Use Notion To Manage Your 3 Blog Buckets

Three Buckets?

Since the time I began the Intentional Blog course by Jeff Goins, I have been looking for a simple and sustainable way to work within the “3-Bucket System.” The 3-Bucket System is a simple but brilliant way to channel blog ideas into blog posts. Here's how it works: You take all of your ideas, really just titles or thoughts, and place them into the first “bucket” – consider these the seed of a blog post or a book chapter–anything you see that you think you might want to write about.

Once you have a bunch of ideas, you can begin developing them. This happens in blog bucket #2. This is where your ideas take shape. For me, I begin mind-mapping thoughts, assertions, and subheadings. I begin to knock out a few paragraphs to fill in the ideas. It's not polished prose yet, but there are sentences that flow together to connect the ideas.

Finally, once you've roughed in your piece, you move it to bucket #3 for the editing process. For most authors, the actual act of writing is much different from the way we find ideas and develop them. That's why I like Jeff's 3-Bucket System. It allows me to engage different parts of my brain when needed. For bucket 1, my brain is organizing and evolving the ideas-it's a mechanical process and feels like a left-brained to me. For bucket 2 I'm engaged in prose and written dialogue. This feels like right-brained activity. But for bucket 3 I'm back to my left brain again, checking for typos, duplicate phrases, passive voice—that kind of thing.

What's special about Notion?

Notion is an information organizing tool and frankly, the interface is beautiful. It's also very functional. I have tried so many different tools to keep the 3-Bucket System working, including yellow pads, a spiral notebook, Google Keep, Apple Notes, and Evernote. Visually and practically, none was up to the task.

I would list my ideas in Apple Notes or dig through a pile of papers and then I fleshed them out in Scrivener, Pages, or Google Docs. Eventually I ported them over to WordPress for final layout and publishing. I was working with 3 disparate applications and wishing I could have everything in one place.

Screenshot of my Blog Buckets

Notion solves this issue gracefully. Now I can see all my projects in one space, gauge the progress, and I can even write, edit, and revise in Notion. That's all three buckets and I haven't left the application. Not only that, but the tools for writing include a full suite of markdown tags, linking, images, and much more.

When I'm done, I can export markdown or simple select all of the content and the paste it into WordPress. The subheadings and text treatment persist so there's no need to go back and add H2 tags or italicize or underline things.

But wait, there's more…

While Notion is great for the 3-Bucket System, it does a TON of other things too. You can use it to store notes, of course, but you can also create spreadsheets and databases. You can coordinate tasks and projects. You can use Notion to create a Knowledgebase, and it's all shareable with your team at a low cost. It beats Evernote hands-down, which even the staunchest of past Evernote supporters agree (i.e. Michael Hyatt and others). 

A Quick View of Notion & The Blog Buckets

Note: If you're interested in taking Notion for a test drive you can get a $10 credit by signing up here. Full disclosure, I also get $5 credit if you do. Try it out today!

My 4 Big Takeaways from Tribe Conference

There’s nothing like sitting in a room of 300 people who want exactly the same thing you do…to make a difference through writing.

This last weekend I attended Jeff Goins’ Tribe Writers Conference in Franklin, Tennessee. Since joining the Tribe Writers online workshop in May of 2017, attending the conference has been a dream of mine.

How was the conference? In one word, AMAZING! So many great speakers, so many awesome people, and so much encouragement. I’m glad that I went and I’ve already purchased my ticket for next year.

After combing through my session notes, these are the four biggest takeaways for me. If you attended the conference I would love to hear yours. If you didn’t get a chance to go, I hope they will be helpful for you too.

Takeaway #1: Tell yourself the right stories

What’s that mean? It means the road to being a successful writer starts by believing that you can be a successful writer. You have to say it out loud, “I am a writer, I am a writer.” It’s like a mantra. The more you say it, the more you believe it. The more you believe it, the more it comes true.

Believe me, there’s no shortage of self-doubt on the pathway to your first book or blog. I experienced that first-hand when I first started to write. If I had a bad day writing I would think, Well, maybe everyone was right. Maybe I’m not a writer. By the way, it’s not like everyone was saying that, it was me saying that to myself!

Jeff Goins reminded us that we must tell ourselves the right kind of stories because there is power in words. There’s power in the words you write, and power in the words you speak–even in the words you speak to yourself. So say it with me, “I am a writer, I am a writer.”

Now, go write.

Takeaway #2: Your impact increases when you care for your audience

This was the biggest takeaway for me. It’s important to write with a purpose, and there is no better purpose than to help others. Seriously, if your goal is not to enrich the lives of people than why even consider publishing? After all, writing for yourself has a name, it’s called journaling.

When you write with love for your audience it shows. Jeff Goins and his team proved that at the conference. What most novice writers need are support and encouragement and the Tribe Conference speakers focused on that need. Charles Lee (Ideation Podcast) reminded us that branding is about way more than logos and colors. It’s about giving your audience/customers a sense of how you want to help them. Most successful writers have tapped into this truth, even those who write fiction.

Now, I am actively asking my readers what kinds of topics and articles would be helpful to them. I’m hoping to show that I care about what they care about. I have put together a survey of spiritual topics where I believe my perspective will be helpful.

Takeaway #3: What stops your art is inside of you

We would all like to blame someone or something for our lack of productivity, but with very few exceptions you can find the culprit in a mirror. If telling ourselves the right stories will help us succeed, then the opposite must also be true. However, it’s more than just negative stories that can stop us from producing our art. At the heart of the problem is fear. We’re afraid of failure and success simultaneously. While the thought of failure is frightening, the prospect of success creates an expectation too. Will will be able to live up to our own success the second time around?

Tim Grahl, the author of Running Down A Dream: Your Road Map To Winning Creative Battles gave a phenomenal talk about the role of fear in our artistic lives. He encouraged us to embrace it, deal with it, harness it even. He said, “fear is a sign that we are doing something right.”

Fear is a sign that we are doing something rightClick To Tweet

In the end, it’s a matter of changing our perspective on fear and discouragement. We don’t allow it to control us, but we do acknowledge it as a part of our humanness. As a matter of fact, sometimes our fears come to us disguised as wisdom. When they do we can talk ourselves out of a goal that seems too difficult. Instead of feeling like a quitter, we feel smart to play it safe. It’s nothing more than giving up on our artistic dreams because we have inflated the consequences of failure.

Takeaway #4: There is no easy road

Writing is hard. It’s supposed to be. Writing is the act of creating ex nihilo–out of nothing. It’s not like a writer starts with a jumble of words with the intent to arrange them into well-formed series of paragraphs. No, the writer stares at a blank screen or a new pad of paper and then writes. First words, then sentences, paragraphs, chapters, and finally, a book. It’s a painful process.

Alli Worthington, the best-selling author of Fierce Faith: A Woman's Guide to Fighting Fear, Wrestling Worry, and Overcoming Anxiety, shared her four key steps to success: Show Up, Be Real, Love Others, and Don’t Quit. Showing up is the first step for any writer hoping to find success. You have to sit down and write–when you don’t feel like it, when you’re tired, when you’re blocked, and when you're discouraged.

Writing hurts. Like exercise, you don’t love life when you’re on the treadmill but you’re glad that you got through it. More than anything, you can’t quit. When I first started writing almost eight years ago I quit. Twice. It was the Tribe Writers online cohort that encouraged me and kept me moving forward. I’m so glad they did. This year I self-published my first book ever, Flannel-Graph Jesus: More Than A One-Dimensional Savior. It was a huge step for me and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my new Tribe friends, so many of whom were at the conference.

Conclusion

So, how are you doing in your art? Even more, how are you doing in general? All of these principles apply to writing but they also apply to other areas of life too. If you’re struggling, remember to tell yourself the right stories. You are a writer, or a painter, or a great mom, a great dad, an inspiring boss, a phenomenal student, and so on. Tell yourself good stories.

Remember to serve your audience and put other people's needs first. Ask the question, “how can I add value to someone else’s life?” and then go do it. Embrace fear by realizing it’s natural to worry about the mistakes or failure. Lastly, remember there’s no easy road. Someone once said, “the right thing to do and the hard thing are usually the same thing.” Show up, be real, love others, and don’t quit.

4 Things I Learned Self-Publishing My First Book

In two days, my first book will be officially released. It’s called, “Flannel-Graph Jesus: More Than a One-Dimensional Savior,” and to say I’ve learned a few things during the self-publishing process is an understatement. Here are four of my takeaways.

It’s About Dedication, Not Inspiration

When I first dreamed of becoming an author, I would write in fits and starts. Sometimes I would wake up in the morning and scribble a few paragraphs, and other times I would stay up deep into the night and polish off a few chapters. I was inconsistent and it got me nowhere.

What I found out was the only way to start and finish a book was to commit to a certain amount of writing each week and then stick to it. For me, it was Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 5–6am. Rather than wait for inspiration, I learned to channel it. Just the act of sitting at the keyboard early in the morning with nothing else to distract me induced creativity.

Sure, I had days when words did not come easily. But I found that the more I kept at it, the easier it became.

Believe In Yourself, Even When No One Else Does

Years ago, when I first attempted to write a book, I became discouraged when I shared my writing with friends and family and heard nothing back. I assumed that I wasn’t a good writer and that I should give up. Seth Godin says, “No one is going to pick you. Pick yourself.” I learned that other people are very busy and most don’t have time to be inspired by your dream.

Jeff Goins teaches that you have to call yourself a writer, first.Click To Tweet I remember going to each of my social profiles and changing my title to “Writer and Pastor.” Initially, it was a dubious title, but now it’s real. There’s power in words, especially when they are spoken internally and repeated often. Call yourself a writer and then work hard at it. Trust me, if I did it, you can too.

Editing Is Like Magic

In my early writing sessions, I would find myself getting bogged down in the minutia of a single paragraph — tweaking words and punctuation until I got it exactly correct. This is the wrong approach. While I was writing Flannel-Graph Jesus, I would sit down and get as many words onto the paper as possible, not going back to fix spelling or punctuation. As I learned, all of that can be handled during revision.

After I finished my completed manuscript at just under 30,000 words, I went back and did a rough edit — just fixing some obvious issues and clarifying areas of the book that needed adjustment. Then, I hired a copy-editor. Wow! An editor is a writer’s secret weapon. Yes, it cost a little money, but having a trained professional make suggestions, adjustments, and corrections was a game-changer. The process took longer than I thought it would, but I’ll be hiring an editor to help with all my manuscripts from now on. And don’t forget, all top writers have editors — it’s the just way it works.

The Publishing Process Takes Time

I self-published my book, which is to say, I was in charge of finding an editor, cover designer, layout designer, printer, shipping the books, and paying for all of it. I thought I could accomplish all of these tasks within a couple months. Not a chance.

First, I used Kickstarter to raise the money to pay for the publishing cost. This is essentially “pre-sales” of the book and allows people to support the project ahead of time. My Kickstarter campaign total exceeded my goal by more than $700, which was amazing. I raised about $3,700. However, Kickstarter takes 15–20 days to release the funds, not to mention taking about a 10% cut.

Additionally, working with the copy-editor took more time than I thought, not because she was slow, but because it’s a process that requires careful thought and plenty of decisions. Designing a book cover also takes a lot of time. Each revision may take a week or more and there are several revisions to make along the way. Lastly, it’s no small feat to coordinate the purchasing of ISBN numbers, bar codes, getting the manuscript uploaded to Kindle, iBooks, and shipped to Amazon.com.

In the end, I had to push my release date back by about 30 days and I still had to rush to get everything done.

While challenging at times, this journey has been exhilarating and fun. I’ve already started working on my next book. Armed with a little experience and knowledge, I’m hoping to publish around this time next year.