Shilalekh

What Life Teaches Me Everyday

Category: Work

How I Became a Writer by Joining an Online Group, The Finishers

The Finishers

In my first post of 2018, I had mentioned that to grow financially I had signed up for The Finishers group created by Mridu Khullar Relph, a famed international journalist who happens to be an Indian. After reading that post many people asked me if she gave courses related to finance. And I felt I had to clarify that, because nothing could be further from truth.

Or is it? She tells you how to finish your passion projects so that you can earn out of it. Cool, isn’t it? That was what attracted me to the group in the first place.

How I Joined Finishers

I have been a subscriber of Mridu’s newsletters for more than four years because when I first stumbled upon her website, I loved the way she wrote. The way she was open about her personal issues that affected her writing. I felt as if she was writing about me!! If a writer could connect with her audience so well, I wanted to be a part of her journey.

Just before she launched the Finishers, I had completed a series of three video tutorials for Tutorials Point. And I had struggled to finish them because there were so many family obligations to be fulfilled in exactly the same time period. I could finish only because they were topics I loved.

But I realized that I could not hope to be successful if I dragged on projects like this. Intelligent that I am, I knew what my problem was:

  • Frustration of working all alone, without any colleagues
  • Inability to balance housework and professional work
  • Mental fatigue due to personal issues
  • Caught up in the vicious circle of no work – depressed – inability to work – no work
  • Hatred of marketing probably due to lack of marketing skills
  • Pure unadulterated procrastination

I know that identifying a problem is the first step towards solution. But I always stopped at that. Especially when it came to writing for me, be it a blog post or a book.

So I joined finishers. And it has made me into a writer from a content developer.

How Finishers Has Helped Me

Finishers started with being my accountability partner, something I needed very badly. Earlier I would make lists of tasks to be completed, put them in my Outlook calendar, and stick to it only till a project I loved lasted. Or, in other words, till I needed to start marketing again, because, as I mentioned earlier, I hate marketing even though I understand its importance. And there is so much difference between knowing and doing,

After joining Finishers, here is what I have achieved:

  • Accepted to myself that I want to be a published writer
  • Gained confidence that I can write a book and get it published
  • Started a non-fiction book whose idea had been lurking in my mind for so many years, and already added more than 9000 words to it

And I have no one except Mridu to thank for it, and her awesome group, The Finishers. I have the courage to write this post even though I have a 20-page Computer book sample to be finished by tomorrow. Earlier it would not have been possible – writing for my blog when I had a big paying project deadline.

But I have realised that if I begin my day (even if it has to be 5 in the morning!!) by writing for me, my whole day is much more productive and satisfying.

I am now confident of finishing so many more writing projects and sharing my successes with you all.

2017: A Year in Review

This time next week I shall be on my way to family vacation to Shimla to enjoy the snowfall. My elder daughter had been pestering us for a couple of years to vacation in Shimla during the winters so she could see snow. Since we had honeymooned there, and she has been fascinated by the photographs, she wants to make up for the lost opportunity!! And go one step better by hoping for a snowfall, not just snow. We decided not to let 2017 go by without fulfilling this wish of hers.

I keep telling her that we cannot predict snowfall, so she should not have high hopes and then feel disappointed. But she remains optimistic. Which reminds me of another thing we lose as we grow up – looking at the brighter side of life.

2017 is coming to an end, but I have been putting off my yearly review because I know it’s going to look very bad. I refuse to acknowledge that I had willingly taken up work that would not pay immediately, I refuse to accept that I lost more than a month to acute chicken pox and I definitely refuse to come to terms with the fact that even if my dream project came to a naught life has not come to a stop.

Magical May – How I Bagged a Lifetime Opportunity through LinkedIn

2017 started on a very high note for me. May be that’s the reason I feel so depressed that it has ended on such a low note.

Around May, I winded up a series of three video tutorials successfully and bagged a long term contract for text tutorials from the same client. I began looking around for more clients. I decided to give LinkedIn a shot, because even though I have had a LI profile for long, I was not much active till then.

A week into being active on LinkedIn, I saw a post from a prominent publisher looking for Computer Science freelance writers. I sent a connection request to the person sharing the requirement, who happened to be the CEO as well. The request was accepted quickly and before I could think of messaging, I received a message – Would you write a book for us.

My heart gave a whoop of joy.

After much discussions and negotiations, he contracted me to write a series of Computer books for classes 1 to 8, to be launched in the coming session of 2018-19. As time was less, I threw myself completely into it. Thankfully the tutorials project that I was working on was a lighter one that could be easily done simultaneously.

Agitating August – An Attack of Chicken Pox

I was quite on schedule doing the books when I contracted chicken pox in first week of August. It was pretty severe – kids were packed off to my parents’ place and my husband was almost quarantined as a caregiver for a week. My temperature in that one week was never below 105.

I got so weak that it took me more than a month to be able to sit on a chair for 30 minutes at a stretch. I started working but I had to take a break of at least 45 minutes after every 30 min. So much so for Pomodoro technique!!

My other projects got delayed; thankfully the editors were understanding and gave me time. And I concentrated on my book project.

Nerve-wracking November

As November began, I started getting negative vibes about my book project; there had been innumerable delays in review process and the publisher seemed unwilling to take my manuscripts. Finally, my gut feeling proved right when around 15th November he told me that they were shelving the project for the time being due to lack of time and preparation.

Around the same time my other regular project was put on hold as well; the company had shifted its gears. As I was not in regular touch with them, only delivering the articles on due dates, I did not see this coming.

Now I stared at a stark reality – no regular clients and my dream project gone for a toss. It plunged me into a bout of acute depression. I hardly wrote anything, though I had time. I started the day enthusiastically, looking for clients, but would soon find myself sitting in front of the idiot box, surfing channels aimlessly and munching any junk food I could lay my hands on.

Looking Ahead

Slowly, by talking to myself continuously, I have been able to pull myself out of my mental state. I have even got a few short-term jobs that will at least keep the ball rolling. I have joined my regular client on their new project. The pay is substantially less, but the content goes under my name, which I consider a big plus. Also, they pay regularly like clockwork, which will help pay the bills.

So things are looking up. I even did a financial review for 2017 and realized that I earned 80% of my total income this year in the first 6 months!! I was meeting the monthly targets too till I started working on the Computer books.

As I write, I realize there were so many learnings for me from the book project. I must write a post on that some other time.

For now, I am on a path to both mental and financial recovery. And after my vacation I hope to be rejuvenated enough to be able to go ahead full throttle.

This is the first time I have talked about my depression on my blog, though I have been struggling with it for more than a decade. It already feels liberating to be able to share my innermost thoughts with you all.

Happy Holidays!!

What has been your struggle with mental health? How have you coped when a dream project failed not because of your own fault?

Share your views in comments below.

And Happy Holidays!!

Is Job Satisfaction More Important Than The Boss

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On the Other Side of the Table

Last Saturday, I and my husband had a unique experience. In the morning, my husband dropped off our daughter at the bus stop. After coming back, we sat in the balcony to enjoy a “quiet” cup of tea. Before the first sip, I received a call from my daughter’s school. 

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7 P’s for Managing 86,400 Secs

time managementHow often we lament to ourselves and to those around us that there is no time.

Deadlines to be met, timelines too tight.

Colleague needs help, no time.

Have to meet daughter’s class teacher, no time.

Need to buy gifts for parents’ anniversary, no time.

If the scenario seems familiar, you must always be wondering where the 24 hours fly off. And if these problems don’t crop up for you, you are a superman and we sure need some tips from you!!

Well, God made 24 hrs or 86,400 seconds in a day and everything has to be done in that “short” span of time itself. So let’s see what we can do to manage our time so that we don’t fall short of our professional and personal commitments. Yes, both professional and personal life must be balanced for a normal living.

Prioritize

The one thing that you need to do is prioritize. Prioritize tasks that have to be accomplished and then plan how to complete them.

Make a list of all things you need to do. If you are doing the exercise for the first time, I would suggest dividing the list into two headings – short term and long term.

Segregate your short term goals and long term goals for effective time management

Segregate your short term goals and long term        goals for effective time management

Short term goals could be meeting deadlines at the office, buying gifts for friend’s birthday, taking a holiday, etc. Your long term goals would typically include buying that dream house or that dream car, taking a sabbatical and going on world tour, etc.

Here, in this article, we will focus more on short term goals because that is where time crunch is felt most. Also, if you manage your immediate tasks, you will find ways and means to achieve your long term goals as well.

Plan Ahead Plan Daily

Time Management

Take time out from your busy schedule to              plan the 24 hours

Take half an hour from your busy schedule to plan your next 24 hrs. The best time would be early in the morning, before you begin your day. You are fresh, your mind is rid of (almost!!) all stress and you will be able to plan your day well. Of course, there is nothing to stop you from doing the same exercise at the end of the day if you feel up to it.

The idea is to do it with a fresh and open mind. You would do well to segregate your tasks at the office and at home front. Once you do that, see if there are some tasks that can be delegated.

Remember, however much you might want to, it’s not possible for you to do everything yourself. Show some faith in others’ abilities and you will be surprised at the results.

Put Tasks in Your Schedule

Next thing you should do is decide how much time you will take to do the task. Take care they don’t add up to more than 24 hrs.! Jokes apart, now fit the tasks into the day’s schedule, i.e., when to do.

Scheduling

Put tasks to be done in your calendar

There are many tools available to help you do that and remind you when a new task is to be started. You can use MS office Outlook if you carry a laptop or your computer is within your reach at all times.

You can use the organizer in your smartphone. If nothing else, keep a small notepad in your pocket and keep referring to it from time to time. But, your schedule must be written down for you to see.

Peer Help

You would laugh at it but you can even ask others to remind you of some task. I have done this many times and this technique is more useful if you ask an utterly sincere person to remind you. He will ask you later if you completed your work. That will certainly do the trick if you missed out the first time.

Post It

You could put post-its at strategic places as reminders. But don’t overdo. I have seen people putting so many post-its that one reminder has to be put to check them!!

The first thing that will come to your mind when I talk of scheduling is that it’s easier said than done. Practically it might not be possible to do so. But I assure you, with some discipline you can do this easily.

Points to Ponder

You should keep these in mind when preparing the day’s schedule:

  • Don’t pack every minute of your day with your scheduled tasks.
  • Keep breathing space in your calendar for emergencies. Some things will crop up that have to be done or attended to immediately.
  • Keep aside time for lunch break and tea breaks. Consider yourself human, not superhuman!!!
  • Taking a siesta to recharge you is not a bad idea.
  • If you are not able to do a certain task today, don’t worry, after all “Tomorrow is Another Day.”
  • Last but not the least, no one is going to hang you if you don’t stick to your schedule.

One word of caution – if you are not able to meet deadlines initially, that doesn’t mean you are incompetent. It simply means you have not learnt to schedule yourself. After a couple of days you will be able to make schedules where you are able to do most of your daily tasks in the allocated time.

But take care that you are not going too easy on yourself while scheduling.

A balance between what is to be done and what you can do in a day is to be achieved. The calendar should not be punishing but not a cakewalk either. Be patient and you will learn the trick in no time.

Plan Long Term

Once you start following the daily task list, start incorporating weekly, monthly or any other task that has to be done at regular intervals. Again, don’t pack your schedule because one-time jobs will keep cropping up every time.

I have shared some of the ways I use to manage my time. I’m sure each one of you has one or two tricks up your sleeve. Do share them with me so that I can improve my scheduling further. After all, time management is just making schedules and sticking to the timelines. Happy scheduling!!

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