Thursday, March 13, 2014

Increasing Your Productivity Through Checklists

I admit it, I’m as lazy as a cat on a hot summer’s day. So how exactly could a person that takes two naps a day write, illustrate, and code over thirty children’s books in two years?

We all want to get more work done. We all have major goals in mind and visions of success in the future, so what’s the secret to getting things accomplished? What amazing, groundbreaking thing, could the people at the top use to get and stay ahead?


There, done, that was an awesome blogpost. 

Seriously though, I don’t know if it’s a result of being raised on video games, but something about checking off a task gives me a sense of accomplishment and a drive to do more. Some days I simply cannot stop until I’ve checked off everything on a list. Call it a compulsion.

So here’s what one of my typical day lists looks like:

Yep, I put everything on there. If you look closely at the top you can even see a little time for God is penciled in. I find it helpful to put tasks on your list that you actually want to do. Take time for yourself in the midst of your schedule. That way you will actually want to complete the list.

Most of the other entries are things that I need to get done, want to get done, or really don’t want to do. See the checklist has this innate power to get you to do things that you despise simply by forcing you to come to grips with them. Those unchecked tasks taunt you until you are ready to strangle them and, when you finally slay them with a mighty dash, you feel victory over yourself.

Any uncompleted tasks from the previous day get moved to the next day (to taunt you some more.) Mornings are usually spent filling in the checklist with tasks that need done. I also have it nearby at all times so that I can add something at a moments notice.

Abstract tasks such as “brush your teeth” are trivial and will only make you feel accomplished when you actually did little. Vague tasks such as “write a novel” will have the opposite effect and will demotivate you since you cannot possibly check it off. Instead, take your overall goals and break them down into little bits. For instance, when I’m writing a new book, the list will go something like this:

1. Come up with a new idea.
2. Outline the idea.
3. Write the first draft of the idea.
4. Rewrite
5. Send to editor.
7. Do the concept art.
8. Sketch the layouts.
9. Fight with the editor (or just implement their changes.)
10. Create the final illustrations (can be broken down even further.)
11. Layout the book.
12. Code the book.
13. Publish the book. (including all the little tasks like making a blurb and keywords, etc.)

Phew, that’s a lot of work! However, if you break them down and only give yourself one of those tasks per day you have something manageable. Also note that at thirteen tasks, give or take, you have about two weeks worth of work. You even have a day off in there! 

So there you have it. If you break down your writing projects into simple checklists you can get more done. Simple, no?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have something to check off.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Remastered Titles

This past week I went through some of my classic books and reformatted them to take advantage of the color Kindles. These titles now have crisp, high resolution, images that fill up the page and text that you can interact with just like any other eBook. I'm hoping that with this new tool I can offer you more compelling and engaging content. So let's look at the titles that have changed.

Monsters A to Z got a facelift and a full-screen treatment. This new version is how I originally envisioned the book before we had the ability to create such things. I added the crushed paper texture to the background and floated an old typewriter text above it. It looks close to a field manual and makes it a suitable precursor to Monster Manuel's Field Guide.

 go to book

Next up is Weeping Willoughby, a title that came out last November and desperately needed reformatting. Of all the pieces, this one has improved the most. When I originally created it I was struggling with the formatting. I ended up making some of the headings big and others small. It didn't work and, as one reviewer noted, it turned into a mess. This one is worth a look if you haven't seen it.

 go to book

And last but not least I “remastered” The Hope Flower. I had lost the original source files for the project, so I had to recreate and resize the images by stripping them out of one of my old collection books. This meant the resolution was less than optimal, so I had to flex photoshop to resample the images. It also meant that I couldn't update it from the old Kindle size to the new screen size without some padding on the sides. The solution was to create the picture frame that you see below.

 go to book

This title is one of two controversial books that I have written (the other being Billy the Coral Snake) and as such has a lower rating than most. People either love it or hate it and which side of the fence you land on depends on your approval of the word “stupid.” That’s right, stupid, the other four letter word. I had no idea the word would be so controversial. In hindsight I should have known better, but I stand by everything I create, and leave it up to the parents to decide what their children should and shouldn’t read. 

The Hope Flower is free this week from  March 10th through the 15th. Give it a download and tell me what you think by leaving a review.

PS- Look for more blog posts going in depth about the update process!