All posts by vica

Contributing to Mekon’s Bitesize on Business Rules – 12: Understanding the Business Rules Document (brDoc) Schema

The new Business Rules Document (brDoc) Schema, introduced in the S1000D Issue 4.2, possesses excellent potential, and I believe it will help reduce the duration and costs of the business rules production and maintenance as well as increase their quality.

But like any new construct in a standard and specification, it raises the question, “What is it good for?”

And when it comes to the S1000D business rules, especially the specification’s seasoned users will naturally ask such questions as, “Doesn’t the Business Rules Exchange (BREX) Schema, which was introduced earlier, already cover the business rules aspects?”

I have given answers to these questions from my point of view in the latest article for the Mekon’s Bitesize series on business rules.

Click the title of the article to find out more: “Understanding the Business Rules Document (brDoc) Schema.”

(Credits: Photograph © under the keyword “document”)

Kindness, Flexibility, and Fun Are the Keys to Successful Self-Gamification – Results and Lessons Learned in the September 2017 Round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game

Today I will report on the results and lessons learned in the September 2017 round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

Instead of dividing the day into slots reserved for each project as I did in August, having twenty-one projects/activities in total, for September, I’ve split the game plan for a day into eight project areas.

These were:

  1. Voluntary work in a technical (S1000D) community, where I serve as a chair of a global working group.
  2. Content development to offer for sale on my website.
  3. Non-fiction writing (including blog posts in business and S1000D areas)
  4. Fiction and memoir writing (including related blog posts)
  5. Book and content marketing, as well as publishing books and update of already published books, when necessary.
  6. Training, coaching and consulting services/projects (including pitching, carrying out, and marketing them).
  7. Family, personal, and business administrative matters (incl. accompanying my family members to doctors, organizing meetings with colleagues and friends, personal (including that for my mother) and business bookkeeping and similar).
  8. Free time, fun, health, and movement (for my family’s, my friends’, and my own well-being; including sports, getting enough sleep, playing games, etc.)

This very new for me design turned out to be much fun. It was also due to the flexibility I included. There was no more maximum amount of points I could strive to achieve, but I could set records by managing more projects in the same project area. I have also introduced a bonus system. I gave myself two points for each set of 8 points, meaning making one step in a project in each project/activity area. And I gave myself five points for each completed task which included preparation time and delivery to someone externally: sending a draft of an offer to a project partner, sending a manuscript to an editor, answering a customer’s questions in an extensive consulting e-mail, or similar.

At the beginning of the September round, as I was getting used to the new game design, I thought I saw a draw-back of dividing my day into project areas (or groups). When I managed one point in a particular area, I didn’t necessarily urge to do the other projects in the same project group, as for example to work on both of my fiction books on the same day, which I thought I wanted. But to be honest, having multiple projects all written in a flat list as in August (twenty-one bullets) didn’t help to manage more of them either.

There was something else, which became prominent in this round. It also happened before, but I had the feeling that it was stronger this time. Here is what that was.  I didn’t always manage to remember to record the points earned, and at the beginning, I thought that it was frustrating. But then I recalled that in video games you didn’t manage to gather all the treasures available out there either. Some of them need to be left behind if I want to move forward and keep going. I loved this realization because it confirmed how often I experience the projects I want to pursue as pleasant and fun games. So the points which I forgot to record where the treasures I didn’t manage to retrieve along the way. But while forgetting those, I gathered the others. And I got the best rewards of all, a smile on my face, warm feeling of achieving and completing something, and happiness of having a perspective of moving forward.

The new design of eight areas worked so well that I want to try it again next month. The bonus system was excellent too. Having to do for example just one thing in book marketing, or one thing for area eight which I call “Free time, fun, health, and movement” to get the point, took the pressure away and with that resistance to try to make progress in each project. I still could get more than one point per area, but the pressure lessened when I saw that most of the eight boxes in the game for the day had at least one check mark in them.

The most spectacular result for me during this round was in the sports/health area. In the last month, I procrastinated doing something in this “project” and earned only a few points during the whole month. In September, I haven’t been doing sports every day, but I did it every week and most importantly I re-discovered fun in it. For a long time, I used to think that I didn’t like jogging. In my opinion, you couldn’t enjoy surroundings while jogging. This September I discovered that to be untrue. Plus, the springy and merry pace of jogging showed it’s happy face to me. That might have also been because the first time I went jogging this September, I did it together with my children, Niklas (almost 7) and Emma (a bit over 2,5 years old).

We ran only a little circle down our street, then to neighboring one, behind our house, and then back, and that with a few walking breaks for Emma and me to catch a breath. But we returned with rosy cheeks and happy. Niklas was skeptical and reluctant before our jogging tour, but after it, he also said we should do it again the following week. The next weekend came. On Saturday I went for a run alone, and on Sunday we went again together. The weekend after, we repeated the pattern: me jogging alone on Saturday, and together on Sunday. And the past weekend my children excused themselves from jogging because they went swimming with their dad instead. It struck me that just after a few times joking together at the end of a week, all three of us embraced our jogging tours as a beautiful and fun tradition. That was quite an immensely pleasant surprise to me.

The same happened with getting-enough-sleep “project.” In August, I had that pressure to sleep close to 7 hours every night, and I only managed that on 6 or 31 nights. In September, I didn’t have that pressure. One check mark in the box for the project area “Free time, Fun, Health, and Movement” already made me feel good that I did something for my well-being. Whatever that was: either playing with my children, getting enough sleep; doing sports, reading a book, watching a film or a TV-show, or anything else.

What I also realized is that the new design allowed space for ambitions, but included kindness to myself, gave room for flexibility, and plenty of room for fun to collect points. I thought of bonus points before, but September was the first time when I dared to implement them into the game. And instead of feeling as if I cheated and gathered the points for nothing as I feared before trying this approach out, I was motivated to do more and more with a growing sense of pleasure.

Here are my results for the September round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game:

I made in total in September 703 points. In August I made 262 points out of 651 possible. Now there were no maximum points to strive for in September, and I have passed the maximum of the last month, but that of course due to bonuses. But even without bonus points, I reached 457 points. Much more than those gathered in August.

  1. Voluntary work: 50 hours
  2. Content development for sale: 23 hours
  3. Non-fiction writing: 22 hours
  4. Fiction and memoir writing: 18 hours
  5. Book and content marketing: 47 hours
  6. Training, coaching, and consulting services/projects: 47 hours
  7. Family, personal, and business administrative matters: 139 hours
  8. Free time, fun, health, and movement: 111 hours.

Bonus points:

  • 46 items delivered = 230 pints
  • 8 times managed to gather a point in each of the eight project areas = 16 points.

I don’t know if this design would work for everyone, but it definitely worked for me this month.

And since it was so much fun, I will continue with the same design of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game for October as well.

The only change I am going to make is to increase bonus points for managing to make progress on the whole set of eight projects (one in each project area). That would guarantee variety in my day and ambitions to be active in all eight project areas because each of them is fun and worthy.

On the picture above: The new design also meant a new recording system. I caught myself enjoying drawing the nine tiny boxes each day to record my points. Who knew that such a seemingly “silly” activity might raise my motivation and help me see my work as fun? Now I can truly say: I love time management. 🙂

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

5 Minute Perseverance Game and Self-Editing

There are two major types of editing: self-editing and editing by someone else. The second one, from the point of an author, is rather connected to the reaction toward what the external editor suggested should happen to the initial text.

The 5 Minute Perseverance Game has helped me considerably in both cases.

In this blog post, I will address 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Self-Editing.

Independent on what you write, there are two components of self-editing and revision:

  • Verifying the text for possible errors and bits that could be improved, and
  • Implementation of the edits into the text.

Some authors might do both simultaneously; others do it separately. For example, I often print out extensive files, such as book manuscripts, read them on paper, and make notes which changes need to be made. Later I implement them into files. Afterwards, I repeat the procedure, sometimes varying the format of the text to be verified. One of the last versions I check is often in e-book format to see how it works there.

If the file is a shorter one (e.g., one page long) or it is an e-mail, then I usually verify and implement changes in one go.

I am sure that many authors do the same varying their practices depending on the text they are working with.

Let’s put the small files and e-mail messages aside. Then it is clear that the editing of large manuscripts might seem overwhelming. If you attempt to get done with it, I guarantee that you will become frustrated and make many mistakes.

Separating the components above into two distinct stages makes very much sense and is recommended by many writers. If you read guides on self-editing, you will see that many successful writers (Stephen King, Joanna Penn, and other) suggest reading and editing on paper.

The division of self-editing into reading plus making notes and first later implementing also allows you to be more thorough in your edits because during the incorporation of your edits into the text you might discover additional edits needed. So your writing becomes more qualitative.

But slicing the self-editing into two steps is not enough for larger documents. These two stages of self-editing are still too massive to do in one piece, especially when you self-edit one of the earlier drafts of your manuscript.

I can’t tell you exactly how little the self-editing steps should be for me to feel comfortable and doable. When the text flows nicely, then editing of a ten-page chapter might seem like an easy and small step, whereas a messy paragraph can send me into moaning, which is followed by tedious rewriting or cutting.

Reading about kaizen, the taking-small-steps philosophy and technique, helped to understand what was happening here.

Robert Maurer, whom I mentioned in the article “The 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Kaizen” in this series, has written the following in his acclaimed book One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way :

“Even the small signs that you are resisting the small step — are an indication that the step is too big.”

So I can’t say for sure that editing a paragraph is a smaller step than revising a page or a chapter because I might resist editing a certain sentence or paragraph, but not an entirely different section.

Thus I can experience different parts of my writing in various ways when I am self-editing. But what is the indicator or tool that can help me here and find what I need to change in my writing pieces?

I was reminded of the best answer to this question as I recently watched an interview with Heidi Klum, a German-American supermodel, television personality, as well as one of the four judges at the America’s Got Talent (AGT) Show.

After the result’s show of the AGT 2017 finals, a reporter asked Heidi what advice she would give to the winner, Darcy Lynn, a 12-year-old ventriloquist. Without contemplating, Heidi answered, “Always to have fun. If you don’t have fun, it shows in your performance. That is always the key number one.”

In my book Cheerleading for Writers, which will appear soon this year, I call this tool “fun detecting antenna.” In writing, I discovered that if I let myself be led by what is fun for me, then my writing becomes a pleasure to read too. But if I am frustrated about a paragraph, it’s not fun for me to read. Then the probability is high that my readers won’t like it either.

Fun as a tool to find out what to do next is just brilliant. Because in case of a “problematic” sentence or paragraph, the step for me to take is to make it fun or simply delete it.

5 Minute Perseverance Game is both about making small steps with the projects we want to pursue and about having fun while making those steps. I am immensely happy for these two tools to be at hand for me in any activity I take on, including self-editing.

A few questions for contemplation: What is your usual practice when you self-edit your written pieces? Do you try to get it done in one piece (or larger sessions) or do you usually do edit in small chunks every day? And what helps you to identify which parts of your work-in-progress need to be modified and which can stay as they are?

On the picture above: I took five pictures of this snail on my way home after delivering my daughter at her daycare. Watching it climbing through the leaves was simply fascinating. This amazing being is proficient at making small steps.


Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

Business Rules Memo – A new tool, a template, to help you get a thorough overview what you need to strengthen your products and services

When you start a business, you make a set of choices and decisions or choices. And you record them in your business plan.

When you come up with an idea for a product or service, you also make choices, and you record those in one way or another as decisions too. Some people call the collection of the product related decisions business rules.

You can find many useful templates for business plans, but you won’t find many of them for business rules. Or at least not simplified ones as those you can find in many variations for business plans.

Similar to business plans, the decisions you take toward your product or service, the business rules, can be structured in many different ways. But whatever method you choose or invent it will always be connected to the lifespan, or life cycle, of your product or service.

This article is not written to teach new terms. It is to introduce you to a tool which will equip you with a two-pages list of questions, which by answering it, will allow you to get an overview what a life cycle of a product embraces. You will identify what is missing, and what you could improve. By turning all the Nos, you have answered, into Yeses, you will get in control of your products, services as well as your business.

This tool is not offered for free. Especially when it comes to developing products, we all need to have a sense of investment. But its price, $4.99, is low enough to make it not only affordable (a bit more than a cup of coffee) but also attractive, since you will hardly find anything similar either in brevity and exactness or price on the topic of business rules.

And you do need to understand what business rules are and what understanding them can offer you. Because you already deal with business rules on a daily basis. Simply because you always make one or another decision on your products and services.

So if you would like to find out more about this simple yet effective set of questions that will let you start a sound foundation of the knowledge base for the decisions you make on your products and services, then go to the Tools page on this site ( and click on “The Business Rules Memo.”

5 Minute Perseverance Game and Writing Something New

For me as a self-publishing author, writing books is always connected to:

  • Writing of the first draft
  • Self-editing
  • Professional edit and revision after that
  • Preparing and releasing for publication
  • Marketing

Each of these five areas contains multiple sub-tasks as well. Today, I will concentrate on the writing of the first draft.

Sometimes when I tell other writers about the 5 Minute Perseverance Game and that I use it for writing, I am met with a version of the following reaction, “I can’t write for only 5 minutes a day. I need an hour to find back into the thinking process of writing. To find back into my work-in-project.”

That made me ask myself whether I need a longer time to think of a subject or whether can I rely on intuition and just continue writing whatever comes on any given project.

I wrote all of my projects in bits and pieces making progress on a daily or weekly basis. There was not a single of the now ten published books for which I wrote the first draft from beginning to end every day or most of the day in a month or so. And I always have many projects in parallel even if I don’t take all of them into the 5 Minute Perseverance Game.

There have been various paces to each of the writing projects too. Some of them I wrote a few sentence or paragraphs s every day, and one of them I wrote one chapter per week, writing most of that chapter on one day, editing and posting on my blog on the other. Some of the contemplation on each chapter went on before writing and often ended up being different from what I planned or fantasized while taking a shower. This project was a novelette called “Nothing Is As It Seems” which originated from a writing prompt by my dear friend, writing teacher, and best-selling author, Menna van Praag.

Recently as I updated back-matter of the “Nothing is as It Seems.” I skimmed through its pages and noticed that there are some gaps in this novelette that could have been enhanced, for example, more dialog between siblings, the main character revealing more of her side of the story and not only what she was after. I wonder if I could have caught this if I would write the book in one piece instead once a week.

My guess today is that have I written it a little bit every day, my memory could have been more fresh between the writing sessions, and there would be fewer gaps in the story.

But this will remain a guess since I never tried this other option with the same story. For that latter case, I can only report on the other books and writing projects.

Let’s take the latest or rather the current one. I mean this article. I write it a few minutes every day. And I realize that even in case of everyday writing I need a few seconds to recall what this project is about. A few seconds, not minutes or hours. As I used to think before. And what else is important, it is to get immersed in the project during these seconds. To be fully present. Then mere moments become enough to take the thread where I left it and continue.

But also when I wrote “Nothing Is As It Seems” I did something similar, I read the previous chapter and some times several chapters before drafting the next time. Because of a longer gap (a week) and whirl of the thoughts on the project during this gap, I had to spend more than seconds to recall where I left the story the previous time. Every time there was a different mood, a different atmosphere which colored the chapter I was writing. The contemplations before sitting in front of my computer and the plans or rather fantasies of how the chapter would turn out rarely, or rather, never turned out as I pictured them when I took a shower or did something else. The text became a reality when I wrote it during those hours I spent in front of my laptop monitor and typing on its keyboard on that particular weekday.

I finished the first draft of the “Nothing Is As It Seems” before I wrote “5 Minute Perseverance Game” and before I started playing it regularly. But I have used the game to publish the novelette. More on this and using the game for other publishing projects in another post.

I’ve tested the 5 Minute Perseverance Game in respect to writing many times. And I will probably be doing this as long as I write since it turned out to be the least stressful and the most efficient approach to my writing.

But two of these times were my first ones. The very first time was when my dear friend and writing teacher, Menna van Praag, suggested to her students including me to play it so we could make progress with our writing projects. During the time of about a year where, we all attended Menna’s telephone seminars, and we all met on the internet in a Facebook group organized by Katrin Bauck, another dear friend, amazing artist, children’s writer, and Menna’s student too. The group had a beautiful name “Passionate Writers.” At one of the seminars, as many of us complained not finding time to write, Menna suggested to write 5 minutes a day for the work-in-progress and then report to the group how it went. All who participated in the call that day said yes to the challenge, including Menna. I remember making tremendous progress and loving the process of just writing. I realized that when you have only 5 minutes to write, this is what you do. You just write. You don’t contemplate too long what to write. You just do it.

Later I had what people call a writer’s block again. It was fear of the final results and what would people say, and other thoughts of that manner. Several months into this block I remembered the game suggested by Menna and how I felt during it. So I started writing again, writing in small bits every day and also asked my fellow writers how they were doing.

This and support by many wonderful cheerleaders helped me finish that book.

The second “first” time was when I moderated a round of this game for the first time. My friends at the Black Label Writers’ Club in Aalborg — which you guessed correctly was named after a whiskey brand; I heard that they had a bottle of it at their first meeting; therefore the name — have asked me once how I managed to pursue several different writing and non-writing projects at the same time. As I was sharing my experience, I suddenly recalled the game and suggested to play it within our club. I volunteered to create a dedicated Facebook Group for it and to moderate the game rounds.

A little into the game round, another friend, and writer, as well as an award-winning YA (Young Adult) fantasy author in Denmark, Sascha Christensen, sent me the following personal message: “The comment you made at the writers’ panel helped break my writer’s block.”

The comment she mentioned was one of my all-time favorite quotes, which I don’t know who said it for the first time. I have heard it in many variations from different people but never in my preferred form.

Here is how I like this quote most:

“You can’t edit an empty page.”

After saying “No problem” and “You are very welcome” to Sascha, and after chatting a while and exchanging on author’s challenges, I suggested her to join us in our perseverance game. After listening, or rather reading out what the rules of the game were, she agreed to play.

She commented time to time on the results and wrote, “Man, this concept is actually really effective for me. :D”

In one of the following rounds of the game, she let us in the group know that she finished the manuscript and sent to her publisher.

That was a fantastic result and reward for me to keep on playing the game and sharing my experience.

I had my own revelation during the game. I have written six thousand words in a book within a month while writing just 5 minutes, sometimes a bit more, at times a bit less, a day. On a few days of that month I didn’t manage to write, but on the most I did. Such a tempo would mean that with just a handful minutes a day I would manage to write about 70000 words within one year, which is enough material for a short novel or at least a novella.

That experience and the wisdom about an empty page shared with Sascha has revealed again and again the magic and power of just creating without too much contemplation about the process, not only in the writing projects but even in those of technical nature. But more on this in some of the future posts.

The sub-tasks of writing the first draft

Working on the first version of a book or article means for me the actual writing that is putting new words onto a page. But sometimes it also includes research, that however kept at the minimum as not to procrastinate from the actual writing, and of course the pre-edit. This pre-edit, as I call it, occurs before the self-edit and way before the professional edit. The pre-edit is happening (and I often omit it) between the writing sessions, which in my case are short, but sweet. The primary purpose of this pre-edit is just to remind myself where I stopped the project the previous time, make a note or a mini-edit here and there if I noticed something to be fixed already at this stage.

With time I realized that the session of the actual writing became sweeter and more fun when I stopped at the right moment. When the chunk of writing was done. Like a mini-story or a self-contained message “solidifying” itself on the screen or paper. But this stopping at the right moment often also includes for me writing a teaser for the next scene or chapter. Like a prompt for the next session. If I am not mistaken, that was what Hemingway did when he finished for the day. I read that he always started a new chapter or scene to make it easier for him to continue his writing the next day. By that, he tricked out the famous “writer’s block” and the empty-page fright.

When the job is done or how big should the job be?

There is nothing to compare to the feeling when the job is done. For the day or in general. And it is quite curious that we humans tend to want to make everything big, and to see everything huge being as the best: our houses, our cars, our achievements and even tasks. So the bigger the job, we think, then the greater satisfaction when we finish it.

But interestingly enough when we are happy, then we are happy. There is no happier than before. We are just excited and thrilled and blissful. Often by the time we achieve the big task (if we ever do, since the fear of failing a big task is much too overwhelming and pressing down), we are so exhausted and unhappy that we don’t have enough energy to celebrate.

However, after achieving something small and taking time to celebrate it, by giving oneself a point, a praise, a smile, we are most probably to have the energy, and it boosts us to do the next step.

The kaizen approach, which I mentioned introduced in the article “The 5 Minute Perseverance Game and Kaizen” is all about little steps, and “small moments.” That is how Robert Maurer, the author of the book “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way,” and who employed kaizen both for private and corporate clients, names these small and often ignored events.

In the chapter titled “Identify Small Moments,” he writes:

“The kaizen approach to life requires a slower pace and an appreciation of small moments. This pleasant technique can lead to creative breakthroughs and strengthened relationships, and give you a daily boost toward excellence.”

When it comes to writing, this is what makes it most exquisite to read. It is when you as a reader enjoy each moment, each word, each paragraph the writer puts on the page, and realize that it comes from the author’s enjoyment to create those paragraphs of text.

So, let’s savor each small step, each bit we write. Let’s let our fingers fly over the keyboard and find out in surprise that, in the short time we spent there, we wrote ten, twenty, a hundred, or a thousand words. And then let’s marvel. Did I write this just now?

What are your opinion and experience? Did you try to observe yourself when you write in bigger or smaller chunks per day? How does your experience of fun and stress change depending on how long you spend on writing a particular scene or project? Did you ever let yourself be satisfied and praise you for writing one paragraph?

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.”

On the picture above: A view on a small flower meadow between cozy houses in a not far from where we live in Aalborg. This colorful mixture of all kinds of flowers reminded me of the crazy mixture of moments I have every day, also in writing. And in each other moment or angle from which I consider them, they appear to me differently.


And now on how my 5 Minute Perseverance Game (5MPG) has progressed in August and my plans (including the game design) for September.

Results for the round August 2017 of the 5MPG: 262 points out of 651 possible, which is 40% that is less than in previous months.

Conclusions as seen today: too ambitious planning, unrealistic plans on how many projects can be pursued on a daily basis, a wish to relax more and take it slow (apparently, a positive outcome of the vacation 🙂 ), a tendency and a desire to concentrate more on one project during any given day.

Plans and game design for the September 2017 round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game:

I have identified eight areas, each of them contains several projects or tasks. These are:

  1. Voluntary work for S1000D community (primarily for the Business Rules Working Group)
  2. Tools’ page content development for
  3. Non-fiction writing on various topics, including two books (one on business one on motivation and self-gamification), and blog post writing
  4. Fiction and Memoir writing (three books: two are fiction, and one is a collection of memoir essays)
  5. Marketing of Books, Tools, and Training Material (includes update, and publishing)
  6. Training Courses content development
  7. Admin work (incl. family matters, documents, business/home office matters, household)
  8. Free time, fun, health, and movement (including playing with and drawing for my children (they like little drawings under their dinner plates), reading, meeting friends, doing something for my body (like Yoga, dancing, other), straight posture, 7 hours sleep, etc.)

Differences from past months and new rules for the September round of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game:

  • There can be more than one project or activities for each of the eight areas or types of activities.
  • If I get to attend to at least one project in each field of any given day, then I get two additional points as a bonus. For each full set of eight points (one for each area of those defined, above) I get two additional points.
  • If I finish a project or a large task resulting in external delivery, such as sending a manuscript to an editor or publishing a blog post or similar, then apart from getting a regular point for doing the task, I get five bonus points.
  • I can get more than one point for the same area, and even the same project on any given day. The condition here is that I get the point when a certain amount of work is done, and I change the activity. The change of the activity either I work a different project within the same area or work on a project from a different area, and then come again to the previous project.
  • I can decide by myself which of the project to address in any given area on any particular day. It has to do with external and my own deadlines.
    The time depends on the project, and on the activities of the given project. It can be ten seconds, often five minutes, but sometimes in exceptional circumstances even an hour. In general, a step should be self-contained, small (regarding its logic), doable and make sense.

I will report on this new design variant of the 5 Minute Perseverance Game in the coming article on this topic. The article will be how I experience this game during self-edits and revision of my work.

Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels