Steps to writing a book

A little about me to help you get an idea of what’s on my plate:

  • I am married (33 years), with five children. Three of these are grown up, and the young ones are bonus kids aged 8 and 10. They came to us via foster care and adoption for the younger one.
  • I was on a full-time contract with a construction company teaching and writing curriculum for the telecom industry.
  • I founded a digital education publishing company. My roles are CEO, curriculum developer, facilitator and producer.
  • I volunteer with some not-for-profit organizations.

So how did I complete the ebook and the many articles I wrote while doing all those things that I have on my plate? Read on.

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Processing Document, a workflow for productivity

This article borrows heavily from the seminal works of David Allen (Getting Things Done)

1. Gather 

Collect and gather all your document into one location, a file basket on your desk, a folder on your computer. Get everything into one place, emails, printed files, electronic documents, etc.

2. Process

Stick to the DOO (Do Only Once) rule as much as possible. Start at the top of the pile, and process each document, email, or piece of paper. Do not put anything back in the pile.

Ask yourself if it is actionable.

  • If not, ditch it, file it for future reference or put it in a Maybe Someday File in your filing system.
  • If it is actionable, and the very next action will take less than two minutes, do it! Ask yourself if you are the best person to do this? If not, delegate it.
  • If it is actionable but you cannot do it now, Defer it.

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Document Management Tips for Electronic Files.

Introduction

“the better you get at what you are doing, the better you better get at getting good.”
Alain Gauthier

Since the incredible growth in availability of the personal computer, there seems to be a constant increase in the number of documents we can create each day. From standard correspondence pieces like letters or emails; financial documents like invoices, statements or marketing documents, we are now able to create most of it on the fly.

As we attempt to go ‘green’ and use less paper around the office, our file management skills need to extend to electronic files. It is just as important to keep the documents on our computer organised and up-to-date as with paper files on our desks and filing cabinets.
The challenge is no longer on the creative side but with the organisation, sorting and management of these documents. With personal computer hard drive sizes passing the terabyte mark, we can easily store the equivalent of the Library of Congress on a laptop.

What do we do with all these electronic files? More importantly, how do we keep track of them and how do we find them when we need to refer back to them.
Storage is not the problem, organising the many files and folders is the issue for most of us.

The primary goal of any document management strategy should is to ensure that we can find what we are looking for, even if years have passed since we created the original document.

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Writing for your audience

When writing, or even reading, the best way to be clear with our message or to understand the message is to understand the context and the audience. Let me try to explain this with an example from one of my new article websites.

In the blog, The Parables of Jesus, I write about the parables Jesus told to his disciples and the crowds of His time. As with any other topic that is based on a another time or place, it is critical for me as a writer to realize that I need first to understand the context in which Jesus wrote as well as the audience He spoke to, and then my own audience so that I can write the articles with relevance to that audience.

Let’s look at the target audience, in this case, the audience reading these articles on the Parables. There is three general audience that I need to be aware of as a writer. The arm-chair theologian that already has done extensive studies of the bible and is aware of a lot of the language and background. Their understanding of the context into which the parables were told will be fairly accurate.

Another main audience is the “Christian reader“, she has grown up hearing or reading the stories of Jesus, maybe even went to bible studies on the topic but does not consider herself as a “theologian” in any sense of the word. Her interest is in knowing more about the parables and it is for personal or spiritual growth.

The last audience that I need to be aware of is the ‘general audience”. This is a person who does not know the bible, maybe does not even believe there is a God but does like to read stories about great teachers that roamed the earth in the past. We all have to agree that Jesus was at least that kind of person. So, I need to present the material in an interesting and educative way for that person too.

This, I believe, applies to any writing you do. Whether you are writing a novel or a lesson script, always remember who your audience is.

I hope this is helpful,

Alain

Why is Online Learning Better?

Over the past few years, I’ve had many people ask me if Online Learning is better than in-classroom learning. Like you, I have read a lot of different opinions on this subject. In this post, I will discuss this, and contrary to what you may think, the answer to this is NOT always yes.

Whether an Online or a Virtual Learning Environment is better than Book Learning or in-classroom learning depends on a few factors.

First, it very much depends on YOUR learning style. I wrote about Learning Styles in a few earlier posts so I won’t add too much to it right now. What I need to say is that discovering your learning style is critical to how you can maximize any learning environment you find yourself in.

If you don’t know what your learning style is, or are not sure, do take a few minutes to find out.

The time you invest now if finding more about yourself (self-awareness) will pay back in multiples in time saved when trying to learn something new.

Second, it also very much depends on how the material is presented. Yes, you can blame the facilitator, teacher or the presenter for this one, and the environment.

Adult Learners need to be involved in the learning process. Unfortunately, many teachers want to teach adults like most schools are trying to teach our children. You already know or read about the poor success that our education system is having so I won’t elaborate other than to say that if you were trying to create an environment where 25+ children would find it the most difficult to learn -it would look very much like one of our classroom. Children of all learning styles, forced to sit for hours, with sometimes very little interaction allowed…

Now, do you remember a classroom like that as an adult learner? Did you learn much? 

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Why 19th century teaching is failing our 21st century learners.

Let’s face it; our current educational system is a remnant of the industrial age. All students are sitting in a row receiving the same teaching in the same way for hours. This method is failing the majority of our students. I think that if you were to design a learning environment to fail, it would look like a classroom. Just imagine 27 different young students, ten variations of the multiple learning styles, an overwhelmed and “under-resourced” teacher, a few learning-challenged students. Add to this some parents not wanting to be involved in the education of their children or seeing teachers as the “bad guy” and we wonder why so few students enjoy learning. Yes, I admit that some of our teacher aren’t as good as others at what they do. I think that most of our teachers are doing a great job given the conditions they have to teach in. They are often having to teach curriculum that is not within their stengths or passion. Tenure often precedes qualifications, gifted musicians are teaching science, athletes are teaching music just so they can keep their job. To add to the stress on the system with school funding that keeps being cut, classes are getting bigger. This is a recipe for educational disaster!

Teaching all students, including those having difficulties with our current methods of delivery of education, helping our teen population complete high school (or better, go on to college or technical school), and become successful participants in our society are the highest goals an educator or education system can aim for. However, this will require a different approach to curriculum delivery, the old ways did not work and will likely never work for the majority of our students.

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Don’t let the mosquitoes ruin the hunt.

Wow, I just had some of the most productive two months in a very long time (Sept-Oct 2017). Even with serious health issues that took me offline for over 6 months and some technical issues in the recording studio, I still feel that these were great weeks where I got things done. Here is what I discovered along the way…

First, the focus is the key. I must clear away all distractions. I use my own ‘version’ of the David Allen’s Getting Things Done system to make sure I have peace of mind knowing that all my to-dos are being listed where I won’t forget anything. Knowing that nothing will explode, or fall between cracks because everything is in the inbox and ‘processed’ will give you peace of mind and the ability to focus on the task at hand. I also clear my physical desktop of all clutter. I keep papers in drawers, filing cabinets and I reserve the file tray on my desk for unprocessed or pending items. Anything that I can scan and save digitally is stored and backed up. Anything else is shredded and discarded.

Second, I still find it difficult to work in a noisy environment and I easily get distracted by ‘shiny mirrors’. So, to get things done I will work in my office with “white noise” or soft music in the background and my desktop is facing a wall. I will often close the binds on the window next to my desk to avoid visual distraction. I’ll turn off any notification software that will beep or flash a message for emails, or anything else that is not related to the work at hand. Of course, I will have my email program(s) turn off as well as my calendar alerts.

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Following your passion

Man is so made that when anything fires his soul, impossibilities vanish.
Jean de la Fontaine

Have you ever been so excited about a project or an idea that you are willing to risk everything you have, even your life on it? Have you examined your own life and discovered that “there has to be something better”? Socrates wrote that a unexamined life is not worth living. Does that sound too harsh?

Over the past few years helping adults find and pursue their passion in life, I have met so many who felt trapped in a career that felt like a prison. They felt trapped in a life that wasn’t theirs. Way back in high school someone convinced them that they needed to be “realistic” and get a “real job”. Did that happen to you?

Nobody told me that, I told myself. I ended up in IT for over 25 years, a career I came to hate going to work to in the morning. It paid well but that was a trap in itself. Then, in the mid-80’s I discovered teaching. I first taught as a volunteer in a church, then within a business organization where I was employed. It wasn’t paying much if at all so I focused on my IT career for another decade. Then in the mid 90’s I applied for and was hired to teach at a local college. I was teaching IT, which was an area of strength for me, and it paid fairly. The best part was that within a few weeks, I KNEW that this was my purpose. I felt like I could and would do it forever -even for free. I found that place where my personality, my strengths and my passion united in a career.

Over the years, that passion developed into my current business of teaching online. My only regret is that I waited so long before jumping in.

Have you been sold a bill of goods? Are you in a life that is not yours? Did you set aside your talents and passion for a safe life? I am not saying to abandon your responsibilities and walk away from it all. However, how about doing it as a hobby, maybe start a part-time job doing it -whatever “it” is. Maybe, just maybe, publishing your own online course is the first step toward a life well-lived.

Don’t let life go by without living YOUR life. I will end with another quote, this time from Socrates. “A unexamined life is not worth living.

Carpe Diem!

Alain

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