How do I: take notes

Since I listen to podcasts on my smartphone, I often listen and pause the podcast episode that just mentioned something worth noting, since memory fades for everyone. How do I take notes?

I open up my “note-taking” app on my smartphone which is as simple as emailing myself and/or someone else who would benefit from this note along with the podcast episode link (or the source of this information) and when I heard it (timecode in the podcast). I would rewind the podcast 15 seconds or more as needed and play that part a few times to be sure I wrote down the memorable points for the note to reference in the future.

The same applies to note-taking conference calls. Note major points or action items with who is responsible. If it is due by the next scheduled meeting, I would include assignments per name in the schedule calendar invite as long as they are smart assignment.

Beyond podcasts and meetings, if any ideas are worth noting because they have value to you as needed/wanted experience, inspiration and/or knowledge, then capture them for future reference. Those ideas can spawn more ideas in the future. If the ideas and points shared have no perceived value to you, don’t note them. Note-taking is a value judgment and not an ego stroke. If you follow the ABC methodology (Always Be Capturing), then purge periodically. Not everything has value.

Do I use paper? Nope. Paper will get lost, ignored, and is not transferable to others without writing/copying it again electronically. Twice the effort is not worth it. Instead, formulate an email that can have your notes in that email shared with all in the meeting by the end of the meeting. No doodling needed. That email may include images of any whiteboard (virtual or physical) annotated as seen or links to slide decks/images/videos shared.

If all your notes are not accessible to you at all times, portable at all times, and transferable from anywhere to anywhere, they have little value. Those recorded ideas can be as distant from you as your smartphone.

The idea behind note-taking is to make those ideas are available for future reference, not perfection. That future reference might be hours, days, weeks, months, or years later. Without such notes, all these fleeting ideas become forgotten details disappearing as fast as time today.

How do I: write a book

open-book-5218061_1280Disclosure: Links to other sites may be affiliate links that generate us a small commission at no extra cost to you.

After writing over 7 books in three years, I want to share some thoughts on how I write a book as I continue to write more.

Research

Start by looking at what is out there. I prefer to find a topic that has not been writing about much (think niche topic) instead of adding my own take to the crowded mass market of books.

What is available today from Amazon, Google as well as podcasts among many other sources of information?

Consume it. Study it. Research your topic or idea thoroughly.

Note that my MBTI scores for consuming data and research is close to the highest it goes.

Read

Note that I personally write non-fiction and typically read non-fiction too. The best writers are heavy readers too. Keep consuming a variety of content. Feed your curiosity.

Identify

What is the topic you seek? Do a gap analysis of your research.

Find out what is missing. Why is it missing?

Does it really matter to your audience/readers and not just you? You can definitely write for you based on your curiosity and own interests, however, blogging might be more successful than book writing in that case. It is easier to reach an audience.

Draft the keywords based on the topics that matter.

How many people on LinkedIn have these topic keywords in their profile? Is there enough people that care about the topic to have it as part of their profession?

Who is the audience beyond who you are interviewing? Identify your audience so you know who you are writing for.

Goals

What are your goals for this book before you start writing it? Imagine the end state with goals.

What do you want to do with the book?

What do your readers want out of the book?

Is anyone interested?

What is in it for the reader?

WIIFM (or you)?

Is this a readers’ book or writers’ book? Be careful since there is a big difference between the two. One may feed your ego while the other might sell if it has value for the readers.

What are the calls to action? What do you want the reader to do at the end?

Take the big hairy audacious goal (B-HAG) of creating a book and break it apart into smaller groups of finite, tidy, achievable goals (F-TAGs) as steps/tasks in your book process.

Reverse Engineer YOUR Book Project into a PLAN

Envision your end goals for this book. Based on these end-state goals, how do you get there?

Reverse engineer the book and its marketing.

What are those steps and tasks in reverse order? Break down the tasks and steps that need to occur.

Where are the gaps? What is missing in the plan? Do a gap analysis.

What do you need to learn (more time spend) or pay someone to do (more money spend)?

A book project is still a project. Treat it like project manager with specifications, timelines with deadlines and budgets.  Prioritize those tasks.

Set realistic time-based milestones to avoid delays. How long will it take you to do each part? Be realistic to include sleeping, eating, and bathroom breaks included. Oh, and much of the other things you need to continue doing too. Drop the time-wasters that do not add value to your life and you will find time to do this book project even it’s 30 minutes daily.

Strategize

Since plans fail often and then iterate, have a strategy.

What is not going to change whether this is your first book or your Nth book? What is going to change?

What will you do and what will you not do?

How are you going to engage and retain your audience in each chapter?

Promote before release to hold yourself accountable once you have a clear idea of why, how, what, and when you are delivering.

Have difficultly aligning the ideas, events and characters?  Try mind-mapping them for better clarity.

Interview

Use (true) stories throughout your nonfiction book.  It does not need to be your own personal stories that you experienced as long as you don’t plagiarize. Plenty of authors use other people’s stories with great success if told with clarity.

If you are writing fiction, you have the creative freedom to change reality into your own.

Groups

Utilize groups for many things. Groups for encouragement and ideation like virtual groups. Groups to interviews. Groups for feedback. Group-based (heavy user vs. light user) for tiered pricing. Groupings of professionals (such as editors) as backups when you need to scale up or if some are not available at the moment you need them. Start a group with people who have a common goal and are not competitors.

Writing

Make it a daily habit of writing every day. If you don’t have the focus or ideas flowing on your project, write something else like a blog or journal that day. Exercise that writing so you can build on it.

Keep your goals in mind. Then make it happen by doing it.

Start with an outline to organize your thoughts first for you and then ultimately for the reader.

Do you need a timeline? If so, build one for yourself. You don’t have to present the book in that sequence though.

If you are not sure what to add or how to structure it yet, create a mind map online.

Provide value to your readers in every chapter, not filler. Writing is not about word counts.

Go do.

Editing

Editing is often clarifying and simplifying. Editing is about keeping which words count.

Read it out loud. If it is hard to read, edit to make it easier to read aloud and understand with better clarity. If the book was a long speech, could you read your long script so it flowed nicely?

Use Grammarly to assist your editing beyond spellchecks and grammar checks.

Cut out the fluff. Details are good if it helps bring out clarity and context as needed, but not if it brings out ambiguity and confusion.

Confusion is rarely a goal whether you are editing for the engaged reader nor for the successful writer.

Feedback

Don’t write, edit, and publish in a vacuum. Writers are often blind to their own edits.

Ask some people to read a draft of a chapter or two for feedback. Ask to read the finished version for a review. That is what some groups are for. Do not ask family and close friends for feedback because it will be biased based on your relationship with them.

Emotion clouds logic. If it does not make sense, fix it. Do not defend what is not clear.

I am not a fan of overpolishing. No need for 50 drafts.  Don’t waste time in delaying the release of a newly finished book.

The best feedback is respectful of you, but not the work. You are not your work. Unfiltered advice works. You need to know the challenges and suggestions on how to fix them, not how great you are. “It’s good” actually tells you nothing. Ask for specificity so you know where and why you might need to focus your attention on a possible challenge.

If someone actually spent the time to consume your work, listen carefully. Be sure they first understand the context, then the content. You can quiz them on it to check if they got it or not.

As part of the feedback process, I have the text-to-speech function turned on my computer to read the book back to me word for word so I am not assuming what I wrote was there, but rather hear it as written.

Writers assume clarity after a while or get lost in ambiguity. Some writers shelve a book project for months so they can revisit it and find the gaps to fill in their book.

Ask some people to read the finished version for a review. Your followers, even social media is one avenue for this.

Hire

Books don’t get done alone. At least not the books that get done efficiently.

Hire a professional editor.

Hire a professional copy editor.

Hire someone who has extensive experience formatting your book as an ebook, as a print book and/or as an audiobook. This might be a few different people. Do you need to know them? No. Results are what matter.

Design

Hire a book cover designer. If the book has graphics or photos, hire a designer for the layout. Note that the formatting will be different for different types of ebooks and print books.

Marketing

If you suck at marketing, hire a book marketer with a well-proven track record and recommendations. Otherwise, have a marketing plan before you publish the book (to create the buzz before release and possible anticipation after you wrap up all editing and design) and have several marketing plans with different avenues and directions after you publish. Do you need to know your marketer? No. You need an alignment of clear common goals. You will know if and where your marketing will work if the right questions are asked (like “how did you hear about my book?”) and links are tracked.

Metadata

In order for your book to be findable (if no one can find it, no one will buy it), you need metadata which includes categorization for your book. ISBN is part of it.

Publishing

A few years ago, I was asked to write a book for a publisher, however, their contract had no royalties for ebook sales (about 60% of the book market) and they would not negotiate that, so I declined. in my opinion, publishers provide very little value because they do very little today.  This is why I choose to self-publish my books. I have yet to see any reason why I would not continue to self-publish which allows more control, more credit, more royalties.

When it comes to creating a book that you write, it is all up to you anyways, so why fork over the responsibilities unless you don’t want to do it in the first place. Commit or don’t. There is no gray area.

As far as book formats, ebooks will continue to come through. As far as audiobooks (fastest-growing book format due to ease of listening), I will pass for now because I choose to create podcast series instead which are created at a lower production cost.

Print books are great for people who want to hold a piece of you and your writings in their hands. My books will not be in bookstores (for the short time they still exist) because they are not for general audiences. Personally, I don’t need my books to appear on a shelf as just another dust collector. I am totally okay with that. Personally, I loathe paper.

TIPS

You can find few book writers’ tips from a non-fiction writers group

What book writing tips would you like to share?

Are you writing a book?

Schedule a consulting call about your own book project

How do I: reset focus

focus on target

 

Disclosure: Links to other sites may be affiliate links that generate us a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Focus is important when you are trying to get something done. We can easily get distracted. How do we maintain focus? How do we reset our focus on target once we lose it?

I find my focus and my happiness are closely linked because I track these nightly as an exercise in noting and journaling. If you have smart goals and you are goal-oriented, you might notice the same. If you are not focused on the tasks that need to be accomplished toward your goals, it almost hurts.

Indistractable author Nir Eyal wrote that time management is closely tied to energy management (having the energy when we need to do something) as well as pain management (when we do things we need to even though we don’t want to).

So how do we reset our focus from dis-traction back to focused traction? Here are many of the things I do to reset my focus and regain focus needed:

Manage your time

To manage your time, schedule your time with one online calendar that follows you wherever you go. Not you going to your calendar to check what is on it. On your mobile phone is ideal. I happen to use Google Calendar that seamlessly appears on my laptop and phone. Noting in your calendar what you need to be doing when and for how long is a big help. Having it all online makes it accessible and flexible as things change so you and your calendar can adapt quickly to any change. If I need to do something later, I move it as needed.

Having one online calendar, just one, is key. I only have one set of 24 hours per day to manage, not several sets of 24 hours.

Be specific when noting what needs to be done in your online calendar. “Write book” is not specific enough, however “draft TOC for new book on [topic XYZ]” between 8am and 9am on Tuesday” work better as a doable smart task.

Breakdown a large project or tasks into a series of smaller more manageable tasks that are actually doable in a small time frame like an hour.

Schedule your own time or get your time scheduled for other people’s activities.

Take breaks

Some companies have scheduled hourly stretching breaks that help minimize aches, pains and workforce injuries. Even if you are stationed at a desk for hours, stretching and doing a few floor exercises each hour can help your mind and body.

Taking a walk outside is very beneficial to reset the mind in any weather provided you are dressed and prepared for it. Walking meetings are good as long as the slowest person is leading upfront to set the pace of the walk.

Exercise

30-minutes of walking, biking, or swimming are great resets and gets the endorphins flowing. I don’t run, but you can if you wish. I walk faster than most people jog. This keeps my heart rate lower, endurance higher, and for further distances.

I will walk on the beach, at a wildlife refuge, or my neighborhood for 15-30 minutes one direction (with a timer on to have me turn around and return when it rings). I will walk while listening to a podcast I have not heard before like Distributed, Tim Ferriss Show, Masters of Scale,  or an audiobook in one ear while still being able to hear the ocean waves in the other ear is extremely stimulating for ideas.

Note taking

Note-taking of those ideas on a mobile phone is the easiest so the notes are already in electronic form for digital repurposing, even if I email myself the notes. I loathe paper and avoid it like… a virus. Regardless of our age, ideas are fleeting, so capture ideas when they are at the top of your mind before the idea clutters your mind or even worse, you lose that idea. Email links or ideas with a note of context to a friend that would find them helpful and relevant to them. Even if the note is for your own consumption, email it to yourself with some context that you can lookup and find again in the future using some keywords. Getting content out of your head will lighten the load on your mind so you have less burden on your memory and fewer nagging thoughts. ABC = Always Be Capturing

Declutter your environment

If you become really frustrated and unfocused, take a look at your work environment or living space on what needs to be decluttered. We all have a pile of things to clean up  and /or declutter somewhere somehow. Refocus your energy to cleaning up and decluttering that space wherever it is. Get it done. Check it off your list.

Eat and drink well

Notice that eating well and drinking enough water are very key to having the energy needed for focused work. Headaches go away when properly hydrated. If you get a headache, try rehydrating before medicating the issue.

You will notice about an hour afterward if you did not eat or drink well. Note what you ate and/or drank so you can track your reactions to it in your online calendar.

Mediate

Occasionally, I will meditate using the Headspace app for 10 minutes. The app has options to mindfully work on your focus.

Reward yourself

Once you refocus and get things done, reward yourself. I schedule an on-demand film to watch if I accomplish what I wanted to be done that day. If I did not get things done, I reschedule the reward to later when I believe it will be done and schedule something else that needs doing that night. Some serve themselves a small snack to replenish the energy they need to do the next thing on their calendar.

Breathe

If all the above are not options for you, try box breathing which can be done to feel the effects about one minute, but longer works even better. It calms you, purposely slows the breath, and that helps reset the brain. Simply breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath in for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, hold no breath for 4 seconds, and repeat. Easy and works anywhere, for any situation in 16-second cycles. We take our breathe for granted until it is compromised and then it is too late.

How do you reset your focus?

Questions?

How I do: launch a podcast series from just an idea

I was asked to write about how to create a podcast series from just the idea. I thought I would share the process I use and the timeframe I do this in…while I do it. Again. I have created a few podcast series over the past few years, so this time I am documenting the process as it happens. Journaling as this journey happens…

Thursday, February 14

Got an idea. New topic for another potential podcast. Not every idea becomes a podcast.

Researched the topic in the early morning before going to work. Looked up how many people do something on this topic via social media and how many people have talked about this already as a podcast via Google and iTunes.

If I was starting another book, I would search the topic in question on Amazon. If zero to a handful of articles or podcast episodes are found, this means a niche has been found. If there are a few thousand people do this, there is an audience. I like niche topics more than overtalked about topics that we hear about too often.

What is the problem you are trying to solve? (what is this for?)

Who is the audience you want to talk with, about and to? (who is it for?) I rarely write just for me, however, it helps to be curious about the topic. So I create for myself first for the level of satisfaction unless I am creating for someone else… and someone else is paying the bill.

Went on Upwork and assigned someone the task of web scrapping 1000 contacts to reach out to people specific to this topic.

Sunday, February 17

With a boilerplate invite message, I invited over 100 of these people (I did not know) via social media to connect and I would send them the interview questions to ponder in advance with context about the podcast idea to be launched.

Why would I give my idea out so openly? The short answer is: who is going to do the work of implementing this idea into reality and follow through? If there was such a person, this would already be available. “Idea theft” is not a fear. It’s an excuse too many people use to not build/create and then share/sell.

Thursday, February 21

A week after the idea was generated. With the goal of scheduling 60 individual interviews for this podcast series to create a weekly podcast lasting 1 year, I already have 15 interviews scheduled. When people accepted my social media invite that showed they were interested in my idea and might want to be interviewed, I emailed my ask (interview them in the coming weeks) with context about the podcast (what’s it for), a little info about me and potential dates to click on so they could schedule the interview with one email. By this day, I had 12 interviews scheduled for the coming weeks of March. 48 more to go.

Why schedule and record 60 interviews for a year?

Weekly interviews equal 52 interviews for a year, however it is recommended to launch with a few interviews day one. And some interviewees may flake out or not respond to approvals. Not everyone is dependable in case this is something not realized. This is also why I have a 1000 contacts to revert back to if needed.

Thursday, February 28

Recorded my first interview for the EIR podcast.

Friday, March 1

Recorded 3 more interviews for the EIR podcast.

Monday, March 4

Recorded 4 more interviews today.  Have 11 more interviews scheduled in March so far. 50 other people interested in being scheduled for an interview this month. Following up on all invites later this week since the goal is 54 interviews recorded, edited, approved and scheduled by April. Still planning to launch in Spring 2019.

Friday, March 8

Have 12 interviews recorded and 12 others scheduled. There are 44 more people interested in being interviewed as I follow up with them each week.

Thursday, March 14

A month after coming up with the idea for the EIR podcast, I have 18 interviews recorded and 6 others scheduled to be interviewed. There are 48 more people interested in being interviewed, however yet to be scheduled. Not all schedules work out for a brief call this month.

Friday, March 22

Interviewed 21 and 13 others scheduled. There are 45 more people interested in being interviewed.

Tuesday, March 26

Interviewed 28 and 9 others scheduled now. There are 32 more people that claim to be interested in being interviewed and following up with them one more time on Wednesday, March 27.

Have 37 people say ‘No’ so far. Thought I would share the fact that the people saying “Yes” [counting recorded and scheduled only as “Yes”. Not counting interested parties] and the people saying “No” is 37 to 37 “Yes”s after a month of work. I hold no emotional attachment nor value to ‘rejection’ since that should be expected as a norm. Just move forward. It is not worth the level of effort to negotiate a “No” to Yes” for this project nor this timeline.

Friday, March 29

Interviewed a total of 35 and 5 scheduled for interviews. There are 30  people that mentioned they were interested in being interviewed, however after 5 follow-ups over 5 weeks…they might not be interviewed. Have a few last interviews scheduled for first week of April and then wrapping up the interview process. Had a few people reschedule several times however if they can’t find 15 minutes for a call within a month, it’s not worth chasing them with more than a few follow-ups.

Thursday, April 4

With all interviews recorded for this project, I am now in editing mode. Bulk review and writing of the edits needed for each episode. These edits will be sent in bulk 10 episodes at a time to an audio editor via Upwork for all audio editing to be done. Seeking an intro and outro (audio clips) for this series for the start and finish of each episode of the EIR Podcast. Need to record a ‘Welcome to EIR podcast’ now that I heard common themes from many EIRs during the interviews.

Friday, April 5

Too much going on to work on this project for now. Vacation is coming up on Tuesday, April 16. Plenty of time to catch up then.

Wednesday, April 17

While on vacation in Santa Rosa, FL, trained two people (Addie and Emmy) to review and write the editing instructions for my podcasts. Walked them through the process with one episode, provided them an emailed template per episode to fill out and gave them most of the episodes to listen and write down instructions in an email. These instructions include links, phrases to start and stop on along with timecodes.

Saturday, April 20

All editing instructions are completed. Still waiting for my intro/outro to be re-recorded.

Tuesday, April 23

Received Intro/Outro. Added this to editing instructions for each episode. Sent first 10 episodes for editing through Upwork.

Thursday, April 25

First 10 episodes edited and received. Sent the second set of 10 episodes for editing. Downloaded images for podcast cover/logo art.

Friday, April 26

20 episodes edited. Sent the rest of episodes for editing on Upwork. Approved the podcast cover art after three iterations and some feedback from a few people.

Sunday, April 28

All 39 episodes edited and sent for approval. This will be my latest MVP (Minimum Viable Product). If I get more along the way, that will be for the next season. Got 2 approvals already. Building the website now and connecting to the distribution for many podcast channels.

Wednesday, May 1

Entrepreneurs understand what an MVP is. So I am launching a podcast series with first 14 interviews approved to date. 4 other interviews need more edits per the interviewee to be approved. Week 1 will have a welcome episode plus 2 interviews to provide content right away based on those first approved interviews. First approved interviews become the first released interviews.

When do I interview these people?

Since I work 10am-6pm EST for a remote consulting client, I schedule interviews between 7am to 10am EST for people in the Eastern time zone and after 6pm EST for people in the Pacific time zone. A few were interviewed during the weekend if that worked better for those schedules.

How long are the interviews?

The actual interview lasts about 4 to 15 minutes. Most calls are 10-15 minutes in duration including the interview itself (when I am recording). I often schedule 15-30 minute calls to work out any technical difficulties.

Changed this to 15-minute calls only since I was not using the second half of the 30-minute time block for calls and saw that as an inefficiency to be eliminated. Don’t need the time break either. I would often have 2 to 4 calls scheduled back to back in the morning or evening. It is a process of batching tasks or grouping similar tasks together back to back. Recording 4 interviews in one day equal 1 month (4 weeks) of weekly podcasts. Get it done. Move forward.

Everything is done in bulk by time blocking tasks daily

As you can see, this is just another exercise in bulk tasking. No start-stop-repeat.

  • Bulk research for idea validation.
  • Bulk invites. Not sending one invite or email per hour/day, but rather 15-50 per hour.
  • Bulk scheduling. Once a day for the month of February.
  • Bulk follow up once a week.
  • Bulk interviewing. Time blocked to 30 minutes per call to record the 5 to 15 minute individual interview. During the last three weeks, I changed this to a 15-minute time block per call for 5-minute to 10-minute individual interviews.
  • Bulk reviewing of raw interview audio to create editing instructions. Insourced this thanks to Addie and Emmy.
  • Bulk editing with instructions with Upwork with an offshore resource using different timezones to my advantage so work gets done while I sleep.
  • Bulk approvals.
  • Bulk scheduling for release after approvals for the next 35 weeks.

And this is how I launched a 7 month-long series of weekly podcast episodes.

Want to listen to this podcast series? Find EIR Podcast whereever you listen to podcasts.

Want a course on this? Want more details, costs, links, and all the tools used? Let me know

Want a podcast series created for your business? Schedule a call to discuss how

Questions?