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The Secret to Getting Started

The Secret to Getting Started by Jill Kemerer author

As I write this, it’s Monday. I woke up in a crum-diddly mood, and that’s not a good thing. I can’t point to one specific reason. There were many reasons, and they all sound stupid. Regardless, I was not motivated to do anything–not one single thing–on my schedule.

Every weekday morning, after my Bible reading and coffee time, I exercise. But today? Wasn’t feeling it. In fact, my thoughts went to danger-zone territory.

  • I’m too tired.
  • It’s overcast and depressing outside.
  • Everyone else has a national holiday from work, why don’t I take one too?
  • The workout is forty-five minutes long. What kind of person ever wants to exercise for that long? Not this kind of person, that’s for sure.
  • I have other things to do. Better things. (I didn’t.)

At that point, I knew I’d be mad at myself if I chucked my entire schedule. However, I also knew today wasn’t going to light the world on fire as far as my productivity, so I decided to take a nap–with the firm agreement I would work out as soon as I woke up.

Then I’d get started on my day.

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Building a Cushion into Deadlines

Building a Cushion Into Deadlines by Jill Kemerer

You’re crushing your goals, on track to meeting your deadline when disaster strikes. A week later all you can think is well, that didn’t go as planned.

I lived this last week. On Sunday, I woke up with a killer migraine, and I didn’t feel better until Friday. A five-day migraine might be a record for me (and not one I particularly wanted!). Anyway, I had to throw my goals for the week out the window. I do not like missing my goals. I really don’t like missing them AND being sick.

Meeting Deadlines

It wasn’t catastrophic for me. I try very hard to work ahead, and I always build a cushion into my deadlines. Migraines can hit me out of the blue so, in order to meet my deadlines, I have to be smart. I cannot wait to the last minute to finish a book, especially since that last minute might be spent on the couch with a cold cloth over my eyes.

Meeting deadlines is easier if we plan for the unexpected.

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Secret of 2 Lists: Productivity

Secret of 2 Lists: Writer Productivity, Jill Kemerer

My writing productivity has exploded in the past two years. My work ethic isn’t the reason. Nor can it be attributed to my personality type. Sure, I’m self-motivated, which is good, but I also get locked into a one project mindset, meaning I tend to focus exclusively on the most important task in front of me to the exclusion of everything else.

This means that anything I don’t deem important gets pushed aside. Sometimes permanently.

A few years ago, I got discouraged because I had all these writing-related things I wanted to tackle, yet I wasn’t doing any of them. I felt like I had no time. Concentrating for hours on a writing project left me exhausted at the end of the day.

I wanted to flesh out ideas for future projects, study more writing craft books, take an online class, research subjects unrelated to my current WIP, write articles, you name it! But none of these things ever got bumped up to my most important project list, so they didn’t get done.

It was ironic, too, because I’d just hit the sweet spot of being a work-at-home mom. My kids were self-reliant. I finally had an open schedule–no carpools or helping with homework–and I still couldn’t find time to get everything done.

The secret of 2 lists happened by accident.

Frustrated by the way my days were playing out, I decided to create a block schedule–you can read what I did in Get More Done with a Plan (linked) to streamline my week. I wrote down my Must Do list. Then I jotted down all the other things I wanted to tackle. And that monster of a list depressed me. Why? I’d been making lists FOR YEARS.

Why would this time be any different?

Having everything on one list wasn’t working for me. The important stuff was getting done, no problem, but the minor tasks got shoved to next week. Then next week. So I took a deep breath and blocked off a chunk of time every weekday to devote only to the minor tasks.

I called the chunk of time Block 3 since it was the third block of time in my working day–genius, I know! The first two blocks of time are reserved for my A Project.

The block schedule worked better than I could have imagined, so every week I created 2 lists. I still do. One is for A Project tasks. The other is for Block 3 tasks. Obviously, I devote the bulk of my time for the A Project I’m working on. Even so, I’m continuously amazed at how much I’m able to cram into Block 3.

Compiling two lists has single-handedly increased my production in all areas of my writing life. I finish my A Project tasks in a more timely manner, and I look forward to switching gears to my Block 3 items each day. If you tend to focus on only the most important thing, give the two lists method a try.

The key to increasing my writer productivity was setting major and minor goals for myself and blocking out specific times to do them.

*If you’d like to learn more about block scheduling and how it might work for you, I recommend this article at Lifehack, “What is Block Scheduling? (And How it Boosts Productivity)” by Ayetakin Tank.*

What secret helps you stay productive?

Have a great week!

Organizing the Writing Life: Business

Organizing the Writing Life: Business. Jill Kemerer

It’s been over a decade since I submitted my first proposal to an editor who’d requested it. Back then I wrote in our living room, where I had a small folding chair and a tiny table for a desk. I didn’t care! I was so excited to finally be taking the plunge and sending out my work.

Over the years, everything got more complicated. Between digital drafts, contracts, author copies of my books, income/expense reports and all the other million and one items I need to be able to access easily, there was no way a tiny table was going to cut it. I had to come up with a system.

Thankfully, I adore systems!

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Get More Done with a Plan #WW

Get More Done with a Plan #ww Jill Kemerer Blog

When you wake up on Monday, do you have a general idea of what you want to accomplish?

This is typically how my thoughts run…

Keep writing the new book. Put together the guest blog. Create graphics for the new release. Oh, and write my blog post. And what about social media?

Instead of anticipating the week, I start to feel crushed because of the sheer amount of things to do. I tend to focus so intensely on the writing that I end up cramming promotion or not doing it on a regular basis. And forget all the other writer duties. They get shoved aside to that fruitless land called “when I have more time.”

I know, you’re laughing right now. We never have a day with more time!

This summer, I stopped the gerbil-on-a-wheel approach to my writing life. I was nervous about it, but it ended up working out better than I could have imagined.

There IS a better way, and I’m living it as we speak.

I realized I have all the time I need right now. I just have to be very, very deliberate. No more hoping I’ll get everything done. Now I plan to get everything done.

Think about your writing life. What MUST get done each week?

For me, it’s the actual writing (or plotting, revising, editing). Then it’s ongoing promotion like posting to social media and my blog, and admin duties (emails, income/expense report, updating website, etc…).

Additionally, what do you want to get done each week?

For me it’s freelance writing, continuous education, long-term marketing, and brainstorming ideas.

How can you fit ALL of these categories in on a regular basis?

Every Monday, I assign duties to each day. If I have appointments, I assign less to those days. I’m very clear about what I’ll be doing, too. For example, Friday I will be doing admin work from 9-9:30am, revising a novella from 9:30-noon, taking thirty minutes to an hour for lunch, going back to the novella from 1-4:00pm, and drafting a freelance story from 4-6:00pm. Not having to think about it frees my brain to just do it!

In the past, I would have worked on the novella all day, gotten exhausted by 4:30 or 5:00pm and quit. I’m still tired in the late afternoon, but I can always push myself to switch gears and either work on a shorter piece or study a writing craft book.

The result? I’m writing/revising as much as I used to, AND I’m fitting in the other things on my list. I can’t believe it, but I’m actually getting more done.

**I do take five-minute breaks twice a day to check Facebook, Twitter and my emails. I do NOT linger. It kills my productivity and eats into my time.**

What do you want to get done but never have time for? Do you think planning it into your week would help?

Have a terrific day!



Using Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies to Meet Writing Goals

Meet Your Writing Goals using Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies

Last weekend I was blessed to speak at Maumee Valley Romance Writers, Inc. Every January we have our annual goals discussion. The first half of my talk was about basic goal-setting: taking time to think about professional, health, emotional and personal goals for the year and deciding how and when to achieve them.

During the second half I shared how we can use Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies to meet our writing goals.

We had a frank discussion, and I was thrilled to learn we had writers ranging in all four tendencies. I was surprised to learn some of the solutions I thought would work for one type clearly wouldn’t. And I loved hearing these writers share what would work for them.


Meet Your Writing Goals using Gretchen Rubin's Four Tendencies


If you’re not familiar with Gretchen Rubin’s new book The Four Tendencies, you can read about it HERE. Basically, Ms. Rubin studies human nature (she’s the author of several New York Times best-selling books, including The Happiness Project), and she divides people into four groups according to how they respond to expectations.

  • Upholders meet inner and outer expectations readily.
  • Questioners meet inner expectations easier than they do outer ones.
  • Obligers meet outer expectations more readily than inner ones.
  • Rebels struggle against both inner and outer expectations.

In other words, Upholders tend to get things done that are important to them personally as well as what others expect them to do.

Questioners tend to get things done that make sense to them. If someone expects them to do something they don’t agree with or see the value in, it won’t get done.

Obligers tend to get things done when someone is depending on them. They find it difficult to meet personal goals.

Rebels want to do things in their way and in their time. Standard advice for meeting goals does not work for this tendency!


*If you’re not sure what tendency you fit in, take the QUIZ (linked). It’s short and sweet.*


Here’s what I loved about having this discussion with fellow writers.

Upholders are planner geeks, and we (yes, I’m an Upholder!) love time management tools. We can be rigid and too-rule-follow-y, but we get things done and that’s good. Setting daily/weekly/monthly writing goals works for Upholders.

Questioners who struggle to meet their writing goals need to keep asking questions about the goal until an answer clicks in that makes sense to them. For example: I’m going to write for one hour every weekday morning before work. You might then ask, why the morning? and you’d remember your nighttime routine is exhausting. But what if I wrote right after dinner? But you already decided to walk on the treadmill at that time. Face it, my creative energy is gone by 8pm.

At that point, you see the value in dedicating an hour in the morning. But you might have to keep questioning why writing every weekday is important until you get to your gold.

Obligers don’t want to let people down. If you fall into this category, you might put off writing until a hard deadline looms. Sure, you know you need to write or you’ll struggle to finish the book, but you struggle to feel the urgency. In this case, an accountability partner or group can make a difference. If you decide to physically meet someone at the library or a coffee shop to write for two hours, you’re much more likely to actually write at that time then if you marked those hours on your calendar to write at home.

As far as the Rebels out there, I urge you to throw out all the “expert” advice about planning and goal setting and do your own thing. Experiment. Get creative. And keep trying new methods of getting and keeping your butt in the chair until you find what works!

I’d love to hear how you find success in meeting your writing goals! Please leave a comment!

Have a terrific day!

Scheduling Creative Sessions {Writer Wednesday}

Scheduling Creative Sessions

Creative Sessions = Dedicated time to problem solve, plot, explore ideas.

In the past two weeks I’ve read two nonfiction books that made a big impact on me. The first was The Wright Brothers by David McCullough and the second was Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World by Cal Newport. Although very different books, they shared a common theme–focus. The Wright brothers devoted much of their free time to solving the dilemma of human flight. Their passion helped them focus, and they spent hours, weeks, months and years experimenting and problem solving. In Deep Work, Cal Newport puts forth a compelling argument why anyone who wants to excel in their field needs to be deliberate about what they’re spending their time on. In other words, excellence requires focus.


Scheduling Creative Sessions


Writing, like inventing, involves a LOT of creativity. And creativity is a form of problem-solving. Fictional characters don’t always behave, and plots get off track. And then there’s the issue of what to write next.

I have many ideas I’d love to explore, so many books I want to write. Time always feels like the deciding factor. But over the past couple of years, I’ve broken free from my belief that producing a higher volume of quality books requires putting in massive overtime hours.

Last year I was tired of constantly setting aside a pet project to work on my contracted books. It hit me that if I didn’t schedule time for it, I would never finish the project, let alone publish it. I had to figure out how to work on it while fulfilling my contracts. I sensed that I could accomplish far more than I thought possible, but I didn’t know how. So, I read several time management books, prayed, talked to trusted writer friends, and finally decided to go for it.

Through trial and error, my beliefs shifted. I reworked my daily schedule, limited the frequency of social media breaks, silenced my phone and pushed myself to meet daily and weekly goals. I also added more time to studying the Bible and praying each morning which had a direct impact on my day by giving me the boost necessary to believe I could meet my goals.

In 2016, I plotted several books, wrote two category length books, a novella and a nonfiction book, promoted two novels, and organized my writing business. This was far more than I’d produced the previous year, and yes, sometimes this meant working overtime, but overall, I fit these projects into normal working hours. How? By deciding in advance what I would work on each day, devoting 30-60 minutes to my nonfiction book (the one that kept getting neglected), and limiting distractions.

The great thing about revising my schedule? My writing continues to grow. I’m confident about the books I’m writing because I’m making the time to thoroughly plot, write, revise and polish them. If my only goal was to publish more books, I’d be tempted to use shortcuts and skimp on the quality. My goal has always been to write the best book I’m capable of and that means no skimping.

One thing I’m adding this year: scheduling regular creative sessions just to think and jot notes. These time blocks will be used to plot, work through a current book problem, explore ideas for new books, and creatively solve any business issues. Setting aside 2-3 hours a week, or even 30 minutes a day, to just “sit and think” seemed absurd until I realized my brain does so much heavy-hitting for me beneath the surface of my consciousness. Scheduling regular creative sessions is another tool to get more work done in a limited time frame. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Do you ever sense you could accomplish more in the limited time you have? What strategies do you currently use to make the most of your hours?

Have a lovely Wednesday!

Creating a Production Plan: Writer Wednesday

On Saturday I was blessed to speak at Maumee Valley Romance Authors, Inc. My presentation was on how to create a production plan. I came up with these steps through trial and error last year. Since implementing my plan, I’ve blown away my personal deadlines, and for the first time I’m successfully working on multiple projects at once. Why? Having a production plan cleared the mental clutter. Every day I wake up excited because I believe I can achieve my goals for this year, and I know exactly what those goals are.


Creating a Production Plan


What is a production plan?

A production plan is a twelve-month schedule a writer creates for upcoming writing projects. It lists the steps for each project and when the writer anticipates completing them.


Do you need a production plan?

  • Do you look back at the end of the year and wonder what you accomplished?
  • Do you have a list of things you’d like to write but have no idea when you’ll get them done?
  • Are you struggling to work on multiple projects at various stages of completion?
  • Do you have a nagging sense there is no way you can fit everything into your schedule?
  • Do you want to increase your productivity? Write more books in a year? Publish more books?


Where to start:

  1. List all of the books, novellas, short stories or other projects you’re interested in pursuing.
  1. Analyze the list according to brand/time/market.

– Does this project complement my brand?

– How much time will it take for me to complete this project?

– What is the market outlook for this project?

  1. What projects make the most sense to pursue in the upcoming year based on the above analysis?


Ordering Your Steps:

  1. Do you have any contracted writing projects? These are your #1 priority and everything else must be scheduled around them.
  1. Are you self-publishing any projects?

– How many books, novellas, or short stories are you releasing this year?

– Are any of these completed?
– How long does it take you to plot, write, revise, polish, have a book edited, and prepare each project for publication?

– What are the timeframes for your cover designer, editor or any other publishing contractor?

– How much time do you need to market your projects?

  1. Are you querying agents or editors with any of the books? If yes, do you have a deadline (Ex: you’re pitching at a conference in July)?


Estimating Time Frames:

  1. Based on the above information, list the projects you will tackle this year.


  1. Under the project name, jot what needs to be done (write, revise, have critiqued/edited, etc…) and how long you think each step will take.


  1. Go over the list with a critical eye. Based on your time estimates, can you realistically pursue each project? Or, on the flip side, can you add a project?


  1. Decide the order of importance for each book. Which will you work on first? When do you want to have it completed? Is this a reasonable timeframe? Will you work on other projects simultaneously (drafting one, preparing another for publication)?


The Production Plan Rough Draft:

  1. Take twelve blank pieces of paper or sticky notes. Label them January, February, March and so on.
  1. Review your Time Frame list from above.

Let’s say Project A is your most important project at this moment. You’ve written a rough draft, but it needs to be revised, critiqued, and edited. You will be pitching this book in July at the RWA conference. Project B is a novella you’ve decided to self-publish. It is just an idea in your mind at this point. Since it’s a Halloween theme, you want to release it by September 31. Project C is the second book in Project A’s series. You want to write the first three chapters by the end of the year just in case an agent or editor requests Project A and wants more.

  1. Starting with Project A (use your title), list what needs to be done on the pieces of paper in the months you anticipate working on them. Keep your calendar in front of you with any important dates (vacation, out of town wedding) to avoid overcommitting.


Ex:      January:        Project A: Revise and send to critique partner


            March:            Project A: Edit based on critique

            April:               Project A: Polish

            May:                Project A: Write synopsis, revise and polish

  1. Repeat step 3 with your remaining projects.



  1. Some months will have multiple projects on them. Review these and be honest with yourself. Are your expectations too high? It’s okay to drop one of your projects off the list or to plan on completing only part of it. That’s what this exercise is for.


  1. Combine the papers and type up a 12-month plan.

January:        Project A: Revise and send to critique partner

Project B: Brainstorm story direction

Project B: Plot, write blurb/synopsis, etc…

February:       Project B: Begin drafting the story

March:            Project A: Edit based on critique

Project B: Finish drafting story

Project B: Hire editor (who you know has two month lead time)

And so forth…


  1. Print this form out and keep it near your workspace so you can refer to it every workday. It will keep you focused on what’s most important to you for that month.


Step-by-step guide to creating a production plan – Click to Tweet

Do you create a twelve-month plan for your writing? If twelve months seems overwhelming, try a six-month plan. And feel free to play around with the concept. What worked for me might not work for you, but it might trigger another idea that will work for you!

Have a terrific day!

The Mental Relief of Getting Organized

As many of you know, I’m a pretty organized person. I’m not obsessive, and I often let things slide, but overall I feel good about how I run my business and household. That being said, it’s often difficult for me to schedule the icky tasks when I have a deadline or have a million other little things to attend to. Who wants to deal with outgrown clothes, expense reports and making appointments when they could be watching a Hallmark Christmas movie? Not me!



The problem with letting the organization slide? It clogs my brain. My income-expense system consists of a manila folder to shove all my receipts and check stubs into–and the thick file stresses me out. Overgrown clothes spill out of our hall closet until I make time to drop them at Goodwill. And don’t get me started on my digital photos! Out of control! Besides that, birthdays loom with no gifts purchased, a dying remote needs to be replaced, eye and hair appointments need to be made, and I have a stack of unread magazines that would make a grown woman cry.

How do modern women do it? I mean, we aren’t even talking about the general stuff–the parent/teacher conferences, sports, keeping the family clothed, paying bills, random (and constant) meetings, meals, homework, and such. I just got a shiver.

Anyway…this week has been lovely because I spent the weekend organizing my business life. I created a business plan to keep me on track next year. I’ve also taken care of the outgrown clothes and the digital photos. The dying remote? Finally ordered a replacement. The income-expense issue? Pulled up my big girl pants, grabbed some chocolate, and created an actual *gasp* report. I tossed a few unread magazines in the recycling bin and plan on enjoying the rest this weekend. I also did some online shopping for the gifts still needed (and no, we aren’t talking Christmas yet).

You know what? My brain feels clear. I still have cluttered areas of life, but I’m making progress, and I feel so much relief getting these tasks off my mind.

Colossians 3:23 (NIV) Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

I realize not everyone gets mentally cluttered with shoddy organization, but clutter–mental or physical–really stresses me out.

Do you get stressed when everything piles up? What brings you mental relief?

Have a fantastic weekend!!

It’s That Time Again: Streamlining Family Life

We recently took a lovely vacation full of sunshine and relaxation. I came home with a pocket of anxiety about the upcoming school year, though. August is notorious for being full of things I generally don’t enjoy such as school registration, back-to-school shopping, daily sports’ practices, dentist appointments, parent meetings and what-not. Plus, our kids start school on August 20. Yeah, that’s next week. Not cool.




Last fall I was diligent about taking an hour or two on Sunday to plan the week. I left a hard copy of the schedule in the kitchen for all members of the fam to peruse. It worked great. By January, I’d gotten lazy. No more hard copies in the kitchen. One reason? I have to walk 15 to 16 steps up the staircase with my laptop and connect the printer via USB. I know! It takes all of 5 minutes and even that was too hard! Boy, that’s pretty ridiculous and lazy.

To circumvent the whole printer issue, I decided to try a different method this fall. I bought a super cheap planner from Dollar General (two bucks) with a weekly spread for me to write in the dates myself. Since I loathe disorder and piles on my counter, I also bought a super cheap letter holder (three bucks) to pop the planner into. Boom! Feeling better already…

Once a week (Sunday works well for me), I jot down all the practices, appointments, etc… for the week, and at the bottom of each day, I add the dinner menu. Once I have a meal plan, I create a grocery list. Easy!

Here’s another little nugget I tried. I decided to get the Evernote App for my phone since it syncs to my computer and is really easy to use. Well, I created a Note for meal ideas. It took a few hours, but I brainstormed all the meals my family enjoys then listed them by Italian, Mexican, Sandwiches, Grilled, Seafood, Everyday, Chicken, Soups, Sides, Salads. I have almost 90 main dishes list and 35 sides. I *hope* this will make meal planning easier and more varied for us.

I also purchased a wireless printer out of necessity. When I upgraded to Windows 10, my perfectly good old printer ceased to be compatible. That’s life. The new printer will be arriving soon, and I’m sure it will make life easier.

What is your secret to organizing your life? I’d love to hear it!

Have a terrific weekend!


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