Sunday, May 19, 2019

Increase Producivity. Get Organized.

As I get older, I'm more aware each of us have the same amount of time in every day. We have a lot of information and opportunity coming our direction. How do we harness these opportunities and increase our effectiveness? One important aspect is to get organized and keep organized.

If I take an honest look at myself, I tend to be a bit of a pack rat. I save magazines, articles I might write some day, books people have sent to read and review, manuscripts and proposals I've been handed at conferences, and the list goes on. This material can easily flood my office and pile up. During the last few weeks, I have been vigilant about sorting, filing and throwing most of this accumulation. At the moment, I'm much more organized than I have been during other periods.

Take Time to Eliminate & Organize Clutter

For me, it is a matter of taking a hard look at what has accumulated and asking if I will ever need this again. Most of the time that answer is “no” and I can throw it. Or can I quickly store some needed information such as an email address or phone on my computer where I can search and easily access it in the future? You can increase your effectiveness and productivity if you have less right in front of you to handle.

Use Your Smartphone Effectively

Often I meet writers who have a smartphone but only use it as a phone—and little else. Whether you are aware of it or not, you have a powerful communication device that you carry. Take the time to use various features. For example, I use the calendar to remind me of meetings and phone calls. I use the reminders section to call to my attention critical deadlines.

I also use my smartphone to post on social media. For example, I use Hootsuite to time out my posts for several social platforms. For Facebook at the moment, I post them myself using my phone. It is not the most efficient way to do it (as I know) but it does get done. 

Also I use my smartphone to quickly answer some important emails when I'm away from my office. Just a brief answer shows the other person you got it and responded. Use your phone as an effective communication tool.

If you don't know how to use these aspects of your smartphone, then take the time to learn. You can even take free classes at the Apple Store (which I have done).

Be Aware of the Time Zappers

I regularly hear from writers who spend hours scrolling through Facebook then wonder where they lost part of their day. Or they binge watch a television program or spend time at a bookstore browsing. None of these things are wrong or bad in themselves but increase your awareness of how you are using your time can help you be more effective.

Create a System to Achieve Over and Over

If there is something you need to accomplish over and over, I recommend you create a habit to accomplish it. Just writing 20 to 30 minutes a day on a project can continue to move it forward toward completion. Or set a word count for your writing then do it repeatedly. People wonder how I keep up with my social media. It's pretty simple. I've created a system where I do the functions over and over (with many different purposes and reasons).

 I still have things slip through the cracks and doesn't get done. For example, several days ago I got an email reminder the judging sheets for a contest are due right away. Yes I knew I was judging this contest and had the material for it but wasn't aware of the exact due date. I handled it and met the deadline. Each of us have these types of things which slip into our day and need to get done.

What steps are you taking to get organized and increase your productivity? Let me know in the comments below.


Discover four insights to get organized and increase your productivity from this prolific reader and writer. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Discipline of Reading

Almost every day someone approaches me about reading their book and then they want me to write a review. I get these approaches from publishers, from publicists and from authors. Many of them I respond and appreciate the offer but turn them down and point to a free resource such as this one.  The truth is each of us have limited time to read. Yet for writers reading is (and should be) a consitent part of your daily life. Is it?

In this article, I'm going to give several ideas how to use the discipline of reading. Most of us don't like the word “discipline” yet from my experience, reading has to be in your daily plans or it simply does not happen. I repeatedly read about how the volume of reading for many adults continues to drop—like one book a year for men after they graduate from high school. On the other end of the success scale (millionaires), I read these people are continually reading for their own personal development and growth.

While my reading varies throughout the day, I do have a number of routine times when I consitently read. the first period is in the morning. I am an early riser and will breeze through my email then I begin to read my Bible.  Each year I select a different version and this year I'm reading The Daily Message by Eugene Peterson. Each day includes a Bible passage along with a short reading from the Psalms or Proverbs. After completing my Bible reading, I read the newspaper cover to cover. As a journalist, it is a long-term habit to read a real newspaper. Because I live in Colorado, I read the Denver Post cover to cover.

I have a comfortable chair in my office where I read in the evenings. Often late at night I spend an hour or more reading various books. As I read or listen to a book, I track my progress on Goodreads (one of the tools they provide). Because I have 5,000 friends on Goodreads, even my reading progress gets reaction from others (and I can see their reaction and comments).

Besides reading physical books, throughout the day, I am also reading blogs and other information which comes into my email box. Many of these blogs are focused on publishing or books. If they have relevant information for my social media, then I will put them into my Hootsuite feed for future social media posting. I learn a great deal from others reading these articles as I curate the content for my social media followers.

Besides reading in the morning and evening, I also listen to audiobooks if I am in my car (even for a few minutes) or exercising. I've mentioned in the past that I use Overdrive for these audiobooks (free from the public library).  There is a wide selection of books on Overdrive but I tend to gravitate toward history, self-help, how-to, personal development, and memoir. The majority of these books are nonfiction. I do read some fiction but my fiction reading is limited to a few titles a year. It is not surprising that I've written many nonfiction books and continually read in the nonfiction area. It's what I recommend to you as a writer. If you write fiction, then you should be reading your particular genre of fiction. If you write nonfiction, you should be reading in this area and aware of the trends, bestselling authors and other such activity.

You can see how reading permeates my day. What happens after I have finished reading a book? As I read the book, I will mark a couple of passages which capture the essence of the book or I deemed significant. Shortly after I finish the book, I will write a review in a Word file. This Word file is where I write my rough draft of the book. In general I quote something from the book in my review (shows I actually read the book) and my review is typically 150 to 250 words (not just a sentence but more substantial).  Over the years, I've written hundreds of print magazine reviews. In recent years I've written over 900 reviews on Amazon (see my profile) and over 550 reviews on Goodreads (see my profile). This volume of reviews did not happen overnight but is something I've been doing consistently for years. It's one of the reasons people frequently ask me to review their books (and if I have the time and interest, I may do it).

Writers are readers. What does your reading schedule look like? How are you practicing the discipline of reading and incorporating it into your day? Let me know in the comments below.


When do you read throughout your day? Get ideas and inspiration from this prolific reader and writer. (ClickToTweet)

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Sunday, May 05, 2019

How to Show Up in Different Places

As writers, we need to show up in different places. If you are reaching the same people over and over with your message, you will not expand your reach and audience. I believe each of us need to consistently work at reaching new and different audiences with our message. In this article, I want to give several specific ideas about how to reach new areas of the market.

Before I give you the specific ideas, there are some basic steps that every author needs to take first. The first step is to create a giveaway or a lead magnet. It can be a free ebook or audio file but something which has value to your target audience (something they will want). You need to set up this giveaway on a website where you capture their first name and email address (which adds them to your email list).

The next step after setting up this giveaway is to learn how some simple HTML which gives a clickable link when you show up in these places. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, then click this link and get a single page about creating clickable HTML that I've written). Otherwise you put the effort into showing up—but don't gain any help for your bigger goal (finding new subscribers to your email list). I'm encouraging you to work smart with this larger goal in focus as you show up in these various places.

Make Relevant Comments on Blogs

Most blogs allow you to make comments. I have the comments turned on to monitor on my own blog because often the comments are simply not related to my post and SPAM. When you comment, add to the article with some additional content. As you write a relevant comment with some additional aspects to the post, you will add value to the blog. In addition to your relevant comment, add the HTML link to your free Ebook or some other valuable tool. Make this link clickable and it will be kept (not marked as SPAM) and you will have created another link on a different location where you can get sign ups for your newsletter list. The key word is “relevant” with your comment. Do not SPAM or that impression will also be made.

Actively Participate in Email Discussions

I'm on some writer email lists where I contribute. If I do, as with commenting on blogs, I do add to the content of the discussion (otherwise you are writing spam). At the end of my post, I make a point to include a link to my website. You can be strategic about where you send people with this single link.

Write an article for a Guest Blog

You can also write an article for another blog. This week I exchanged emails with the editor of a well-known writer blog and in her response, she encouraged me to write another article for them. I seized the opportunity and did it. Other blogs include guidelines in their blog about how to become a guest blogger. Look for those guidelines, follow them and send in your article. In the article include some clickable links to your free giveways and you will add more people to your email list. A related way is to become a regular contributor to a blog or website. For the last several years, I've been writing an article once a month for Writers on the Move and here is the link to one of my recent posts as an example. 

Become a regular contributor to a newsletter

 I have a couple of newsletters where I am a regular contributor. They use my complete articles in their newsletter and are grateful to get the content. I am not paid for this work and I don't write original material for them. Often I will lightly rework an old article from my blog. It could be something I wrote several years ago. I give it a new opening sentence and title, then I skim the article to make sure there is nothing that is dated in it (and if I find something I rewrite it). I have set reminders on my phone to send this material every month to these newsletters. They are not a huge time commitment and I make sure each one includes links to valuable content for that reader (yet clickable links for the reader to get on my newsletter list).  

What are the ways you show up in different places? Are you using clickable links in these places which lead people to your free resources (and signing up on your email list)? Let me know in the comments below.


Learn four ways to show up in different places and achieve some of your goals from a prolific author and editor. (ClickToTweet)

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