[NOTE: if you’re not interested in the tech behind building an online course, this one might not be for you. I don’t go into too much detail, it just won’t suit everyone. No harm, catch you next time!]
I teach a lot of course material online, and one of the biggest problems I’ve had to date in my business is finding a system that is user friendly, that I can also easily use.
When it comes to tech stuff, I’m not completely lacking, and I can figure most things out – but I sort of have to relearn everything unless I’m doing it regularly. I don’t know if it’s bad memory due to long term stress, undiagnosed dyspraxia (doing things by muscle memory or unthinking repetition/habit have been my coping mechanism), some weird combo of these… or something else entirely. I mean, who the fuck knows, right?
I redid my Weebly website early this year, moving to a WordPress site with an LMS theme. (That stands for Learning Management System, and it’s basically an overlay that organises your course materials and is supposed to sort it into easy to use and manage course content. Spoiler: it didn’t.) The theme was buggy from the start. Myself and the wonderful designer I was working with (she tried her best, bless her, with bad tools and a client who hadn’t a clue) basically patched a site together that was working grand, until I started to need to change it or do more with it, and then it wasn’t working hardly at all. Certainly not in the way I wanted it to.
So I embarked (about 2 months ago now) on a journey to learning wordpress for myself, building out some simple websites – such as this one! – and figuring out a) what I wanted my main author website to do, and b) how to make that happen.
The long and the short of it folks, is that I kind of wasted the last 2 months fecking around with stuff that I don’t need to be worrying about as yet, or that didn’t suit my business.
I’m always planning for growth, and when I started this pivot in my business over 2 years ago, one of the things I set myself was that everything I did had to be scaleable, ie. I wouldn’t stick myself in a situation where I can’t grow due to money or – more likely – time restrictions.
We can always earn more money, right? But there’s only so many hours in any given day, and I don’t want to have to spend all of them working in order to get any bigger in my business.
So I set up in a way that is sustainable, and scaleable. For example, my Patreon doesn’t require that I create an item per person, either originally (ie a poem or a story) or even through the posting out of packages. I do the work that I do each month, and no matter how few or how many patrons are signed up to that level, the work stays the same.
With the exception of top tier personal consultation work, which is high ticket pricing and limited availability, so worth taking on at that level.
Another important part of my buisness model is re-purposing. I create a piece of content once, but it gets re-used in multiple different ways. My monthly live classes are an example of this – Patrons at the $50 Reward level get a class invite to the session on the last Sunday of every month (as well as all the other rewards from the tiers below)… but I also sell class access invites seperately.
The class is recorded, and all live participants get a link to download the files as part of their original deal. Those class downloads are also avilable to buy as a standalone course though, and the guided journeys can be repurposed into other products too, in various formats. At last count I had 20 of these single topic courses available for download. Before my website crashed.
Going forward, I would like to re-record or edit a lot of this material into shorter module courses (sitting down for a 60-90 minute teaching session requires commitment, though I do offer the material in video, audio, and text/slides format, to help with this).
Those 20 individual courses also lend themselves to bundles, for example, a series on Otherworld Journeys from start to finish. Or Magic, or Irish Deities. So I could group them together and create longer course programmes.
Anywho, as you can see… there’s a lot to do. And I plan to get a lot bigger than my current business levels, so I do need systems in place to handle that, and save myself doing all of this AGAIN in another 12 or 24 months.
Having run a very successful foundation/beta programme of my newest longer learning programme (26 weeks of Ogham) I was keen to get moving on building that out into a professional looking and functional course, rather than doing it all by email delivery as I have done previously.
I messed about with Member Mouse (payment and content protection plugin) and with Thrive Apprentice LMS plugin for most of those 2 months – both of which came HIGHLY recommended by other online course tutors.
However, about 2 weeks in, Thrive changed the Apprentice plugin to a new version, and it just doesn’t work in the way it’s supposed to. I’ve been happy with the rest of the Thrive stuff, the themes are basic but function really well, and their Architect site builder plugin is really good.
With the changes though, and all the support materials detailing the old version of Apprentice, I was scrambling. Between trying to figure that out, and figure out how the Member Mouse system would work with my courses, I was going round in circles. And not making ANY money, by the by.
I guess no learning is wasted learning? But I finally admitted, coming back to work yesterday morning after my first day off in way too long, that it wasn’t working.
There was another option that has been floating round my awareness the last few months, a sort of plug n play system called Teachable (it used to be Fedora, and is used by loads of top online course creators I follow).
It’s basically a learning management system that’s been built for me – an online platform for creating and teaching courses. Content creators can create an online course and upload them, and they provide the structure – like, an online college that I can go teach a course in, virtually.
Now, this isn’t free. They do have a free pricing plan, but they take a 10% cut and it doesn’t have the features I need, like drip content. So, for a monthly fee, they do all the back end work for me, and I can focus on my course creation and teaching.
Having made the decision, I sat down to work yesterday morning, and by evening I had my monthly class option live, and the extensive Ogham Journeys course programme mapped out and ready for content uploads.
TWO. MONTHS. LATER.
With no sales. With massive headaches. With frustration and feeling incompetent.
And in the end, I got this system figured out in ONE DAY.
Right but it’s done now, and I can redesign my website too, without having to incorporate the LMS elements into it. That makes that side of things, for a focus on blog and book sales, a whole lot simpler too.
Winning, I suppose?!
I set the new monthly course up, with a FB event, then ran a little boost to it so my current audience would see it. And I woke up this morning to sales, which cover the monthly fee I just paid for Teachable. So yeah, I call that winning 😁[If you’re interested in what all this looks like, you can see it at LoraOBrien.teachable.com/]
Increasing your productivity is a priority for most of us, in whatever area of our lives we want to focus on.
What’s your baseline though?
Do you know where you’re at – realistically – with your productivity right now? Well, that is your first step.
There’s a couple of ways your can go about this. The easiest, for creative or work based productivity tracking, it to get a programme on your computer that does it for you.
I use Rescue Time personally, which promises to help you “find your ideal work‑life balance”. They’re right in saying though, that with so many distractions and possibilities in your digital life, it’s easy to get scattered.
So they will help you “understand your daily habits so you can focus and be more productive”. I’m there for that.
The Rescue Time programme is free (there are paid options I believe, but I don’t bother with those personally), and just sits on your computer, judging you.
Nah, just kidding. There’s no judgement here. It’s a really useful, and sometimes very stark look at your productivity, or lack thereof, each day though.
It’s been invaluable for giving a long hard look at myself, and figuring out what I’m wasting time on, how much time I’m spending on ‘busy work’ that’s not actually moving me towards where I want or need to be going, and exactly where I can improve.
Like I said, it’s essential to know your productivity baseline right now, and take an honest look at that, before you can begin to improve it.
“What gets measured, gets managed.” – Peter Drucker
If your productive work is off the computer, don’t worry, you can still get the baseline down. You have a phone right? Or some sort of digital device with a clock function on it?
Right so, this sounds way too simple. But it works.
When you get up in the morning, you just refresh the timer on your phone (or whatever), and start a new day. Then you just press start when you begin to do something productive – however you’re counting that – and pause when you’re doing things that are not productive.
At the end of the day, you check your productive time, and write it down or otherwise record it somewhere safe. Then you do it again the next day.
For this to work properly, you’ll need to:
And watch as your productivity grows, just by the actions of monitoring and managing it. Of course there’s lots more you can do to improve it, but establishing your productivity baseline is the first step.
So, start today. Tomorrow at the LATEST.
Be honest, be fair, and go easy on yourself for dogs sake. Drop any ‘perfect productivity’ expectations right now. Nobody is perfectly productive every single day.
This is an observation exercise, not a stick to beat your damn self if you don’t seem your day has been productive enough.
(Do you hear that, Lora’s Brain? That’s sound advice. We should take that advice. Right so.)
I’ve been asked for this quite a few times and I finally got round to doing it, a class for getting your bullet journal set up, and working for you from the beginning.
This class covers:
Usual Price – €17
Current Price just €7! (valid until 31st August)
Isn’t it a question we all ask ourselves? Well, those of us who might end up clicking the post titled ‘How to Be a Writer’, at least.
We’ve spoken before about Writing, and no doubt will do again… but if you want to become a writer, but you’re not sure where to begin, you’re certainly not alone. I get questions on this all the time.
So, I’ve put together a few tips and guidelines about writing a book. (Freelance writing for magazines and such is a little different, but if you’re interested in how to freelance, I still love Carol Tice and her ‘Make a Living Writing’ website.)
If you want to be an author though, to see your name on the front of a lovely fresh non-fiction book, or stunning debut novel, then it’s time to start writing the book.
I know, sounds obvious right? You’d be shocked at just how many budding writers and authors don’t actually get round to this part though, even though they seem to have plenty of time to set up Facebook profiles and send long-winded query letters to publishers!
The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. ― Mary Heaton Vorse
So, how to be a writer is – you need to start writing, or finish writing, if you’ve already started.
There are two quick questions for you to ask yourself so.
Q.1 Do you have a rough plan, plot, or proposal mapped out, a basic framework or structure for your fiction or non-fiction book?
Q.2 What’s your total word count at now, and what does it need to get to?
For Question 1, if the answer is no, then that’s what you need to be doing right now. Stop the research, quit telling your friends how awesome your book will be, and get a plan in place. Start with these resources, and follow the steps:
Do it today!
[Note: the post-it planning method detailed here can also be used for book project]
For Question 2, most new writers are a bit clueless. What’s the right word count for your type of book?
It varies of course, but there’s an accepted general guide. Bear in mind, that it can wobble around by as much as 10,000 either side, depending on how well put together and tightly edited your final manuscript is.
The only things that are really frowned on are an author picking the shortest word count because they’re afraid of how to write that many words, or an author not paying attention to proper storyline or editing and leaving the story ramble on for thousands and thousands of words of unnecessary, confusing, babble spew.
Yes, that’s a highly technical term, I’ll have you know.
Generally speaking then, when you’re writing a book:
Taking a look at your book plan from Question 1 (you did that right?!), you’ll have a rough idea of what chapters and sections you want to include, and probably even topic and titles mapped out.
For non-fiction, 10 to 15 chapters is normal, while fiction is a choose-your-own-adventure type of fairground ride, with whatever chapter type and structure suits your work.
Romance might run to the lower end of the word count for fiction, while sci-fi or fantasy fiction often runs higher. There’s no real hard and fast rule for that though.
Now, you have a structure, you have a target, you know what you have achieved, and what you have yet to do.
If you have a deadline to work to, then figure on how many days per week you can write, how many writing days til your deadline, and how many words you still have to write – leaving time for editing and word count for cutting of course.
Good rule of thumb is a month (or two, ideally) for editing, and about 25% more than your targeted word-count, for fiction. Non-fiction has a narrower cut margin generally, but still leave 5-10%.
If you don’t have a deadline, then you need to set one.
You’ll need to figure out two key things:
Yes, sometimes it flows faster, and sometimes you’re dragging the words like pulling teeth, but give it an estimate at least.
Aim for 500-1000 words per day, minimum, and how many days per week to reach your target word-count, plus extra editing percentage.
Now, you have a date. Add 1 or 2 months for editing.
Et Voila! There’s a delivery to publisher date (the publisher will have their own schedule and time frames after that, but you need to write the damn thing before you’re going to be looked at), or a time frame for you to start looking at self publishing.
Whatever your daily or weekly writing schedule looks like now, set it by word-count, not time spent at desk. And don’t move your bum from that chair til your word-count is done.
Do you want to talk about being a writer, dream about how to be a writer… or do you want to BE a writer?
You may not think you need to make your own website right now, but, if you run any sort of business or organisation, you really do.
Like, don’t be building that up with just a Facebook page. I’ve seen WAY too many business pages shut down for no apparent reason. If you don’t have your own website (and mailing list, but we’ll get to that in a while), you’re right fucked then, aren’t ya?!
I don’t do website design, and I’ll be honest I’ve moved to WordPress for everything now, but if you’re really new and just need to get a website up and running, I started with www.Weebly.com, and I do recommend them.
Their Starter or Pro packages are available for like, $10 to $15 per month, and have everything you need to get set up. (Check current pricing here.)
Yes, you do need your own domain name. Yes, you do need to pay for your website. But it’s a small price, really.
Eventually you’ll want to get a bit serious, and WordPress is a great way to go for that. It’s scalable as far as you need it to go.
But if you’re starting out, and just need to know how to design your own website or a build an online store, start with Weebly. (I don’t have any affiliate links to them, btw, I just used that platform successfully and happily for the first 5 years of my business!)
Whether it’s for your business, community or charitable organisation, or even your own personal profile, it’s easy enough to create your own website these days. The design is through templates, and you change it or tweak it with simple to learn drag-n-drop methods.
Having your own website means you can establish yourself as an expert, grow your influence, sell your products or services, start a blog for content marketing or personal uses, or demonstrate your achievements.
What are you waiting for?
Project Planning can be a bit of a mess at times.
Like, there’s often a load of ideas, and notions, and wonderings, and what-ifs floating around in my brain and it’s tough to get it all figured out.
I often use a sort of Mind Map technique in my Bullet Journal: there’s a resource for getting started with that here.
Quite honestly though, I do love ‘big picture’ project planning.
I love having a big blank wall in front of me, or a white board, and filling it with a big ole brain dump so I can see it all right there in front of me… and then starting to put it in order.
So, I found a method that’s been really working for me.
Pat Flynn has already done a helpful video on this, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel here. He says:
Have you ever started something but never finished? In this video, I’ll show you the P.A.T. technique so you can learn how to plan anything and actually get it done.
As an entrepreneur, my day is full of creating plans and executing them, and as more and more fill my plate, I’ve learned a specific planning technique to make sure I finish what I start.
If you don’t have a “plan for planning” what can end up happening is you’ll pile up a number of goals and to-dos that can lead to procrastination, it can have you feeling unaccomplished, and ultimately you might even give up.
We don’t want that to happen.
Watch the Project Planning video now…
I used a method quite similar to this when planning the Beta run of my Ogham Journeys Programme.
That’s been really successful, and I will definitely use this particular project planning method again this month as I refine the course content for opening it to my mailing list (end of September) for our first full annual Programme run.
[If you’re interested in Ogham – Click Here to Join My Author Mailing List.]
Look, it happens ok?
To all of us who are trying to get a routine started, or form a habit, beat something unhelpful we’ve been landed with, or just get our shit together and do a bit better in our lives.
We all go off track at times.
As I’m writing this, it’s a Monday – the start of a new week, and oh, I had great plans and goals and aims for getting the best out of my Monday morning. I really did. I always do.
But this morning I remembered I’d to make a trip in to my Mam’s and feed our cat (my cat who can’t live with me currently and so has been kindly adopted by my Mammy) as she was away and I wasn’t sure what time she’d be home later.
Ordinarily, I would have left the feeding on the day of return, but I’m feeling a bit of the guilts coz I completely forgot to go in on Saturday, and when I arrived on Sunday she was in a huff with me. So, I thought I’d earn some extra brownie points, though of course it doesn’t work that way. Cat doesn’t give a fuck how hard I try to make it up to her.
I get kind of fixated on ideas that revolve around my inadequacies – perceived or real – and making up for them. It’s a problem, but sometimes there’s an easy fix, and I’ll make sure to take it. Therefore, it was important that the cat got fed this morning as well.
Neither of our alarms went off, and it was 8.45am before I woke up, 9am before I woke Jon. He hopped up and showered while I drank my water, took meds and ate my energy bar, and then read. FYI, this was part of today’s ‘professional mastery’ input – I’m currently revisiting Pagan Portals – Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism, by Morgan Daimler (you get in on Amazon.com, or Amazon.co.uk). I never really got the whole Reconstructionism thing in the States, and I want to try and figure out if that’s what I’ve been doing, as my spirituality has grown organically here in Ireland. I’ll let ye know.
So far, so good, besides the sleeping in blip. We did a meditation session together through the Calm app, and then we headed out to Tramore to feed the cat. I plugged in my earphones and started to catch up on the weekly check-in videos from the students on my Mórrígan 6 month Intensive Programme, and then had to stop and take a breath as they were particularly moving and I wanted to focus fully on them when I got home.
Fed the cat. She was glad of the food, but didn’t care otherwise. Jon invited me for coffee, and even suggested popping home first for my bullet journal as I love a little coffee shop planning session, so I do.
By the time we got home though, my anxiety had kicked in about the amount I had to do today, and my schedule being off track, so we decided to rain-check our coffee shop treat mini date, regretfully.
I then found I wasn’t feeling right, at all. Very unsettled and out of sorts and it was only 11.30am. I needed to get back on track, and that’s where the routine kicks in. Fuck what time it was, just finish the morning routine, and ease back into the day. I went through my daily devotional, physio exercises, had some carbs and watered my garden while I listened to more of my current audiobook – The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better To Live More, by Chris Guillebeau (you can get it on Amazon.com here, or Amazon.co.uk here).
After spending the time and energy to focus on my students’ videos, I recorded one of my own in response to them, and that was another mental tick of feeling better and not letting people down. Time to hit the office… at 2.30pm.
Sitting down at the desk, I went through a very quick affirmation and visualisation, and had a little catch up on tasks and events to reset my brain to reassure myself I wasn’t missing or skipping anything else. Then I did a simple task list for the rest of the day (6 items only)… and mentally allowed myself the grace of coming back to work after dinner if I need to, but also the understanding that I don’t have to if I don’t want to.
Nobody is going to die if those tasks don’t get done, or get moved to a different day. But I might, if I don’t take care of myself.
All that being done, I drank more water, and thanked Jon a little tearily for taking care of me and understanding me, when he brought me the coffee I hadn’t had. He knows that’s a part of my routine too (I have one a day) and that it might help with the ‘getting back on track’.
Writing this is the second item on the task list for today. First I do the daily creative things – book words is number one, then this as I quite enjoy it so it makes for an easy ‘win’, then a keyword based article as content marketing for the new meditation site/business niche I’m building is number three.
After that comes the 2 tasks that are scheduled to happen on Mondays, currently that’s writing and editing content for my 14 week Irish Magic Course. I have the bones of it written as a book I decided not to publish as a book, but instead have been adapting as a self-study email course. Wednesday is the weekly deadline to make sure those lessons are edited and ready to go, as this is the first run through of the course and the first student signed up on a Wednesday, so she receives her lessons every 7 days after that.
Yes, I pre-sell stuff and then create or improve it as I go. It makes for very clear and unavoidable deadlines, to ensure I stay ahead of myself and the work gets done. All of my classes and courses are in a constant state of editing and updating, with me usually only a few steps in front of the promises I must keep!
I’m back on track now, to some extent, and feeling a lot better that I haven’t let myself (or anyone else) down today. Lessons learned, though I’m sure I’ll need to keep re-learning these particular ones.
First mistake was, I hadn’t put it onto my week planner to feed the cat. If it’s not written down it doesn’t exist for me.
Second, I didn’t set myself up on Sunday for the day – and the week – ahead. I got caught up yesterday in working on my current obsessive project – the guided meditation journeys website – and my usual Sunday stuff didn’t get done. We’ve no meal plan set out, I didn’t remember that the monthly Pagan moot I run is happening this Wednesday until my friend Orlagh texted me about it mid-morning, and I don’t have a weekly spread done in my journal.
What I did right though was realised I was off track, paused and took a breath before I spiralled, and just reverted to the routine. Slotted in where I’d left off, and just carried on from there, regardless of what the physical time was.
The true beauty and usefulness of having a good plan, is that it’s always there for you, telling you what you can do next.
You don’t have to worry about the big picture, or fix all your problems immediately. Just pick up the plan, put your trust in that, and take the next step. Then the next.
Catch you tomorrow,
Don’t forget the links to books I share are ALWAYS my personal resource recommendations, but are also sometimes affiliate links if you want to head over and get a copy for yourself. It doesn’t affect you in the slightest, or cost you anything, but I get a few cents kickback if you buy. I’m not going to remind ye of this every time now, but I want to be crystal clear and accountable!
What is a bullet journal… and why did I start one?
I believe it was my good friend Cait who first introduced me to the concept, or a version thereof, as we sat over lunch in a hotel in Carlow one of the days.
She had a plain black covered notebook that had some sort of system going on, seeming to involve categories and shading the page edges so you could easily flick back to the section you needed.
Given my 20-notebooks-for-different-things-on-the-go-at-the-same-time habit up to that point, which even I knew was vastly unmanageable and wasting time and energy, not to mention paper, I was intrigued by the key concept.
In which to keep ALL THE THINGS.
And organised so you could find the things when you needed the things.
However, at that point I wasn’t ready for learning a new system. So I muddled on.
I honestly don’t remember where or how I came across the bullet journal specifically after that. But by the time I’d seen it around a few places, and figured the Bujo (that’s what we call it dahling, because shortening it to BJ just wasn’t working out for anybody) was in a boom… I was ready to see what all the fuss was about.
PRO TIP: Don’t go on YouTube or Instagram and search for Bullet Journal to get yourself started. Overwhelm central. They’re all so… complicated. And artistic. And so many stickers and washi tape. Do you know what washi tape is? Oh, you will!
My first Bujo began in October 2016, with a notebook and pen. That’s literally all you need, I promise.
Any notebook, any pen.
From the official website at www.BulletJournal.com:
“Bullet Journal® (or BuJo® for short) was created by Ryder Carroll, a digital product designer living in Brooklyn, NY. Through many years of trial and error, the system has evolved into the ideas presented here [on his website]. He sees this as an evolving, adaptable practice meant to be self curated as you determine what works best for you.”
At its most basic, it’s a blank journal in which you keep a combo of foundational elements – you’ll hear terms like index, monthlies, weeklies, dailies, collections, future log, and more. Some of which are self explanatory, and some of which we’ll dive into in future posts.
To me, the really important things about a bullet journal are:
An example of a real quick set up would be to get a notebook and pen, leave a few pages for an index, then divide the next 2 pages into 6 sections, 3 per page. Write the names of the next 6 months at the top of each of these (1 per section, in case that’s not clear), and note in any upcoming events, plans, or big picture things to track for those months. Come back to it whenever you think of anything – you have a safe place to put stuff you need to remember now. And BOOM, there’s your future log.
Number your pages, then turn back to the index and write in: FUTURE LOG – PAGE 6 & 7, or whatever pages it’s on.
Now go to the next page, and title it with the month we’re in now. Don’t wait for a new month, or a new week – just do it from today. Stick a few boxes in to draw a calendar on the page, or simply just write the date number and day down in a list vertically along the side of the page. So:
Or start with whatever day you’re on right now, and keep going all the way down to the end of the month. This is your monthly record. In here, I bring the stuff from my future log that I need to plan for, and any regular stuff I have to do, eg my Meditation Class I run each Monday, with the time and location if you need that. I’ll also put deadlines in here, and bills that are due, and other stuff like that I need to know is happening.
It may seem repetitive right now to transfer the date from your future log you just wrote in… but as things start spreading out you’ll need both. Or not, maybe monthlies will do grand for you, but I like the future log for far reaching stuff and to see my months laid out together with the big ticket items right there – mostly so I don’t over commit.
Repetition is ok too though, the act of writing things down helps us remember and store them, and it’s building the trust loop with your brain that reassures it that things are definitely secure and in an actionable system.
I’m going to leave it there for today, as there’s a lot to cover in the bullet journal and all that goes with that, because it’s so bloody useful.
Get started with that much sure, for now, and we’ll chat more next time.