Welcome to the October 2017 Monthly Project Report. My goal with this post is to help other authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, or anyone else who wants to make an impact on others. Each month I will share how I spent my time as a creative entrepreneur and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. My hope is that those lessons will help others in their journeys, too. I’ve always been inspired by bloggers who post monthly income reports (Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Melyssa Griffin). They show how success is possible. I hope this report will do the same.
How I Spent My Time in October 2017
I track every minute of time I spend working in an app called Toggl. I’ll share why in another post some time. Here is a list of the projects I spent the most time on last month:
- 19:15 – Untitled LECTIO Book
- 13:17 – Speaking (Retreat in Toledo, OH)
- 11:36 – The Religion Teacher Email
- 4:56 – The Religion Teacher Facebook Live Videos (watch here)
- 4:17 – The Religion Teacher’s Weekly Reading Worksheets (membership)
- 4:10 – Weekly Review
- 4:01 – Morning Pages
- 3:52 – Daily Review
- 3:04 – Morning Preview
- 2:55 – The Religion Teacher Blog
Total time spent: 86:51
Here is what I produced last month:
- Worksheets: 12
- Articles: 9
- Newsletter Emails: 4
- Videos: 13
- Books: 16,455 words
- Workshops & Webinars: 1
October 2017 Highlights
I’m writing another book!
I wasn’t planning to write a book this year. In fact, I specifically wrote in my goals NOT to start another book until I sold through the printing of my book about the Angelus that came out this year.
Then I read some advice from Ryan Holiday (interview here, article here):
“The best marketing you can do for a book is to write another book.”
There were two other reasons I started a new book project:
- I received incredible feedback on a new concept I introduced in September (link here).
- There was some nudging from my publisher for a book specifically for my website’s audience
So, on September 29 I created a new Scrivener file and started writing. I wrote 16,000 words in October and plan to have the book completed by early December.
More on this in next month’s report.
St. Joan of Arc Retreat
I led a retreat for teachers last month in the parish where my wife and I were married. This was a special opportunity for me because most of my sibling-in-laws went to grade school there.
I focused the retreat on the vocation of Catholic educators pulling exercises from my book, 31 Days to Becoming a Better Religious Educator.
Unfortunately, on my way out of town, I got a flat tire. One of the advantages of speaking in a city I know so well was that I knew exactly where to take it to get it fixed.
Only 152 words (12,698 total)
Led a retreat for 6 hours, then got a flat tire. Mentally exhausted! #amwriting #dailywords #wordcount pic.twitter.com/nvG31xJsax
— Jared Dees (@jareddees) October 20, 2017
Two hours later I was back on the road.
The Weekly Reading Worksheets project is complete!
This is a HUGE milestone.
Every week for the last three years I have published a worksheet to go along with the Sunday Gospel at Catholic masses for religious educators to use in class.
When I first started my membership site, I wasn’t exactly sure what would be the most valuable to members. Class videos? Online courses? Worksheets? After a few months, I tested this idea out and the worksheets got more downloads than anything else I had offered up to that point.
Out of that test grew this three-year project. The Catholic Church has a different Sunday Gospel reading every week for a three-year cycle. So, every week for the last three years I’ve worked on this project. I’m much better at creating worksheets than when I started. I have a stronger philosophy about what works best in religious education now because of this project.
As a bonus, it made my experience of Sunday Mass even better as well. I went through the meditations in the worksheets myself and it made listening to the Gospel each Sunday a more meaningful experience.
Now on to the next set of worksheets and downloadable resources for members!
What I Learned in October 2017
The best way to market a book is to write the next one.
I had a mindset shift about writing books last month. As I said, I wasn’t going to write another book this year. I had written a book every year for the last few years and I knew the amount of time it took to complete them.
I also wanted to focus on my business and website to make sure my family was taken care of financially now that I was working part-time for myself. (I can’t support the family on book royalties.)
Plus, my latest book didn’t sell as well as I hoped. It had a great response. People loved it. The reviews are great, but I just couldn’t find the tribe to spread the book by word of mouth (yet). There’s still more to be done, but the best thing for this book is to write another one.
Morning Pages can become a selfish act.
I added Morning Pages to my daily morning routine last summer. This practice is recommended to artists in Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I’ve heard a lot of other writers say how much this practice means to them.
At first I really appreciated it. I forced myself to write fast and get all the distracted thoughts out of my head.
I realized, though, after writing my pages every week day for a few months that it was becoming a very self-centered practice. I started focusing my thoughts on things I desired. I wrote about challenges I wanted to overcome and ways to get there. As each of those challenges and goals stayed unresolved, I kept those thoughts from my Morning Pages cycling in my head. I couldn’t stop thinking about the writing session from the morning and the things I didn’t accomplish.
In October I turned Morning Pages into what I called “Morning Praises.” I wrote prayers of praise to God similar to St. Augustine’s Confessions. The challenging thing was to focus all my writing on God rather than myself. I had to constantly turn my free-writing back towards God. It was selfless and I think it helped me achieve the original purpose for the practice in the first place.
In November, though, I’m trying something different. I’m substituting daily blogging here for my Morning Pages practice. More on that in the next monthly update.
I spend too much time planning to work rather than actually working.
I spent a total of almost 15 hours going through my morning preview routine, daily review routine at the end of the day, and weekly review at the end of the week. That’s 17% of the entire time I spent “working”!
Writing this monthly report is already paying off personally. Had I not done this, I would not have realized how much time I was spending on these planning and preparation activities.
Is this time valuable? Yes!
Would I skip any of these routines? No!
But I could certainly streamline the process and focus on what is most important in those checklists. I can also make sure I stay focused during those times.
Removing Morning Pages in November will certainly adjust the time spent as well.
The other lesson here is really valuable for any type of project: 20 minutes a day really adds up!
My Daily Review routine, for example, ranged in time from 9:43 to 29:00.
I wrote my last few books–before the one I am working on now–in twenty-minute increments during lunch breaks and in the morning before my kids woke up. Those 20 minutes add up to hours-per-month through daily repetition.
Summary of Lessons Learned:
- The best way to marketing the current thing is to create another thing.
- Make your journaling practice a selfless act.
- Spending 20 minutes a day on a project adds up fast.
- Limit the amount of time planning and preparing to actually do the work.