AUTHOR TIME MANAGEMENT

Jeanne Burrows-JohnsonAs I wrote the blog that will first appear on Hometown Reads beginning on November 5, 2019, I realized the irregularity with which I’ve been writing for this site. Setting aside the publication of Murders of Conveyance, the third Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery and two bouts of flu, scheduling my time has been a major challenge to my productivity this year…Thus,  time management has been on my mind.

SUCCESSFUL SCHEDULING

Every professional finds challenges in maximizing productivity. Often the problem exists in both personal and professional living. That has certainly been true for me. The Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery series is growing, and I maintain two websites, this blog, and two Facebook pages. These ongoing projects are my excuse for untimely scheduling this year. It has seemed that there are several deadlines I have faced each day and while I’m putting out those fires, I’ve failed to follow a simple time management matrix.

STEPHEN R. COVEY & DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER

One of the most important philosophers in my life has been author and business consultant Stephen Covey [1932-2012].  He was a dynamic man who based his secular advice on his personal faith in the precepts of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His doctoral dissertation was based on analysis of self-help books which he would add to later for the benefit of people of many professions and philosophies. For many of his readers, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was his most impactful book, which helps to move one from dependence to independence to interdependence. I found the most memorable advice he presented was the Eisenhower Matrix, a decision-making tool for prioritizing one’s activity, which he attributed to U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower. [Note, the President credited the concept to an unnamed college president.]

EXAMINING YOUR INBOX

Consider the following classifications for the items in your existing calendar and inbox:

 A. URGENT, IMPORTANT                   B. NOT URGENT, IMPORTANT
 C. URGENT, NOT IMPORTANT         D. NOT URGENT OR IMPORTANT

Obviously that which is Urgent and Important must be addressed first. This could be the biographical paragraph your publisher has requested for your latest book or a cover letter that you will package with gift copies. Conversely, items that are not Urgent or Important [Quadrant D] should be examined for worthiness; do they even merit being on your schedule? If they are indeed things worth keeping, can you handle them in a more effective way?

For instance, maintaining good relations with colleagues and service suppliers can be vital to your success. But rather than having frequent personal meetings, consider scheduling occasional festive events that include several of these people…or if they are not in close proximity to you, consider meaningful gifting at unexpected times. For instance, rather than sending cards and gifts for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Christmas, consider Thanksgiving, New Year, or even an unexpected surprise at Asian Lunar New Year. As to gifts, consider whether there is something distinctive about your work that would be appropriate. In both fiction and non-fiction, the focus of most of my writing is Hawai`i, so an obvious gift for me to share is Hawaiian macadamia nut candy.

Once you’ve dealt with Quadrant A’s Urgent and Important items and the elimination or redirection of the Non-urgent and Unimportant things lingering in Quadrant D, look at the Non-urgent but Important listings in Quadrant C. You have declared them to be urgent; but, they are not important in the abstract. This area of concern includes spur-of-the-moment issues that arise, as well as administrative paperwork and organization.

For me, activity in this area usually focuses on filing—especially the growing number of my biographies. These are written in both first and third person, ranging from two sentences to a couple of pages. Generic ones have a conversational tone and discuss my life in general. Others focus on my fiction [especially the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries]. Academic ones present non-fiction projects like Conversations with Auntie Carol, A Series of Hawaiian Oral History Interviews. Organized by word count, I can quickly determine bios that meet the requirements of an unexpected request. Usually, I then copy/paste contenders into a new document and create a new bio or two that can be folded into the master file.

We have now arrived at the all-important consideration of items within our Quadrant B. Why take it out of order? As Stephen Covey would say, this area of concern should be the essential focus of our attention in setting our daily, weekly, monthly, and overall life schedule. If we constantly work on the non-Urgent but Important areas of our professional and personal life, we will find there are less deadlines to be faced…and eventually experience balanced living. Of course, that does not mean that unexpected emergencies will not occur to encroach on our time periodically.

In preparing for expansion of my career as an author, I’ve faced many issues this year. They have included: redesigning my two websites, learning to insert art and audio files into this blog, creating a professional Facebook page, and completing both Yen for Murder (the fourth NS mystery) and writing an annotated introduction to the Auntie C project [including 74 endnotes]. The overlapping of these projects has been daunting at times, BUT the time spent on future editing should be manageable!

ALIGNING YOUR CALENDAR

Let’s complete our time management exercise by re-examining the contents of our daily, weekly, and monthly calendars from this new perspective. You may have pre-set appointments like children’s schooling and other activities, your own working hours, wellness appointments, etc. Even the scheduling of these could be altered or made flexible.

Are there other parents with whom you might share transportation? Would your employer consider changes in your schedule like a reduction or shift to earlier/later hours, or even remote work from your home? Can you shift medical, dental and therapy/exercise appointments to days of the week or month to harmoniously fill out set blocks of time? Within those preset appointments, you could double your productivity as I do in performing a bit of library research prior to meetings of my authors salon.

How might you delegate some of the work you now undertake personally? Should you hire an accountant for bookkeeping and tax filing? If this is not an option, consider software that can optimize the hours you do invest in this activity. I am fortunate that many obligations I once undertook have passed to my husband who is retired. He now handles shopping, bill paying, and even the preparation of most dinners, allowing me to pursue completion of inspiration in my work.

Like my protagonist, Natalie Seachrist, I am an avid devotee of list making. When I look at items falling within Quadrant B, I have found that several lend themselves to specific times of the year, when other required and/or predictable activity lessens. That usually means there are gaps in my schedule during the winter holiday season and summer, when many people I work with professionally are on vacation. These are the times that I clean out hardcopy folders, sort through old research, rearrange and re-label files. Well, this summer has passed without any of those tasks being addressed…so, I guess you know how my holidays will be spent!

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

author, narrator, design consultant, motivational speaker

You may also wish to check out my blog on Fear of Losing Files

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

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AUDIO BOOKS 1

The award winning first Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery

Prospect for Murder is the first award-winning
Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery 
written and narrated by
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson Continue reading AUDIO BOOKS 1

Tips From a Newbie Blogger

Is your pen always at the ready?What can a newbie blogger tell you? Are you expanding your practice of the Art & Science of Writing?Perhaps you’re thinking of beginning your own blog.  Recently I’ve received requests for tips on setting up a blog.  Before launching into how I’ve created and maintain this site, I must clarify that I’m not a techie and do not possess the mental acumen to write the code required to build any website from scratch.

If you are a professional writer, having a blog can be a key feature of your authoring strategies Regardless of whether you are an author, you may be thinking your greatest concern is what you’ll write about.  I suggest that if you feel the need to have a blog, the contents of it are already floating in your mind.  The quality of your output will, of course, depend on your skill set.

Setting up a blog demands many things beyond the writing of text.  Therefore, today I’ll focus on the mechanics of creating a blog. The first and recurring requirement for doing this is having the patience to accomplish the task.  Next on my list of requirements, is my favorite pairing of ingredients in most things I do:  Art and Science.  I place the issue of art at the fore, because without an artist’s inspiration, you’re less likely to create an appealing space that will capture and keep your readers’ attentionPlease note that I’m not suggesting that all of us are worthy of assuming the title of artist.  However, we can reach for the artist’s balance of mind and spirit in exploring color, shape, and overall composition—regardless of the style in which we create our memorable statements.

As to the element of science, whether or not you are a techie, there are sources to help you determine the appropriate building blocks for bringing your vision to fruition.  Your research can begin with querying your favorite search engines This will provide the technical terminology you need to be able to ask intelligent questions during online searches and efficient analysis of tech manuals.

Even if you decide you’re not qualified to build a blog site, this preparation will help you communicate effectively with specialists in building websites.  For by the time you’re ready to launch the building of a blog, you should have established a connection with a reliable techie or tech support company—online, if not in person.

Parallel to my June 2015 blog on Media Relations, I suggest you make the most of every contact you can develop.  How do you go about making friends with techies?  If you are able to move from online communication to meeting in person, take a page from your personal life.  Coffee, lunch, or drinks (not necessarily alcoholic) moves you into a social atmosphere in which you can explore commonalities and a potential working relationship with the person.  Regardless of how you connect, when it’s time to formalize a professional relationship, be specific about your needs and desires Ask the individual or company to clarify the services they will be performing for you and the fees you will pay.  Depending on the parameters of the work involved, a contract may be called for.  If that is so, you may want to consult colleagues as well as an attorney prior to signing a contract or making any payment.

 Personally, although I’ve designed my own websites several times, I am now using website and blog templates provided by the company that hosts my online presence.  Regardless of the tools used, the design of a website or blog is a major commitment of energy and time.  This is especially true since search engines now expect a level of optimization that meets the standards of the latest electronic devices—and those standards never stop changing.  Fortunately, an international company providing templates should ensure that the products they offer their clients are state of the art.  They may also help you with a program of search engine optimization.

Before you feel I have failed to help you in your hour of need, let me tell you how I’ve modified the template for this blog.  Fortunately the templates provided by such a company usually offer varied features and levels of adaptability.  There are some limitations I’ve had to accept, since I chose to accept the parameters of a free template.  For example, while current posts offer my bio at the bottom, it does not appear in posts that have been archived.  Also, without utilizing an add-on menu, I cannot customize items in the contents list to the left of the page—nor can I modify their appearance.  And, although I’ve can choose the text colors of my posts, I am unable to do so for their titles.

Design features in the blog were drawn from my website. Harmonious in appearance, both feature:

My artwork includes a banner with my logo at the top of each page
~  Ivory colored backgrounds
~  Dark blue and plum colored fonts
Favicons with my logo to the left of the URLs

Color is a very important element in any visual project While there are many blues and golds to choose from, I selected colors for my logo that print well in gray scale.  The blue is deep enough to print as nearly black when printed in gray scale.  Conversely, the gold I work with is light enough that it prints as a light gray, allowing the lettering in the blue to be readable.  I should point out that the colors I tend to use are close to, but not exactly web safe colors.  This means that I provide subtleties that most visitors to my website or blog will view; but should a visitor’s monitor and software limit the range of visible colors, their default settings will be close to my design.

The operation and maintenance for a website or blog may rest on trial and error…at least initially.  When I first uploaded posts, I was not aware of choices I could make in visibility.  There were also instances where I failed to notice a typo or changed my mind about the wording of a section of text.  Eventually I recognized the value of choosing the preview option after inputting text.  This allows you to make sure that both the content and its appearance are pleasing.  As a final test, I read the text out loud, prior to hitting the publish button.

Determining the topics I explore in posts is purely personal and often a spur-of-the-moment decision In my weekly authors’ salon, areas of concern and new discoveries arise as we share materials we are reading and writing.  My commentary is also motivated by edits of text that reveal recurring flaws in my own work.  This particular post is in response to repeated questions from readers of this blog and visitors to my website.

When launching this blog, I was reviewing the first three books in a trilogy of murder mysteries set in Honolulu, where I lived for over two decades.  With the launch of Prospect For Murder, I am moving forward with seeking publication of the next two books in the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mystery Series.  I’m sure that my personal issues with writing and editing will continue to encourage me to examine questions of authorship that may be occurring in your own work.

Finally, I want to thank a couple of readers who sent suggestions for improving the coding used within this blog, and for heightening its search engine optimization.  I’m just beginning to act upon your welcome response by changing the formatting of images from JPEGs or GIFS to PNGs…

Wishing you the best in your creative endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, design consultant, motivational speaker

To learn more about the Conversations with Auntie Carol, the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including Murders of Conveyance [Winner, Fiction Adventure-Drama, 2019 New Mexico-Arizona Book Awards], Island recipes and other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

For more ideas to strengthen your Wordpower© and branding, please visit: Https://www.ImaginingsWordpower.com.

FOLLOW ME:
Facebook
Amazon

Apple Books
Audible
Authors Den
Barnes and Noble
Blogarama
Book Bub
Cozy Mysteries-Unlimited
Good Reads
Hometown Reads
Midpoint
Smashwords