October is waning fast and the busiest month of the year is on the horizon. Soon we will be facing a new year, new challenges and looking forward to new successes. Have you met all of your 2006 goals or are you scrambling to accomplish everything? Are you prepared to set goals for the new year?
Maybe this year you wanted to write a book, try a new book promotion activity, sell a certain number of books or start a freelance writing business, for example.
Here are some tips for those of you who havenâ€™t accomplished all that you hoped so far this year.
1: Rethink your goals. Itâ€™s not too late to alter them. If the pressure to achieve is hampering your performance, revise your goals. Once the pressure is off, you might be surprised at what you will accomplish.
2: Set new goals. Itâ€™s possible that your original goals were unrealistic. Itâ€™s okay to review and regroup. I review my status and goals every few months and adjust my expectations and my plan accordingly. Letâ€™s say that you are writing a book and you wanted to give it as gifts this Christmas. Yet, you are only half-way finished with the writing and it has taken you eighteen months to reach this point. You have a few choices: Either extend your completion date or step up the amount of time you spend on this project each week.
What can you sacrifice on behalf of this project? Are you using your time wisely? If you really look at your life, you might discover that you could devote ten to 25 more hours per week to the book if youâ€™d only write instead of watching TV, write during your lunch hour at work, stay home rather than going clubbing on Friday nights and put in more writing hours on weekends.
If you really must present this book as gifts this holiday season, you may want to reorganize your life for the next few months. Take a leave from your clubs and organizations, turn down overtime at work, use your accumulation of vacation time in order to write, do your Christmas shopping online and by catalog this year and avoid offering your home for holiday festivities.
3: Be kind to yourself. Often, when we donâ€™t meet our goals, we are disappointed in ourselves. We feel as though we have failed. If you havenâ€™t lived up to your own expectations, donâ€™t beat yourself up. But do reexamine life circumstances and your expectations.
Letâ€™s say that you planned to be earning a living through your freelance writing business by now, but youâ€™re still relying on a wages from a part-time job to keep you financially afloat. You can consider yourself a failure or you can celebrate what you have achieved so far. Maybe last year, you were working full-time earning $40,000/year and you were yearning to earn this much as a freelance writer by now. Why didnâ€™t this happen the way you wanted it to and within your time schedule?
Iâ€™d say that the fact that you are managing a part-time freelance writing business by now is an amazing accomplishment. Itâ€™s not easy to shift from a good corporate job to an at-home business built on nothing more than your ingenuity, talent, creativity and assertiveness.
In order to turn this part-time business into full-time, you can do one of two things: You can lower your salary standards at least temporarily, take the leap and go into your business full-time. In other words, take off the training wheels. Or you can step up the promotion of your business. Depending on the type of freelance work youâ€™re doing (articles, editing, corporate writing, etc.) itâ€™s probably not realistic to expect to match your former salary at firstâ€”or maybe ever.
4: Become more organized. Maybe being more organized was actually one of your yearly goals, but you arenâ€™t accomplishing more and you still feel scattered and disorganized. Here are some tips to help you to at least end the year feeling more together and orderly.
â€¢ Make lists. Each evening sit down with your day planner, appointment calendar, job ledger and/or journal and note the tasks that need to be done the next day and throughout the week. Note any looming deadlines, scheduled appointments and pending details that need to be taken care of. I even go so far as to set time goals in the order that I want to achieve these tasks on my nightly list. Amidst my list of appointments, errands, writing projects and so forth, I also schedule time for a walk each day. I find that, if itâ€™s on my written schedule, I will probably do it.
â€¢ Clean up your office space. If your area is orderly, youâ€™re more apt to function in a more organized manner. Plus, youâ€™ll be able to find the files you need when you need them.
â€¢ Invest in filing cabinets, bins, shelving and other organizing apparatus and use them to stay physically organized. Make a place for everything and keep everything in its place.
â€¢ Take on only what you can handle. If you get rattled when you have more than a couple of clients at a time or you have too many articles to write at once, learn to say no. If your publisherâ€™s deadline is interfering with your ability to perform, negotiate a new one. If freelance writing is your dream life, however, you really do need to figure out how to manage the pressure of multi-tasking and numerous and varied projects.
â€¢ Handle research like a pro. The process of research is necessary in almost any writing project. Yet, it can be an overwhelming, time-consuming activity which generates volumes and volumes of material. Stay organized during the research process by having a plan:
Schedule time for research or you may get carried away with it and get nothing else accomplished. On a major project, set aside two days a week for research so you donâ€™t burn out or two hours each day, for example. This helps alleviate the tendency to procrastinate, too.
Know what information you need and, unless it is going to enhance your book or article, donâ€™t go outside these parameters.
Create file folders for the information you find. File it separately by subject. If youâ€™re writing a book featuring gifts from the garden, you might separate the research material in folders labeled, edible gifts, decorative gifts, living gifts, gifts to plant and grow and dried plant gifts.
Make sure the information you collect is correct. In the case of a reference, or how-to book, for example, where you are gathering facts and figures, double and triple check everything to make sure you are passing along the correct data to your readers. When I was doing the research for the history of the Ojai Valley (1983 and 1999), I had to search for the same material in several different places numbers of times because of discrepancies. In some cases, I was unable to find a definitive fact and I had to use qualifiers in the book such as, â€œAccording to so and so,â€ or â€œAs far as anyone knows,â€ etc.
Keep track of where each piece of information came from and the creatorâ€™s name. This will help you in case you have to go back in search of additional facts and in case you want to contact the author for an interview, for example. But, also, you will need this information should you decide to use it in your book or article.
Know when to stop the research. It is easy to get carried away in the world of facts, figures and statistics. I spent five years researching for the first edition of The Ojai Valley, An Illustrated History. But I was doing the research at the library, in the homes of pioneer descendants and at the museum, for example. And I was doing it part-time while involved in life and living.
â€¢ Take time away from work regularly to play, exercise, engage in spiritual pursuits and to enjoy your family and friends. A balanced lifestyle fosters productivity.
If youâ€™re a goal setter or even if you have an informal timeline in the back of your mind, the month of October is a good time to take inventory and, perhaps, to review and regroup. In looking over the work Iâ€™ve done so far this year and after examining my accomplishments, Iâ€™ve decided two things: Iâ€™d like to write another book and I need to get out and play more often. Iâ€™ve met my year-end goal already with 2.5 months to spare. I spent most of the year working on workshop and conference presentations and on other peopleâ€™s books. It looks like itâ€™s time for me to set a new schedule. Maybe Iâ€™ll set a goal to continue the work on one of my own books or start a new one before the end of the year. And I think Iâ€™ll take some time off during December to enjoy the season.
Whatâ€™s on your agenda? If it doesnâ€™t make your heart sing and your pocketbook grow, maybe itâ€™s time to review and regroup.
Patricia Fry is the author of 24 books including The Right Way to Write, Publish and Sell Your Book. Order your copy NOW at: http://www.matilijapress.com/rightway.html