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The Productivity Map

Ever since I wrote the productivity trap article I felt there was something missing. The main point of that article was always valid, of course, but there was still a little bit of fog regarding the whole productivity concept. So, after taking some time to think it over, I came up with a productivity map, which made it clearer for me. Those of you accustomed with the urgent / important diagram will be instantly familiar with it.

Productivity Map

Let’s take it one step at a time. Will shortly analyze the 2 axis of this map and then will move to the each of the 4 squares in which you can be at one specific moment.

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The First 6 Months Of Blogging – Promotion

The first 6 months of serious blogging are crucial. In today’s post I’ll share my experiences with one of the most ignored activities by the beginners, and that would be promotion. This is the second post from a bigger series, so I recommend you to read the introductory post, if you came here directly. If you want to know more about the first post in the series, you can go to The First 6 Months Of Blogging – Writing. And keep in mind that this post is also pretty big, over 2000 words, so you’d better book some free time to read it at ease.

Broadcast Your Message

Promotion accounts for at least 40%-45% of the overall time I spend “blogging”. If this sounds surprising, I must confess that I feel I’m not promoting this blog as I should. I feel I’m not doing enough for it.

I cannot stress enough the importance of promotion in the early months. As always, I learned this the hard way, from experience. In the first 3 months, my traffic was constant, but low. Shamefully low, as opposed to my expectations. The vast majority of traffic came from search engines and since the blog didn’t had a significant number of inbound links, my page rank was low. It still is, by the way, only this doesn’t matter now anymore. 🙂

Here’s my traffic breakdown for the first 3 months:

Search Engines – 58%
Referring sites – 28%
Direct traffic – 14%

During the first 3 months I didn’t do anything to promote this blog. I waited to be picked up by search engines. It happened sooner than I thought, only the traffic I received was extremely low. I was indexed almost instantly but the traffic was not as expected.

So, after 3 months of stagnation I decided it was time to actively involve myself in promoting this blog. I realized something extremely important: the world of blogging is really crowded. There are literally millions of blogs out there. Tens of millions. The vast majority are low quality, it’s true, but even if we accept that 1% of the blogs are really good, 1% of 50.000.000 of blogs is 500.000. You have an enormous competition: 500.000 sites! If you have a little bit of decency you realize that you really cannot wait for the search engines to pick you up and send you in the first place. You can’t afford to do that. You have to actually control the process. At least until you can automate some parts of it and assess some progress. If you do nothing to promote your blog, your chances for a steady, growing traffic are extremely low. You act on a field with enormous numbers.

So, after I started to actively work on my blog promotion, my traffic breakdown changed dramatically in the last 3 months. Here’s how:

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The First 6 Months Of Blogging – Writing

During my first 6 months of “serious” blogging I discovered a lot of things about blogging and about myself. In the first post of this series I’ll share what I learned about the blog writing process. This is a rather long post, more than 2500 words, so I suggest you set aside some time to read it comfortably. Keep in mind that this series is targeted towards people who embraced blogging more like a profession or a revenue oriented activity rather than people who blog for relaxation or fun. There’s quite a difference between journaling and blogging.

Posting Speed

During the first 6 months I wrote 106 articles on my blog. For the sake of statistics that accounts to 0,58 posts per day. Here’s the monthly breakdown:

October 2008 – 17 posts
November 2008 – 20 posts
December 2008 – 20 posts
January 2009 – 17 posts
February 2009 – 15 posts
March 2009 – 17 posts

The lowest month was February and the most productive months were November and December. During the first 3 months the enthusiasm level was pretty high and I found it easier to work. But after the first 100 days I had to rely more on self-discipline than on enthusiasm. The motivation was there all the time, but the drive to work is made of more than just enthusiasm. I had to really stick with it. I had to keep a constant flow of work, and here’s why.

Posting speed is one of the key metrics of blogging. Here are some of my thoughts about blog metrics, among other things, if you want to know more about this topic. Based on the posting speed you can actually predict some of your other blog metrics, like traffic and comments and pingbacks. In fact, posting speed was the main metric I wanted to control during the first 6 months.

When I decided to go full time blogging, this was my first and most important commitment: to write at least 15 posts per month, one post every other day, at least 1200 words for every post. That was my number one goal.

And I did this for a number of reasons:

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How To Write An Ebook Using MacJournal

Writing an ebook could be a lot of fun. Not to mention the fact that by writing something you’re spreading value directly and you can receive a lot of direct compensation. If you chose to sell your ebook chances are that you will make some money. Sometimes a lot of money. And if you chose to give it away for free, it’s a sure bet that you’ll make a lot of new friends. Either way, it’s a win.

But writing an ebook can be sometimes overwhelming. I’m not talking about the actual writing process, choosing the topics, putting the chapters together or the main ebook subject. I’m talking about the invisible scaffold, the physical setup for managing, maintaining and organizing your work. Sometimes you don’t remember what you wrote yesterday, or your ideas are coming too fast and you don’t have the time or the habit to write them down, or you don’t have a place with the last version of ebook and have to compile it every time you distribute it.

In today’s post I’ll share with you my setup for writing an ebook. It’s a system based on my favorite journaling application, and that would be MacJournal, of course. I’ve already wrote some articles about enhancing MacJournal, like power blogging with MacJournal, GTD style, or how to create a habit in 15 days, feel free to check them out before starting to read this one.

Writing An Ebook

I’m not going to talk about how you can chose you ebook subjects, because the options here are endless. You can write an ebook about gardening, an ebook about dating, an ebook about cooking, about programming, about business, about self-improvement (that would be my case, by the way) the sky really is the limit. I am going to talk about what your physical steps are in creating an ebook, what exactly are you going to do, step by step.

For start, your ebook will contain sections, or chapters. The main creation process involve writing those chapters which are forming the main product. Yeap, I know you know that, just saying. You usually have a plan for that, either in form of a list, either as a mind map. You also establish a writing speed and a certain volume of writing each day. This is the main work.

But if you’re writing an ebook, you must already have a blog in which you can talk about that. If you’re writing an ebook and don’t have a blog yet, I highly encourage you to create one ASAP. It’s not very difficult, and it’s good for your writing habits. So, besides from writing your actual ebook, you’ll have also to write some blog posts about it. To announce your ebook to your potential audience, to share progress or to call for opinions.

Apart from that, you will promote your ebook and you’ll do that by writing various pieces of text, most often landing pages for all your promotion channels.

And in the process, you may have some ideas about the ebook, about the blog, about promoting or about anything else. I often found out that committing myself to a medium term project like an ebook opened the door to a bunch of new ideas.

And of course you will do a lot of research also, usually grouped into notes.

So, to keep a long story short, your ebook will consist on:

  • chapters
  • blog posts (including landing pages)
  • ideas
  • notes

Introducing MacJournal

MacJournal is a great application for journaling and blogging. With a little bit of hacking it can be a killer application for blogging, as I already wrote. But in its default setup is a little bit too simple for writing an ebook.

When I decided to write some ebooks (and that would be several weeks ago) I turned to another fantastic piece of software from Mariner, StoryMill . StoryMill is a tool for writing fiction material, very close to writing movies scripts, including characters and scenes. It’s not a surprise that Mariner launched something so close to script writing since they are also owning Contour, one of the best tools for writing actual movie scripts. But it was too complicated for an ebook. Great for a novel, but an ebook is usually less than a novel.

So, I decided to make some tweaks to my MacJournal setup and come up with something a little bit more complex than a MacJournal vanilla setup but less complicated than a full blown StoryMill installation. I made use of MacJournal tagging capabilities, entry attributes like status and label, and of course, smart journals. At the end of the post you’ll also be able to download a template containing all the modifications described here.

Writing An Ebook The Smart Way

Well, enough with talking, let’s do some work. Here’s how you can create a setup for writing an ebook similar to the one I use right now.

The Main Journal

First and foremost, I created a new journal in MacJournal and named it after my future ebook. In this post, I’ll use a MacJournal template for an ebook called “7 Things”. It’s an example ebook which contains all that I’ve learned from my daughter, each year. She’s 3 now, so I will have 3 chapters. This journal will hold all the necessary information for my ebook, acting like a main repository.

After that, I established a little routine for writing stuff in this journal. Nothing complicated: each time I add an entry in this journal I tag it using the Inspector window. And this is where the power of this setup actually is, in the tagging area. If the entry is a chapter of my ebook I add a tag “book chapter”. If the entry is an idea, I add to that entry the tag “ideas”. If the entry is just a research note, I tag it “notes”. I think you got the idea. Exactly, when I write some blog post, I tag it “blog”. Tagging your posts is a great habit anyway, regardless of the fact that you’re writing an ebook or not.

Another important habit is to keep a close reference of your entry status. Using the Inspector make sure you assess each time after you finished writing something the status of it. Mac Journal offers 5 statuses for your entries: Unknown, Not Started, Underway, Needs Review and Completed. Most of the time I’m in the “Needs Review” status. When I finished a chapter I assign it the status: “Completed”. You’ll see later why this is important.

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Managing Abundance

So, you want more. Good for you. You want more time, more money, more stuff, more satisfaction, more life. Great! You strive for abundance which, by the way, happens to be our natural state as human beings. But are you prepared for that? Are you really ready to enjoy what you wish?

I’m not talking from a philosophical, law-of-attraction-ish standpoint. I’m talking from a very practical, day to day approach for managing your future abundance. If you consciously chose abundance and if you achieve it honestly, then you have to be able to actually manage it.

During my life I had several abundance thresholds. When I left home and came in my country’s main town to study, I had virtually nothing. I worked during my studies and I successfully managed to financially sustain myself during that time, and I did it more than decent. During next years I passed over several abundance milestones: from going out of the student’s hostel to rent my own apartment, later to buy my own apartment, and even later to move into my own house. Which, by the way, I discovered I had to clean a lot.

Each time I reached those milestones I faced several challenges. Each time I had to cope with a bigger flow of stuff coming into my life. But it wasn’t only stuff, it was more than that. I realized that abundance can walk into your life by taking one of the following three shapes. There is another one, the 4th shape, but I reserved a special chapter to it, at the end of this post.

1. You can have more stuff: 2 cars instead of one, a house instead of an apartment, more gadgets, more clothes, more things – you know the drill…
2. You can have more action: going to the gym, socializing in a different way, making appearance to new events, doing something completely new – everything that your new status requires from you to do in order to keep it up and running
3. You can be involved in new relationships: new friends, new social positions for you, a pool guy, a maid, a chauffeur, or just new persons that needs your constant attention

Don’t laugh. Or if you laugh just keep reading because this is about you and the abundance you are eager to achieve. It will include all this stuff. It will change your life. It will challenge you at a very deep level. It’s ok to laugh, as long as you’ll be prepared.

Failing to realistically manage your abundance can have unpleasant consequences. You can find yourself overwhelmed and lose track of your possessions, or you can fail in managing your new level of relationships and let your wealth slip through your fingers. Or you can be fooled into a “don’t deserve this because I don’t don’t know how to handle it” pattern, which is even worse than the first situation.

So here comes the practical advice:

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