Right Now: Butt-in-chair is the only way

Advice on getting your work done is rampant.

I’m not kidding. Do a search for articles and books on how to complete your novel or screenplay or blog posts and … well, you might not come back up out of that rabbit hole. Maybe don’t do the search; just trust me on this.

I don’t have exact figures, but I’m pretty sure there are more write-ups on how to complete projects, how to stick to schedules, and how to get more paying gigs than there are actual things being worked on right now.

Ok, so there’s a lot of advice out there. That’s not a bad thing. Advice can be helpful.

What isn’t so helpful is that much of this counsel tends to skip the key ingredient that will ensure success:

You must get your butt in the chair and do the work.

All the reading about effective systems and chats with friends (even the well-intentioned ones who boost your spirits) and meditating on how to prioritize your 27 urgent projects — none of that will get the work done until you sit your butt down, position your hands on the keyboard, and start.

Or, in the words of the inspirational poster on the wall in my office:

Ass + Chair = Script

Truer words never spoken, my friend.

Not sure exactly what to write? Those words won’t write themselves. Get your butt in the chair and type until the words come.

Afraid it’s going to sound stupid? Maybe it will. So what? It can be fixed. (This is why God invented editors.) Get your butt in the chair.

Worried your plot might not be good enough? Guess what? If you don’t start, the whole thing will never see the light of day and, ergo, it won’t be good enough. Get your butt in the chair.

Stop the hemming and hawing, the planning and pondering, the dillying and dallying.

Stop talking about it. Stop wondering about it. Stop worrying about it.

Stop reading helpful advice – including this blog post. I mean it.

Butt in chair. Get to work. Right now.

I Do Declare: Being mistaken for Naval Intelligence isn’t as great as it sounds

The following is an excerpt from a book I wrote with my dad, from a chapter titled “When you’re mistaken for NIS simply because you commute to the ship via helicopter.”

~ ~ ~

After Dad made chief in New Jersey, he was stationed on the U.S.S. Guam, a helicopter carrier. Even though it was based in Norfolk, every Monday it went down off the coast of South Carolina to test the new vertical-lift helicopter (now known as the Harrier) that were being developed in Beaufort.

And that’s where he was involved in a rather amusing case of mistaken identity.

But I’ll let him tell the story:

It just so happened that Pete was stationed on the ship the same day I was. He and I had a lot in common. Not only were we both in communications and both chiefs, but we also were both from South Carolina (he was from Florence).

We also had the same NEC (Navy Enlisted Classification) code for classified equipment, and that got us into different places on the ship that not everyone had access to.

Because we were repairing teletype machines, it was better for us to work in the middle of the night (when incoming messages were less frequent), and the captain let us do as we pleased as long as we kept the machines running.

Most of the time we worked about three hours a night, and otherwise we just wandered around not doing any other work. There were other chiefs on board, so we rarely went into the radio room.

All of that – odd hours, having free reign, the captain leaving us alone – led some people to believe we were with Naval Intelligence.

At first, we didn’t notice. But before long we had a hard time finding people to play pinochle with. And then people started giving us worried looks when we tried to strike up conversations.

Well, by then we knew something was up. Finally, one of the men in communications told us why some people were wary of us.

And then our reputation was sealed when Pete and I requested – and received approval – from the captain to take the mail helicopter out on Fridays to Charleston and come back on Monday mornings.

Who else could do that except somebody working undercover?

Pete and I figured it wasn’t all bad. Being mistaken for NIS did keep the aggravation to a minimum. The officer on watch never bothered us. No one nagged us for reports. We could do pretty much anything we wanted.

Except make any money on cards. For some reason we couldn’t find anyone who would admit to playing the game.

~ ~ ~

Want to read more? You can order it here.

Click here to see my other books.

Right Now: Stop it with the resolutions already

We’re into the third week of the year, which for most people means the new year’s resolutions are fading into the background.

And it’s no wonder, considering the mere statement of resolution is a bit lame and tame. “I resolve to…” Starting a plan that way sounds vague, almost wish-like.

And let’s be honest. If you do make resolutions, they can become high maintenance in a flash. They nag at you, remind you that you have unfinished business, and demand accountability – until you stop taking them seriously.

The reasons why resolutions tend not to work are many and varied, depending entirely on the complexities of the individual, but the fact that they transmute so quickly from imperative to ignored says everything.

Have I convinced you yet that I’m not a fan of resolutions? Good. Because I’m going to ask you to stop doing them. Right now. There are better methods out there that can help you chart a better course for yourself and kick your productivity into high gear.

Here are a few to consider:

Vision Boards

A vision board is a series of images clustered together, something  like a collage, that is used to help clarify and keep focus on the things you want to achieve or acquire. A vision board puts what you want into visual form. It’s not just written down: You can see it. There is something powerful about having your dreams in concrete form in front of you.


  • Creating a vision board is a creative exercise.
  • You can change or update it as often as you want.
  • Working on a vision board can be revealing in that it might help tap into subconscious desires.
  • The vision board can double as a work of art. After you create it, put it on the wall.


  • It only shows the end results – the things you’re aiming for – without considering the means to get there.

How to get started?

Grab a poster board, some colorful magazines, scissors, some glue (or tape), and piece together what you want your future to look like.

Habit Tracking

Habit tracking is the act of monitoring specific things you do every day. These behavioral changes can help you achieve small goals that eventually add up to significant improvements in your life.


  • Habit tracking provides the means to an end – or to other changes.
  • You can measure the progress you’re making; or, if you’re not making progress, the tracking might help you understand the reason why, and you can take steps to improve.
  • There are several habit tracking apps to help you keep track of your progress.
  • There’s a psychological reward in “checking the box” when you meet the goal.
  • When the habit is established (i.e., has become automatic), you can stop tracking it and move on to others.


  • Habit tracking is high maintenance, requiring constant monitoring and accountability.

How to get started?

Get a calendar, a dot journal, or a spreadsheet, and create a daily checklist of things you want to become a habit. Alternately, you can download a habit tracking app, and it’ll do a lot of this for you. Check the things you do each day; leave blank the things you don’t do that day. (Honesty is a must here.) Your progress will be easy to spot.

Intention Setting

Setting intentions is the practice of becoming “on purpose” in your daily life. With a starting point of “I intend to…” (and checking your fears at the door), your purposeful intentions essentially draw a map of where you want to go. Though they sound like resolutions, intentions are typically more positive-focused than resolutions and are therefore easier to commit to.


  • Setting intentions helps bring your heart and mind into alignment, allowing you to consider the “why” behind your intentions.
  • Intentions begin with a focus on what you want to achieve, which can help you envision the means to get there.
  • You can develop a stronger sense of connection to your plans.
  • Intention setting involves appreciating the journey, not just arriving at the destination.


  • You must find a way to make the intentions measurable and accountable.

How to get started?

Open your journal book every day (I recommend doing this in the morning) and start with “I intend to…” and keep writing until all of your hopes, dreams, and desires are examined. Get into the “why” of it. Ask yourself: Why am I doing this? Why do I want this? Be ready to reconsider some of your intentions as you get the answers to these questions.

Goal Setting

At first glance, goal setting may sound like intention setting (which itself may sound like resolutions), but there are differences – the key difference being that goal setting is specific and defined, whereas the other two are often broad-based and vague.


  • Goals involve specific achievements, which help lay out the path to get there.
  • Goals require action, which keeps them from being pie-in-the-sky wishes.
  • Goals are typically time-bound, which means there will be a deadline to meet.
  • Similar to habit tracking, there’s a psychological reward in “checking the box” when you meet the goal.


  • Depending on how many goals you set for yourself, you might become overwhelmed, creating unnecessary stress and pressure.
  • The goal must be attainable within a reasonable amount of time or you’ll set yourself up for failure.

How to get started?

Whether you use a calendar, spreadsheet, chart, or some other tool, there is one thing you must do: Write it down. Goal setting does not work if you keep it all in your head. Write down what you want to achieve, make plans for how and when you’ll work toward that goal, and track the progress. My personal favorite tool for goal setting is the comprehensive checklist I created, which you can check out here.

Test these out and see which fits your style. And you don’t have to limit yourself to one. You can do a vision board and goal setting, or habit tracking and intention setting. Or all four.

Whatever you choose, go with it at full speed and full confidence.

And remember what Mark Twain said: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”

I Do Declare: No one proves the power of words like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Today we commemorate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil rights activist who delivered one of the most powerful speeches in history in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963.

The speech is a total of 1667 words, every one of them meaningful, and not one of them wasted.

You can hear the speech thanks to this recording from the U.S. Archives.

Learn more here, here, and here about the occasion of the speech, the man, and his legacy.

I’m hard pressed to come up with a favorite part, because all of it is magnificent. However, if I HAD to choose, these two would be among the top contenders:

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

This one too:

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Right Now: A comprehensive checklist might be just what you need

I confess. I’m something of a to-do list fanatic. Give me some lines with checkboxes and I’m in heaven. This is how I keep track of everything in my life.

Over the years I’ve looked into a lot of different systems. And while I haven’t ever found one system that works, I have discovered that I can pull pieces of many different systems and make them work for me.

And that’s what it all comes down to – what works for the individual.

I offer here what’s been working for me (i.e., my compilation of various systems) in the event any of you out there want to take this and incorporate pieces of it for yourself.

This is what it looks like:


I track six days’ worth of activities, and my week is Monday–Sunday, so Saturday and Sunday are lumped together.

After keying in the specific dates (i.e., WEEK OF 1/11 – 1/17), I list in order of importance:

Row 1 – Most Important Things (MITs). These are, as stated, most important. They’re the things that will move my career forward, win the deal, give me a sense of accomplishment, etc. If I accomplish nothing else during the week, I want to hit these.

Row 2 – Tasks. These are not as mission-critical as the MITs, but they’re things that must be done, so I don’t want to lose sight of them.

Row 3 – Routine Items. These are everyday things that I might forget if I get too busy. Plus, I like checking them off. On my list, I have things like doing blog posts, exercising and taking vitamins. (Yes, I am prone to forget to exercise and take vitamins. Seeing it in print is a good reminder.)

Below the three to-do rows is where I list info on my current projects to keep them in front of me.

At the bottom are two “parking lots” where I keep track of things that need to get onto the calendar (i.e., usually into the MIT or Task rows) eventually and the list of long-term projects (e.g., pruning the berry plants, which I won’t do until the Fall).

The page is laid out on 8.5×11, landscape. The gap in the middle of the grid allows you to fold the paper without creasing over any text.

For some people this might look like overkill to the Nth degree. But it’s a system that works really well for me.

Want a free Word version of this to tinker with on your own? Drop a comment below.