Saturday, 26 April 2014

How to Take a10-Day Vacation, a 5-Day Business Trip, Get Food Poisoning, and Still Be Able to Write 42 Posts In a Month

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This is a guest contribution by Karol K of

Just to set things straight… I’m not talking about writing 42 300-word posts. In September last year, I did write 42 web articles in total. Some of them were 2,800 words long. Some just 500. On the average, each article was about 1000 words. How do I know so precisely? Well, I keep a complete record of everything I write.

Having this little disclaimer out of the way, I can tell you the whole story of how I did it, why I’m so proud, and how you can do the same.

The story

Those 42 posts were meant for 3 clients and 2 blogs of my own. Regarding the work for my own blogs, I could just take it easy and not set any stone-written deadlines (I did anyway). On the other hand, the client work is always time-sensitive and needs to be delivered on a specific day no matter what.

There are some elements that add to the difficulty of this whole thing. You can see most of them in the title of this post, but here they are again:

  • 10-day vacation. I stayed in Barcelona for 6 weeks (whole August and half of September). And even though I did keep the normal work schedule, at some point, I decided to take a 10 day vacation and enjoy Barcelona to the fullest. In that time, I did no work whatsoever.

  • 5-day business trip to Turkey. This was another obstacle. Considering that it was a business trip, this meant that I had to take care of a lot of other things apart from writing articles. So, I needed to find a different approach to get it all done somehow.

  • Food poisoning. Oh yes, here’s what reminds me of Turkey the most. As it turns out, Turkish food isn’t good for me at all. That’s about 3-4 days (kind of) out of my schedule again. I’m saying kind of because I did manage to do some work then, but not much. Actually, even less than during my business trip.

So in total, this makes 10 days completely out of the calendar. Another 5 days of half-time working (or even 1/3), and the final 4 days of quarter-time (is that a phrase?) working. In total, 19 days.

But isn’t September just 30 days? Yes, it is.

Oh, and one more thing that’s not making my life easier, I’m a non-native English writer. This means that I have to proofread the hell out of my articles, which obviously takes a lot of additional time.

Here’s how I did it.

Plan first

Everything starts with a precise plan or at least, it should start with one. At the beginning of the month, I knew exactly how much time I will spend on vacation and on the business trip, the food poisoning was the only surprise.

I also knew how many posts I should write (roughly). Now, why is that number not exact? First of all, I had much freedom regarding my own blogs. Secondly, I told one of my clients that I will write around 20-25 posts for him.

Of course, you can’t always make that happen. But if you inform your clients that you’re going to be out on vacation, most of the time, it’s no problem as long as you can deliver the work shortly afterwards (it’s simple freelance marketing 101 if you’re into freelance blogging and not only publishing for yourself).

But let’s go back to the plan itself. So how was I able to create it and even make some room for any “unfortunate” event?

The way I do my planning when it comes to writing is something I’ve developed over time. I basically use one tool – a spreadsheet (a log) of my writing efficiency – fancy name, ain’t it? Every month, I jot down the exact number of words I’ve managed to write each day. So at the end of a given month, I have the total number of words written.

After doing this for a while, I know exactly what’s the comfortable number of words for me per month (and therefore the number of articles as well). And once I have the per month value, I can easily tell the per day value.

So, when creating my plan for September, I made an educated guess about the number of days I’d be able to work and then set the maximum number of words I was capable of writing. As a result, I estimated that 40-45 is indeed a possible total number of articles.

In short, it’s pure math, nothing else. Here’s the action plan if you want to replicate this for yourself:

  1. Start a writing log and record each article/chapter/post you write. It’s best to focus on the number of words, rather than on the number of articles.

  2. Gather data for 2-3 months.

  3. Now you have your personal writing efficiency score, which lets you estimate your performance going forward.

Get the tools and the hardware

At home, I do most of my work on a standard desktop computer. I have a standing desk, and an environment I find really great for focusing my attention and maintaining my productivity.

However, working abroad requires some additional arrangements…

As for the computer, I use a standard laptop. I find working on it way easier than on an iPad, which I also took for other purposes. (iPads are still great for some situations, more on that in a minute).

When it comes to tools, I didn’t even install anything new on the laptop. Whenever I realized that I need a specific tool, I just downloaded it, so there was no extra hassle (most of the tools I use are either free or online).

The only app I made sure I had installed was SugarSync. This really is invaluable. (When I got back home, my work was already waiting for me on my desktop computer automatically.)

The most important point here is to make your work (your posts/content) available remotely. So, double check if everything you need is inside your SugarSync (or Dropbox) account. You can be in much trouble if you’ve forgotten something and don’t have a way to get it.

You probably know this already, but using Gmail is helpful here as well. Gmail allows you to hook up any other email account (even those based on external domains), so you can have everything managed in one remotely available place.

Finally, if you’re doing active marketing while being abroad, Bidsketch is a nice way of handling client proposals (wink!). The tool will help you craft those proposals and make sure that every prospective client receives an offer.

Set the habits

Everything is under control at home. But when you’re abroad, you tend to get easily distracted by all the stuff that’s going on around you.

If you want to remain focused, you have to set some habits and dedicate yourself to keeping them in mind.

For instance, the main habit I keep mentioning in many of my publications is writing first thing in the morning. There’s really no better way to start the day off than by having your work done by 11AM. With this habit alone, you’ll make massive progress no matter what emergency the rest of the day brings.

There’s a really good reason why this approach works. Our brain or our personal processing power, if you will, runs out during the day. We simply get tired quickly. So if you want to get anything important done in a given day, you must take care of it as early as possible. In a sentence, do the important stuff first.

Not surprisingly, for a blogger or a writer, the important stuff usually revolves around writing itself. Hence, write first thing in the morning and then use the rest of the day for other tasks.

The other habit is using your NET – No Extra Time. Your NET is every moment when you’re doing a specific thing, yet you can successfully do something else at the same time.

Now, the most important distinction is that NET does not equal multitasking! Multitasking is the biggest enemy of productivity!

Multitasking is where you devote yourself to doing a number of things at the same time consciously. For instance, when you’re trying to write, answer email, and listen to a podcast all at the same time.

Utilizing your NET is when you’re doing a number of things during a time that is already lost, or time when you can harness different areas of your brain to do the work.

Let me give you two examples of NET:

  • Example #1 (time already lost): You’re on an airplane or at the airport (this obviously goes for any other mean of transportation as well). You’re there anyway, so why not do some writing? This is where an iPad comes really handy.

  • Example #2 (harnessing different areas of your brain ): At the gym. You could listen to an audiobook or an interview, either as part of your research prior to writing an article or just for fun. In essence, when you’re working out, you’re not using the creative part of your brain. You’re just using the simple impulses that tell you to exercise, so there’s still room for some intellectual activity.

And again, because I really want to emphasize this, utilizing your NET is not multitasking. Don’t. Ever. Multitask. Human beings are not meant to multitask.

Noticing your NET throughout the day, on the other hand, and using it to your benefit will allow you to get significantly more things done. I estimate that around 1/3 of my work in September was done during my NET.

Use a project management system

A system sounds like a big deal, but I actually don’t have any better way to call it.

Of course, in some cases, especially if you’re doing a lot of work collaborating with other people, and have to take care of a number of clients, getting an account at Teambox or Basecamp might be a good idea. But just to manage your own work, you don’t need much.

What I use for my own project management is Google Drive (formally Google Docs) and Remember The Milk. I find these tools easy to use, not to mention that they have all the functionalities I require. For a blogger, there’s not much you need… just a way of recording every post you write, task management, keeping up with the deadlines and with the people you’re sending those posts to (e.g. guest posts, posts for your clients).

For some of you, this sounds really basic, but you’d be amazed at how many people manage their work through an email account/software (meaning, tagging certain emails, and then going back to them at random occasions).

The main lesson here is that any system is still better than no system at all. You should at least sign up to Google Drive (available through your standard Google account).

Create the mindset of a winner

This sounds corny, but please bear with me here. When you have difficulty meeting a deadline or some other emergency strikes (like the food poisoning) then the only thing that can save you is your mindset.

And don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I’m any better than you. A mindset is not something we’re born with. It’s something we can learn with time.

For me, the things that work best is imagining the goals that are in front of me and the things I’m set out to achieve. In comparison to all this, a puny food poisoning is simply not enough to shoot me down.

Also, by having your goal in mind, you can get the job done even if you’re not at your full abilities for 19 days in a month.

So this is how I did it. I’m positive that you can achieve similar results, or be even better, especially if you’re a native English writer.

Just to summarize the advice here in 5 simple steps:

  1. Plan first.

  2. Get the tools and software in place.

  3. Set the habits.

  4. Use a project management system.

  5. Create the mindset!

What’s your take on this? What’s your secret of remaining productive even if you know that you won’t be available for a number of days? I’m really curious to get your input on this one.

Karol K. is founder of and a team member at Bidsketch (proposal software). Whenever he’s not working, he likes to spend time training Capoeira and enjoying life.

Originally at: Blog Tips at ProBlogger
Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

How to Take a10-Day Vacation, a 5-Day Business Trip, Get Food Poisoning, and Still Be Able to Write 42 Posts In a Month

Build a Better Blog in 31 Days

How to Take a10-Day Vacation, a 5-Day Business Trip, Get Food Poisoning, and Still Be Able to Write 42 Posts In a Month

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