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9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book

9 Valuable Lessons Learned After Writing My First Book

In 2012, my coach asked if I wanted to write a book. This had been a dream of mine for a long time, so it didn’t take me long to say, “Yes.”

It’s now 2013 and the book is finished. I’m exhausted but happy: this project has been a real stretch! Yet, I have learned many valuable lessons about writing a book and today I’m here to tell you some of them.

1. Crowdsourcing makes you a project manager.

My book was written by using crowdsourcing. In other words, I didn’t write all the content by myself—there were also 18 other contributors (bloggers, marketers, and entrepreneurs) to this project. Maybe it was for this very reason that I didn’t feel like an author at times. Instead, my job was to keep a lot of strings on my fingers, so that things would roll along smoothly.

In addition to doing some of the writing (sections such as my part of the book, the Introduction, the thank-yous, the Conclusion, or contributor introductions before each chapter), I also did the following:

  • Found the people to join my project and a person to write the Foreword.
  • Hired a book cover designer.
  • Hired a typesetter for the book.
  • Negotiated with everyone who reviewed my book about possible promotions.
  • Wrote a bunch of launch guest posts and created other launch-related material.
  • Built a website for my book.
  • Created a promo package for reviewers (and anyone else who wanted to promote my book).

This is probably just the tip of the iceberg of all the work I have done during the project. Yet, I’m proud that I was able to get them all out of the way before the launch date.

2. Get a decent editor right from the get-go.

One mistake I made was not hiring a decent editor/proofreader right from the beginning. Instead, I found a person through Fiverr to do the work.

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Unfortunately, when I created one particular draft that I then sent to one of the contributors, he wasn’t too happy about the end results.

After doing a little bit of searching, I found a good editor whose expertise I then used in this project and who proofread/edited the book.

The Fiverr option would have been more inexpensive for sure, but when it concerns a book project, make sure to pay attention to the editing part. Money shouldn’t be an issue in this case!

3. It is going to cost money—but it’s an investment.

When I calculated the project costs so far, the figure was a bit over $2,000. Obviously, I didn’t have to pay everything at once, but rather, during the project.

I see all this money spent as an investment and it’s naturally going to pay itself back (at least partially) through book sales. But more importantly, it’s going to differentiate me from other bloggers out there in my market (productivity), who haven’t written a book yet.

Besides, this investment can give me other interesting opportunities, like teaching and speaking gigs, and it’s also a nice way to build my email list.

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4. Don’t hesitate to outsource as much as you can.

When you are self-publishing a book you want to outsource as much of the work as possible.

For instance, I lost time on the typesetting part because I wanted to save some money and do it myself. However, after talking to my coach about this topic, he suggested that I should find someone through Elance to do the work for me.

I was happy to find someone who could do the work. At least the next time I write a book, I’ll be sure to take the outsourcing path right away—without wasting my time.

5. Make sure to prepare for the launch well in advance.

I was so deeply concentrated on other parts of the book project that I almost forgot the launch phase entirely.

Unfortunately, I was a bit too late on the launch game. For instance, I missed certain guest blog post opportunities on bigger blogs on the launch day. I learned my lesson and next time I will approach these blogs well ahead of time.

Guest posts (15 at the time I was writing this post) were not the only way I was promoting my book and there are plenty of other ways I did it:

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  • Articles on two electronic productivity magazines
  • Advertisement on one electronic productivity magazine
  • Three podcast interviews
  • A national radio interview by Finnish Broadcasting Company, plus an article on their website
  • Contributors promoting the book on social media, on their email lists etc.
  • Reviewers writing testimonials and promoting the book, also on social media, on email lists etc.
  • A speaking gig at my local computer club

Arranging all this takes time, so for my next book I will definitely give more time and thought to these important aspects of the project.

6. You have to understand your long-term priorities.

Let’s see: I was writing a blog, I had a day job, I had a family (and I still do!), and I was competing in triathlons and marathons. In addition, I was about to write a book.

Obviously, there were a few things I had to stop doing, at least temporarily, and in my case it was my sports hobbies. In addition, I decided to temporarily stop podcasting on my blog and recording productivity videos.

I understood that writing a book would have long-term effects while also building my online business and authority, so some aspects of blogging and competing had to stay in the background in 2013.

I’m happy that I made this decision and it helped me to better focus on the book project.

7. Have a person you can turn to.

When writing your book—especially if it’s your first one—it’s very important to get help and insight from someone who has written a book before.

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In my situation, I now understand that having a coach has been an invaluable thing for me—especially as a first-time book writer. He has been helping me along the way by connecting me to various people during the project, or by giving me helpful feedback regarding the book. Since he is an author himself, he knew the right things to focus on and this saved a lot of my time.

8. Your motivation is not guaranteed.

Eight months after starting the project, I faced something unexpected: My motivation towards blogging and finishing the book decreased alarmingly.

I realized that the growth of my blog had stagnated and all I was doing was just working on the book project. In addition, an old passion of mine (designing web sites) raised its head again and my motivation to continue my productivity blog and the book project was at stake.

Fortunately, I was able to understand the long-term value of my project, thus realizing (thanks to my coach) that it would be foolish to pull the plug now, since I had done a lot of work so far. Seeing this book project as being part of something bigger was an eye-opener and it helped me to keep on going until I crossed the finish line.

9. It’s possible to write a book part-time.

When you are writing your book part-time because you have multiple other commitments, you have to make especially sure you take advantage of all the possible time pockets you have.

In my case, I did the following:

  • Woke up early: I got up in the morning between 5-6am, almost every day.
  • Never worked without a plan: I knew exactly what tasks to focus on after waking up, or whenever writing my book.
  • Slowed down my blogging pace: I posted less on my blog and spent the time saved on the book project.
  • Batched content creation: Whenever creating content for the blog or my email lists, I created more content at once.
  • Took advantage of travel times: I worked on this project during the business trips—either on the train or when staying at the hotel.
  • Asked politely: I asked my wife if was OK to spend time on the book project—instead of spending mutual time with my family (fortunately, I didn’t have to do this too often).

Please note that I used these strategies mainly when I still had a day job. In June 2013, I lost my day job due to economic circumstances, so I had a lot more time to focus on the book and get it finished.

After 431 days, the book was finished! These are the lessons I learned. Do you have any tips to share in the comments?

More by this author

Timo Kiander

Productivity Author and Founder of Productive Superdad

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

More on the Importance of Taking a Break

Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

Reference

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