- Block off time on your calendar to complete key tasks―they can’t be compromised and need to be protected from less important activities
- Maintain your fitness―sustained energy is necessary to effectively complete a period of high performance
- Negotiate new timelines if your work exceeds the available time to complete it―attempting the impossible leads to poor quality
- Track your time―measurement leads to improved effectiveness
- Say no to new tasks―this is easier and more effective than trying to adjust your existing commitments to accommodate new ones
- Let everyone know you are entering a crunch time―intense focus can be misinterpreted. Also, this discourages people asking you take on new tasks
- Mandate a six hour sleep rule―any less and you quickly reach diminishing returns
- Set an end date for when the crunch period is over―if not, the crunch pace can become your new norm
- Capture lessons learned―throughout the period, ask yourself what is going well and what could be improved upon?
- Reward yourself and those close to you―celebrating acknowledges sacrifices made and helps frame the experience as worthwhile
One of the first lessons my editor, Ken, taught me was that you write the introduction after you complete the book. I will call the one I wrote before meeting him “draft 0.” It now makes sense since my book has changed shape almost weekly and my early thoughts on what the introduction would say have also changed.
There’s a lot at stake with the introduction. It has to grab readers as they scan it and convince them that the book is worth their time and money. It must clearly state:
– Who the book is written for (who will benefit from reading it)
– How it will help them
– Who I am and how my experiences qualify me to write it
– What I believe are the broad themes about successful change management
– Why the book is structured in the way that it is
– Why I wrote it
Basically, the introduction has to convey the essence of my book in a few pages. With only six short case studies to write before I complete my book’s content, I have been psyching myself for my next challenge: to nail the introduction. It’s time to tell my story.
In the late 90s, I was influenced by the writings of Dan Sullivan, the founder of The Strategic Coach program, a process for helping entrepreneurs grow. His perspectives helped me manage my career and life. One of his core processes is called The Entrepreneurial Time System where time is divided into three types of days: “free days” (off-limits days to rejuvenate), “buffer days” (preparation days), and “focus days” (performing days).
Although I couldn’t organize my time in this way, I did benefit from the thinking behind it. In particular, Dan believes that you create breakthrough ideas during a series of consecutive “free days” where you completely remove yourself from work (including emails or reading business journals). Mark, my friend and fellow Sullivan fan, and I would ask each other about our breakthrough idea after each vacation. They were usually good ones.
I thought of Dan this week when my family went skiing at Whistler. On day 3, my breakthrough idea came to me about half way up the mountain. I realized that my greatest achievements are ahead of me.This is true of most people but declaring it verbally and in writing creates the mindset necessary to make it real. Questions like “What are better achievements?” and “What would have to be true to achieve them?” have started forming the steps to reach them. My book is my next step.
As we left Whistler Village for the last time, a sign in front of the The North Face store captured the gist of my breakthrough: Never stop exploring (to become your best).
I had an exhilarating call with a professional editor whom I met through a friend. He was personable, fun and knowledgeable. We discussed my book and how a reader might use it. He shared his first perceptions and briefed me on the publishing world. My favourite observation was that fifty-five questions (chapters) may be too many. But they are all important, I thought. I also thought, I think I need a professional editor!
Time flew by, as it usually does when absorbed in conversation. By the end of the call a partnership was formed. I would handover my draft manuscript on December 21st and he would edit it over the next couple of weeks.
After hanging up the phone, I created a mindmap drawing of what I needed to do before the 21st.The page quickly became full. I needed to reformat quotes, rewrite the introduction, and write a ‘how to use this book’ section, an ‘afterword,’ and six more stories. I also had to inject more ‘Phil’ into the writing style – all in fourteen days.
Given the messiness of my drawing, and with a nod to the holiday season, I created an Advent Calendar to share my work schedule. I have five more days and nights to go and am on track. The good news is I’ll have three days to do my Christmas shopping after my draft is complete! Phil
As I was rereading my old notebooks, I discovered that the ‘Change the plan, work the plan, change the plan’ quote is actually ‘Get a plan, argue a plan, get a better plan.’ It’s fascinating how time affects your memory. Both seem true but my version feels more like an ongoing way of working versus a one-off task.
It’s been 15 weeks since I shared my first plan. Some steps have been added and others have been modified. Here is a list of the changes:
- I chose to write the first draft of my book direct to the page and then enhance it based on notes recorded throughout the many change projects I have been a part of
- Extending my blog’s distribution is a new step based on advice from some gifted and experienced authors
- I will be requesting feedback from trusted friends and peers on content, structure and title. This step precedes my original one of holding a focus group of potential readers. This and the ‘consider illustrations’ steps will come after I secure interest in my book
- All my research recommends hiring a professional editor to sharpen my draft before promoting it. The old adage, ‘You only have one chance to make a first impression,’ comes to mind
- Most publishing houses do not accept unsolicited manuscripts. This means I will need to secure an agent to represent me and my book
- Further steps I will leave open for now. One author wisely said, “Be flexible with your work if you want to be published.” It’s good to have an open mind.
It’s exciting to see my plan change over time. Completing each step gives me a more informed perspective. I’m sure my plan will change again, which is a good thing.