All posts by vica

Contributing to Mekon’s Bitesize on Business Rules – 13: brDoc Schema: Why is there a brDecision Occurence outside of the brPara?

When you read an earlier issue of S1000D, you come upon a question disguised as an affirmative sentence, stating what a project has to do. But you still recognize it as a question, which you have to answer when defining a business rule. Since the Issue 4.0, these are even more distinguishable since they start with the words Business Rules Decision Point.

But when you look at the new business rules document (brDoc) Schema, defined in the S1000D Issue 4.2 you will see that there is a construct to markup a business rules decision without a decision point preceding it. What does that one stand for?

In this month’s contribution to the Mekon’s BR Bitesize series, I address this feature in the article brDoc Schema: Why is there a brDecision Occurrence outside of the brPara? Click on the title of the article or here to find out more.

(Credits: Photograph ©canva.com under the keyword decision)

Why is a Simple Scoring System Enough for Gamifying One’s Life; And Results of the November Round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game

A note beforehand: This blog post applies both to writers and entrepreneurs, and therefore I am attributing it to both Business and Writing blogs on my website. Thus, if you signed to both of these two blogs, then you will get the notification about this article twice. I apologize for this inconvenience.

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When I share the 5 Minute Perseverance Game with others, people often ask me how I reward myself in this game. When I tell them about the simple scoring system I use, they ask me “Is that all?”

First time I was asked this question and looked confused in reply, my friend clarified and gave a few examples how she does it: by eating a small piece of chocolate or at the end of a big task, she buys herself something.

I heard similar scenarios many times and even read about them.

After getting similar questions again and after writing last month’s article (5 Minute Perseverance Game: Results of the October Round and Editing plus Revision by Someone else), I stopped and contemplated. Why was gathering points enough for me? Why didn’t I see an occasional espresso I make for myself several times a day as a reward for the project work? Why did I consider it and other similar rewards instead as sweet indulgences and even as activities worthy of giving myself additional points?

After some thought, I realized what that was. If I would reward myself with something material or costing money (like a trip to the Bahamas or to a cinema), then I would not regard my projects as a game, or a part of a game. I would see them then as something hard to do, something requiring considerable effort.

When we agree to play a game, either a board game or one online, we usually don’t expect a material reward. I am consciously leaving the gambling aside here, since the stress factor there take those games out of the true game definition, or at least makes them another type of game altogether.

When we agree to play a board game, for example, with our children or our partner or a friend, all we want to do is to score more or less than he or she does, depending on the definition of the win in that game.

Seeing that made me realize why points are enough for me as a reward. Because I experience my day as if it was a game. It doesn’t mean that I don’t concentrate on the task at hand, but I loose (for growing part of the time) that wish of only getting things done and thinking poorly of the assignments I have to address. Enjoying what I do starts to prevail and with that (without explicitly intending) also the rate with which I manage to complete tasks increases.

Thus the condition for this game to have success is your willingness to design the game, its rules, test it, play it, follow those rules you have outlined, and through it, be willing to have fun.

Please note, I didn’t mean that you should expect to have fun. We often approach various suggestions we get testing them whether they would be fun for us, usually intending to prove that that can’t be the case. But what indeed makes a game or any activity fun is the willingness to have fun and to experience this feeling.

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And here, if you are interested, are the results of my 5 Minute Perseverance Game for November and plans for the December round of the game.

I scored in total 925 points in November. That made 160 points more than in October. Out of these, 455 were the bonus points, which correspond to 89 concrete deliveries, postings, etc. These correspond to 37 more than in October. There was one day when I managed to attend to at least to one project in each activity area. That compared to 1 more than in October.

I noticed that I was more diligent with recording the points and bonus points in November. It felt as if I slowed down a little and became more aware of what I managed during the day. But the gathered score and accomplished tasks show otherwise. They seem to imply that I completed more than the previous month. The paradox, however, is, that it didn’t feel like I had worked harder. It felt as if I had more fun than the month before. Here we go again: the success of the game, the feeling of satisfaction as well as the success of the projects resulted from allowing myself to have fun in the game.

After re-evaluating the projects and developments in them, and after noticing how my activities and priorities changed lately, I again came up with eight areas of activities for the December round of the game. The projects areas have been re-shuffled and switched places, as well as their components, but the number of all is still eight. That seems like a good number to keep me positively challenged, but also allow me to have an overview of various aspects of my life.

Here are my project areas for December month:

  1. Finish the first drafts of two books which are both about 80 % done
  2. Book marketing
  3. Training and consulting projects
  4. Tools page development
  5. Family, my business, and other admin matters
  6. Free time, fun, health and movement
  7. Voluntary work (technical and creative)
  8. Other writing projects (This is mainly to catch all those floating free ideas and help them not to go unnoticed).

What about you? If you take a look at what you do or want to do during a regular day, what would those areas of activities be for you? Consider both weekdays and weekends. How many of these areas can you identify?

Credits: Photograph ©canva.com under the keyword “a treat.”

What is this blog series about? You can find this out on its first blog post called 5 Minute Perseverance Game – Moving my Favorite Game to my Writing Blog.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

5 Minute Perseverance Game and Revising or Editing Work of Someone Else

I noticed the following thoughts when I revised or read someone else’s writing. “Who makes such a mistake? How stupid can one be?” Etc. of that kind.

Those thoughts had little to do with the person who wrote the piece I was revising or editing; and neither her background. It also had little to do with the fact whether I liked the person or not. Because I usually did, especially since I started my business, I didn’t have to read (especially beta-read) the work of someone whom I didn’t like. And luckily for me, I still have to meet a writer I detest.

And even in the previous job, where I was an employee, I don’t remember disliking either my colleagues or the customers. In fact, I respected all of the persons who wrote or gave me something written to comment or edit.
And still those thoughts would appear. They would also surface around the good bits of writing, but which could be slightly polished.

As I started noticing those thoughts, I was shocked for having them. I found challenging having such feelings about people and people’s hard work. So I resisted them because a kind person couldn’t have such thoughts, could she?

Then self-defensive thoughts would appear, “If I sat now down to edit my own writing, I would enjoy it more.”

But the fact was that I didn’t enjoy self-editing either. When I self-edited, I caught myself thinking that reading, editing or reviewing someone else’s writing was more comfortable because then I wasn’t “burdened” with the responsibility of the author.

Hm, so what was that all about?

Did I mix my feelings, my state of mind at that time, my stress-levels into the revision process of other people’s writing? Did the quality of my comments depend on whether I had a refreshing cup of espresso in the morning already or not yet, whether I had enough sleep, or whether I had an unresolved argument with someone I cared about?

Or was I judgmental and believed in the cliche that all critiques are bad, mistakingly thinking change suggestions and negative critic being synonyms?

I probably did and was. Perhaps even without realizing that.

Was that a fault?

No. That was just an automatic behavior illustrating that I was not fully engaged in what I was doing.

What could help in such situations? What could help me to become more aware and more present?

Judgment? No.

To relax and slow down? Yes.

How?

As in October round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game, where I discussed the challenges I faced when my writing was read and edited by someone else, three techniques helped me also here, when I had to provide revising comments to other writers (both creative and technical):

  • Instantaneous transformation, developed by award-winning writers, Ariel and Shya Kane, embracing awareness and being in the current moment of my life,
  • Kaizen that is taking it all step-by-small-step,
  • Gamification that is bringing games and playful method to all the tasks I had to address.

These three techniques again proofed to be a game breaker and the savior in the situation.

The instantaneous transformation helped me to become aware of the task, non-judgmentally see my reactions to the challenge it posed and also that I had both the responsibility and the power to accomplish the task.

Here is how. Ariel and Shya Kane provide many resources on the topics of awareness and being in the moment. One of my favorites is a video on YouTube called Transformational Tips For The Workplace.

They formulated three brilliant and to the point tips how to work efficiently and have success at work. The transformational tip for the workplace #2 is called Close Your Complaint Department:

“You should recognize that if you are complaining, that’s the only thing you can be doing. Work, complain, choose one. That goes back to that second principle again. [Author’s addition: the second principle of instantaneous transformation reads, “No two things can occupy the same space at the same time.”] You can only do one thing at a time. If you’re complaining, that’s your moment. You don’t get any work accomplished.“ Ariel and Shya Kane

So, it was that simple; I could either complain or do the work.

The next step was to identify how I could support myself to do the work.

Here is what became apparent.

First of all, I had to identify the following smallest sub-sub-sub-task I could manage immediately. Not to try to consider the whole task and then split into many small steps. That in itself was a complicated assignment in itself. But just see where in the document I was reading and what the next sentence or paragraph was. Yes, a paragraph instead of a sentence. A paragraph sounded to me as a manageable and self-contained bit, to which I could devote a micro-assignment. That was it. Just one paragraph. Nothing else for that given moment to think about.

Then I put myself in front of a challenge: will I manage to read and revise the next paragraph within 5 minutes? If not, how many minutes would it take? I started testing and researching my ability to accomplish a task in a given period.

And finally, I rewarded myself by recording a point (a dash, dot, check mark, cross, or whatever shape I preferred on that day) for each revised paragraph. I gave myself a point when and if I edited on paper, and later I gave myself points when I added my comments and changed suggestions into the text on my computer.

Sometimes, I forgot to record the points. I complained less and less, regained fun in discovering something entirely new for me in other people’s writing and be excited to be able to contribute to make their work shine even more.

Yes, you would be completely right to guess that the process here is the same as in self-editing. And if it is, it would be the best. Because if you treat someone else’s work as your own, you will provide the best advice possible. And if you would formulate that recommendation as the one you wished to receive for the same text, then it would be both kind and honest.

What about you? Have you ever observed the thoughts you have when you revise or edit someone else’s work? Do you usually resent such work or enjoy it? Are there variations in your feelings towards such assignments? What are the circumstances of those differences?

Credits: Photograph ©canva.com under the keyword “correct.”

What is this blog series about? You can find this out on its first blog post called 5 Minute Perseverance Game – Moving my Favorite Game to my Writing Blog.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

5 Minute Perseverance Game: Results of the October Round and Editing plus Revision by Someone else

The topic of this article has a direct connection to what I did during the October round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game or, in other words, or the October round of my gamified life.

In the mid of September, I have received the edited manuscript of my last of the three books I published this year, “Cheerleading for Writers.”

The automatic worry generation upon receiving the mail with the edited manuscript functioned faultlessly.

Worries of how many unresolved topics there might be. Concerns whether there would be too much work going through the edits and reading and re-reading my book. Whether there would be still open issues after that, and whether that would drag the publishing process for too much longer. Whether I would be able to publish the book in October as I hoped, whether people would like its cover and description, whether they would buy it, whether they would love what they would be reading. Etc. Etc.

These worries consumed some of the time. But luckily not all of the time I reserved for this work. I did manage to publish the book in October after reading and polishing the book two more times after I got the revised manuscript from my editor. This process included an exchange of more material with the editor that was edited by her and later Incorporated into the book.

The solution to my worrying dilemma was a mixture of three approaches:

  • Instantaneous transformation embracing awareness and being in the current moment of my life,
  • Gamification that is bringing games and playful method to all the tasks I had to address,
  • Kaizen that is taking it all step-by-small-step.

Awareness helped me relax and concentrate on one thing at a time, gamification brought back the fun and breaking the task into small steps helped to make the project doable.

First I started giving myself points for resolving each issue, on which my editor commented explicitly. Then after these were done, I have printed the manuscript with changes accepted. After reading and making notes on each chapter I gave myself another point and recorded it. Then incorporation of changes into the text. Again a score for each chapter. Then the repetition of the process, except the reading was now on my Kindle.

I sometimes forgot to record the points, and I don’t have the total score for editing the “Cheerleading for Writers.” And this was not the point. The point was regaining the fun with the work at hand and with that making progress.

One of the most important tools during this and other rounds of the game were observing myself and my circumstances in any moment non-judgmentally while monitoring the fun factor. If I noticed that the given activity started to become stressful, I slowed down and looked why it was so.

Often the solution was to make a little break and do something else. Sometimes the promise of such a break was already helpful, and I could finish editing or revise the chapter at hand before taking a break.

Awareness includes being kind to oneself.

Award-winning writers and creators of the approach called Instantaneous Transformation, Ariel and Shya Kane define awareness as follows:

“A nonjudgmental, non-preferential seeing. It’s an objective, noncritical witnessing of the nature or what we call the ‘isness’ of any particular circumstance or situation. It can be described as an ongoing process in which you are bringing yourself back to the moment, rather than complaining silently about how you would prefer this moment to be.”
(Ariel and Shya Kane, “Practical Enlightenment,” 2015)

In addition to the lessons learned in respect to dealing with feedback from my editors, I have learned and re-learned (= experienced again) some more general and also specific lessons this past October round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

Here are the general lessons learned:

  1. Be willing to play. Thatis one of the primary conditions for a game to take place. (See also the post “Testing the 5 Minute Perseverance Game for the Four Main Components of a Game”, especially the section “Voluntary participation”). Otherwise, this won’t be fun and no game either.
  2. Take responsibility, be honest to myself, don’t judge, don’t blame, neither myself, nor others, nor any circumstances. Otherwise no fun, no game.
  3. Be kind to myself and others. Otherwise no fun, no game.
  4. Stick to the chosen design for some time (in my case one month). Don’t moan, don’t judge (see Lesson 2 above). Otherwise no fun, no game.

The more specific lessons come from planning the next (November) round.

Before I report on that, here are my results for the October round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game:

I scored in total 765 points in October. That made 62 points more than in September. Out of these, 260 were the bonus points, which correspond to 52 concrete deliveries, postings, etc. These correspond to six more than in September.

The results show that I made progress and did better than in September. But my brain still complained.

And here we come to what I realized as I planned the November round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

I still like the design I applied in September and October with the eight areas of my daily activities, including my work and personal life. But my brain started to complain about the fact that in October there wasn’t a single day when I managed to attend to at least one project in each of the eight areas of activities. So in none of the days in October, I managed to earn the ten bonus points I promised myself for that. Although I have scored many five-point bonuses, for making a delivery on something, whether publishing a book, a blog post, preparing an ad and posting it, writing a proposal and sending it out.

So, to soothe my complaining brain, I started jotting down a new list of projects for November. After playing with the entries in the list and regrouping I came up with the precisely same list but in a different order. “Book marketing” became now bullet 1 (and before it was in the 5th position) and “Free time, fun and health” moved from position 8 to 6. Plus, I made Non-fiction and fiction writing entries more explicit by putting the titles of my future books separated by commas in the bullet titles.

As I looked at the result, I had to smile. This is nothing else then shuffling the cards of a beloved game anew. I want to play this game, and I love it, I also enjoy the current design of it, but playing the same hand for three months in a row would be just dull. So unbeknownst to me, I shuffled the cards and started to play again. I had fun today searching in the list where to put the point for one or another activity. And as soon as I finish and post this blog post I will gain five more bonus points.

Now, that is motivating!

You might smile at this and think that I fool myself by rewarding myself by jotting points for what I do. But how is it different from getting points in the Candy Crush Saga® game? The requests I get from friends on Facebook to play that game inspired me to view my perseverance game as something similar.

I do nothing else than plan my very personal version of the Project Crush Saga game. 😀

I’m even contemplating to call my next book on the 5 Minute Perseverance Game as “Project Crush Saga.” Of course, at some point, I will double-check with the trademark holders at King whether they are OK with me doing so.

But for the time being this is the best way I can explain to you, why I have so much fun gathering points.

Actually, there is even more to it.

While I gather points and marvel as I see more and more of them in my notebook, I also make progress in real projects, both work and personal.

So I am not trying to play a game to escape my life for a bit. Instead, I make my life a fun game.

And I must tell you, this game is gratifyingly addictive. 🙂

On the picture above: A screenshot of one of the chapters from “Cheerleading for Writers.” And here is how the book looks now:

 

What is this blog series about? You can find this out in its first blog post called “5 Minute Perseverance Game – Moving my Favorite Game to my Writing Blog.”

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Sometimes All You Need To Do is To Persevere for 5 Minutes, or Even Less

#WritersPersevere logo with text: Challenges are everywhere, but we are writers...and writers persevere.

Many aspiring writers hear that writing is a hard job. And surely, writing a book is not a day-long assignment. It takes weeks, months, or even years.

On the other hand, many people say they want to write a book but don’t have time for it.

So, what to do?

I started writing my very first book in June 2013. I wrote a few chapters, then shared them with a friend and my niece. They loved what they read. But then I stopped writing the story. Reasons for it were plenty and all the known ones. Full-time job, a family with a small child, voluntary work, the story being too sad, and too slow, not good enough, etc. etc.

Joining a writing course with the best-selling author Menna van Praag helped to boost my writing energy again. Every month for about a year I have sent her three pages of my writing and then got both a written feedback and from her directly, during a one-hour telephone seminar together with her other students.

After a few months of this course, and especially between the phone calls my writing energy ebbed again.

Together with my fellow students, I complained to Menna that I couldn’t find time to write my book or to write in general.

Menna suggested playing a game. She proposed that each of us writes for 5 minutes a day for a month and share our experiences in the Facebook group created by one of the students.

It was a fantastic experience. We cheered each other through the process, and my writing just flew. Yes, sometimes 5 minutes or less, but it progressed.

In the subsequent months, I have forgotten about the game, but I continued writing.

In 2015, I had two small children, and I managed to finish my first book, to revise it, to have it professionally edited, and published it. Doing all that in small steps between taking care of an infant, keeping a household, blogging and taking care of my family.

At the end of that year, I published another book. Shortly before that, I joined a writers’ club in Aalborg, Denmark, where I live. At that time, I was already working on several writing projects in parallel, continuing the voluntary work in a technical community, and started a business. My fellow writers in the writers’ club asked me how I managed to pursue so many projects in parallel, along with taking care of a family with two small children.

As I was contemplating how to summarize and how to explain what I did, I recalled the game introduced to me by Menna. I suggested to my friends to play it. I organized a Facebook Group called “Procrastination Breakers Club” where we would play that game with rounds going for one month.

The rules of the game were straightforward. We had to introduce the project we wanted to take into the game (it didn’t have to be writing; learning a language or rebuilding a house, or anything else that we wanted to do but didn’t see to find time to, would do as well). Then we had to pursue the project for at least 5 minutes a day. If we did it, we earned a point. If we didn’t, then we lost the point to our procrastinating selves. And if we persevered for less than 5 minutes, we got half a point.

By the end of the month, we scored the points, and as writers, we also counted the words we had written during that month.

And that first round of the game that I moderated was one of the most significant revelations in my life as a writer. In that month I have written more than six thousands words, by writing for five minutes a day, sometimes more (but never longer than twenty minutes) and sometimes less. Six thousand! If I continued to write the book at the same pace, I would have a full manuscript within a year. By writing just for about 5 minutes a day!

That was one of the most beautiful discoveries for me as a writer.

And something else marvelous happened. During one of the rounds of our game, another writer friend wrote me a personal message on Facebook. She told me that a sentence I often like quoting and which I mentioned at the writers’ panel we both attended helped her to break her writer’s block. She was late with sending a book manuscript to her publisher and seemed not to manage to get it done. The sentence she referred to was, “You can’t edit an empty page.”

I was delighted when she shared this experience with me and invited her to play the 5 Minute Perseverance Game. She accepted the invitation.

She commented on the page of our group that the game was helping her, and she expressed her surprise with much color and enthusiasm. Sometime later, she posted a message with multiple exclamation marks and a few strong words announcing that she finished the manuscript and sent it to the publisher.

This author’s name is Sasha Christensen, and she is an award-winning Young Adult fantasy author in Denmark. She allowed me to quote her and put the image of the cover of the book, which she took into our game, onto my website. She wrote to me, “This is the one you helped break my block on, btw ;).”

Seeing such an effect of the game and especially the fun of it, I have dedicated a little book to it which I named “5 Minute Perseverance Game: Play Daily for a Month and Become the Ultimate Procrastination Breaker” and structured as if it was a description of a board game.

Sometime after publishing this book and while sharing the game with many people I know and meet, a friend told me, “Oh, there is a well-known term for what you do. It’s called gamification. We learned about it in college.”

Gamification? Of course, I started researching about it. Apparently, this is a method of bringing games and game-design approach into other areas of our lives, like work for example.

A little later, I have heard of kaizen, philosophy, and technique of pursuing and achieving big goals by making small steps and solving small problems. Or in other words by breaking down substantial challenges into smaller ones, with which our brains don’t have obstacles to overcome.

So, this is what I was doing with my 5 Minute Perseverance Game: I gamified my life, and I applied kaizen. In other words, I made progress in my projects by making tiny steps and by gathering points.

I designed my game anew at the beginning of every month varying the number of points, adding a bonus system and taking various projects and activities into the game. And then I discovered something else: this project game design I was doing once a month and enjoying so much, it was nothing else than time and project management, and…it was fun!

I always thought that I hated time management, jotting down to-do lists, making priority lists, and recording progress. Now I measure progress in points and am eager to gather more. If the steps are too big and overwhelming, I make them small and start smiling broadly, when I record a score for each of them.

My life became a fun game, including the writing part of it.

 

A note: This post was written upon a call-out from Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi on their award-winning blog and website “Writers Helping Writers,” in frames of the launch their new Thesaurus for Writers. This book is “The Emotional Wound Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Emotional Trauma.”

As part of the book launch celebration, Angela and Becca invited writers to encourage each other to persevere and share their stories of strength and perseverance under the hashtag #WritersPersevere. This event includes some amazing giveaways! Check out more here. You can only enter until tomorrow, October 27th, so hurry up if you would like to join.