AUTHOR TIME MANAGEMENT

As 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 writing endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson, wordsmith and design consultant

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

To learn about The Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian Mysteries and other projects, visit my author’s website, JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com 

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

PUBLIC SPEAKING, 2

All the World’s a Stage…and it awaits the imprint of your brand!

The success of any branding program rests on harmonizing the look, sound, and feel of all of its elements!  That includes the setting in which an author appears. And while you may not be able to control every aspect of the physical environment of your presentations, you can enhance the positive impact of some aspects to boost the effectiveness of your overall book marketing program.

The Venue
If you have never spoken at the venue, you’ll be relying on the event’s organizers to provide the correct information regarding lighting, voice amplification, and projection of materials you’ll utilize to highlight your speaking points. In addition, they’ll be scheduling the podium, table, and/or chair from which you’ll speak.

If possible, visit the venue in advance of the event. While this may be easy in your home town, it can be impossible when you’re working in another city [let alone country]. Therefore, it’s good to arrive a day in advance of your presentation. If you’re lucky, you will be delivering your remarks at the hotel in which you are staying.  As this is seldom the case, travel with the basics you require to be effective.

From a Stage or…
Depending on your height and weight, and position in relation to the audience, you may need to modify your hair, clothing, shoes, and/or accessories to maximize your facial and overall visibility. Speaking engagements often occur in rooms with a stage that is at least a step above the floor on which the audience is seated. This enhances your visibility as a speaker, but it means you must look good from the top of your head to the bottoms of your shoes. And although many stages are carpeted, older wooden or tiled stages may have uneven surfaces, for which you will require sturdy and slip-resistant footwear.

Solo Performance
Sole presenters in a public venue usually have access to a podium. Free-standing or table top, it should offer sides that mask your script, notes, watch, and other items you may need to reference. Unless a free-standing podium is constructed of a tubular frame, it is probable that you’ll be visible only from your chest up. That gives you more flexibility in your stance and movement of your feet. If the podium is comprised of a hollow frame, or positioned on top of a table that has no tablecloth, you will not have that luxury.

Whispers to Screams
The quality of your natural speaking voice can be either an asset or detriment in public speaking. Depending on your audience, even the strongest of voices expressed in the wrong tonal range can be hard for some listeners to hear properly. Many podiums are set up with a microphone fixed in position. If you learn you’ll be using a hand-held mic, you may want to obtain a small stand in order to free your hands for gesturing, pointing to overhead projections, etc. Having said this, I must note some presenters like to speak off the cuff rather from written material and prefer a hand-held or wireless mic so they can roam freely—sometimes even moving within their audience.

Be aware that the effectiveness of the microphone you use [especially lavaliere or headsets] can depend on your neckline, arrangement of hair, and any chain or necklace you wear. Also consider that dangling earrings and loose watches or bracelets can interfere with sound projection.

Having a strong voice may lessen the need to provide your own electronic equipment. However, if you are embarking on a lengthy tour, you might consider acquiring sound equipment that can make you more independent of the facilities in which you appear—if it is compatible with the speakers to which your equipment will be connected. In making such a decision, you will want to seek the input of an electronics specialist.

Inviting Displays
Will you be able to set up a display that greets and enlivens your audience? At the minimum, you should be able to drape a banner over the front of a podium [using double sided tape, if nothing else]. I carry the banner from the release of Prospect for Murder, first of the Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries. I also travel with varied sizes of boxes on which I can place color-coordinated tablecloths to create heightened surfaces for displaying signage, products, and handouts. And I carry stands of varying proportions to maximize visibility across a room. Do be cautious about displaying valuable items which could disappear…

Enlargements of colorful book covers, pictures of previous appearances, and banners with both your image and the works you’re presenting make a wonderful background for highlighting sales sheets, future project descriptions, and business cards. Since Murder on Mokulua Drive has an embossed jacket front, I present it on a stand, as well as on the table top to invite people to pick it up.  If there is a theme to your work, you can add decorative items that reinforce that reference. As most of my work centers on Hawai`i, I display a shell lei or two, a golden fish business card holder, and tablecloths that harmonize with my book cover colors.

Ensuring You have What You Need
If you’re speaking in your home town and have checked out the venue, you’ll know what you need to carry with you. The one thing that may affect your preparations is a change in the size of your audience, thereby impacting the number of books and handouts required. When traveling to a long-distance destination, you may be able to send a box ahead to a friend, colleague, or the hotel in which you will be staying. Regardless of whether that is an option, strategize the items that you should carry personally, rather than check into a luggage compartment.

I recall my gratitude for arriving in Hilo (after flying back from the U.S. mainland) two days in advance of a performance of Scottish Highland Dancing, since my costumes remained in Honolulu by mistake. I now keep the following items with me personally when traveling to author appearances: memory sticks and a master copy of materials needed for display and distribution; one copy of pertinent books and project samples; one small tablecloth and a shell lei to personalize a display; one copy of a short biography; two 3 x 5 inch cards with an introduction of me and my presentation; a brass name badge and any pertinent professional badges; a beautiful artificial orchid for my hair; and, one elegant jacket to dress up even an emergency wardrobe purchase if my luggage does not arrive with me!

This is the second of three discussions of Public Speaking Engagements.My next blog will address the ways in which public speaking engagements can enhance your branding as an author, and will be featured at Hometown Reads .

Wishing you the best in your adventures as an author or other creative professional endeavors,
Jeanne Burrows-Johnson
author, narrator, consultant, motivational speaker

Suggestions for Dynamic Public Appearances are available at:
Author Appearances, December 2015
Promo Materials for Public Speaking, July 2018
All the World’s a Stage, August 2018
Final Preparations for Public Speaking, September 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.

A BIRTHDAY REVIEW

In checking the date of my last blog, I realize how long it’s been since my last one. With all that’s taken place in the last couple of years, the conclusion of 2017 and the arrival of 2018 inspired me to examine the process that brought me to my recent birthday.

What are your memorable birthday milestones?
Have you found that for most people, birthdays are either super important, or nothing at all?  I guess I fall into the latter category…with a few exceptions.  At age eight, my grandmother baked a cake with a beautiful doll embedded in the center.  At 21, I was treated to gourmet French cuisine by a young man on a limited budget. I was surprised on my fiftieth birthday with a party planned by friends, colleagues, and clients.   Continue reading A BIRTHDAY REVIEW

Empowering Your Words

The peaks of your power

Effective Sequencing can Empower Your Words

For decades, I’ve shaped effective written materials for clients and myself.  At the end of assignments, clients often ask if there’s a definitive method for generating quality writing.  Unfortunately, while aspects of the pieces I write can serve as virtual templates, I have to report there’s no magic potion for guaranteeing effectual wordsmithing.  For anyone.  Amateur or pro, the key to quality writing is blending creativity with exhaustive editing.

Feeling nervous to launch your writing project?  Ask yourself one simple question:  Am I so focused on the final product that I’m inhibiting my ability to write?  Your honest answer might be a reluctant yes.  If so, merely facing a pen or keyboard can be traumatic.  In response, consider performing a visualization exercise.  Without committing yourself to serious meditative practices, you should be able to picture your target audience reacting positively to a large screen presentation of your message.  Armed with this optimistic image, you should feel better prepared to set your verbal vehicle on the path to success.

How will you reach your goal?  Regardless of the type of text you are composing, I’ve found that outlining is an invaluable tool.  I believe there are three essential steps to shaping a focused outline:

~  Write a mission statement summarizing your project’s purpose
 ~  List key points in a progressive sequence that validates your summary
~  Craft a closing statement summarizing how you’ve met the goals of your mission

You now have a recipe for determining the content and sequencing of the elements of your composition.  The exact position of the various components will vary, depending on the product you’re fabricating.  The key points on your list may yield paragraphs in an essay, article or speech.  They may also become individual pages in a website.  If you are seeking financial backing for a new business, they could become categories within your business plan.  And fiction?  Well, your list may be the plotline that yields the chapters of a prize winning novel.

Despite my assertion that such organization will aid every writing endeavor, do not suppose that good writers never experience confusion, indecision, or misdirection.  The writing process is a dovetailing of creative and technical activity.  As you plunge into the construction process of your project, you will need to alternate between capturing the essence of what you want to say and coldly editing what you have written.  The beauty of this double pronged approach is that you can let your thoughts flow freely, knowing that the structure of your work will evolve as you edit your way toward a harmonious conclusion. I certainly found this approach to wordsmithing invaluable in writing the first Natalie Seachrist Hawaiian mysteries, Prospect For Murder.

This approach facilitates your remaining productive, even when experiencing writer’s block.  For if you feel your creativity as a writer has stagnated, you can turn to another aspect of the project.  Is there supporting material that requires your attention?  Perhaps you need to shape a bibliography or glossary, or a preface, afterword or acknowledgement section If you’re responsible for printing, broadcasting, or uploading the final product, you may also need to work on color, form, texture, and artwork to present your thoughts with dynamism to your readers or viewers.  And, of course, there’s always your personal bio or corporate mission statement to revisit…

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

Tips to enhancing your writing may be found in:
Empowering Your Words, February 2015
Creating Fictional Characters, March 2015
Sidestepping Writer’s Block, April 2015
Communicating with Every Sense, May 2015
Energizing Narrative Passages, September 2015
The Author Recycles, July 2017
Balancing Text & Space, February 2017
Book Series Adventures, April 2018
Drawing on Sense Memories, July 2018

For further tips on branding, please visit my marketing website
Imaginings Wordpower and Design Consultation.

To learn more about the Natalie Seachrist Mysteries, including the new release, Murders of Conveyance, a few Island recipes and my other projects, please visit my author website at JeanneBurrows-Johnson.com.