Crowdsourcing Accountability & Other Strategies for Hitting Deadlines

Blog imageBecause I’m a busy gal and am usually juggling multiple projects in the midst of a very full life, people often ask me how I get it all done. There are many different ways I go about actually seeing my projects through, many of which are detailed in my ebook, 5 Secrets for Tackling (& Shipping) Creative Projects. (If you haven’t received this, you can get your free copy by signing up here.)

But as I’m in serious crunch mode at the moment, I thought I’d share with you what I’m trying to accomplish in a short period of time, as well as my plan for getting it done.

Here’s the situation: I am currently writing a book for teen girls called Doable: How to Accomplish Just About Anything to come out in Spring 2015. My publisher, Beyond Words/Simon Pulse, wants a first draft in their hot little hands by October 1.

This date normally wouldn’t have been an issue, but remember that little cross-continental move that has recently come up? Yes…organizing and executing an international relocation is happening right smack in the middle of what would normally have been my core writing time.

In early June, I set a deadline for myself of having a shitty first draft of the manuscript completed by July 31. That would leave me two months to edit and clean up the manuscript, as well as interview the girls I want to feature in the book. I’ve been steadily working towards that goal, but I woke up this morning with a start and the realization that July 31 is um, like, one week away.

Well, to that I say, game on. I’ve got two-and-a-half chapters left to go. I know I can hit this deadline, but it’s going to take some serious focus and planning.

Here’s my strategy:

1. Publicly declare my goal and post updates daily on Facebook as a way of crowdsourcing accountability (feel free to bug, remind, and encourage at will on any and all social media!)

2. Leave my lovely new laptop perched next to my comfy writing spot on the chaise, ready to let these fingers to do their thing

3. Wake up at 6:30am every day to handle emails and other online work so that the time my son is in camp can be used exclusively for writing

4. If I get tired and think I may need a nap (writing does this to me!), take my dog for a brisk walk around the block instead

5. Exercise every (yes, every) day

6. Write an average of 1500 words per day between now and deadline

7. Let other things, things that don’t have to be done in the next week, go

8. Treat myself with frozen yogurt every night after I’ve hit my word target

9. More green smoothies, less frozen Thin Mints

10. Don’t worry about things that are beyond my control (when the house will sell, where we’ll live in Amsterdam, etc.)

So that’s what I’ve got. That’s my plan. If I stick to it, I know I’ll hit my deadline.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some writing to do!

The Connection Between Change & Creativity

1012637_10151465165496423_1466518835_nI almost bailed on the World Domination Summit. True story.

Not because I didn’t want to go, but because in my pre-house-selling-pre-moving-abroad frenzy, I didn’t think I could give up a weekend for a road trip to Portland just for the purposes of being inspired.

But one of my besties was flying in from the east coast for the event, and so pulling out wasn’t an option. So around 2pm on a Friday afternoon, we climbed into my Prius, jumped onto I-5, and headed south. For me, WDS was on.

When I first signed up in January to go to the summit which was created in 2011 by unconventional author and blogger Chris Gillibeau, I did so for 3 reasons: 1) I wanted to take away learning that would help me creatively grow my business, 2) a handful of friends I love and respect were going and I wanted to soak in some of their goodness, and 3) great speakers + a room full of world changers = good stuff.

But with the move madness going on at home, by the time I arrived at WDS, I frankly didn’t even know why I was there. My mind was elsewhere and I was feeling out of sorts. But I decided to just stay open to whatever the experience had offer me, and in doing so, I quickly realized that the biggest reason on my original list, the one about being inspired to creatively grow my business, wasn’t really on track. In fact, as I listened to talks by the likes of Nancy Duarte, Tess Vigeland, Jia Jiang, Gretchen Rubin, and Darren Rowse, I understood there was a very clear purpose for why I was there  — WDS was about helping me set an intention for our upcoming move to Amsterdam and the major shift my family and I are in the midst of.

Deciding to take this huge leap of faith to leave our lives in Seattle and move overseas has and continues to be scary, hard, exciting, stressful. Our nearly 9-year-old son is, to put it bluntly, seriously pissed off about the whole thing, and more than once my husband and I have asked ourselves why we were doing this…why we felt the need to disrupt what is arguably a very good life in the Northwest. We’ve got a nice home, a great neighborhood, good jobs, views of snow-capped mountains year-round, fresh air.

But this is the change we asked for. And this is the change we know in our hearts is best for our family. Being at World Domination Summit and being surrounded by people who crave adventure, community, living an unconventional life, the pursuing of big dreams, and share a belief that what we are here to do matters reminded me just how critical taking this leap is.

Change is hard. But it’s such an amazing thing. It’s where the good stuff happens. As a writer and creative person, I know it’s where the inspiration for new work comes from.

For me, I ultimately took away more from the World Domination Summit than I ever could have imagined. I was reminded of some powerful truisms that hit the spot:

  • True vulnerability is the key to powerful connection
  • We’re never too busy to be inspired
  • We are not alone
  • Transparency and  humility is where it’s at
  • There are a lot of people doing some really cool shit out there
  • There is value in setting out on a journey with no map or plan (watch the documentary Janapar)
  • Alone time wandering in a new city can’t be beat
  • Generosity and community are interconnected
  • My work life and my personal life can’t be separated

I arrived home from the weekend inspired and focused and ready to embark on this new adventure and experience what our life in Europe has in store for my whole family. I still have days where I feel overwhelmed or sad but bigger than that is the sense of deep knowing and trust that our move itself and the adventures that will come as a result of it are actually part of what we’re here to create.

So there’s no other choice but to embrace the change, leap off that cliff, and simply be in each and every moment of our new life in The Netherlands.

Oh, and figure out  a way to get to Portland next July for the next WDS…there’s that too…

The Deadline Tango

421930_10151456316921423_919461057_nWhen I signed a contract for my next book, Doable: How to Accomplish Just About Anything, several months ago with a manuscript delivery deadline of October 1, I thought, no problem. Sure, I had some other major work things going on at the time, but my plan was to dedicate the entire summer to cranking out the book. I’d have a rough draft by the end of August and then have the month of September to tighten, clean up, and finesse. Perfect.

What I didn’t anticipate was that in early June we would get word that our family was relocating to The Netherlands in August. And as excited as I was about the news, I also started experiencing a low-level panic as I realized my long, leisurely writing days of summer were about to go up in smoke.

Once my husband and I got down to some serious planning, the massive To Do list was born. There are contractors to hire, getting the house on the market, finding long-term storage, packing, move logistics, and more.

Meanwhile, my lovely little book? The one that’s all about how any goal or To Do can be doable? Well, let’s just say it’s providing me with a perfect opportunity to put my money where my mouth is.

Here’s my new and improved plan: Complete first draft of manuscript by July 31st so while I’m in the middle of the move I can be editing and tweaking instead of writing. I can lug that draft with me everywhere I go and edit as I can.

My strategy for the next 28 days? Write in short, productive bursts — 15-30 minutes each — multiple times throughout each day and chip away at the book, chapter by chapter. I find that this kind of writing, especially when under deadline, keeps the creative well open. If I reach a point during one of these bursts where I feel stuck or the words aren’t coming, I consider that burst over and close the laptop. Usually by the time I come back to it hours later, I’ll be ready to dive back in from a fresh place.

The process isn’t pretty, but it gets the job done. (At least that’s my plan!)

* * * * *

If you want to know more about my personal creative and writing process, I just recorded an interview with the fabulous Gia Duke where I share what my days look like when I’m on deadline and juggling a very busy life. Listen to the interview here, and be sure to check out Gia’s Super Love Summer Mashup for more interviews and awesome content from a pretty kick-ass crew of people.

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

800px-Amsterdam_052006For the past few months, big changes have been brewing in my world. The kind of changes that my husband and I dreamed about and hoped for, that we knew deep down in our core were going to happen, but were simultaneously completely and utterly freaked out that we just might get what we asked for and then we’d have no choice but to take a big scary leap. (Or maybe that last part was just me…)

I’ve been sitting on this news for a few weeks now — I didn’t want to say anything until things were 100 percent definite and I’ve also needed time to tell my family and friends what’s happening.

So here’s the big reveal…

At the end of August, my family and I will be relocating to Amsterdam in The Netherlands. (Insert squeal here!) For the past few years, we’ve been craving a traveling adventure and luckily we’ve been able to finagle it through my husband’s job.

Our plan is to go abroad for 2-3 years to see and experience as much as we can. While I’m admittedly terrified of diving headfirst into many unknowns with an almost 9-year-old in tow, we know in our gut that this is the right thing for our family, and the excitement outweighs the fear (on most days).

My greatest intention for this adventure is that it enables us as a family and as individuals the opportunity for lots of growth, connection, and fun. I know there will be days where I question what the hell we’ve gotten ourselves into (these days are already occurring as we begin packing up and selling a house, I frantically try to wrap up my manuscript which is due to my publisher by Oct 1, and manage the expectations of my son who isn’t really bought into the whole idea … yet).

I honestly don’t know how it’s all going to play out, but I think that’s kind of the point, right?

So for now, I’ll close by simply saying, “To be continued…”

6 Tips for Diving Back Into a Creative Project

Diving_BoardGot deadlines?

Me too. More than a few.

I’m usually good with deadlines when everything’s humming along and going smoothly, but as the mantra coined by Martha Beck goes, Everything’s changing all the time.

While sometimes these changes can be good — having a close friend move back to town or getting a promotion at work or finding a new coffee place that makes the best latte in town — other, less positive changes can completely derail us and bring our work to a halt, our finely laid plan rendered useless.

And of course those deadlines are still there, nagging at us. And at some point we need to collect ourselves, regroup, and dive back in to our work. Of course, this is one of those easier-said-than-done kind of things. Like re-entering the real world after a vacation, diving back in to a project that we’ve stepped away from can feel daunting and overwhelming. And that feeling can be enough to keep us stuck, helpless bystanders as we watch the days tick by and our deadline marching towards us.

I’m in such a place right now, but I am climbing to the top of the high dive and getting ready to plunge into the pool. Here’s how I’m going to do it:

Change it Up: Life has been full of change, so why not use change as a tool for re-entry? My plan is to formally shift gears and immerse myself in my project by finding a new venue to work on it. By creating a new routine and associating a specific place with this project, I’m using Chip & Dan Heath’s strategy of shaping my path to help me formulate a new habit…one that leads to my successfully tackling my work.

Revisit & Review: If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, you know it takes a little getting-to-know-you-again time to get back into the comfortable swing of things. The same applies to creative projects. I’m going to spend time rereading my development content for my project, articles, drafts, and more to get back into the headspace. It may look like procrastination, but it’s really a critical part of the work transition.

Be Patient & Judgment-Free: Feeling bad about just how off-schedule I am doesn’t really do anything except hinder my creative process. So I accept my situation for what it is, give myself time to get back into the swing of things, and turn off the self-judgment (the word “should” doesn’t really have a place in this conversation).

Take Small Steps: While I’m going to dive back in to the project, I’ll picture the slow-mo replay version of said dive. I’ll start small and set simple targets for what I want to accomplish each day. I know that once I’m fully immersed in the project I’ll eventually get back to a state of creative flow.

Get Accountability: This is a biggie. I’m turning to my people who are my cheerleaders, my supporters, and my accountability partners and I’m publicly declaring…I will be doing X this week. I’ll ask them to check in on me and make sure I’m on track, and possibly send a few words of encouragement. If I feel really brave, I’ll publicly declare my goal and ask my social media community to hold me to it.

Reward Myself: I’m such a sucker for rewards, so this is a no-brainer for me. I’ll set targets for what I hope to accomplish each day / week, and will happily cash in on my rewards, which will include a late-night frozen yogurt run, a mid-day nap, a trip to the beach with my son (even if it is 52 degrees and raining…). Small rewards for small tasks are proven to work, so I intend to use them!

So that’s what I’ve got. I feel pretty sure it’s going to work.

How about you? What strategies do you use to dive back in to a project after life has thrown you a curve ball?