The book is out!

Hooray! It was a good weekend. Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff got approved and now is in the iBookstore, the print version can be bought through my Createspace estore, and it's now listed in both Kindle and print versions on Amazon.

With everything now in place I can move ahead on promoting the book. I'm ramping up gradually, in hopes that my early adopters will write reviews that will be seen by other folks as I start driving more traffic to the various storefronts.

As before when I transitioned from writing to editing and formatting, I feel myself changing hats and switching to a new aspect of the job of indie author.

I need to run the numbers again, but my sense is that I need to sell around 3500 copies to pay back my costs. So far I'm about 2% of the way there with the very small amount of publicity I've done, so that's encouraging.


Planning through dependencies: A lesson from self-publishing

I'm in the very last stages before self-publishing my book, Discardia: More Life, Less Stuff, and the remaining steps are often exceedingly clear.

For example:

I will be publishing in the iBookstore, but I can't submit the book to them until I set all their pricing terms.

I can't set all the iBookstore ebook pricing until I have determined the book's price for its physical version (in trade paperback through Amazon/Createspace).

I can't set that price until I know my costs for author copies and my royalty share in the different sales channels through Createspace.

I can't know those costs until I have a solid estimate of the book's page count.

I won't have that page count until I do the layout in the print template with something very close to the final version of the text.

I won't have something very close to the final version of the text until I've transferred almost all the copy edit changes into the master manuscript in Scrivener.

I can't copy those edits over until I receive them from my editor when she has finished her main copy editing pass on the manuscript.

Fortunately, I'm expecting those from her shortly.


To be fair, I also don't want to submit the book to iBookstore until I have the final version with all the copy edits, but I find the dependency between print layout and ebook publication worth noting.

Kobayashi Maru, man.

I love Merlin Mann and Jeff Veen's kickass brains.

The whole episode of Dan Benjamin's The Conversation is very worth watching, but this bit resonated deeply:

Merlin: "There's still companies today where they are feverishly trying to lock down, like not let you get to Gmail and not let you get to any of this stuff, but you've got 3G on your phone! You know? It's there's this shift that – …we usually use this in the sense of talking about media – but the toothpaste is out of the tube with this stuff. … It's not like it used to be like you're describing, Jeff. Like back in the day when if I wanted to do anything with email, I had to go to the office and sit down with Eudora and my Hayes modem and that was a completely different way of thinking about my work than it is today. And I think that you're describing a shift, though, that's a whole constellation, a syndrome of changes that IT in particular is probably having a pretty hard time keeping up with."

Dan: "Well, you know, just the existence – to kind of support what you're saying – just the existence of apps like Gowalla, the existence of the Gowalla/Foursquare mentality, of something like that couldn't have existed the way it does now just a few years ago, let alone a decade ago. And I think people want to be in touch and it's like would a company now, today, a new one, ever be able to do anything but encourage this kind of thing? And when is enough enough?"

Jeff: "Well, I'll tell you, there's another shift as well, and it's not just this 'IT departments trying to exert control', but it's also this notion of how you measure productivity. Right? … In the past corporate productivity measurements were about your butt in a chair for forty hours a week. Right? You know, filing your TPS reports. So that's why you see crazy stuff, like, you know, firewall filters that won't let you go visit Facebook while you're in the office. As opposed to… be more milestone-based, set out your objectives, know what they are, get them done, have a deadline, and then leave me the hell alone. I'll get my work done and that might actually require me connecting with somebody on Facebook to answer a question, or, or whatever! Right?"

Merlin: "Yeah, it's infantilizing!"

Jeff: "It is!"

Merlin: "What's funny to me in this is again another thing from the book, but, like, to me this is a huge pattern is that what is knowledge work at the heart of it? Knowledge work is you hire somebody because they're smart and they either know how to solve a problem you don't know how to solve or they know how to solve it better and more efficiently than you. So they're a part of this value chain where, like I call it the black box career, but you don't need to know everything about MySQL to go hire the guy who's your MySQL admin. You just need to know that that person does a good job with it. …Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, Andy Hunt (one of the Pragmatic Programmer guys), he has this wonderful term, and I really recommend this book for anybody… and the phrase he uses is… that the problem at a lot of companies like you're describing, Jeff, is they're trying to herd racehorses and race sheep. And so, in that instance, you are infantilizing people whose job it is to figure out what their job is. … You know what, just tell me the deadline and the rules. Kobayashi Maru, man. I will figure out how to do this, but, like, get out of my face and stop trying to give me unnecessary rules. In my opinion, that is a failure of management. You look at somebody like Lopp, right? Michael Lopp. You talk to Michael and he will just say 'You know what my job is as a manager? My job is to get out of the way, remove barriers, and then run defense so my people don't get interrupted.' And that is so different from 'You need to be sitting and checking email all day long so I know that you're there.'"

Jeff: "It's about trust, right?"

Merlin: "The lack of trust, absolutely, the lack of trust. And also… when you get to the big company level you end up having… more mortar than brick."

Definitely in motion on my road

My latest Discardia post is about choosing what you most want and don't want in your life and then bearing those priorities in mind when faced with options (which we are all day, every day).

Here are my choices:

I want…
1. to be thriving in a great relationship.
2. to feel healthy and strong.
3. to be a published author.

I don't want…
1. to work in a cubicle.
2. to have little control over when I do what.
3. to be stressed all the time.

I'm making great progress on all of these goals. I quit my office job just over a year ago, went into business for myself as a productivity and life coach, started writing my book about Discardia, devoted more of my energy to my relationship with Joe, and consciously began designing my life for less stress.

The feeling healthy and strong part has been tough, though, I have to admit. I hate gyms. I have a weak knee and a weak ankle which make running or jogging very unattractive. Really, the only exercise routine I actually like and seek out many times a week is walking. As someone with a project of walking the city of San Francisco – every street, every block – that's not a surprise, right? 🙂

During the past two years I've made various attempts to up my activity level. I tried the Wii Fit for a while; fun, but not inspirational for daily activity. I got a pedometer and renewed my focus on my SF walking project; definitely a help, but not always compatible with working on a book and maintaining a happy home many hours a day.

Yesterday, I think I finally found the sweet spot: a treadmill desk.
I moved my Ikea office armoire to the other wall so the space in front of it wouldn't block our path to the back bathroom, switched the shelves around so that the extending desk surface could hold my monitor at face height when I'm standing, and put my treadmill in front of the desk. There are a couple tweaks needed – the typing surface needs to be an inch or two lower and the stereo speaker buzz needs to be resolved – but in the first part of my day today (less than two hours) I've already strolled at a comfortable speed of 0.7 miles an hour (while typing and reading) and logged over 2700 steps.

I can see that with this setup it will be very difficult not to reach a daily goal of at least 10,000 steps. Also my energy and alertness levels are both higher than when I'm sitting in a chair. Awesome!

Notes on my setup:
LifeSpan Fitness TR200 Fold-N-Stor Compact Treadmill
– nice finished board
– two scarves to tie board on treadmill handles
– blanket under board for padding and as additional safety grip
– Ikea armoire with extendable shelf
– cheapish monitor
– MacBook
– creativity

Meetings Cost A Lot

I'm pleased to see that others have had the meeting cost calculator idea and done something about it.

Toby Tripp, Lydia Tripp, and Roy Kolak's Meeting Ticker has now been joined by Bring Tim.

Bring Tim
Every tech company I've ever worked with (except those run by Clemens Pfeiffer) has needed a device like this, but some need it more than others. Yes, you with the weekly hour-plus meeting attended by the CEO and three VPs, I'm looking at you.

(Thanks for linky goodness, Boing Boing!)

How To Work Better

[originally posted to my Expediter coaching blog]


ReminderHowToWorkBetter This is some good advice.

As far as I am aware, the original is explained best here in the Tate Etc. magazine archive where the piece is identified as being Peter Fischli and David Weiss's How to Work Better from 1991. Since then – in addition to inspiring from studio walls – it has wandered the internet, often in the visual form you see at left.

One of the things I like best about this particular form, and which gives it more weight with me than the text alone, is the imperfection of it. It is a good reminder that it's better to get something out into the world than to endlessly tweak on it seeking perfection.

The words are great too.

Do one thing at a time.

There's a key Expediter principle; you will achieve more working on multiple projects if you give them your full attention for set chunks of time than if you flit between them rapidly. The chunks don't need to be large – even 15 to 30 minute sprints can be hugely productive. Just focus and don't give in to the "I'll just take a quick peek to see if there's new email" urges.

Know the problem.

There are many ways to interpret this, but one which I find valuable is to confirm with myself what it is I am trying to solve or achieve. What is the outcome I am seeking? I've heard GTD coaches phrase this as "What would done look like?"

Learn to listen.

Simple, right? Nope. This one is a lot harder than it seems and critical to success in all aspects of life. Really shut up – mouth and mind – and really listen. Then think. Then respond.

Learn to ask questions.

Assumptions can bite you in the butt later. Ask, clarify, confirm. Even when you're working on something for yourself, ten minutes spent unpacking and spelling out your expectations into a brief journal entry can both vastly improve the finished work and steer you clear of avoidable problems.

Distinguish sense from nonsense.

This is the outcome of listening and asking questions. What actually works in this situation? What doesn't fit?

Accept change as inevitable.

This is true of our projects, our companies, our culture, and most definitely ourselves. Much of the nonsense we deal with results from trying to shoehorn the no-longer-current into a changed situation.

Admit mistakes.

They are inevitable and they are valuable. Denying them is a far worse mistake than anything else that could go wrong and interferes with learning.

Say it simple.

Omit needless words.

Brevity is the soul of wit.

"Do only what is necessary to convey what is essential. [C]arefully eliminate elements that distract from the essential whole, elements that obstruct and obscure… Clutter, bulk, and erudition confuse perception and stifle comprehension, whereas simplicity allows clear and direct attention."
– Richard Powell, Wabi Sabi Simple, quoted in Presentation Zen

Be calm.

"The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are."
– Marcus Aurelius

Calmness is essential to clear perception and appropriate reaction.


Yes; it helps. Being happier tends to make all the other parts easier. So keeping your spirits untroubled is a good investment.

And even when you aren't feeling your best, be nice. That's a prudent investment too.

Does your workspace energize and focus you?

[originally posted to my Expediter coaching blog]


Next time you're at your desk, open up your attention and be where you are. What does it feel like? What bothers you? What doesn't belong? What do you love? What gives you a lift as soon as you notice it?

It's funny how such a simple thing as asking "am I getting what I need here?" can be so hard to remember to do regularly. The benefits of asking that question of yourself and acting on your answers are huge.

Take five minutes out from everything else, breath deeply, and look around.

Spot one thing that isn't as it should be and change it right now.

Maybe it's a souvenir you no longer love that can be thrown out or donated to charity. Get it out of here.

Maybe it's your computer desktop still showing the default image it came with. Put a picture on there of someplace beautiful that makes you feel alive and awake.

Maybe it's a stack of magazines from two years ago that you should decide you really don't need to read. Toss 'em in the recycling.

Maybe it's an empty stapler that needs to be refilled, for which you've been needing to get a fresh box of staples. Walk over to the supply closet, drop a note to the person who'll restock your desk, or add it to your errands list to remind yourself when next you're out and about.

Maybe it's something big like the complete lack of a view. So add "get a better office" to your projects list and spend a moment brainstorming a few things you can do to get that ball rolling (e.g. prep notes for annual review, rearrange office layout to face more towards windows across the hall, update resume). Whatever your tasks are, add them to your to-do list and make them a priority.

Every day take these few minutes out to tune in and give your world a little twist toward the best day you can imagine. It all adds up!

You are already smart; just step back from the noise & listen to yourself

[originally posted to my Expediter coaching blog]


Increased productivity often comes more from better tools and processes than it does from new data. When you make it a regular habit to take time out to think about your commitments and organize your ideas, the logical next steps will reveal themselves. When you know what your potential next steps are for each of your projects, it becomes much easier to find one to fit your present context and energy level.

A best practice which can pay off more than any other is to stop trying to keep track of everything in your head. These days we've all signed on for more stimulating input than any one person can engage with fully in a lifetime.

"You receive too much information, and its not your fault. Just accept that there is more information than time, and that it's increasing every day." – good experience guru Mark Hurst, in his book Bit Literacy

The essential trick in the face of this daily onslaught is to think in advance and to respond appropriately in the moment acting in accordance with your priorities. This is as true for a creative professional as it is for someone who works with structured plans in an office. 

"The randomness of my job is one of the most interesting things about it but that randomness feels less chaotic if I have all of that disparate clutter out of my head and categorized." – comedian and actor Rob Corddry

By learning the tools and techniques to regularly clear your head and review your goals and projects, you free yourself to act on new input in ways which help get you where you want to go. Distractions are transformed into opportunities or their negative impacts are minimized.

"In truth, I've found that any day's routine interruptions and distractions don't much hurt a work in progress and may actually help it in some ways. It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters." – author Stephen King in his book On Writing

Taking the real stuff of your daily life and using it to produce your best outcomes radically changes your experience of the world for the better. It is this practical approach to being focused and open to change which creates a better work/life balance and a happier you, even in the face of moment-to-moment chaos.

Gaining new skills and understanding is a gift which pays off both in the short and long term. There isn't a single one-size-fits-all answer, but the specific practices which will most help you are out there. As productivity guru David Allen put it in regard to his coaching practice, "I'm not here to tell you what's the content of your process; I'm here to find out what is it that's getting in the way of you being fully available to whatever is now. And now. And now. And now."