Five Tips for Staying Focused

If you are a small publisher or an independently published author, you wear many hats. Some of these hats include: writer, editor, proof reader, copywriter, blogger, marketer, publicist, and social media strategist.

With so many hat and tasks, sometimes it is hard to focus on just one. However, studies have shown that people are the most productive when they don’t multitask. Instead, your productivity is maximized when you are able to concentrate on just one task and get in the flow.

If you are having a hard time focusing on one task and find that you are not accomplishing as much as you would like to, consider these five strategies for focusing.

1. Schedule your tasks.
Studies show that chunking tasks in time intervals throughout the day is conducive to focusing on that task and accomplishing more. Schedule chunks of time for various tasks. If you want to write, schedule an hour in your day for writing. If you want to spend time on marketing tasks, schedule that into your day.

2. Turn off distractions.
To focus and get into the flow, turn off distractions. Turn off your cell phone. Turn off the notifications on your computer that pop up when you have a new email. Turn off anything that draws your attention and makes you lose focus. You might even need to put a bark collar on the dog or wear noise-cancelling earphone.

3. Allow yourself breaks.
Don’t overdo. Studies show that are maximum for concentration is an hour. After that, we lose the flow and productivity. So, after 45 minutes to an hour, give yourself a 15-minute break. Check your emails and your messages. Get something to drink. Stretch and walk around. Then come back and work on the next task in your schedule.

4. Use an accountability partner.
Using the buddy system can work wonders for focusing. Simply knowing that you have told someone what you aim to accomplish and knowing that they will ask you if you have done it provides great incentive to focus and accomplish a task. Find another small publisher or writer and get some accountability.

5. Reward yourself.
Set goals for yourself and give yourself a reward when you reach them. For example, if you are writing, set a word count for yourself. If you reach it, then give yourself a reward. Consider a Starbucks’ coffee, a pick me up smoothie, or a nice cup of tea. Giving yourself small rewards that acknowledge your accomplishments provides you additional incentive to focus and accomplish goals.

When you start to feel overwhelmed, start with one thing. Do that one thing using the techniques described here to stay focused. Remember, focused activity leads to more productivity.

Do you have any techniques for staying focused that weren’t mentioned here? Please share them with me and others who read this in the comments.

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Four Truths Every Author Should Know

I often hear authors and aspiring authors say things like:

  • When I finish my book, I will attend a writer’s conference.
  • When my book starts to make some money, I will have money to spend on marketing.
  • When I get some reviews for my book, I will begin promoting it.
  • When my novel garners attention and sales, I will write another one.

Sadly, this is backwards thinking.

false-beliefs

Too many people think “when I arrive” I will take the next step. They have the process reversed. In reality, you must “take the next step” to arrive.

Consider the following truths:

1. Attending a writer’s conference will give you the skills and motivation you need to complete your book.

This summer, I met a woman at a writer’s conference who has slowly been working on a novel. She has many self-doubts. So, each year after the conference, she takes the next step, but then the doubts creep back in. She attends the writer’s conference each year to keep herself motivated and on track. She is now, after three years, in the process of rewriting her novel and plans to have it done in 2017 for publication.

2. Marketing your book is essential to drawing people to purchase your book.

You can’t wait until you make money on your book to start marketing. People can’t purchase a book they don’t know exists. Marketing lets people know your book exists. Funds for marketing should be part of your budget when you decide to publish a book. Don’t neglect this important step.

Sometimes authors and publishers tell me that they will join Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) when they start having success with their books. This is the same backwards thinking as marketing your book once it starts to make money. A professional association helps you become more successful by giving you an appearance of professionalism, providing you the information you need to be more successful, and helping you with affordable marketing opportunities.

3. Promotion for your book should start before you produce it.

Don’t wait until you have a book in hand or until you have some reviews to begin to promote your book. You should start promoting your book six months to a year before it goes on sale. Build interest as you are writing the book. Whet people’s appetites with teasers so that they want more and can’t wait to read your book when it is released.

4. Novelists who write multiple books sell better than those who only pen one book.

The statistics show this to be true. People read books by authors they like. So, if you only pen one book, you lose sales. The more books you write the better. With multiple books, a reader reads your book and likes it will purchase and read your other novels as well. One bestselling Christian author told me that every time she releases a new book, the sales for her other books increase.

If you have been operating under a false belief about writing and selling books, I encourage you to embrace the truth.

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Do You Have This Habit?

“Motivation gets you started. Habit keeps you going.” ~Jim Rohn

One paper published by a Duke University researcher in 2006 found that more than 40 percent of the actions people performed each day weren’t the due to decision making, but were habits.

The beauty of habits is that we don’t have to think about whether we are going to do the activity or not. It is simply part of our daily routine. We shower, brush our teeth, eat lunch, walk the dog, and check our email without pondering whether we should do the activity or not. These are all habits that are part of our daily routine.

habit

Successful, productive people have work-related habits that drive their daily behavior. These work habits keep them from being distracted and getting off track. As a result, productive people can accomplish more tasks then someone who is constantly getting distracted or making a decision about whether he should do a work-related activity or not.

As a writer, you should have a writing habit that is part of your day. Maybe you set aside an hour every morning before you go to work or your family members rise to write. Maybe you write on your lunch hour. If you want to produce more books, having writing be part of your daily habit is a good way to ensure that you do.

One member of Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) says that writing a book was always on his bucket list. However, it did not become a reality until he decided to set aside one hour a day for writing. He has now written more than four books. You can bet that his writing hour is now a habit.

If you are an independently published author, then performing marketing activities each day should be included in your daily routine. That way, you don’t need to think about whether you are going to approach a blogger, submit a guest post to a blog, or create an advertisement each day. You simply know you are going to do a marketing activity, so you just have to choose which one.

Have you made it a daily habit to:

  1. Spend a few minutes on social media connecting with and informing others?
  2. Create material to use in your ongoing content marketing efforts?
  3. Perform at least one (hopefully more) marketing activity for your book(s)?
  4. Follow trending news stories that relate to your book’s topic so you can jump on media opportunities?

The good news is that it is never too late to start a new habit. If writing or marketing are not part of your daily routine, make them a part of it. Make these activities a habit that becomes automatic and you will begin to experience more success.

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Do You Struggle with This?

He sneaks up on you and whispers in your ear:

  • You don’t have anything worthwhile to say.
  • You aren’t good enough.
  • Others are more qualified than you.
  • You can’t make a difference.
  • Nobody will buy your book.

Doubt

His name is Doubt. His agenda is to keep you from doing what God has called you to do.

The antidote: Faith.

When God calls you to act on his behalf, he will equip you to carry out the mission. When God calls you to act on his behalf, he does not call you to do something that is comfortable. He calls you out of your comfort zone so that you have to rely on Him and his strength, and your faith grows.

If God is calling you or has called you to write and publish a book, then:

  • You do have something worthwhile to say.
  • You are good enough.
  • You are the one most qualified to say what God wants said.
  • You can make a difference.
  • If you do the work, God will bring those who need to hear your message to your book.

Have faith. Trust that God is guiding you to proclaim His message as only you can do. Proverbs 3 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct your paths.”

Your path is unique. It is yours alone and no one else has the same path as you. Not everyone responds to the same message in the same way. That is why we need many voices proclaiming truth to draw as many people as possible into a closer relationship with God.

Psalm 37 tell us that “The steps of a good man are order by the Lord, and he delights in his way.” Your job is to follow God and bring glory to his name. You do that by writing, publishing, and promoting your book with quality. Trust God and banish doubt.

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A Call to Action with Consequences

The other week, the small group Bible Study I belong to was studying the parable of the Wise and Foolish Men found in Matthew 7. In the parable, the wise man built his house on a rock foundation and it withstood the storm. The foolish man built his house on the sand and so his house fell when the storm came.

house-on-rock

One of the questions that the study guide asked was “Why do you think Jesus told this parable at the end of the Sermon on the Mount?”

The Sermon on the Mount is full of great teaching by Jesus. In it Jesus gives his audience many pointers like don’t be anxious about your life, don’t hide your light under a bushel, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Then he ends his sermon with the parable of the wise and foolish men’s houses.

Jesus starts the parable with “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like…” It struck me that Jesus ended his sermon with a call to action. He told his listeners the benefit of doing the things he has told them to do—and the consequences if they didn’t do these things.

As an author or publisher promoting and marketing a book, you can take a lesson from Jesus. Good book promotion includes telling your audience what your book will do for them. It tells them what need it will meet in their lives. You can follow Jesus’ example by following this up with a call to action.

Your call to action can be like Jesus’:

Purchase this book to get (insert your book’s promise here).

You can even take it one step further and like Jesus tell people the negative consequences of NOT buying the book:

Purchase this book to get (insert your book’s promise here), or continue to (insert the negative aspect of not doing what your book says).

For example, a book on how to become debt free might include the call to action with the consequence of not following it of:

Purchase this book to receive freedom from the slavery of debt, or don’t and continue to allow debt to squeeze the joy out of your life.

Either way, once you are done with your sales pitch, be sure to include a call to action for your audience. They need to know what you want them to do with the information you have given them. Reminding them of the consequences of both acting and not acting helps to push your listener into action.

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