More Accountability

Hi all,

After a week of research and reporting — and looking at my position in relationship to my goals, I’ve decided to go with a pyramid structure for my writing. I’m organizing it weekly to give myself maximum flexibility. It’s summer, and my wife is a public school teacher. We tend to get out a lot with them all out of school, so a daily routine won’t work. My overall plan for this summer includes the following broad-stroke goals:

  • I need to meet quotas on my bread-and-butter web content assignments. It’s my main source of income, and will fund the wild excesses I plan to spoil my family with.
  • I want to grow this blog, and plan to launch a total of three more by summer’s end, and to begin transitioning myself out of primarily doing content work and into long-form articles and books.
  • I must continue to market my work, and network with colleagues, editors and industry insiders.
  • I need to keep myself sharp by continuing to educate myself and remain informed about what’s going on in the industry and the world.
The trouble with these is that they’re all ongoing projects. None have an end in sight that lends itself to simple timeline. That’s why I’m adopting a pyramid approach to accountability — they’re ideal for assigning yourself sufficient progress on continuing work.  So, in front of y’all I do solemnly swear to do my damnedest to meet the following goals every week. Some weeks I’ll fail. Other’s I’ll exceed them. So long as I stay near those benchmarks, I should do all right. Every week, I will complete:
  1. Education Module — a unit of reading or other research that keeps me up. I might read a magazine or magazine, listen to a relevant podcast or complete some kind of training program.
  2. Admin Sessions — including keeping up with email, tweaking blogs, sending invoices, writing letters and strategic planning.
  3. Blog “Packages” — “package” is loosely defined. For this blog, it’s a week’s worth of posts. The new ones I’ve divided into chunks of similar startup work.
  4. Proposals — of magazine articles, other long-form articles, or significant work on book proposals.
  5. Acts of Marketing — a phrase I learned from Tom Callos. This can be anything I do that builds my readership and brand. This includes applying for new assignments.
  6. Units of Paid Content Writing — I’ve defined a “unit” as a specific amount of money earned. This will be enough to make my nut.
I want to thank you all in advance for being out there and keeping me on track. It’s surprising how much the possibility of public humiliation can motivate.
And, as always, thanks for listening.
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Goal Setting: Volume

This is what I used for my most recent productivity cycle. You figure out how much you want to do, then divide it by the number of days you want to do it in. The result is how much you have to do, on average, each day to meet your goals. I arrived at my weekly goal by dividing my financial needs by nine weeks…resulting in the benchmarks I used for my accountability posts these past two months.

That part isn’t exactly rocket science, but there are some fine points a lot of people miss.

Set small short-term goals. It’s natural to dream big, but many of us set our goals when we’re in a gung-ho state of mind. We decide to get it all done, plus fix that riser on the stairs, this week. Reality intrudes and we fall short, discouraged. It makes it hard to want to set goals the next time around.

Set big long-term goals. So many of us get caught in the short-term goal trap that we forget what we’re capable with small contributions over the long haul. Tom Callos taught me this by asking me to run 1,000 miles and do over 50,000 pushups in one year. That’s just three miles of running each week, and 75 pushups per day. The point here isn’t that I’m a badass…it’s that you can do incredible things if you give yourself time and make yourself keep at it even after the new wears off.

Set benchmarks. Business managers know about this, and so should you if you want to manage your own writing business. Don’t say “I want to write a 365 page book this year, at one page a day.” Unless your Mr. Spock, or maybe Data, this will inevitably lead to you taking January through September off and scrambling during the fall. Instead, say “I will write 30 pages per month for one year.” This keeps you on track for success from day one…and gives you something to gauge your progress against in real time.

Remain flexible. Alert readers might have spotted some of this during my last productivity binge. My surgery took more out of me than I expected, and for longer than I’d planned for. I didn’t abandon my goals…I just shifted some numbers around and worked harder when I felt better. You can always change your plan to suit reality, and a changed plan is always better than no plan.

You can set volume goals according to work completed, money made or both. When setting money-based goals, choose between money earned and income paid to your accounts. These are sadly very different numbers. In my current cycle, I’m going to do both work and money: money for immediate income, and work for speculative projects.

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.

Friday Fun: Fukuda Keiko Sensei

  • Fukuda Sensei is 98 years old, and teaches Judo three times a week at a San Francisco dojo she’s run for more than half a century.
  • Fukuda Sensei is the highest-ranked female Judoka in the world.
  • Fukuda Sensei is the last living student of Jigoro Kano, the founder of Judo.
  • Fukuda Sensei traveled daily through Tokyo during the WWII fire bombings. To teach lessons.
  • They told Fukuda Sensei women couldn’t promote above 5th degree black belt. She made them change their minds. They tried again when she wanted 9th degree, with similar futility.
  • Fukuda Sensei refused an arranged marriage because her future husband wanted her to quit Judo. She did this in Japan. During the 1930s.
  • If Chuck Norris gets squirrelly, Fukuda Sensei tells him to cut a switch off the backyard tree. And Chuck Norris says “yes, ma’am.”
Last year, filming commenced on a documentary of her life story.
 

If you’re as inspired as I am by this project, I challenge you to donate a little to the cause of getting the film through post-production and out into the world. Find out how at www.flyingcarp.net.

So does this man

Even if you can’t contribute directly, keep an eye out for this film once it hits the world. Fukuda Sensei’s story is touching and inspiring. I can’t wait to see it told.

Thanks for listening

Shameless Self-Promotion

It’s March, and as I come closer to publicizing this project I figure some you out there might be interested in where to find other examples of my work. In prior incarnations, I’ve done three other blog projects, all with varying degrees of success.

Learning From Captain Mal was my first blog. An attempt to enjoy the character of Malcolm Reynolds from the too-brief television show Firefly. It’s self-help and business management advice from the point of view of an outlaw spaceship captain. Nothing too terribly deep, but I do think I got his voice pretty well.

Ultimate Black Belt Blog was a requirement for one of the most challenging years of my life. The “UBBT” is a year-long ordeal for people serious about using martial arts as a vehicle for improving themselves and their communities. The blog is my personal journal of that year.

After School Karate provided information on material, self-defense, nutrition and scheduling for students in an karate program I ran at four elementary schools in my area. The project was a school fundraiser with proceeds going to the PTA or PTO for the school.

All of these blogs are several years old now, and the intervening years have been the ones where I learned the most about writing. Still, they may be interesting to some folks. I hope they at least amuse.

Thanks for listening.

 

Veggies Go Crunch!

My recent article in Black Belt was about how certain skills learned in martial arts have non-combat applications that can save your life. Teenage TaeKwonDo black belt Kaynan Goldberg has taken it one step further.

It’s not uncommon for martial arts schools to require their black belt candidates to complete a project, much like the Boy Scouts require for an Eagle badge. Miss Goldberg’s project is a blog and video project about nutrition and healthy eating.

Visit Kaynan’s website “Veggies Go Crunch” to see an inspiring example of youth leadership and the possibilities of the new media. The great thing about our new pulp era is that for every self-indulgent blog like mine, there’s somebody else out there doing something important.

Congratulations, Kaynan, on a job well done.