Posts tagged process
One of the problems I have is that I’m often forced to squeeze my time. I’m also an insatiably curious fellow. That’s why I leave research to my business partner. Frankly it plays to my weaknesses — time and terrier learning.
One of the solutions I have found to that problem is to play videos and audios in the background while I write. Or at least put words to pay since I typically have written the piece long before. It saves time, and I learn and work at the same time. For most of my findings the amount of attention I pay to the background is sufficient to learn the material.
Unfortunately, every once in a while I find my self stopping and paying attention to the background “noise”. Even worse sometimes I end up putting my work aside and picking up another page to begin work on an idea that the “noise” has burned into my brain.
That is the nature of this video I found on the TEDxWaterloo site.
One of the core elements of the Content Mapping system is determining what it is your reader wants to read. You never want to bother writing anything that your reader has no interest in. It doesn’t matter what media you choose. In fact, you need to do this no matter what business you are in (it applies outside of the Expert/Information Product/Training business too).
In the full Content Map system, there is a whole process associated with identifying and building upon this. In the Content Map itself, one half of the map is concerned with documenting and communicating that information to your hindbrain.
In the discussions on delivery, I regularly bring up the concept of presenting as though you were conversing with your audience. You want to sound like a conversation around the kitchen table. Or a bar if you’re more comfortable there. Or your living room Chesterfield. You need to talk to your audience in the natural way that you speak with your friends.
It is seldom that I have heard these ideas brought together and spoken of in quite so succinct and well thought out way.
So I present to you The Walrus … (in the much more agreeable and entertaining form of Shelley Ambrose)
“The artist is nothing without the gift, but the gift is nothing without work“
Emile Zola (1840-1902) French artist and philosopher
Welcome to the second in our series on “Finding the Time to Write”.
Now in the last session we discussed the real problem that we have. We cover it up by calling it “Not enough time to write” or some such excuse. Let me be clear here. I’m using the word excuse here because it focuses on a symptom or a solution. Unless we focus on the real problem, we won’t be able to solve it. What’s the real problem? The real problem is simply “Not being able to get our book written”.
Examining that problem led us to the Work Equation. When that equation gets out of balance then we can’t get any writing done.
Cool so far?
Okay, in the next six minutes or so of this session we’re going to talk about identifying a solution to our problem.
So how do you get the Work Equation back into balance? How do you make sure that you are really going to write?
The answer is that you need to deal with all three elements of the work equation. Doing just one won’t cut it. That’s why you get the usual advice that just doesn’t seem to work. It’s not that it’s wrong per se. It just doesn’t work because it focuses on only part of the problem.
Yes, the solution is personal. My solution won’t work for you and your solutions won’t work for me. That’s fine. And yes, you can make poor decisions and poor choices. It’s unlikely given the problem but you can do it. Nevertheless, it’s not you.
The advice you usually get won’t work for anyone … except in a few unusual cases. It’s the advice itself that’s wrong.
In the last session, I gave the three most common versions of advice that are used to fix the problem of not being able to write a book. You’ll notice that “Figure out why you’re writing” and “Visualize the result” are focused on building the desire to write. “Just get it done” is focused on the system. Okay, I’m being generous here. Some people just like being cantankerous. But I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to focus on the positive here and presume they are talking about following a particular system.
The fourth most common piece of advice I didn’t really mention last time. It is usually referred to as building time management skills. This is focused on the ‘available time’ part of the equation.
And that’s why they don’t work. They’re all attempting to fix all of the problem by only fixing part of the problem. And since they don’t fix the whole — something else just goes wrong. You get past that bump and run into a wall.
So how do we deal with the whole? How do we fix the whole problem?
That’s where the three elements come in.
Now the first element is Desire. To build that up we need to focus on motivating ourselves. No different than any other employee. Just part of being a manager. We have to work too. We’re employees too. So you need to manage yourself. And part of that management is to keep yourself focused and interested in producing. In other words — motivated.
Now there’s two parts to motivation. The first is to figure out what will motivate you. “Figure out why you’re writing” as the guru said. Not entirely bad advice, just incomplete. The second part is that you need to continually reinforce the motivation. Motivation fades with time. It’s not a one-time effort. You need to continually motivate yourself.
The second element is Time. Let’s get practical here for a second. If you don’t have at least four hours to write per week, you’re never going to finish. Sorry. Even at four hours a week, you’re going to have a problem maintaining your motivation over the two months it will take to write a short 100-page book. So you need to find the time. And that means you may have to adjust your current schedule.
Look, we’re all busy today. I don’t know anyone who can just sit around for four hours a week. Or anyone who has a spare 24 hours to spend in a week. If you want to write, you’re going to have to become more efficient and more effective with your time. You’re going to have to steal minutes from other tasks.
Finally, the third element is actually three separate elements we can combine into one. Overall, I call it “The Effort Involved”. The solution to that piece of the pie lies in what we term your writing system. Now, I’m changing hats here for a second and talking from a Process Analyst point of view here. That’s why the “We”. It’s plural not royal. Okay? A system — any system — consists of process, environment and agents. How you write is the process. You’re the agent in this case, so we’re really talking about your work habits. And by environment, we’re talking about where you write. Mix them together and you have a writing system.
And your writing system determines how long it will take you to write and how easy it will be.
So the solution to finding the time to write is really a combination of Motivation + System + Stealing Time from your busy day.
Now here’s the kicker. You’re going to have to determine the details of the solution yourself. Why? Because it needs to be customized for you. What works for me won’t work for you. What works for you won’t work for me.
However, there are commonalities … ideas that I can share from which you can pick and choose exactly what you will use. And that’s what the next session will be about.
I hope you enjoyed this session and that you found it useful. In our next and last session, I’m going to give you three practical tips to help you develop your solution to the problem of finding the time to write. And I’ll also have a very special offer for you.
Next & Last Session – Due Friday!
One of the questions that comes up quite frequently is how do you research? How can an information marketer be sure that they are giving their customers the best information possible?
Now there are a lot of different ways to research. Just as there are many different reasons to research. In fact, in a future article I’ll discuss the source of a major disagreement between my partner Paul, and myself. And yes, it’s related to how to research. Or maybe when.
But there is a basic process to research that everyone should follow:
- Develop a strong question list
- Identify the goals of this research
- Pick one or more Research Types
- Confirm the scope of this research
- Pick appropriate information sources
- Document the results carefully
- Verify accuracy of those results
- Analyze results and find “discoveries”
Researching well can be one of the ways you distinguish yourself as an information marketer (aka learning creator).
I forget what the other terms were so until I remember I’m going to take off and discuss a related topic … so there! If you won’t suggest topics you get to put up with my eccentricities. ;-)
One of the ways that learning content (or more correctly the tactics of delivery) can be classified is by the direction and nature of the communications.
For example, an event’s communications can be either:
- one way (facilitator to student)
- both ways (facilitator to student to facilitator)
- Exploratory (facilitator starts discussion and keeps discussion going)
- Practice (facilitator starts, students discuss in small teams, students report to all, discussion with all)
One typical terminology for this is:
A lecture is what we traditionally think of when we think of teaching. One person stands at the front of a group and spouts their knowledge.
A seminar is closer to the Socratic ideal of mutual exploration. It is characterized by feedback and development of the information by the “student”. However, it is still very much a case of the facilitator dispensing information out to the student. In fact, there is a saying that until someone asks a question, a seminar is just a lecture.
A tutorial on the other hand is the Socratic method. By this point the information should have already been disseminated. Although the facilitator may spark discussion by repeating the information the focus is on the group expanding and questioning the information.
A workshop is a practice session. The facilitator may start the process but the process occurs primarily inside the student. Break out sessions are a great example of this tactic. In this tactic, students break apart for the practice then return to discuss and explore the results. The individual versions of this may include homework or software practice which may be discussed, may be self-evident or may be self-evaluated.
Now I have no idea why all this is important … but it seems to be and I’m short of something to talk about. So Friday, I’ll continue the discussion by looking at training media and it’s relationship to these tactics.
Writing How To Book: Selecting a Writing System Video #1 of 4
I hope you enjoy the first in a series of 4 videos to help you select a writing system.
So why do you need a writing system?
First of all, I’m going to presume that you want to write a book. After all, if you weren’t interested in writing a book, you certainly wouldn’t need a writing system.
But once we’re past that bit we’re left with “What is a writing system?” and “What is it going to give you?”.
A writing system is a set of processes, tools and techniques which help you control the complexity involved in writing a book, and help you to effectively and efficiently write a book.
A good writing system will help you to:
- Organize the book
- Organize (structure) the information in the book
- Keep control of where the writing is going
- FINISH the book
In short, with a good system, you’ll actually finish, and it’ll be a book that meets the readers need for COD!
Next: What are your needs?
So over the last two weeks I’ve talked about the four types of books and why the Content Mapping System works for them – or doesn’t.
While the system isn’t a panacea and it doesn’t work for all books, it does work in most cases for how to books and why to books. In short, most non-fiction.
This is true because most non-fiction books are fact based regardless of their organization. Even if they are a simple collection, they still need to be organized. If they are a how to, they still need to be organized. So it doesn’t matter if they are sequential, fact-based or collections, they are still a set of facts that need to be organized. And the best system to do that is the Content Mapping System you can find here in video form (for free) or here in book form (not free).
A minor exception to the above rule is sequential based books. With sequential or process based books you need to add pretty pictures. In other words, flow or process diagrams. But the basic Content Map system works quite well and does allow for adding this type of information. (Yes, believe it or not it is a function of the tool. We don’t talk about it very much but it is part of the proper use of the tool.)
The major exception to the above are time based books. These are histories, (auto-)biographies and fiction. Because they are time based they need a tool which is time based … in other words a time chart based system. Sorry but the Content Mapping system just isn’t the right system for those books.
A couple of final comments.
First, an historical analysis is not a time based book. It is primarily a fact based book. Having said that you may want to use a time chart to help document the occurence of the actions which you are analysing. This leads to the second comment.
The system allows you to use pictures and diagrams when they communicate the information better than words. Don’t be afraid to use them! After all a picture is worth a thousand words. This also applies within your book. Sometimes words are not the best tools to communicate with. Sometimes pictures are. Never be afraid of diagrams. And don’t forget to use boxes … those little quick fact summary boxes you see in some books or at the side of articles. They help to seperate the book and to emphasize key facts.
So enjoy the Content Mapping System and learn to write books in less than 24 hours. Just remember that the system doesn’t work for all books, just non-fiction. It works great for how to books!
Enjoy, learn & get earning.
& the LearningCreators team
So the first type of book we’re going to talk about is the Fact Based book. There is a reason for that. It’s the type of book that our system of writing is best with.
It’s a good thing then that most How To Books are fact based.
So what is a fact based book?
As I’ve already said it’s your standard how to or why to book. In this type of book, the author concentrates on assembling and presenting facts (or opinions). Basically, think of it as an argument in the debating sense of the word. The author lays out a series of facts which make his point and convince the reader to do things the way the author wishes.
So why is our system the best method of designing and writing such a book?
First, the answer lies in the question. An argument is designed. It really doesn’t matter what form that argument takes – book, webinar, speech, debate – a well designed argument must be designed. It doesn’t just happen.
Second, a well designed argument follows a structure. A very flexible structure, true, but a single structure nonetheless. Specifically — intro, body, conclusion. Just like your teachers told you so long ago, “Tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you said.”
Finally, the creative brain doesn’t work well in structured ways. Rather it works by making connections, which can be totally illogical in their arrival.
So why does our system work so well? Because it allows you to generate ideas in arrival sequence but places them in a structured format. We do this with a technology called structured brainstorming and a tool called a structured semantic network diagram. Sometimes this is called a structured idea map or mind map. But SND is the proper (and generic) name. But call it what you will, you start off with unordered ideas and end up with a structured document.
Of course, to do this involved some 60 years of experience in multiple disciplines. And the whole process involves more than just the content map.
But the essence of why the process works for fact based books is in the content map.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case for all types of books. In our next post we’ll look at a version that the system won’t work for. And give you some hints to a version which will.
Learn & Earn
and the LearningCreators crew.
So I’ve gone looking through all these themes and what do I find?
Lots of really talented web designer/artist types. With zero ability to develop web programs.
I also found (almost) zero theme’s that matched my needs — artistically or functionally.
In fact, the only theme I found that I liked was so limited that I couldn’t use it and couldn’t adapt it – at least not without a major rewrite.
And while it’s nice … it ain’t got that special thang!
So I’m going to end up going through this process all over again. Fortunately, not as extensively.
So what’s the solution?
First break the problem into two parts. After all, it’s going to take two different specialists to solve the problem. The artist/designer to look after the overall graphics look. And the web developer who makes sure all the php and xhtml and other bits and pieces actually work. Especially the menus.
WordPress is very powerful. It’s very flexible. But it does do only one thing and does it in a particular way. There’s only so many choices that make sense. Unless of course you are really creative in your business. And the truth is there’s no point. This is a business tool not a personal toy.
That means that there are perhaps 1/2 dozen different variations on layouts for the WordPress theme. Plus a half dozen or so menu possibilities.
Spend some time, identify the ones you like and will use. For example, all the ones that have a left sidebar are out. Why? Because Google doesn’t like left sidebars. So there’s no point designing one. (Yes, there are exceptions — this is an example only).
You’ll end up with a selection of basic templates. You should also end up with a basic set of requirements/needs. Hire a web developer and have him/her develop a theme for each of those templates you may want to use. You may find that you end up with only one or two templates.
Then hire an artist/designer to design the overall graphical look. Have him design several screens. Don’t forget to include both static web and blog type pages. Once those designs are converted to CSS, you should be able to plug the design into the theme you’ve chosen.
Result. You’ve now got a quality theme with a look that shouts “BUY FROM ME!”
Lesson Learned #2:
If you’re going to do this regularly … spend some money and get some designs done in advance.
It’s a lot easier/faster to get a site up if you don’t have spend time figuring out which theme is best. And then have to test the theme to make sure it actually works.
So better to spend some money. Get a developer to put together a basic framework or three. Keep it flexible. Keep it simple. Make it easy to modify.
Then hire an artist to put together a number of pages for you (meaning colour schemes, background art, and banners. All the graphics you will need).
Then when you start a new business or change an existing one, just select the form, select the theme and put them together.
Nice, easy, simple. In the end cheaper too!
The second major reason to write how to books is because you want to sell them. There’s two major ways you can sell how to books.
The first is the traditional method. You can sell your book to a traditional publishing house (Random, McGraw Hill etc). I don’t have the space in a blog to discuss that technique in depth. However, the basic process is to:
- Build a list of agents who are currently looking for authors
- Create a package (letter, outline & 2 chapters) to sell the agent
- Mail out the package to the agents
- Follow up as appropriate
- Repeat 1-4 until successful (or you get feedback saying you’re wasting your time)
- Create a detailed package to sell the publisher
- Send the package to the agent
- Let the agent do their job
Once the agent is successful, then you need to think about promoting your book.
The second way to sell is to self-publish. Now there are several ways to do this (including imitating traditional publishing) but the best method is as part of a information products business. Effectively, your book becomes one in a set of products which teach the customer or client a particular skill.
You’ll find as you try this that a real book is a big credibility boost. Yeah, sure you can get little PLR eBooks for $7. But a real book (100-200 pages) or ebook (60 pages) will get you both recognition and a good return. The problem, of course, is that video is both easier and more effective. However, it doesn’t carry the same cache. So when you design your product funnel you’ll want to fit a book in there somewhere if only to boost your credibility.
Now here’s the good news. All that work you put into learning our system is transferable. It works for any media you choose to put your course into. Of course, there are differences — which is why we recommend starting with a new content map for every media. It’s also why we teach the whole system in media based chunks. But the basic technique and process is the same no matter the media.
So get out there … get learning and get earning!
So for those of us writing a how to book without the advantage of royalty and money what are we going to do? You know those of us who stir our tea with stainless steel spoons and who don’t have secretarial staffs to write our latest romance for us!
Don’t worry we’ve got a secretary too! A cheap one (YAAAYYYY! I like cheap.) It’s called a computer.
I’m talking about voice recognition software. There’s a lot of it out there. Dragon Naturally Speaking comes to mind as the most well known. But there’s also e-Speaking and IBM’s ViaVoice and WhyType and julius and CMU Sphinx … you get the idea. Of course there are new ones appearing and disapearing on a regular basis (IBM ViaVoice for example).
This software translates the words you speak into a microphone into words that appear on the screen in a word processing program. In fact, some Word processors come equipped with built in speech recognition/voice recognition software.
The big advantage is that you are entering words at almost twice the speed of typing.
The disadvantages have to do with the need to train the software. And the need to correct the result. Training the software can take an extended amount of time and be very frustrating. The big frustration, however, is looking at your manuscript and finding all the mis-translations after all the effort in translating.
The second disappointment comes when you realize that you can only speak in bursts. While we speak faster than we type, we think even faster still. That difference is used by many writers to figure out what they are going to say next. A difference that reduces severely when speaking. As a result we tend to speak in bursts rather than at the full speed we have available.
Despite the sci-fi feel, speech recognition/voice recognition is a viable tool for writing and worh trying. Unless of course, you’re old fashioned like me!