I recently ran a survey here on my blog asking my readers to tell me what they struggle with most. (You can still take it.) So far, the largest issue writer’s face is feeling overwhelmed. I can relate. Right now, I not only have client work and four blogs to keep up with, but also articles to write, a blog tour to arrange, constant book promotion (including contacting book reviewers and writing conferences), and a variety of classes to prepare to teach. Then there is the book proposal my agent wants me to finish, the short proposal I wanted to get done as well, and four or five unfinished books I’d like to complete and self-publish. Ack.
Okay, maybe I have more going on than some (most?) writers, but in today’s publishing environment, every serious writer—those that want to become published authors—must be more than just writers. They must be good businesspeople wearing all sorts of hats. They must wear a promotion hat, a sales hat, a copywriter hat, a teacher’s hat, and a social media hat. Indeed, this can feel really overwhelming.
So, for my next few posts—or possibly many posts (however many it takes), I’m going to talk about how to overcome your feeling of overwhelm.
Let’s start by talking about rocks. Yes, rocks. Not long ago I asked someone I know how she managed to get so much done each day since I got so little done. She responded, “I always move the big rocks first.”
What are rocks? The important stuff. Writing deadlines to meet. The projects that fulfill your passion and your purpose. That query letter or proposal an agent asked you to send.
We all have things we have to do. I have a to-do list with about 30 items on it right now. That feels overwhelming. However, some of these are big rocks and some of them are small rocks. A revision of an article is a big rock, for example. I have to get it done today. This blog post is a big rock, since I religiously publish on this blog three days a week. Organizing my blog tour is a big rock, since it has to be ready by the end of the month or so. (I have some personal big rocks on my list, too: Call the doctor for my son.) Small rocks are any to-do items that can wait until tomorrow, next week or next month. Moving rocks is about setting priorities.
Some people move the small rocks first. I must admit, I have a habit of doing this. I like to check and respond to email, handle social networking, make phone calls, and in general take care of the things I find distracting first. Once these are done, I find I can concentrate better on the big rocks. This system, however, does not always serve me well. At the end of the day I have moved many small rocks and few big rocks. Sometimes my blog post gets written at 5 p.m. when it really should have been published in the morning. So, I don’t highly recommend it. Moving big rocks first offers a better approach if you really want to get something accomplished and feel less overwhelmed.
During a two-week period I moved only big rocks first. I was amazed at what I accomplished. Prior to that time I had been moaning and groaning about how I didn’t have time to get any big jobs done. I’d complained about my schedule, my husband working at home, having to drive my son to San Francisco (a three-hour round trip) many days a week, and more…
Guess what? These were excuses. During that two-week period, I gave myself a deadline and some large goals (more on this later). By moving the big rocks first, I achieved my goals and handled just about everything else that came my way — I moved the small rocks, too.
During that period, I managed to:
- Turn an ebook into a printed book (including editing it and designing the interior and cover)
- Turn two existing workbooks into printed books (including editing them and designing the interiors and covers)
- Redesign five covers of workbooks or booklets
- Create a new workbook (including writing it and designing the interior and cover)
- Do a radio interview with one day notice
- Handle several time-time consuming requests form an acquisition editor
- Coach two clients
- Upload a new product to Smashwords
- Create three new workshops and prepare all the materials to go with them
- Speak to a group of writers
- Update my two websites
This past summer I landed a traditional book deal for my book, How to Blog a Book. However, when I saw the deadline for finishing the manuscript, I realized I had only three weeks to actually get the work done. Prior commitments forced me to finish writing and revising the book in less than half the time allowed. How did I do this? I made writing the book my only big rock for those three weeks. And, guess what? I finished the manuscript with no problem.
Moving big rocks makes you stronger. It makes you feel less overwhelmed because each time you move one of them you can check it off your to-do list and that list gets shorter and populated with more small rocks and less big rocks. This makes you feel more successful, more able to move more big rocks tomorrow.
If you feel like it’s too hard to move those rocks alone–or to decide which of your tasks are big rocks or small rocks,
you need an author or book coach.
I can help you Achieve More Inspired Results.
Click here to schedule your free 15-minute coaching session now.