Business Musings: The Post-Master Class Process Blog
The first Business Master Class held in Las Vegas ended last week. The class went much better than I had expected. I had expected more chaos, since we hadn’t used the venue before. I expected some bumps because the WMG staff couldn’t come down and help due to a variety of family issues (from a new baby to some personal stuff to a few major business things). Dean and I ran the class, with help from Allyson Longueira up in Oregon and Christina F. York here on the ground. We couldn’t have done it without them or the other instructors.
The attendees were great as well. Because Dean and I spent the year in our own personal crisis, we weren’t as abreast of the new as we usually were. Which turned out even better than I expected, because we brought in good folks who are trying and doing and thinking it all through. I’m excited about trying new things. I’m excited about the old things that still work. I’m excited about the modification of things that we had known about for a long time.
One major change we made to the class was the increased networking time. Dean and I took the opportunity to change the schedule to accommodate more networking. We left evenings open for socializing or exploring the city, but provided a suite for everyone to gather. Folks preferred to grab dinner and then gather. The city herself was a nice backdrop, particularly as everyone learned that there’s a lot more to Las Vegas than gambling. (The found art and the children’s play areas alone stunned everyone.)
The networking time helped us all figure out what we wanted from the conference—and who knew what about which new thing. If there was something new, someone had tried it. If there was something older that took time, someone had found a way to make it work more efficiently.
I have an entire yellow legal pad full of notes. (I didn’t have time to charge my computer, because I was gone every day from 10 am to 10 pm.) I have tiny notepads full of notes (from the suite) and I have notes scrawled all over my schedule.
Needless to say, I haven’t yet gone over them.
I wanted everything to sink in first.
I’m writing this on the Saturday after the workshop. Information is trickling into my brain. Yesterday morning, I grabbed yet another yellow legal pad and outlined everything I needed to do. Everything. Not just with the writing. But the writing, the publishing, the marketing, the various businesses, as well as exercise and entertainment and classes I want to take and conferences I want to attend. I added in teaching and reading and everything else I could think of.
I ended up with another notepad full of notes, and they intrigue the hell out of me.
You see, I had a major realization at the conference. An important one, one that will change how I do everything.
Through the years of severe chronic illness, I had stopped thinking about the future. Most regular readers of the blog are now frowning. I’m always talking about the future. And future tech—or the ways that current tech can be used to make the future better—is something I discuss all the time.
When we plan our businesses, we’re always looking toward the future. I hadn’t lost that way of looking at the future.
I had lost it for my writing, which is the core of my business. I had so little energy that I developed a schedule, based only on what needed to be done, and then I tried to hit it.
I didn’t think about other projects. I didn’t think about what I wanted to do next. I could barely manage to finish the day’s work, and that took my entire focus. So I lurched from project to project without a real plan.
For the first time in a very long time, outlining all of my to-dos did not freak me out. When you have a long list of to-dos and you have marginal energy, a list like that only adds a lot of pressure.
In those very difficult years, I didn’t even make a want-to-do list. I couldn’t. Because those other projects would probably have frozen me right up. I could barely stumble from necessary project to necessary project — which, let me note, I wanted to do.
I just wasn’t letting in newer ideas, because I couldn’t. Even if I wrote a short story that was the opening to a novel or started a world that seemed vast, I wouldn’t let myself think about expanding it.
This time, though, I made those lists. And then the lists of other things I want to do. And all of the organization I need to do.
The organization isn’t trivial. It’s of my inventory, which is vast. And I knew, in the past, if I went through it, the inventory would spark more story ideas, and maybe remind me of bridge stories that I needed to write. I didn’t have the bandwidth to add that kind of pressure onto myself—and I would have seen it all as pressure.
This time, it’s I wants and I can’t wait to.
But more than that. The workshop made me realize that I had actually forgotten about organizing. I had forgotten how important it was, I had forgotten how necessary it was, and I had forgotten how useful it was.
It feels like I found a limb or an extra hand or a part of my brain that had been missing for a very, very, very long time.
I don’t think I would have sat down and written out everything I needed to do without the discussion at the last morning of the conference.
We reserve the final hour and a half for final questions, and a discussion with the attendees about the things we missed. The attendees also bring up information that is within their areas of expertise, things that one of the panels or group discussions or the networking made them remember.
Some shared classes they’re offering. Others recommended books. And a few helped us all get organized.
The best piece of advice I heard for me that morning was the 20% rule. I’m paraphrasing here, because I’m writing this in a restaurant away from all of my notes, but here’s how I remember it.
Johanna Rothman, who works as a management consultant when she’s not writing fiction, shared the 20% rule. At the end of the year, she said, she went through her business and tossed 20% of what she was doing. That freed her up to add 20% of new things that she wanted to get to. (She says she learned the rule from Alan Weiss, who wrote Million Dollar Consulting. Whatever. I learned it from her, and it’s great.)
Her comment had come just after Loren Coleman of Catalyst Game Lab mentioned that he looked for inefficiencies in all of his businesses. He said he has learned over many years of running businesses that over time, things that were easy once now take twice as long and cost ten times as much.
Those things are still earning, but not at the level they need to sustain their position in the business.
I know that. We do that at WMG every single year. But I hadn’t applied it to the writing until Johanna had spoken up next (literally) and added the 20% rule. And that’s when I got really excited about the writing again.
I have been chucking inefficiencies since we moved. Some come from moving from a community that is mired in the 1970s (in technology in particular) to a community on the cutting edge of tech and more. Some came from living at least an hour from anything of note, so that even seeing a movie would take all day (and usually leave me sick). Many were just old habits. My old office had had exactly the same layout for 20+ years, for example. I had floppy disks stashed in drawers, for heaven’s sake.
Now I work on two different laptops and/or my iPad, and take something I can write on with me wherever I go. When I see a movie, it takes at most three hours, if I have to drive.
The time savings on just the mechanics of living have been astronomical. But the move forced me to do other things.
I had to get my email system in order. I was wasting too much time on it. And since I only got my news from online sources, I would then click around and look at other things. (I still get epapers, but I read them on my phone while waiting for food or running errands. No clicking around.)
There are a million time saves that I have found, most not relevant here.
But until this week, I hadn’t activated the other part of Johanna’s 20% rule. I didn’t add in the things I had been wanting to do.
That’s what got me so excited on Friday morning. I now have options.
I still have to restructure my office. I need to take a realistic look at my schedule now that the Master Class is over. (I was waiting until it was done to do so because, I thought, the class was going to wipe me out physically. It didn’t. Yay, the move! My health is tons better here.)
Now that the class is over, I have revamping to do. And writing. And thinking. And organizing.
And, unlike previous years, I’m looking forward to all of it.
Which is why I’m sitting in a restaurant on a planned day off, writing this process blog instead of reading the novel that I had also brought with me.
My brain is too excited to let go of this. And I didn’t need the time off this year. So I’m making the most of it all.
I will have a lot more concrete blogs about the master class or the things I learned starting in a few weeks, as I investigate. But for now, I’m getting organized—and having fun!
Speaking of fun, we will be doing a Business Master Class next year. We have to evaluate the pricing structure (the hotel was more expensive than we expected due to upcharges). We do know next year will have to cost more than this year.
But for a limited time, we’re offering an early bird rate. You can sign up for next year’s class at this year’s prices. Here’s the link. And we do have a limitation on attendance, so it’s first come first serve.
On another matter, I need to thank you all for continuing to follow the blog. I wouldn’t even do process blogs if you folks hadn’t told me you like them. So next week, you’ll see a blog with a bit more teeth. And I have a few blogs in the can. You can find them behind the paywall on my Patreon page, if you want something early.
Thank you all for the support, though. I love the articles, the shares, the comments, and the donations. You keep me going.
I can’t thank you enough.
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“Business Musings: The Post Master Class Process Blog,” copyright © 2018 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.