Category Archives: Business

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

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 (optimistwriter.com) and click on “The Business Rules Memo.”

There is No Successful Business (or Project) Without Efficient Communication

This past weekend, I finished revising my something-in-between-of-tenth-and-twentieth-draft of the book with the following title “Take Control of Your Business: Learn what Business Rules are, discover that you are already using them, then update them to maximize your business success,” and sent it to my editor for the final edit.

On the day I sent the manuscript out, I discovered that I wrote the book within four months and revised it within about a year.

I’ve learned a lot during this extensive revising period.

The most helpful and biggest lesson I’ve learned was a concept, which accompanied me during all these twelve months of revision. This concept or rather a process was communication. I wouldn’t have been able to improve my book, as I did, without discussing the book and its ideas with different people and listening to their opinions to see how they resonated with me and with what I wanted to communicate.

Here is what I have written in a section of a chapter on management business rules, which I called “Let’s Emphasize the Importance of Communication” (Note: the editor I work with didn’t have a chance to edit my text in the excerpt below yet):

***

‘I found an enlightening answer in a book about marketing — a business process non-existent without efficient and effective communication. Martin Stellar, a business coach, and writer introduced a particular art marketing system in “Take Control of Your Art Business,” Book 1 in the series of “The LEAP Art Marketing Series.” Based on twenty years of his studies and experience in psychology, business, marketing, and sales, he developed a system he calls LEAP, which is an acronym:

“First, you LISTEN to what your ideal audience wants and in what way they like to be approached.

Next, you EXPLAIN: who you are, what inspires you, how and why you create your art, and why people ought to take a close look at it or buy from you.

Then you ASK: you can ask for a sale, ask for a response, or for people to visit your show — whatever the context and purpose, you always need to ask people to take some sort of action.

Once you master these three things, that’s when you get to the final part of the LEAP system: You get to PROSPER as an artist.”

I am convinced that if you start with listening to your customer, after that explain what you can offer, and finally ask for action without forgetting to tell what your actions will be, then your business will prosper, whether it is an art or an engineering, a small or a large business.’

***

The modern world, similar to its predecessors I suppose, is full of paradoxes. And the most striking is that, on the one hand, the Internet seems both to connect us with, and on the other, separate us from each other. It connects us globally but locally, in a family or with friends, it tends to separate us from each other. At the same time, we complain that mobile phones and computers isolate us more and more from each other, but simultaneously, there is almost nothing you can do today — either in private life or especially in business areas — without the participation of others.

The whole marketing process is about communication, even when a marketing specialist sits alone in her cubicle or office at her computer and prepares a presentation. She does every single bit of her work with a customer, receiver of the information she compiles for, in mind.

But also other areas of business, including design, production, sales, management and all the other, involve one or another form of communication. Often all types of them, both in personal (face-to-face), remote (on the phone), directly written through emails or direct messages on social media, or in a subtle way, by viewing their profile on LinkedIn or other media. These are all communication. Even the intention to talk to someone is already a part of communication.

So why are we so keen on improving production processes, the communication tools, various business processes, but often forget to take care of the ways we communicate? Is it because then we would need to slow down and pay attention? Slow down enough to be able to listen, to have adequate time to explain and ask for action, so that the potential customers or partners in a project get interested and keen to join us in our endeavour? To make our project a project of their own? Won’t this make us all prosper in the end?

What will happen if I slow down? If I pay attention to how I communicate with my partners and customers in various projects? If I forget for a moment about all those important agendas, I have almost at each moment? What if this approach will result in growth, stability, and longevity of my business and benefit all involved in or relating to it? If so (and I am sure it is so), then I am all for it.

What about you?

Picture: among the pictures I made in the past month, I realized how much this one of a pavement reminded me of a smooth and harmonious communication. If all stones are laid with care, without any gaps or difference in height between them, then a walk on them is effortless. But if the path is uneven and with holes in it, mishaps are almost preprogramed.

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Copyright © 2017 by Victoria Ichizli-Bartels

 

Looking Back at 2016, Sending Season’s Greetings, and Making Plans for 2017

A note beforehand: I would like this message to go to all subscribers to the Optimist Writer’s blogs and news. Thus it will be sent to all three blogs, Writing, Business and S1000D. This will mean that some of you will get this message more than one time. I apologize in advance for the possible inconvenience.

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Dear friends,

2016 was an amazing year for Optimist Writer, with a steep learning curve, with lots of writing and publishing, and a growing consulting part of the business toward the end of the year.

One of the important and maybe a bit surprising (giving the name of my venture) achievements is that I leaned to call myself a writer when introducing myself. I feared to do so before.

Now I enjoy what I do, more than ever, and see happily how tightly entangled my books and my consulting work are. I use my books in the consulting work, and use my experience from interacting with my partners and customers, as well as advice from them as input for my books.

All of my books got wonderful feedback so far, including a number of 4 and 5 star reviews on Amazon and other retailers, and a very encouraging review from a judge of a Writer’s Digest 2016 Self Publishing Book Award Contest.

Two out of my eight books published so far (six offered on various online retailers and two on my site upon subscription) became my personal best-sellers, meaning they were bought/downloaded most.

The permanently free e-book “Nothing Is As It Seems” was downloaded more than 300 times and the most expensive book of those I have on offer so far, “S1000D Issue Untangled: 552+ Business Rules Decision Points Arranged into a Linear Topic Map to Facilitate Learning, Understanding and Implementation of S1000D”, sold about 30 copies. The numbers might be considered low, but for a starting writer the growing interest and the feedback I get on these is extremely encouraging, especially taking the large offer of various books available for the first book (fiction) and a very limited and narrow niche for the second book (S1000D) mentioned above.

I am very glad and thankful that the consulting part of my business is growing, so that I don’t have to put pressure of earning my living from my books and writing. And how wonderful that I combine the two!

I would like to thank all of you for your support this year! Your friendship and help are simply priceless! Many of you supported me with a kind word, others also with active participation in shaping my books, buying them, advising and helping me to optimize my online presence, and in many other areas.

My plans for 2017 involve release of further books and continuing to do consulting work and giving training courses in all three areas that my blogs are dedicated to.

Here are some more details on my plans for 2017.

Writing. “Cheerleading for Writers” is now under first self-edit and I hope to publish it withing the first half of the year.

I started three other projects (two of them were actually started already in 2015, but they waited on my shelf to be re-activated. 🙂 )

The first is a collection of true stories by my dear friend Marcy,  Marcella Belson, which she published on the Elder Storytelling Place, and from my life. The working title is “Everywhere At Home” and I will report more on this project soon. Here are a few words on the idea behind this project. I would like to share the wonderful stories of kindness all of us (one way or another) experience every day and how they enrich our lives and make us feel at home, wherever we are.

The other two projects which I will work on in 2017 are fiction projects. One is the Book 2 in the series “A Life Upside Down” called “A President’s Sister”. About a month ago, I planned it to be an on-line project, but now I choose to do it offline, without posting each chapter online. I realized that writing this book will be a very non-linear approach, with a lot of research and restructuring during writing. But I will share with you the process time to time.

And the other fiction project is based on my experience of teaching English to beginners in Moldova. I started it one or two years ago and wasn’t sure, when I would pick it up again. But it started finding its way back into my mind recently and the beautiful Christmas ad for an English self-learning text-book and program I saw a couple of weeks ago has convinced me to pick it up and continue.

Business. Many of you heard and saw me being very keen to share my knowledge on Business Rules with all kinds of projects and businesses. The book dedicated to this topic has being read by Business Rules specialists and I got already a very helpful and motivating feedback. Over the holidays I will work on revising the book once again (the fourth time) and hope to send it to the editor in January. The working (and modified several times) title is now “Take Control of Your Business: Learn What Business Rules Are, Find Out That You Already Know Them and Use Them, Then Update Them Regularly to Maximize Your Business’s Success”. Here is the link to the very first draft of the project.

I’ll also continue posting articles in already existing and possibly new categories of my Business blog. Business rules will of course remain a topic and another two topics, which interest me here are a Startup’s Glossary where I examine my experiences as a small an still quite new business, as well as the art of business writing and what it means.

S1000D. I have presented my first book on S1000D “S1000D Issue 4.1 Untangled” at the S1000D User Forum in Seville this year. The feedback was wonderful, including requests when I will publish the next book. Many asked whether I would address the upcoming Issue 4.2 and some suggested extensions to the first book. I use the book also for S1000D training and consulting. I haven’t expected to open my book that often during my working day, and it is still a bit confusing but also extremely wonderful to have created something useful and helpful, which helps also me in my work.

The next book on S1000D is in work and it will be dedicated to both Issue 4.1 and Issue 4.2. This will go along with the compatibility of both Issues intended and announced by the S1000D Steering Committee at various occasions, including the User Forum this year.

The working title of this new book is “A Navigation Map for S1000D Issue 4.1 and Issue 4.2” (the subtitle still needs to be elaborated).

The very best wishes. I am very excited to step into 2017 and curious to discover what the year will bring. It might be scary and many recent events might seem to show that nothing good is ahead of us. But I don’t believe so. I believe that there is much more kindness in the world than evil and that each of us is able to be kind and create some true magic for ourselves and the world around us.

I hope I am contributing at least a little to one of those magic forces and events, the magic of books and written word.

And with the means of these tools, called words, I would like to wish you beautiful holidays with your loved ones and friends, and I wish you a year 2017 full of happy moments, experiences, and full of kindness!

Picture above: a very sweet and cosy Christmas display I discovered at a department store in Aalborg.

Contributing to Mekon’s Bitesize on Business Rules – 3: Business Rules Definition Starts Long Before Signing a Contract

(A note beforehand: This post is attributed to both Business Rules and S1000D blogs on this site, since the post and especially the article referenced in it, relate strongly to both topics in equal strength. This means that subscribers to both blogs will receive the notification on this post twice, once for each blog. I apologize in advance for this inconvenience.)

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Recently, I was told that the Mekon‘s Bitesize series on Business Rules becomes quite popular, and was asked to send something new as soon as I could. However understandable this is — the topic of business rules is quite multidimensional and complex —, I was very pleasantly surprised.

At some point, I will probably write articles on concrete business rules decision points defined by S1000D and their aspects, but so far there are still many general topics to cover, in order to understand what business rules are and what they are not.

The third article in the series addresses the point in time when the business rules definition starts. It is much earlier than the actual project officially starts. It is definitely before a contract between cooperating and consuming parties is signed. In fact a number of the core decisions are recorded in those contracts. Understanding when the decision making starts can help to get it better under control.

Click here to go to the article.

(Credits: Photograph © librestock.com under keyword “time”)