Thursday, September 1, 2016

Early To Rise

Increase your productivity by waking up earlier.

On the Page

Recently I listen to an episode of the podcast, On the Page, a podcast designed for screenwriters, you can "join professional script consultant Pilar Alessandra as she demystifies screenwriting and answers your questions about script craft and story." I stumbled on this podcast in search of resources for creative story telling.

The guest in Episode 468 was Marc Haimes, a screenwriter involved in several successful films and currently working on many projects. In the podcast, Marc revealed one of his secrets to getting things done: He wakes up early. Marc said he prefers to start working at 5AM with the goal of being 70% done with his work by 10AM. He referred to the 5AM hour as yielding "triple dividends," the 6AM hour as yielding "double dividends," and from 7-9 as a "good time" to accomplish his tasks. Marc likes to plan for the next day as he turns into bed by asking questions he needs to answer in the morning. This way, his subconscious can start working while he sleeps.

Facebook Post

The next day, as I was perusing by Facebook feed, I noticed that several of my friends had shared an article titled, "Why the most productive people start their day at 4 a.m. (yes, we're serious)." In the article, the authors wrote about currently well-known individuals who rise early:

  • Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), 3:45AM
  • Richard Branson (found of the Virgin Group), 5:00AM
  • Michelle Gass (Kohl's department stores), 4:30AM

I shared the post on my Facebook feed, and many of my friends commented. It turns out that some of them also rise early, ranging from 3AM to 5:30AM.

An Ancient Practice

In researching for this article, I typed "Ben Franklin early to bed early to rise" into Google Search. One of the first results was a brief article at Wikipedia on this topic of waking up early. Who knew this warranted its own entry on the iconic online encyclopedia? The authors of the articles quoted Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, "It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom."

I previously wrote about Anthony Trollope, who wrote from 5:30-8:30AM every day before starting his full-time job as a postmaster for the British postal system.

Throughout the Bible you will find many examples of characters rising early. Abraham rose early to see if Sodom had been preserved or destroyed. Jacob rose early after his vision of the ladder to heaven. Joshua rose early to vanquish his enemies. Moses rose early to meet with God. In a time when the availability of natural light moderated activities, it was necessary to rise early in order to take full advantage of the entire arc of the sun, from sunrise to sunset.

Benefits of Rising Early

Below are a few benefits I came up with for rising early.

  1. Local quiet time for personal improvement - In this international economy, someone is always awake and working, so you won't be able to find a time when everyone is sleeping. However, it is still fairly quiet locally wherever you are. You can use this quiet time for developing a spiritual practice, exercise, writing, reading, or some other personal improvement activity.
  2. Fewer interruptions - Because most people and animals are asleep, you can accomplish activities with fewer interruptions. Writing documents for work, responding to e-mails, and individual brainstorming are easier if you do not have to worry about family and professional interruptions.
  3. Sense of accomplishment - By getting an early start, you can have a larger portion of your day's work completed well before the day ends.

Challenges of Rising Early

  1. Extra effort is required. If you are not naturally "a morning person," you may have difficulty waking up at such an early hour (whether it is 4AM or 5AM). However, a good alarm clock and a personal commitment to start earlier can help.
  2. Early bedtime discipline. Based on the number of hours of sleep you require (I prefer 7 hours), you will need to adjust your bedtime to accommodate an earlier wake up time. 
  3. You need a plan. Waking up "just because" may not provide the motivation you need to wake up early. Develop a plan for how you will utilize your early morning time. Find a spiritual book or program to study, answer questions from the night before (like Marc Haimes), or commit to an exercise routine. 

I encourage you to try waking up an hour earlier for at least a couple of weeks. I believe you will see an increase in productivity.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Listen to a podcast daily

Never quit learning - listen to a podcast daily

A combination of broadcast and pod, short for Apple iPod, a podcast is an episodic audio or video program available for download via the Internet. Podcasts span a range of subjects, lengths, and publishing schedule.

Podcasts are a great way to learn new information and/or be entertained. Podcasts are:

  • Free
  • Easily downloadable—downloads can be scheduled
  • Available for a wide range of topics—current categories at Apple's podcast store include arts, business, comedy, education, games/hobbies, government/organizations, health, family, music, news/politics, religion/spirituality, science/medicine, society/culture, sports/recreation, technology, and TV/film.
  • Asynchronous—you control when and where to listen, including the ability to rewind and fast forward content.

Another great benefit of podcasts is that you can download them to your smart phone to listen to while exercising, commuting, and working.

I listen to a variety of podcasts including political commentary, screenwriting, investigations into the paranormal, grammar tips, and literary history and news. It is possible that none of these may appeal to you. That’s fine. Search for the podcasts that will be interesting.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Notes on Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds

This post contains my notes on the book Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The guaranteed way to get your screenplay or novel read by Michael Hauge.

Even though I am not a screenwriter or novelist, I have collected and read several books on the craft of story. The principles of story are applicable in any type of narrative writing, whether it is a business presentation, personal letter, or non-fiction account of events.

Selling your story in 60 seconds

According to Amazon, I purchased Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds in 2011. In a recent review of my planners I came across my notes from my reading of this book. The concept of providing a short pitch of your story is similar to giving an elevator speech.

From the back cover:

  • How to design, perfect, and present the 60-second pitch
  • The 10 key components of a commercial story
  • The 8 steps to a powerful pitch
  • Targeting your buyers
  • Advice from 40 major screenwriters, novelists, agents, and executives
  • Pitching templates for every genre

10 Components of a commercial story

  1. Hero*
  2. Empathy with the hero by creating sympathy, putting the hero in jeopardy, making the hero likable, making the hero funny, and/or making the hero powerful
  3. Setup of the story
  4. Opportunity presented to the hero
  5. Outer motivation* (desire) consists of one of four visible goals: win a competition or love of another, stop a negative event from occurring, escape from a place or person or situation, or retrieve thing of value
  6. Conflict*
  7. Hero's arc (character development throughout the story)
  8. Deeper issues that tap into universal human themes or issues
  9. Antecedents (previous or similar stories)
  10. Your passion for the story*

Components with a * are most essential for making a pitch.

60-Second pitch

The best way to introduce your story to someone is to start with "I think the best way to tell you about my story is to tell your how I came up with the idea" or "I've always been interested in ...." Then provide some personal detail relevant to your story.

Next, transition to, "What if ...?" Based on how you arrived at the idea for your story, walk listeners through the scenario you considered, "What if a young man whose relatives were just killed set out on an adventure in the universe?"

Finally, provide a detail about the hero, his or her desire, the essence of the conflict in the story, and one unique element.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Read a blog post daily

Never quit learning - Read a blog post daily

Blogs are proliferating everywhere online. A truncated version of "web log," a blog is an information page that consists of several entries, known as "posts," usually with the most recent appearing at the top of the page. Most blogs feature the ability to search for various posts either by keyword or date. It is easy to start a blog, and many begin this journey but abandon it along the way. Millions of blog sites exist.

The vast majority of blogs are hosted by Blogger, part of the Google family, or Word Press. For the purpose of searching for information, it doesn't matter where a blog is located as long as it is easy to find and maintained with current information.

President Theodore Roosevelt was an avid and prolific reader. On a typical day, he read 2–3 books, sometimes more! However, some recent statistics suggest that people are not reading books like previous generations.

Consider these findings from the Barna Group: 

  • 35% of adults say books are too long 
  • 41% of men and 28% of women feel books are too long 

Percentages of respondents that feel books are too long:

  • Elders (born before World War II): 27% 
  • Baby Boomers (born between 1945 and 1964): 30% 
  • Generation X (born between 1965 and 1981: 31% 
  • Millenials (born between 1982 and 2003): 49% 

Considering that from one-third to one-half of people believe that books are too long, blogs are the perfect solution. Most posts are fairly short and, if following the proper structure, clearly delineate different sections by using headers and lists. This structure accommodates both those who will take the time to read the full post as well as those who will only scan the highlighted information. Regardless of your interests there are blogs for you. Search for an area of interest and add "blog" to the search. A listing of blogs related to your search topic will be displayed.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

July Update

Blog Posts

How to give an elevator speech
Use a technique taught by Hilton Johnson to deliver the premise of your business, product, or service in two sentences, also known as an elevator speech.

Government image sites
Below is a list United States government image sites. In addition to specific image sites, many government agencies also have Instagram and Flickr accounts.

Write your book in a weekend, Part 2
This post is based on notes from a couple of different webinars I attended in 2009 and 2010.

Be willing to learn
Never quit learning - Be willing to learn.

Free image sites
This post is a review of several free image sites.

Master your tools
Never quit learning - master your tools

Find answers on the Internet
Never quit learning - find answers on the Internet.

Made to Stick - reading notes
This post is a summary of the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath.

Read a book monthly
Never quit learning - read a book monthly.

Writing 365

I have been faithfully writing every day. As of yesterday, my word count is 320,576. At the beginning of the year, I wasn't sure if I would achieve 365,000 words by the end of the year. However, instead of focusing on the end of this journey, I have kept my focus on the goal of writing at least 1,000 words per day.

Since I have been recording the number of words written for each category for each day, I am able to analyze writing patterns throughout the year. Below is a chart which shows how many times I wrote in each category by month. I did not include the journal category, as I have written consistently every day. On some days I wrote more than one entry for the ebook category.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Notes on Quick and Easy Guide to Effective Speaking

This post contains my notes on the book The Quick and Easy Guide to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie.

Many individuals are familiar with Dale Carnegie's book How to Win Friends and Influence People. The Quick and Easy Guide to Effective Speaking is another book Carnegie wrote based on materials from his highly successful course he started teaching in 1912.

I read this book in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Carnegie's unique and effective method for improving communication. What follows are my notes as I recorded them in my 2012 planning journal.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

10 reasons to write a blog

A blog is an extremely versatile tool that can be used for marketing, writing, and reference.

I have maintained two blogs fairly consistently over time. I keep recipes online and periodically add to the collection at my vegetarian recipe blog, The other blog is this one, I wrote my first post in January, 2011: Play. While my consistency in posting has waxed and waned since then, I am definitely glad I have maintained, and continue to add to, this blog.

Below are ten ways blogs can help you, regardless of your profession, interests, or goals.

1. Blogs can be a great marketing tool.

If you have a business or are selling a product, blogs are a great way to generate leads by offering education information related to your business, services, or products. Visit for great resources of marketing with blogs. I reviewed Ray's blogging webinar in 2014.

2. Blogs help you write regularly.

Some bloggers post every day while others post less frequently. Like every recurring activity, posting daily vs. posting once a week can make a significant difference in terms to the number of posts written by the end of a year. Since I started this blog I have experimented with various posting schedules, including taking extended breaks. Currently I try to post 3-4 times per week. This fits with my scheduled of other activities. I also use the scheduling feature of Blogger to write several posts and then schedule them over a period of weeks.

3. Blogs are flexible.

You can have a blog focused on a specific topic, and you can also use blogs as a platform for other types of writing. Nina Amir wrote a book and teaches others how to blog a book. Instead of writing in a word processing application, a blog can be used to organize posts into chapters using hashtags. Blogging a book provides the ability to write consistently (daily, etc.) while accumulating several words and chapters over time. Blogs can be configured to be public or private, so you could write extensively without anyone else seeing your work.

4. Blogs are a good personal reference tool.

Many of the topics I use as blog posts are for my own later reference. I like to put notes on my blog, especially if there are links to books, sites, and other resources. I use the custom Google search feature regularly to find information on my blog.

5. Blog content is easily sharable. 

There may be times when you want to share information on Facebook or Twitter but the information itself requires more than 140 characters or a few lines to share. By writing a blog post, you can then share the post on any social media platform, including Twitter, Google+, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.

6. Blogs provide a hub for transmedia.

As I have written about previously, transmedia means sharing the same content on multiple platforms. You can write a blog post and use the content to create a video, SlideShare presentation, Instragram and Tumblr images, etc.

7. Blogs can function as a basic website.

You can buy an inexpensive domain from Google Domains, GoDaddy, or other sources and link it to your blog, as I have done with this blog. In addition to the regular list of posts, you can also create pages with additional information.

8. Blogs can be customized.

Both Blogger and WordPress offer a variety of plug-ins, such as lists of posts, images, etc., to enhance the functionality of your blog. Additionally, you can adjust the look of your blog and layout of various elements on the page.

9. Blogs are interactive.

Unless the feature is disabled, blogs allow the ability to comment on posts. This is a great way to interact with readers who find your blog.

10. Blogs include tracking statistics.

In the back office of my blog, I can see the number of views for each blog post. Additionally, I can view the number of total views on a daily basis, and the primary sources of views.

Start today

If you don't already have a blog, today is a great day to start. You will be amazed how quickly posts will accumulate over time. If you already have a blog, please share it in the comments below, and use this post as a reminder to review how regularly you post and what you can do to make your blog even better.