it can be used to entertain people, teach, create controversy, or promote your beliefs be they political, spiritual, philosophical or otherwise. If you want to make money from your blog you can add advertising to your blog, such as with Adsense (see link in right sidebar.) Here are some resources for getting started with blogging:

  1. Blogger – this is the easiest one to start with. It’s free and very advertising friendly. Owned by Google. You can have a blog created in about 10 minutes or less. If you are planning to build a “professional” blog over time, you may want to give yourself more flexibility with WordPress unhosted.
  2. WordPress hosted – this one is free but is not easy to use with advertising.
  3. WordPress unhosted – this is the platform I use. It is more complex, but you have more flexibility with layout, design, and functionality. The platform itself is free, but you’ll need to pay for a hosted server such as AnHosting, which is what I use.
  4. Typepad – this is the 3rd most popular blogging platform after WordPress and Blogger. There is a 14 day trial period. After that prices start at $4.95 per month. Has a nice professional look and feel.
  5. Squarespace – If you don’t want to bother with coding but want a professional look and feel, squarespace has some very high-design templates. 30 Day free trial. Prices start at $7 per month.


3) Magazine Writing

Want to see your name and writing published? Magazine writing may be for you. There are two ways to approach this. 1) Write your articles first and then pitch them to magazine editors. 2) Write your pitch query letter to magazine editors and only write the article when you are contracted to do so. Each method has pros and cons. This is a great work from home business. However, to make a real living from it you must be organized, disciplined, and persistent. There is a lot that goes into this process so I will refer you to a couple good references:

WritersWeekly.com  This is a free weekly ezine. There are new updated markets listed each week that are looking for writers. They also have an ebook titled “QUERY LETTERS THAT WORKED! Real Queries That Landed $2K+ Writing Assignments” which costs $19.95.
Writer’s Digest Handbook Of Magazine Article Writing is a 5-Star rated (Amazon) book that teaches you how to brainstorm ideas, write articles, craft query letters, and maintain good relationships with editors for repeat contracts.

4) Online Article Writing for Cash
If you don’t want to set up a blog or do magazine writing, but you still want to get paid, online article writing is an quick way to get paid for your writing. The pay is low, but the articles that are needed are generally short, so if you can write fast you can make some side income. Payment depends on the the demand for the content. Payment can run anywhere from $3-20 per article. Many bloggers do this to supplement their income and to build name recognition. It’s also good writing practice. Here are the two largest and most often recommended, although, there are others:

5) Writing a Book
Who hasn’t dreamed of writing a book? Well, you can do it! Check out my Ultimate Guide to Writing a Book in Less than 60 Days right here on this blog. This guide has many free writing resources as well as book recommendations and writing program recommendations.

If you want to join a community of writers check out NaNoWriMo in the fall when they sponsor a free online community project where everyone attempts to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November!

Want to publish a book that you’ve already written? The Well-Fed Publisher is the ultimate resource on publishing your non-fiction or fiction book!

6) Short Story Writing

This is a great warm up for writing a novel. It’s less of a commitment and it can always turn into a longer story later on. Contests are a great way to get you humming along on a story right away. Here are some contest resources that I can recommend:

WritersWeekly quarterly writing contest only $5 to enter. Cash and ebook prizes. (I actually won an honorable mention in one of their contests last year. That was fun!)
Writers Digest Writing Contests cash prizes. Many different categories. Legitimate sponsor you can trust.

If you are looking for some creative writing prompts here are 3 books I like a lot:

  • The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises That Transform Your Fiction
  • The Write-Brain Workbook: 366 Exercises to Liberate Your Writing
  • Pocket Muse: Ideas and Inspirations for Writing


7) Flash Fiction: Ultra Short Micro Stories

This is a newly popular genre of writing where the whole story is generally between 250-1000 words. It is also known as sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, postcard fiction, and short short story. This is really fun to play around with and it is an excellent way for novel and short story writers to develop the discipline to eliminate extraneous words from your writing.
Magazines:

Contests:

  • Whim’s Place Flash Fiction Contest– quarterly contest. $5 entry fee. Cash prizes $50-$250. Guest Judge Deborah Ng is a blogger for Darren Rowse’s b5Media blog “Simply Thrifty.”

Stories to read online:

  • Fish Publishing – an online sampling of flash fiction that takes, well, only a flash to read!


8 ) Freelance Corporate Writing

If you are a good writer and know something about sales, then you can make a very good living writing business content for corporations, small businesses, and non-profits. This is a huge topic that I will write about more in the future. For now, let me refer you to the ultimate resource book this topic: The Well Fed Writer:Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman. If you want to start this lucrative home-based business, this is really the only book you will need! It is the book I used as a guide when I launched my freelance writing business. (Tip: You only need the updated “Back for Seconds” version of this book which has a summary of the first book in it.)

If you do go this route, Freelance Success is an excellent professional online group where you can ask questions from people in the business. It does cost $89 for a year subscription, but it is well worth it, especially if you are just starting out. You can “listen in” on the forum discussions by email subscribing to them. It’s a tax deductible business expense. I personally found it to be worthwhile. As a writer you can post your profile for free and companies that have work for freelance writers can see your profile there.

9) Technical Writing
This is the business of writing manuals and technical instruction information for companies, usually technology and manufacturing companies. It can help if you have an engineering degree or experience, but it’s not a requirement. Just like Corporate Writing, technical writing can be lucrative. Here are a couple of highly recommended books to check out:

  • Technical Writing 101: A Real-World Guide to Planning and Writing Technical Documentation
  • The Well Fed Writer:Back for Seconds by Peter Bowerman also covers technical writing.

10) Grant Writing
A grant is money that is given to non-profit organizations such as universities for a project such as studying or researching a particular topic. In order to be awarded the funds, a request for proposal is written by the applicant stating why the organization deserves to win or receive the grant. Grant writers write these proposals for the non-profit organizations. Sometimes these writers are employed in-house and other times they are contracted as freelance grant writers. Grant writers are in high demand, so this is a good work-at-home writing business if you are interested in this kind of writing. Here are a couple of highly rated books on grant writing:

  • The Only Grant-Writing Book You’ll Ever Need: Top Grant Writers and Grant Givers Share Their Secrets
  • Grant Writing For Dummies


Other Writing Resources:
Websites

  • Writers.com offers online classes, tips, newsletter, and other services.
  • Writing.com offers groups, forums, reviews, polls, blogs and much more.
  • WritersRow freelance writing jobs and more.


Books

  • Writer’s Market  – This is a big book that is very handy to writers who are doing magazine writing and/or writing a book. From the Amazon review: ” The 2008 Writer’s Market features all the great information writers have to come to expect for more than 80 years and then some. This edition takes Writer’s Market to a new level of excellence with high profile author interviews and five new market sections. Of course, it’s still packed with all the information writers rely on year after year including the keys to successful query letters, advice on how much to charge, articles from successful writers, as well as listings for book publishers, magazines, lierary agents and more! Features more than 3,500 completely updated listings. Includes five new sections (Newspapers, Syndicates, Screenwriting, Playwriting, Greeting Cards). Features exclusive articles and interviews with successful writers.”

Please Share!

 

Please share your writing with a link to your blog or website!

 

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or visit Amazon through my “Books� page at the top of this page. Thank you!

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46

Break These Rules for Success!

break some rules

Rules Schmules

Rules have their place in this world. But if they are stopping you from succeeding then you should look for a way around them. I’m not talking about breaking the law, but breaking the rules that say you need to do A,B, and C before you can achieve X. These rules may be good for the masses who are happy with slow progress, and who are looking. But if you want to rise to the top more quickly, see where you can bend or break the rules.

Rules That Are Waiting For You to Break Them

1) Needing a Masters Degree to teach. If you have work experience, this can be better than a masters degree. Don’t sell yourself short. Don’t feel like you have to spend a ton of money and time on another degree (unless you want to.) This is especially true for programs from online schools. If you want to start teaching, then start looking for job openings and sell your skills! A masters degree may be required, but rules can always be broken for the right person. Maybe that’s you! If you are short on experience, look for teaching opportunities where teachers are in short supply. Essentially put yourself into an arena where you have an advantage.

2) You need experience to get the job. Bull! I used to hire a lot of people at a financial services firm. There was always an experience requirement. But experience doesn’t always have to be formal or job-specific. The bottom line is, the person’s attitude was by far the most important element in whether I hired someone. I turned down plenty of people with experience who had poor attitude or who had no enthusiasm. Focus on your experience. Be creative in relating it to the job requirements of the job for which you are applying. And be enthusiastic. Go for it!

3) You need to be young, beautiful, and talented to be a movie, rock star. Nope. What you need is drive and persistence. Having one or more of the other things can certainly help, but there are people who have made it on drive alone. You can learn the rest. If you really want it, go for it. You’ll probably want to keep your day job for a while. And you don’t have to be a star to make a living as an entertainer. If it’s your dream, go after it. Don’t let “the rules” keep you from trying. You may not make it big, but you’ll be living out your dream!

4) It takes money to make money. Not necessarily. Having money can help, but it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll make money. You can start many businesses with a small amount of money. But whether you have big money or small money, you’ll need to implement smart business strategy. If you have a good business plan, you can always use other people’s money. Of course you’ll need to sell your idea well. But it can be done. What business have you been wanting to start? What small steps can you take today to start?

5) You need a degree in English, Journalism, or Writing to be a good writer. I think we all know this is not true, right? Right? OK, maybe not everyone knows this, but now you do. If you’ve dreamed all your life of becoming a writer, it’s never too late to start. Just start talking on paper. The more you write the better you’ll get. Seek out critiques from people who can and will give you honest and knowledgeable feedback.

6) You need a lot of time to write a book. Yes and no. Lot of time, yes. All at once, no. By being disciplined each day, you could have a book written within 6 months to a year. If you are very motivated, you could have a book written in 60 days or less.

7) You need an MBA to be successful in business. This is just not true. There are so many examples of this. You do need to be a life long learner though. You should keep up with the cutting edge of your field. And you must take action on what you learn. Set a course to read a cross section of books in varying fields of business, learn as much as you can from colleagues and competitors and you’ll have the equivalent of an MBA. If you want to get a formal MBA, that’s fine. But just don’t feel like you have to.

8 ) Everyone who loses weight gains it back. Not everyone. A lot do, but that doesn’t have to be you. Don’t let that stop you from trying to lose weight. That’s bad excuse. You can do it! Keep it off for your health and for your loved ones! And do it today. Father time keeps ticking away. The time to do it is now for future health. A great book on losing weight is The Fat Flush Plan by Louise Gittleman. She is a dietitian and her weight loss method stems from a biological perspective.

9) I can’t eat healthy because I don’t like vegetables. That’s rule you need to get rid of! The real problem is you just haven’t had vegetables that are cooked right. Here is a great book on cooking vegetables with creativity so that they taste yummy! by Patricia Wells.

10) You need to make a lot of money to save for retirement. This is not true. You need to save more money than you spend to save for retirement. It’s simple math. Total your income, figure out how much you need to save for retirement, and then cut your expenses as much as possible to leave enough left over for your monthly savings goal. Best bet is to automate it. Have the savings direct deposited into a separate savings account that you don’t touch. What’s left over is what you are allowed to spend.

11) Investing is for rich people with secret knowledge. No. Investing is for everyone who wants to earn a better return on their money than a savings account. Check out my free Guide to Investing and begin to have success of your own. Just start small, build each month, and you’ll be on your way!

12) Only good looking people can find someone to love them. This is not true. Bash this rule from your head. Haven’t you seen ? People love you for what’s on the inside. You don’t want the people who only love the packaging because they won’t be with you for the long run. Love yourself and others will love you. Be the person you would want to hang out with. Plus everyone is good looking in their own way when they smile and when they are good to others.

13) People can’t change and therefore my marriage can never improve. Baaahnt. Not. This may be true for many people who have given up. But if you really want things to improve, they can! The basic steps: envision a better future, identify what YOU need to do, develop and express gratitude for positive aspects of your spouse, and keep repeating over time. Start small. Look for, recognize, and record in a journal the small successes. If you do this they will build. Good luck!

Some Famous Rulebreakers

Bill Gates dropped out of college to start a little company called Microsoft.
John Grisham wrote his first book over the course of many months on his commuter train to and from work.
Blogging Pro Wendy Piersall had a major turnaround in her marriage to an alcoholic. Today her marriage is fantastic.
Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling had no experience and was an unemployed single mom, when she started writing her first blockbuster book in a coffee shop.
Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee lost and kept off over 100 pounds with simple diet and exercise.
Richard Simmons not only lost weight a long time ago and kept it off, but he also helps millions to do the same.

Please Share!

What Rules Will You Break to Reach Your Dreams?

Who are your favorite inspirational Rulebreakers?

 

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

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19

Creativity Blocks? Bash Through in 15 Steps

Creativity in Progress


Has Your Creativity Hit a Wall?

No matter what you create, art, novels, code, business ideas, we all experience creativity blocks. This post lists a few ways to overcome this distressing dilemma, especially when a deadline is looming!

Bash Through Creativity Blocks

1) Stop Worrying. The more you worry the more you will block your creative flow. Instead adopt a belief that you will come up with something genius, because you know what? You will!

2) Recall Past Successes. Think of some of your best creations. How did they come about? What about those experiences is repeatable? Take some quiet, non-internet time to reflect on this. Sometimes a walk around the block is all it takes.

3) Define the Problem/Assignment. What is it that you need to create? Make sure that you have a good understanding of the problem you are trying to solve.  Then focus on that.

4) Chunk It. Try breaking it down into parts. Tackle the easiest parts first to get some momentum. Then proceed to harder parts.

5) Turn Off Your Censor. Try a brainstorming session for ideas. Make your goal to come up with 50 ideas that will go into the trash. Watch how having this new mindset changes how your creativity flows. Let the ridiculous ideas flow. You can make them more conservative later if you need to.  For an example, see designer David Airey’s display of brainstorming a new logo.

6) Mash Up. If none of your ideas so far has you feeling jazzed, consider smashing one with another idea. How can you combine two different things to come up with something that is unique and exciting?

7) Think From a New Perspective. Can you possibly redefine the problem or assignment? What happens when you narrow or broaden the focus? How might a child approach it? What if you changed the tools you use?

8) Get Ideas from Nature. If you can either take a walk in nature (best), find some nature pictures (plants, animals), or use your imagination with eyes closed. What do you see happening in nature that could point you in a new direction?

9) Web Search. Do this not to copy ideas, but rather to find inspiration and a springboard from which to leap to a new level of thinking about your creation.

10) Look Through Your Idea File. Most of us have this pile or file somewhere of ideas we want to act on. If you don’t have one, start one! But if you do have one take a look through it. This is the time you’ve been waiting for to browse your collection.

11) Swallow Your Pride. Ask for help. No man is an island. And your creation is still yours even if you get some help. You can ask anyone, qualified or not. Sometimes a layperson, not in your field, is exactly who you should ask. They may give you a nugget that turns on the “Aha!” light for you. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. When it comes to creativity, 1+1=3 or more!

12) Get Away. If a deadline is not looming, try to get away. Take a drive, take a walk, Play Hooky, go see a movie, whatever. Just get your mind off your assignment for a while.

13) Get Some Rest. If you are completely hitting a wall and feeling really tired, take a nap if you have time. If you don’t have time, consider a Meditation Nap which can rejuvenate you in 5-20 minutes.

14) DeClutter Your Mind. You may be blocked because you have something on your mind. Ask yourself whether it is something that can wait or whether it is 100% necessary to do now. If it doesn’t need to be done now, then write it down, set a reminder to deal with it later, and then focus on your task with a less anxious mind.

15) Just Do It. In the end, you may be simply suffering from procrastination. If that’s the case, then you just need to get started. Turn off ALL distractions. Use the procrastination trick of working for 20-30 minutes and then allowing yourself a 5 minute procrastination break. Use a timer to stay on track.

Good luck!

Please Share!

Please share how you overcome creativity blocks! All comments big and small are very welcomed!

 

If you found this post valuable, please SHARE THIS below with a Stumble or Delicious bookmark. Votes are always appreciated!

If you want to Support Life Learning Today, you can visit one of my sponsors, make a donation, or make a purchase at Amazon through one of my links. Thank you!

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8

How to Be Creative AND Productive!

creative productive

Randomness and Routine

Getting the Most Out of Life Using Routines

I am always searching for more structured and more efficient routines. This is because my natural tendency is for disorganization. And I find that the more structure I have in my life, the better I feel at the end of the day. This is because I know where I’m going and I can see what I’ve accomplished. And also it makes leisure time more relaxing because I know that I’ve accomplished my work and that I’ve earned my time off to play. When I don’t have structure, I’m still working hard, but I get a general sense of anxiety that I haven’t gotten enough work done or that I’ve missed something. So structure is important, but recently I learned something very cool about the power of breaking routines:

Randomness

Last week, my routine was disrupted a bit. I went with my mom to a doctor’s appointment, I helped with a spring cleaning, and my son’s school ended. All of these things forced me to do my writing work differently, in different places, and at different times. And by being in these new places, working at different times, and doing things that were outside of my normal routine, I discovered something wonderful! Randomness in your life brings about powerful bursts of creativity. It set my brain moving in a different way. It kind of wakes up your non-automatic brain, the creative problem-solving part.

Letting Your Creativity Bloom

Random events don’t automatically open up this creativity. I think the reason it did this time was that I decided to not get angry, uptight, resentful of these random interruptions that disturbed my routine. I consciously decided to go with the flow. And by having that easy going approach, then the creativity opened up! I discovered some new productivity solutions and I had a burst of ideas for my writing that will keep me busy for a while.

Balancing Routine and Randomness

So how can you have Routines and ensure that you get your needed dose of Randomness? Two ways. I think the most important is to be open and welcoming of those natural disruptions to your routine that occur. This doesn’t mean you should allow all disruptions, but when there is one that is unavoidable, go into it with this focus: “How can I learn from this? Have fun with this?” Or “how might I use this to further what I’m working on?” Or simply, “I am open to good things that may come of this detour.”

The second way to get your dose of Randomness is to schedule it. How? Simple. Just do something new at least once a week, whether that is walking a new way to work or eating at a different lunch shop or going somewhere new. Just pick something and do it. Then be aware how your mind is opened up. If you need to, schedule a weekly reminder that says “Do something new today!”

Please Share!

What was the most random thing that happened to you lately? How did it change you? Little or big, please share! We’d love to hear your story!

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9

How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less

Write a book

Commitment

Whether you choose 60 days, 30 days or 6 months as your goal, all that matters is that you commit to it and implement a schedule that will get you there. Choose a realistic time frame that you can stick to. A little bit every day is better than trying to do too much and then giving up.

How to choose your time goal? Start by determining:

  • How many hours per day can you devote to writing?
  • How many pages can you write per hour?

Example: Let’s say you commit to 2 hours per day and you’re able to write 3 pages per hour. To write an average length book of 300 pages will take 50 days. ( 300 pages per book/6 pages per day= 50 days)

My Experience: My new book, Secrets to a Healthy Life, is only 60 pages. I wrote approximately 2 pages per day and completed it in one month. I used Nick Daws method which I discuss further down in this article.

Process for Novel Writing

For writing a novel, I can recommend Randy Ingermanson’s free online manual titled: “Writing a Novel Using The Snowflake Method.” This is a concise guide that will get your novel written if you follow it. For a sneak peek, here are the 10 steps of the method. You will want to visit his site and print out the entire instructions which has detailed instructions for each of these steps. (don’t worry it’s not too long)

Snowflake Method for Writing a Novel: (summary from http://www.ingermanson.com/writing/snowflake.php)

  1. Take an hour and write a one-sentence summary of your story.
  2. Take another hour and expand that sentence to a full paragraph describing the story setup, major disasters, and ending of the book.
  3. Write a short summary sheet for each character.
  4. Take several hours and expand each sentence of your summary paragraph into a full paragraph. All but the last paragraph should end in a disaster. The final paragraph should tell how the book ends.
  5. Take a day or two and write up a one-page description of each major character and a half-page description of the other important characters.
  6. Now take a week and expand the one-page plot synopsis of the story to a four-page synopsis.
  7. Take another week and expand your character descriptions into full-fledged character charts detailing everything there is to know about each character.
  8. Prep for writing the first draft: make a list of all the scenes that you’ll need to turn the story into a novel using a spreadsheet.
  9. (Optional.)Switch back to your word processor and begin writing a narrative description of the story.
  10. At this point, just sit down and start pounding out the real first draft of the story.

Randy has other products that he sells, usually for very good prices relative to the value he is offering. If you are very motivated, his free manual is probably all you will need. If you like his technique and want to dig deeper with it, check out his advanced snowflake guides.  Please do yourself a favor and visit his site. He has 2 great free monthly ezines that I subscribe to, one on novel writing and one on marketing your work.

Process for Non-Fiction (also fiction and screenplays)

Another great process resource that I can recommend is Nick Daw’s program “Write Any Book in Under 28 days”which gives you “everything you need to know to devise, write, edit and sell a complete book in the shortest possible time, be it fiction, non-fiction or even a screenplay.”

I love this program!

It is so logical and encouraging. It helps you get your book written!

The process part always lets you know what your next step is. And the encouragement part keeps you moving forward with enthusiasm.

This program does have a cost which depends on which package you choose. It is provided in the form of a CD-ROM which will run on any computer using Windows 95 or later.

Nick Daws states that anyone can write a non-fiction book. (I agree!) We all have experiences that others would find valuable and could learn from such as:

  • Getting Married
  • Having a Baby
  • Bringing Up Children
  • Living With Teenagers
  • Dealing With Bereavement
  • Being A Student
  • Shopping for Bargains
  • Coping With Divorce
  • Buying/Selling a House
  • Making Your Own Clothes
  • Designing a Garden
  • Getting a Job
  • Starting Your Own Business
  • Managing Staff
  • Managing Your Time
  • Investing Your Money
  • Study skills for students
  • Improve your memory
  • How to work your way through college
  • Making the most of student life
  • What is YOUR Life Experience you will write about?

If you click on the link it does have one of those cheesy sales pages, but never fear, the product is excellent. I bought it, used it to write my first ebook. I give this program my highest recommendation. Free resources are good, but this one is totally worth the small cost. I found it supplemented the the free resources I was using, allowing me to stop dreaming of writing my book and actually finish writing my book!

Writing Tools

1) For me, my favorite tool is pen and paper. I’m able to think more freely when I write straight onto paper. So I certainly recommend using this method and then typing your work onto the computer, which can also be the first editing session. If you like typing directly, go for it. Use whatever method that works best for you.

2) Here is a free tool that I discovered for book writing. It is called yWriter. It is free story writing software and it is offered via free download (this link just brings you to the download page only). I have this tool and I like it very much.

Some of the Features of yWriter:

  • Organise your novel using a ‘project’.
  • Add files to the project, each containing a chapter.
  • Add a summary to each file, showing the scenes in each chapter.
  • Print out summary cards, showing the structure of your novel.
  • Display the word count for every file in the project, along with a total.
  • Saves a log file every day, showing words per file and the total. (Tracks your progress)
  • Saves automatic backups at user-specified intervals.
  • Allows multiple scenes within chapters
  • Viewpoint character, goal, conflict and outcome fields for each scene.
  • Storyboard view, a visual layout of your work.
  • Re-order scenes within chapters.
  • Move scenes from one chapter to another.
  • Automatic chapter renumbering.
  • FREE

3) Google Docs. I’ve talked about Google Docs before on my blog. I discovered it from Leo over at ZenHabits, a top notch productivity blog. Google Docs is a great online document application. It doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as MS Word, but it has everything the basic user needs!

The benefits to using Google Docs are:

  • Online storage of your documents makes them completely portable. Access them from any computer.
  • Copy/Pasting into blogging editors is smooth and clean, perfect formatting, unlike MS Word.
  • It’s in my browser which is my main computer tool. No extra applications to open and slow me down.
  • Online sharing and publishing of your document to the web.

4) Check out my previous post on writing your book via a blog.

Getting It Done

The simple answer:

  • Schedule in your writing time and do it.
  • Don’t start if you are starting other new major goals.
  • Ask a friend if they will be your Goal Buddy Turn in your draft each week to this person. They don’t even have to read them, but this can help force you to get it done. (In turn you can help keep your Goal Buddy on track for one of their goals, i.e. “What exercise did you complete today?”

The longer answer: get a copy of “Getting Things Done” by David Allen. This is the ultimate book on productivity that is customizable to the system that works best for you.

Publishing Your Book

This topic is far too extensive to give all the information that you will need in one article. But I can recommend 2 essential books that will give you everything you need to know.

The first is a world class book by a very successful self-published author. It is called The Well Fed Self Publisher: How to Turn One Book into a Full-Time Living” by Peter Bowerman. In this book, Peter covers self-publishing for both fiction and non-fiction writers.

How “The Well Fed Self Publisher” will help you:

  • Develop a “marketing mindset” minus the anxiety!
  • Create a book that turns heads and grabs eyeballs
  • Find tons of reviewers anxious to publicize your book
  • Get the bookstore chains to come looking for you
  • Build a cash-generating web site that works 24/7
  • Minimize your dependence on fickle mainstream media
  • Parlay one book into multiple income streams
  • Separate the “Print-on-Demand” hype from reality

Peter is a freelance commercial writer who offers a free ezine for freelance writers. He is very successful speaker, consultant for writers, and self-published author. I have been learning from him for many years. He has two books on freelance writing, but you only need this updated one: “The Well-Fed Writer: Back for Seconds.” It gives you everything you need to know to make real money as a commercial freelance writer, the ultimate no gimmic Work-At-Home business!

 

The Fine Print of Self Publishing is a must have book if you want to know the pros and cons of all the the different self-publishing options out there including how to understand their contracts. The author, Mark Levine, has done all the nitty gritty research for you and culled it into terms the layman can understand and use to make an informed decision about which company to go with for self-publishing.

Conclusion

It’s not easy to write a book, but if you are committed, have a plan, and persevere, over time you will have a book! One page a day will yield a 365 page book in one year! What are you waiting for?
Steps to take today:

  1. Commit your time
  2. Plan the book
  3. Write it day by day
  4. Celebrate!

Additional Writing Resources

Find tons of additional writing resources on my “Resources for Writers” page!


Please share

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228

Help! I’ve Fallen into My Google Reader and I Can’t Get Out!

Does This Happen to You?

You start your day, you naughty person, by checking your email and RSS reader first. The next thing you know you have spent the better part of the morning being sucked down into the internet rabbit hole. If you’re a blogger, you’ve probably been reading things like “How to Make Money with Your Blog” or “How to Get More Traffic with Your Blog.”

There are a million and one articles like these, and every time we see one we want to read it. We think “maybe this one has some secret I haven’t read yet.” Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. The problem is all this reading becomes dizzying and leaves you without accomplishing much. So what is the best way to ensure that you get your work done?

Input vs. Output

Input, i.e. reading other blogs on your Google Reader, is much easier than output, creation work, such as writing posts for your blog, strategic planning, or action work, such as making phone calls. The fact is we need both. We need input work, the research, to learn skills and to inspire our creativity. But we need to balance that with output work, the actions we take and the creations we make as a result of our learnings.

How to Balance Both

Plan your day into time blocks. Estimate how much time you will need to get your creation work done that day, your Most Important Things. Then block out that amount of time somewhere in your day. The time you choose should be when your energy is highest since creation work is more difficult thank input work. Everyone has different cycles of energy. Take notice of when your energy highest and plan your day accordingly.

Then for your input work, your research time, choose a block of time and schedule that. Your blocks of time can be large or small, they can alternate back and forth or be completely separate from each other.  A neat trick to use to keep yourself on track is ZenHabit’s 30-10 Procrastination Hack.

Making the Most of Your Time – Let Your Goals Be Your Guide

For both input and output work, your actions should be guided by your goals. So for input work, when you are researching, ask yourself “What information am I seeking?” This way when you find yourself, somehow, at some random article on a biker babe’s website, you can say “Ok, this may be interesting, but it’s not what I’m looking for right now.” You can bookmark it to come back to it later during leisure time, but at least you are now refocused back to the task at hand. A simple way to failproof this is to write on a yellow sticky what your researching goals are and put it right on your monitor.

For output work, you probably have an enormous list of things you need to do or would like to do. If you’re a blogger, they might fall into categories such as writing content, promotion activities, advertising activities, and so on. Again, to choose most wisely, start with your goals. Most bloggers’ goals are to increase traffic to their site and to make money. With that in mind ask yourself “Which activities are going to give me the best return on my time investment,” i.e. more traffic and more money.

Keep it Simple by Planning Your Day

In conclusion: block your time between input and output work. Let your goals guide your task choices. And use tools, such as a timer and yellow sticky goal reminders, to stay on track.

Please share your comments and tips on buying productivity. All comments big and small are very welcomed!


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11

The Scariest Word in Blogging

The B-Word: Burnout

Do you get scared when you hear the word Burnout? If you do, then you’ve probably experienced it. If not, then you are probably still a newbie, hyped out on adrenaline and caffeine, and still very excited about this endeavor, blogging your way to fame, fortune, or fantasy.

But then it hits. Ugh. The Slump. What to write? Who cares? Self-doubt creeps in, “I can’t do this. Maybe I should look into something else.”

The Good News Need some sleep

We don’t have to be afraid of this word. In fact I’m going to take it down a notch. I’m here to tell you, “Don’t turn that molehill into a mountain!” Because that’s probably all it is. If you’ve been burning the candle on both ends, what you probably need is rest, both mental and physical.

It’s like when you first fall in love, you spend so much time with your new love, and you don’t get much sleep. And then the crash happens.

Well the solution is simple. Take a break. But like all over-tired, cranky children who are being told it’s bedtime, we protest, “No! Just one more hour on the internet!”

Taking a Break

Now don’t get anxious. The break doesn’t have to be for long, but do make sure that it is a real break. I would recommend at least a half or whole day. Get off the computer completely. Take a walk in silence. Give your buzzing brain a chance to settle down. That’s when the cream will rise to the top.

I'm ready to fly!Do some of those things you’ve been meaning to do but never get done because you are always glued to your computer. Talk to your friends, call your mom, go see a movie, watch Oprah, go find an (indoor) pool to go swimming, play with your kids, play with your spouse, anything but just no computer!

Is That It?

Well, almost. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep too. If you get some good ideas along the way, then write them down in a notebook so you can come back to them later. That’s it!

Listen to your body. Rest when you’re tired, instead of making yourself more miserable with caffeine. The world will wait and your blog and you will be better because of it!

Wishing you much success!

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