Browsed by
Tag: accounting

Blogging, Morning Pages, Goals, Habits, and Accounting [en]

Blogging, Morning Pages, Goals, Habits, and Accounting [en]

[fr] Petite réflexion sur ma difficulté à bloguer régulièrement, une prise de conscience sur le type d'activité que j'arrive à faire régulièrement (comparé aux projets long-terme devant lesquels je me décourage), et peut-être une clé pour exploiter l'un afin de me réconcilier avec l'autre. Ayant avec succès fait de bonnes avancées dans ma compta (en souffrance permanente) après avoir décidé de bloquer trois heures par semaine pour ça, je vais tenter de faire ça avec le blog. C'est trop de temps, me direz-vous, et vous avez raison: mais j'ai d'autres occupations "B" pour remplir la plage de temps si je n'en ai pas besoin en entier.

I am not blogging as much as I would like. This has been a constant over the last years and you’re probably tired of hearing me say it. Trust me, I’m even more tired of living it.

I have tons of things to write about. But I’m also stressed about “more important” things I feel I have to do before I blog (like work; or accounting). And then my post ideas turn into Big Ideas and I don’t dare start writing because I fear I’ll end up writing for hours. And then time passes, and I haven’t blogged, and the more time passes, the more I pressure myself to produce something, and the less I start writing — because blogging for me is about responding to an impulse to share.

So, this is an ongoing struggle.

Boats

Why bother? Blogging is important to me because it holds meaning. For my life, I mean. I guess it’s a bit tacky or commonplace in the era of social media (or are we post-social-media yet?) but writing in public is one of the main ways I try to contribute to the world.

Here are two ideas. I can directly link their existence to the fact I started doing Morning Pages.

The first is that I should give myself a rule. It would like something like this: “If I haven’t posted an article in the last 10 days, I will write an article about anything, just to get an article out.”

A few comments about this.

  • This is what I’m doing now. For weeks, “write blog post” has been scurrying around in my task lists. But I never get around to it. I have a list of things to write about, which means I can’t decide which one to start with, adding another reason not to write. Tonight, I just thought “OMG, I just need to write something to reset the clock and remove the pressure”.
  • I don’t like the idea of “filler” blogging. You see it on high-volume blogs, mainly: fluffy articles that are obviously there so that something could be published today. I’m making the bet that because my non-writing is not related to “not enough to say”, I will not fall into that trap. Another difference, I think, is that I’m “producing content” (ack) for me (to help myself blog) rather than to reach some kind of objective, or for others.
  • Morning Pages have shown me that I can write about anything for three pages. I don’t suffer from writer’s block much (though… maybe this thing I’m struggling with is blogger’s block), but even so, it gives me the confidence that if I open a new blog post I will have things to write about.

Vidy automne

The second idea is more something that I have understood about myself, while doing Morning Pages. You see, I’ve often wondered why although I see myself as somebody who has trouble working on things long-term (writing a book, fear) I am usually very good at sticking with something once I decide to do it. In that way, I am disciplined. I have been doing judo for over twenty years. Blogging for sixteen. On a smaller scale, when I start doing something I very often stick with it for quite some time. I’m not the person who signs up at the gym and goes twice.

Morning Pages is another example: I took up the exercise to see if it worked for me, but it was pretty clear I was going to be sticking with it for at least weeks (more like months) to try it out.

I realised that there is a common denominator to these activities that I stick with: they are repetitive. Small chunks of activity that I repeat again and again and again. Writing a book feels like one big activity that you need to slice up to get through it. Writing morning pages or blogging is a collection of little activities that end up coming together to become a big one.

This gave me a key: turn long-term activities or projects into a small-scale form that I can repeat regularly and stick to.

This probably sounds trivial to you. Of course the way to approach a big project is to slice it up into manageable chunks. I knew that too. But I think the missing piece is the idea to turn the objective into a habit, not just into a series of sub-objectives.

Earlier this year, Jean-Christophe Aubry gave a workshop on goal setting at eclau. I am not exaggerating by saying it was life-changing for me. I am still digesting some of the things I learned and will write about it in the future. (I actually followed the workshop a second time as Elisabeth and I invited Jean-Christophe to hold it during our career development workshop series for musicians.)

One of my first take-aways was the distinction between mastery and performance/results goals. Mastery goals are much more motivating and tend to be those that end up working. So the trick is to transform your initial goal (often performance or result) into a mastery goal. James Clear has written about similar stuff. A very rough summary would be to focus on building habits rather than setting goals.

Anyway, all this coalesced for me a few months ago. My ongoing yearly pain as a solopreneur is my accounting. Each year, I find myself with piles of unsorted receipts and expenses and a rather tight stressful deadline to get everything done for my accountant so I can avoid getting in trouble with our tax service. Each year, I vow to do things differently next year, and keep my accounting up-to-date. Each year, I fail.

I had a brainwave one morning whilst doing my Morning Pages: what if I firewalled time to work on my accounting, a little each week? I had too much stuff going on to drop everything and do my accounting for three days straight, but I could afford to set aside three hours a week to chip at the block.

But what would happen once I had caught up with the backlog? Three hours a week is way too much for accounting (even if you add on invoicing and paying bills). I’d wanted to build a habit around accounting previously, but weekly seemed too often and monthly… well, monthly is just too abstract. The rhythm in my life is weeks and seasons. Months only exist in the calendar.

I decided that I would use any leftover time in those three hours (once I was up-to-date) to work on a creative project – something I never feel like I can allow myself to do. I’m not there yet (2016 backlog now) but the idea is extremely motivating.

Grue vidy

After this digression, about Morning Pages, habits, sticking to stuff, accounting, let’s get back to blogging. My success with accounting is encouraging me to try to convert other things to a “weekly habit”. Things like blogging. I’d like to make it daily, of course, but let’s be real. If I were writing one or two posts a week regularly I’d be a very happy blogger. And I’m pretty sure that writing more often would encourage me to write shorter posts. (Sorry. And thanks if you’re still reading me.)

So that is my second idea. I don’t have the solution yet, but I’ve been tossing ideas around (during my Morning Pages mainly). Should I blog in the morning or at the end of the workday? End seems more logical, but by the end of the day I am generally spent. Plus I often have stuff in the evenings (judo, workshops, conferences, board meetings, you name it).

I have thought of stopping work at 5pm and blogging then on the days I don’t have to leave. But today, right now, writing this blog post, I think I should follow the lead of my accounting success and firewall a 9-12 for my blog. I have a backlog of things to do like import my old Open Ears posts, cross-post my newsletters, etc. – more than enough to keep me busy for whatever time is left once I’ve finished writing. It’ll also give me a slot to catch up with my week-end newsletters if I’m running late, as I often am.

See, this is one of the reasons I blog. Like so many other long-running bloggers, I do it because it helps me think. And if in the process it can help somebody else or simply be of interest, all the better!

Similar Posts:

Sleeping in India and Putting My Brain Straight [en]

Sleeping in India and Putting My Brain Straight [en]

[fr] Le silence nécessaire au sommeil, c'est il me semble quelque chose d'acquis. Un segment du podcast mentionné avant-hier parle de l'Inde... je ne pense pas que donner des boules quiès aux indiens améliorera vraiment leur qualité de sommeil. Et sinon, je continue avec intention à reprendre mon cerveau en main, y compris pour l'administratif et la compta!

After writing my post the day before yesterday, I listened to the end of the two-part series on sleep from Freakonomics Radio. I like Freakonomics because they go beyond the easy fluffy questions, and dig down to where things can be uncomfortably unclear. Maybe I should read the book.

Liseron coloré

Anyway. There was a segment on sleep in India (Chennai to be precise), and some of the comments stuck me as a little… ethnocentric and uncritical. Yes, India is noisy, definitely. And we westerners have trouble sleeping in the noise.  But remember that we have had to learn to sleep in the calm. The womb, where we all come from, is a noisy place. It is only with time that noise starts waking us up.

I remember hearing about the miller who will wake up when his mill stops (sound gives way to silence). More recently, I’m sure I read something about a study where they put volunteers in a terribly noisy sleep lab and kept their eyes open to flashing lights, and they fell asleep just fine. (Couldn’t dig it out, if you find it let me know.)

Many Indians, in my experience, have no trouble whatsoever sleeping in the noise. Some cannot sleep without the noise and wind of the fan whirring above their heads, even when it is cold. So, I’m not sure that providing Indians with earplugs will actually help them get better sleep.

Also, one thing that stuck me in India is that a bed is just “a place to sleep”. It seems to be less of a private, intimate place than in the West. In that respect, I’m not sure one should interpret people sleeping in weird places the same way one would here: maybe they’re just sleeping, and not “passed out from exhaustion”.

This Indian sleeping comment aside, I’ve been mulling over my efforts to get my brain back on track. One thing I didn’t mention in my last post was that I am trying to put more intention in things. If I realise I have forgotten something, I make an effort to recall it. I make an effort to be organised and not let things slip. I am making a conscious effort to get back on top of things, and it seems to be working.

Obviously it’s not enough to help me keep track of everything I’ve read, because I can’t seem to find the piece which talked about this guy who made a conscious effort to floss every day as an exercise in self-discipline. If you can’t get yourself to floss each day (less than a minute of your time!), how can you hope to stick to bigger things?

So, I’m flossing. These last two nights, I also went to bed with my phone on airplane mode and in the living-room — just me, the cats and my kindle. This morning, I didn’t touch my e-mail or social media until I had showered, had breakfast, and headed down to the office. Environment design

I’ve also decided to stop being flaky about certain things, in particular around admin and accounting. I have no love for either of them, and like to say that I am with financial stuff like some are with algebra: my brain just blacks out. Well, enough of that. It’s not rocket science. If I was capable of doing Fourier transforms at some point in my life, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to remember which papers I need to bring my accountant for my taxes and accounting each year. Hell, I’m even enjoying listening to Planet Money!

Similar Posts:

Income Map Template [en]

Income Map Template [en]

[fr] J'ai préparé un tableau pour m'aider à avoir une meilleure visibilité de quand je gagne de l'argent, par semaine et par mois. Il est à disposition si jamais quelqu'un d'autre le trouve utile.

One of the things I want to start doing in 2010 (now that my accounting is in order for 2009, thanks to Buxfer and my brother) is start tracking when I spend time doing “paid work”. Accounting helps me track when I get paid, but not when I am actually spending time doing the work — and in the light of my weekly planning experiments, I want to gain more visibility about how my weeks and months are structured.

After torturing my brain quite a bit, I’ve come up with this Income Map Template for 2010. I’ve made it publicly available as a Google Spreadsheet so you may copy it and use it if you wish (feel free to adapt it and let us know what works for you in the comments).

Income Map Template 2010

The challenge here is that some of my income arrives monthly (retainers), some of it is a project package (one price for a certain amount of work spread over a certain time) and some of it is one-off (giving a talk, or half a day of WordPress training). What I’m really interested in is seeing when I’m doing work that I get paid for, weekly.

This is not about cash flow, although it deals with money (Buxfer takes care of the cash flow), but about time management.

With the help of this spreadsheet, I hope to be able to easily answer the following kinds of questions in 2010:

  • how much paid work do I do in a given month?
  • how much of my income is one-off gigs, compared to regular clients (retainers or long-term projects)?
  • does my weekly income (one-off gigs, aside from retainers and long-term projects) vary a lot from week to week?
  • where should I set the limit to the number of engagements I take in a given week/month?

So, to freelancers out there, who are not clocking time all week: are these questions also interesting to you? Does this make sense? Do you do this kind of “money-earning time-tracking”?

Similar Posts: