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Making Procrastination Work FOR You

Positive procrastination

Be honest: how often do you find yourself with too much to-do list at the end of your day? I think this happens to a lot of us. And, according to Jon Acuff, author of Finish, it’s one of the things that keeps us stuck, prevents us from finishing the important things – large and small – in life. We started, but we didn’t get it done – on time, perfectly, as well as our sister-in-law would do it – so we quit entirely. Throw in the towel. Well, I’ve failed again. Why even keep going?

Just in case you’re wondering – this is a bald-faced lie your ego tells you to keep you safely inside your comfort zone. Because guess what – growing is uncomfortable. Progress is challenging. Finishing stretches muscles we may not have used in a long time. And our ego is right there to reassure us that giving up this time is OK because we really didn’t want to write that book, get that speaking gig, or plant that garden anyway. We can always get overpriced organic food at the store.

In Finish, Acuff recommends making procrastination our friend. If your goal is to finish your novel by the end of the year, you’re probably going to have to give up – or put off – some stuff that you’ve been doing while you’ve been not writing your novel. They could be smallish things – like turning the TV off – or they could be bigger things like stepping back from your leadership role – or membership in – a favorite group or club.

This doesn’t mean you’ll never do these things again, just that you’re not doing them – or as much off them – right now.

Acuff’s term is bombing some things to make way for other things. I think of it as leveraging procrastination as a tool for the good! Here’s an example. Our car was a mess. Almost-rainstorms in Phoenix create a muddy muck on the exterior of any car not garaged when the mist that spits from the sky is followed by a fine dusting of desert sand. Bonus design points when your cat walks all over the car leaving a mad paw-print motif.

catprints on car

I asked my husband to take responsibility for getting the car cleaned and replacing the windshield wipers today. He told me last night that that sounded like a reasonable one-day to-do list. Then he woke up this morning not feeling well. So I offered to go get him some grapefruit juice and chicken noodle soup. It just so happens that the auto parts store and the carwash are on the way to the grocery store. So I stopped, thinking, Since John’s not going to get this done today and I’m right here, I may as well just do it myself. Mind you, the whole reason I asked him to do these chores was to take some of the load off of my plate so I could get other things done.

This is a scenario where employing procrastination would have really worked in my favor. Could I live one more day with a dirty car? Of course! Did the windshield wipers need to be replaced today? As far as I’m aware, we’re not due a torrential monsoon storm tonight – so, no. The wipers weren’t an emergency. Oh – and while I was at the carwash, I decided to vacuum out the back because I was already at the carwash, right?

I think there’s a fine line between overcoming procrastination of the lazy, “I’ll just do it tomorrow” variety – and knowing when the thing you’re taking time to do today is actually a distraction or hindrance to your progress and process and would better be put off till another day or time.

How can/do you use procrastination as a tool for the good in your life? We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

Laura

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A recommitment to finishing!

The penultimate post… Day 34 of the 5-Week Author Blog Challenge asks what I liked and would do differently with the Author Blog Challenge. All 35 posts for this Challenge will be focused on writing, publishing, and book marketing. I hope you’ll stick around through all 35 posts. And if you want to take part, come on in – the water is great! You can register here.

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Day 34 writing prompt:

What has been the best part of participating in the Author Blog Challenge? What are your suggestions for improving the next Author Blog Challenge?

Far and away, I have loved participating in this Challenge more than either of the previous two – even when I felt the cold sweat on my neck as one day wooshed into another without a post, so many in a row that I found myself 8 days behind! Given that I am the creator and host of this Challenge, it just wouldn’t do for me to cop out and bring in anything less than all 35 posts before the 11:59:59 p.m. PDT deadline on Saturday, October 17th. God willing, since this is my penultimate post, I will be able to do that.

Two of the biggest benefits for me were the impetus to write every day – or make up for it when I didn’t bradbury for ABC2and the ability to make the publication of my novel more real to me. Thank you, Ray Bradbury! That’s such important advice that every writer would do well to try to follow.

As you know by now – if you’ve been reading these posts with any regularity at all – I’ve been working on this novel for a Long. Damned. Time. And I suppose life really did get in the way in a couple instances. But mostly, it’s been me sabotaging my own efforts and success. I’ve got a great support team, excellent editor standing by at the ready, and marketing plans that will ROCK! So now that the Challenge is over and I will have time for my other writing, I can fulfill the promise I know “Stan” holds.

90 percent down the pathYep – it’s intimidating to walk into a bookstore and see all the bright, shiny competing titles. It’s intimidating to be in the company of such great authors as the other participants in this Challenge and the members of the Phoenix Publishing & Book Promotion Meetup. It’s intimidating to see a news report about a local historical author earning in the six figures. But I know I’m a decent writer. I’ve spent a long time on “Stan” thus far and will follow this project through the final 10 percent to completion. This Challenge helped me recommit, find an editor, and figure out how to pitch the book (part travelogue, part social commentary, part fiction).

Things I’d do differently next time? Monetize it so that I can get help to run it. Really – it’s a LOT of work and I didn’t do all I wanted to, simply because family time commitments continued to drag me away. Life, I believe they call that.

So … we’ll do another Challenge, maybe six months or a year from now. Stick around. Details will arrive in your inbox if you’re a subscriber. Maybe next time you’ll join as a participant!

Please make sure to check in again tomorrow for the final post of the Challenge, when I will tell you what I plan to do to keep the momentum going.

And for the record, I’d love your feedback on my Author Blog Challenge posts! And, of course, would really love to have you support all of the bloggers in the Challenge. Find their links here.

To a very successful Author Blog Challenge!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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SUNDAY INSPIRATIONS: Procrastination time

Sunday Inspirations. Send us your favorite quote, image, poem, idea … anything that has been helpful or inspirational to your writing process. If we love it, we may use it as is, or take the inspiration and modify it in some way. Give us a link to your website or blog and we’ll be sure to give you credit! Email inspiration@writemarketdesign.com or post your suggestion in the comment section below!

Here’s today’s inspiration: “Most of those people who claim to take years to write a book are counting procrastination time.”

countin procrastination

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Overcoming the curse of overpreparing

Many years ago, I was part of a committee invested with the job of creating a new event for an organization in New York City. I was one of five women in this small group, each from diverse backgrounds, all with busy schedules. The Internet was in its infancy — this was long before Google Calendar or Doodle or MeetingWizard were around. We had to do things the old fashioned way: select a few times and then call each other until we hit on one that worked for everyone. women and wine

Once we had the meeting scheduled, we met at a restaurant one late afternoon. We ordered wine, and then we got to work. We decided on a name for the event. We chose several options for dates to run past the organization muckety-mucks. We planned a theme. We decided how we wanted to handle the food. We wrote an agenda and planned the speakers. We decided who else needed to be invited. We each took responsibility for one aspect of the event. We each had another glass of wine. And we were done.

The next time we met with our liaison for the organization, she asked how the event planning was coming. I thought she was going to fall off her chair when we told her it was all planned. Now this was a very nice woman. She was supremely skilled at her job and delightful to work with. She was not, however, efficient at organizing events or steering groups toward action. Her idea of progress was to call a meeting to discuss planning a meeting where we would get together to set a date for the meeting where we would decide when we would meet. So when she heard that we had scheduled a meeting, met, and accomplished our goal in one sitting, she was stunned.

Question for you: which one more resembles your marketing efforts? The group that was assigned a task, met, and accomplished the task, or the highly skilled woman who was terribly inefficient when it came to making progress in a group?

Overpreparing frequently shows up in candidates for job interviews and public speakers. The problem is that they can actually sabotage their own success by getting so caught up in getting ready to be ready that they fail to take a breath, rely on their skill, or demonstrate confidence. When it comes to book marketing, many authors hide behind the screen of overpreparing, which is usually just another word for procrastination.

In a discussion about social media, Barbara Chatzkel, a colleague and good friend of mine, said it well: “There will never be a perfect time, so you might as well start now.” The same can be said of your book marketing efforts.

Sure, we need to do some basics like identify our audience, know exactly what our book is about, and have a succinct answer as to why we wrote it. But much beyond that and we are apt to wade into over-preparing territory. You wrote the book, right? So you know the answers to these questions.

Where should you begin? With what works for you. Some authors enthusiastically embrace blogging, while others are not overpreparingbig fans. Some authors love Facebook and jump in with both feet; I have a client who steers clear of the most popular social network because it’s just not her thing. The best place to begin your book marketing campaign is via an avenue that meets two criteria: (1) you know it will help you reach your prospective readers and (2) it’s is within your reach.

NOTE: “Within your reach” doesn’t mean easy, free of fear, guaranteed, or without cost — it means something you can undertake now.

There’s only so much research you need to do. There are only so many times you can revise your calendar and only so many drafts of that first blog post you can justify. SOONER than later, you just need to do it. Launch your blog. Create your Facebook page. Schedule your first book signing. Write your first newsletter. Order those postcards. Press SEND on that media release.

Will it be scary? Probably. Is it guaranteed to work? No. Does doing it mean that people might actually read your book — and comment on it? That’s the goal! Does it mean you might get some negative feedback? If we’re honest, that’s always a possibility. But if you’re still scared, think back to the reason you wrote your book in the first place. Whether it was to solve a problem or entertain your reader for a few hours, you had a mission and a message, or you wouldn’t have written it.

So stop hiding  behind your computer and start telling people about your book. You can do it. I’m cheering you on. And if you need more than cheering, email me at holidaymarketing@writemarketdesign.com to claim your complimentary half-hour consultation.

Here’s to the end of the preparation and the beginning of the marketing!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below."Practical Philanthropy" book cover

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Follow UP for unfathomable success!

Time for another parable.

Stacy’s been trying for several years to make inroads to have her novel made into a film. While on vacation in the Adirondacks, she meets the personal assistant to a bigshot Hollywood agent. Stacy is an SBM* and she’s taken Marcie’s advice, rehearsing her pitch till it flows off her tongue effortlessly, so she makes an excellent impression on the assistant. He gives Stacy his card and asks her to be sure to drop him a message when she gets home – he will do what he can to get her idea in front of his boss.

The perfect setup, right? But Stacy never makes it to the end of the rainbow – and not for the reason you might think. It’s not that the agent turned down her script, but rather that she never sent that e-mail.

Sounds crazy, but people in this very situation commit similar self-sabotaging acts every day. Fear of success shows up in all kinds of ways; failure to follow up is one of the most common. It’s also a situation over which you have 100 percent control.

On the face of it, the reasons people fail to follow up are quite understandable:

  • They have no plan, and they don’t know where to begin. Even the simplest tasks usually have multiple moving parts. When we don’t have systems in place or haven’t completely mapped out our strategies, we can become frozen and keep from starting at all.
  • They tend to overthink things, making them much more complicated than they need be. We tend to “what if” ourselves out of good decisions, like picking up the phone or typing those e-mails.
  • Sometimes we get bogged down in the details about how much there is to do and wanting to do it perfectly. Perfectionists are quite often perfect at just one thing … watching the door hit them on the way out, after someone else has gotten there first.
  • Much like having a system, knowing one’s priorities is essential. But anyone who is out of control with their time can let even the most important things slip through the cracks.
  • Sometimes they just get bored. The thrill of the chase excites us; once we’ve “arrived,” we’re quickly ready to move onto the next challenge and, as a result, feel that following up is the routine, unexciting part of pitching or prospecting.
  • While it is only an excuse, stress is very real and often quite debilitating. When we don’t manage our processes, have no sense of time, and/or procrastinate out of perfectionism, it’s no wonder we get stressed out. Stress is a distraction that can cause depression and other paralyzing behaviors that stop us from making what should be effortless progress.

These are all real reasons that smart, would-be successful people fail to follow up. However, when you get down to it, they are just superficial excuses. What it really comes down to is that we are likely afraid of success.

The only way through this fear
is to change your mindset.

Know that you are worthy of succeeding. Know that you have the skills, contacts, experience, support – whatever you need – to watch your book(s) power their way to the top of your markets. And then pick up the phone, send that text, or message your new friend on Facebook. Follow Nike’s advice and just do it™ – and then be ready to embrace the success you deserve.

Things to keep in mind and help improve your follow-up skills:

  • Make notes about the person with whom you are trying to connect. These might include an array of topics: hobbies, interests, family, alma mater, future plans. This will make a conversation easier.
  • Pre-arrange the follow-up. Before you end the initial meeting, establish a day and time for a subsequent conversation. ” Does next Tuesday morning at 9:45 work for you?”
  • Do it right now. While you’re thinking about it. Take action before you have a chance to talk yourself out of it. Just pick up the phone!
  • Keep your emotions in check. Regardless of how well you facilitate your follow up, you will find people who forget about your appointment, get busy, change their minds, or even cut you off. You remember the old deodorant commercial – Never let them see you sweat. Don’t let the other person know you’re overly excited or disappointed. Just make another plan to follow up again, and continue the conversation.
  • Be personal. Address them by name and review the issues you touched on in your initial meeting. In addition, do your homework and offer other useful, relevant information to further the conversation.
  • Be thorough, but be brief. Deliver your pitch so that the other person understands precisely why you are connecting with them, but remember he or she is probably very busy and has a limited attention span. Make sure to contain your conversation to the aspects that pertain to them.
  • Become a resource. While your goal is to get your message across, avoid focusing entirely on yourself, your book, your request. Convey the impression that you are a resource, that knowing you and building a connection with you can be of significant assistance to them in some way.
  • Grab their attention. Be creative with your follow-up. If you’re connecting virtually, consider including multimedia elements such as relevant graphics or video. If you’re meeting them in person, take with you high-quality leave-behind materials. Leave them with a good impression.
  • Provide a clear call to action. Make clear at the end of your conversation or message your expectations for the next steps. Keep it simple, but be specific and tell them exactly what you want them to do next and by when.
  • Never be perceived as a pest! Though you may be bursting with excitement over the possibility of this connection leading to the next phase of your success, do not under any circumstance chase them. This will make you look desperate and pathetic, but it also is amateurish and annoying. Keep in touch regularly, but don’t ever be the person that makes this person think, “Oh, God! Not him again!”

One important thing to keep in mind is that you only know what you know. So don’t fall into the trap of making assumptions. When someone doesn’t immediately return our phone call or e-mail message, we very often assume the worst – they’re just not interested – even if we have no information to back up that assumption. Sure – it could mean that they’re not interested. Or it could mean they had a death in the family and everything work-related has been put on hold for a while. Think about your own lack of follow up – the very topic of this post. Are you not following up because you’re not interested? Sure – once in a while that’s true. But equally often, you’re very interested – nevertheless, you don’t get around to the follow up for some reason. If the other person were to contact you, would you jump all over the chance to resurrect the conversation? If your answer is yes, put yourself in their shoes, and quit making assumptions.

Follow-up is your friend. It is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolbox. Make my friend Helen Goodman, of Primo Promos, your role model. Helen has the most outstanding follow-up skills of anyone I have met in all the years I’ve been in business. She gets back to you the same day, goes out of her way to get you accurate quotes and help you order your products, and she does it all with knowledge and cheerful aplomb.

Happy following up!

Laura

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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Visit Write | Market | Design to download your Marketing Skills Evaluation. This will help you determine how close you are to SBM* status, and where you may need a little extra boost.


*Savvy Book Marketer

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New mantra for procrastinators and perfectionists: DONE Is Better Than Perfect!

(Please click on image to enlarge.)

Last post, we touched on a problem that challenges authors, entrepreneurs, SBMs* … just about everyone at one time or another. We spoke of it so briefly, however, that you might have felt a sigh of relief that we didn’t spend more time on it. Well, today’s the day we spend more time on it. What is IT? The dual-challenge of procrastination and perfectionism.

If you’ve been waiting to get your marketing campaign started for any reason but especially because you want to make it perfect first I want you to stop what you’re doing immediately. Grab a Sharpie or a pen or a pencil or a CRAYON, and write in HUGE letters on a piece of paper: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. Then, I want you to write it again. And again. And then I want you to tape it up prominently where you are constantly reminded of this new mantra.

DONE is better than perfect.

And next time you are tempted to rewrite your blog message before posting it, change your social media profile picture one more time, re-read and edit your e-mail blast for the dozenth time, spend another hour editing a video, or any other aspect of what can only be called busywork, catch yourself in the act and recite your new mantra: DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT.

As a reformed procrastinator, I can tell you that perhaps the best antidote to the procrastination that stems from perfectionism, fear of success, and other self-sabotaging nasties is the book The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield Strap on your seatbelt, though, because this book is going to grab you by the throat and hold on until you’ve screamed “Uncle!”

I’ve said it before and I will no doubt say it again: marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s not complicated or difficult. What it requires is diligence, consistency, dedication, and the utmost desire to succeed. But before you can have any of those, you must begin. Have a vision  for what you want to create (number of books sold, radio and/or TV appearances, speaker bookings, etc.) and fix all your attention on that. Quit worrying about the process and whether it’s good enough. Just make a plan and get started. TODAY. I dare you…

See you Monday!

MARCIE

*Savvy Book Marketer

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We welcome and encourage your thoughtful, courteous comments below.

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If you’d like us to add a link to your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog, please send us a note. If we think it’s a good fit, we’ll be happy to add you. Of course, we’d appreciate the reciprocity of the same!

Additionally, Marcie would be happy to make a guest appearance on your writing/self-publishing/book marketing blog. Just let us know the theme or your idea (preferably including a 6-panel concept), and we’ll see what we can draft for you.

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PREVIOUS POSTS

Monday, July 11 – Your book marketing efforts need to be as consistent as Lady Gaga’s hit songs

Thursday, July 7 What gets MEASURED gets done, when it comes to book marketing

Monday, July 4 – A commitment to book marketing means MAKING time for it

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