April Moore on Work Habits (Part 2)

Go To Your Room
If I had known how much I could have accomplished as a kid when my parents sent me to my room, I’d have
a seven-book series by now. Today, I treasure alone time in my room where instead of plotting revenge on my
sister, I actually get quality time to write. Claim your own space, whether it’s a room, a corner, or a table. Your
area should also consist of only what you need to write. Don’t work at a desk where you pay bills, or do other
hobbies. You need to focus on writing. My area is the guest bedroom. I found a small desk at a flea market,
painted it and parked it by the window. The closet, situated behind the desk, houses my weapons of writing:
reference books, research, and all those extra office supplies I stocked up on. (You can never have too many
Post-Its). Make the space inviting—but only to you. You need to be left alone, so politely inform your spouse,
your kids, and your dog (who’s holding the leash in his mouth) to not bother you while you are in this special
space of yours. I’m one of those who needs a change of scenery every once in a while, so sometimes I’ll work
in the sun room, out on the deck, or on the living room couch. But inevitably, I find that I’m most productive
when I go to my room.

Break it Down
I tend to freak myself out thinking about the amount of work I have ahead of me. Nothing like a bit of fear to
kill your motivation. I must remind myself to take baby steps. Luckily, Folsom’s 93 can be broken down into
roughly 93 steps. So, I tackle one at a time, sometimes two. If your project feels like deciphering the Dead Sea
Scrolls, then break it down. Work on one scroll at time—or half a scroll. Don’t put more pressure on yourself
than you need to. Shoot for a certain number of pages a day to get done. Maybe it’s one chapter at time, or one
article a day, or the introduction of your book proposal. You will feel more accomplished and productive if you
take on only what you can handle that day. When I applied this method, I had those scrolls deciphered in no
time.

Reward Yourself
What does your little heart desire? (Think small for this, okay?) Maybe it’s a new book, a nice bottle of wine,
or going to the theater to see a movie. Now, choose the task or project you need to do and set a deadline. When
you meet that deadline, reward yourself. I know this may sound simplistic, but it works. Yes, you could give
yourself the reward anyway, but show some willpower, because trust me, that reward is way less satisfying if
you truly didn’t earn it. Write your deadline and reward on a board or post it on the refrigerator to keep you
motivated. Get the family involved to help support you on your journey because it’s even more rewarding when
others can share it with you.

With a bit of creativity, it’s possible to be a productive writer without fleeing to deserted beach house, or a
lonely cabin in the mountains.

 

Thank you, April, for this great advice for us all. And thank you, readers, in advance, for checking out April’s project when you get the chance. 

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Accountability

This week was a big, steaming brown pile from an accountability standpoint.

Instead of working on writing goals, I built some furniture with my son, visited with old friends from out of town and cleaned the living bajeezus out of my back yard and garage.

I did manage to meet my basic moneymaking goals, to post on this blog and work on an ongoing speculative project I plan to launch soon. I also finished off a larger assignment and took two meetings on another project I might become embroiled in.

I should have scheduled this week as a week off — I knew ahead of time how hard it would be to get everything done. That way I’d feel pretty okay about meeting my plan instead of vaguely uptight with myself for slacking off.

Ah well — the best part of screwing up is that you get to try again.

Thanks for listening.

Accountability: The Finish Line

Thank you, one and all, for your support with my accountability project for April and May. With your help, I reached my productivity goals. I know you didn’t actively help, but that’s the beauty of stating goals publicly. It was simply knowing I would post — and that somebody might razz me if I didn’t post — that kept me on track even when it was hard.

I’m making a shift in my working goals going forward. I don’t need the kind of immediate money I did for the past cycle. Instead, I’m going to spend the summer focusing on speculative projects. This requires a different kind of accountability and a different approach to goal setting.

  • I can’t put a dollar total on the goals, because speculative projects don’t earn money immediately.
  • I shouldn’t set a hard goal based on things out of my control, like “five hundred daily visitors to my blog.” This leads to frustration and eventually abandoning my goals altogether.
  • I will need to include a minimum earnings per month so I can keep paying rent and spoiling my wife and children.

I have a basic plan, but will announce it next Sunday. In the interim, I’ll be focusing on programs of assessment and accountability for authors. It might give me some good ideas.

As always, I’m eager to hear what you all have to say. Please comment with your own methods for making sure you get done what needs getting done — especially for projects with no hard deadline.

Thanks for listening.

Accountability, Week Six

Rough week, accountability-wise. I set my goal for this week low, because of my surgery on Tuesday, and failed to meet even that goal. I did make all my deadlines, in terms of articles I’d promised to deliver, but wrote very little more than that.

This was bound to happen over the corse of nine weeks of work, and I will need to adjust my goals going forward in order o make up for the shortfall. It’s all part of treating my writing like a business. Businesses have bad weeks, but they track their statistics carefully enough to catch trends before they become bad months.

Stats for this week:

  • Total Earnings Goal: $1,000
  • Total Earnings This Week: $735
  • Earnings Compared to Benchmark: 73%
  • Total Earnings So Far: $11,745
  • Progress Toward Long-Term Goal: 59%
Thanks for listening.

Accountability, Week Five

Not much to say this week. Had a lot of stuff going on, and I made my quota. Home now after a long trip to the beach and a generally long and rocky weekend.

I should be going to bed, but I’ m posting because I said I would. I guess that’s the freelancing advice for this post. Sometimes you have to do what you don’t necessarily want to simply because it’s what you said you would do.

Stats for this week:

  • Total Earnings Goal: $2,000
  • Total Earnings This Week: $2010
  • Earnings Compared to Benchmark: 100%
  • Total Earnings So Far: $11,010
  • Progress Toward Long-Term Goal: 55%
Thanks for listening.

Accountability, Week Four

I fell $130 short of goal this week. I could slam it out tonight, but instead I’m going to spend time with family who’s home for Easter. Part of this is because of the holiday weekend, part of it is due to the nice weather. A large part can be blamed on having discovered the program Sons of Anarchy.

The nice thing is that I beat my benchmarks during some earlier weeks. Meaning that, although I’m slightly behind for this week, I’m still ahead slightly towards my overall goals. This, I think, is the big lesson here. Tom Callos drummed into me about the power of slow, steady progress toward a goal. I slacked off this week, but I’m good to go because I’ve been on the path thus far. If I’d been slacking off for all the weeks, I’d be in a world of hurt.

Stats for this week:

  • Total Earnings Goal: $2,250
  • Total Earnings This Week: $2,110
  • Earning Compared to Benchmark: 94%
  • Total Earnings So Far: $9,000
  • Progress Toward Long-Term Goal: 45%
Thanks for listening.

They Said it Couldn’t Be Done

So here’s the deal: my family may need $20,000 by the beginning of June. By that I mean $20,000 more than we’re likely to have.

One of the great things about working as a freelance writer is that your income – once you’ve established yourself – is limited only by how much work you’re willing to do. In general, I prefer to work a little and spend time with my family. Although steering this course will mean less time with them, I plan to schedule most of it while they’re asleep.

Twenty grand in nine weeks. Every goal-setting advisor or other coach I’ve listened to says that making a goal public exponentially increases your chances of achieving it.

I have now drawn my line in the proverbial sand. As of today, I’m on track. I’ll check in from time to time with my progress, and some observations about setting and meeting goals – especially how that affects making a living as a freelance writer or other sort of stay-at-home dad.

Thanks for listening.