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Can you really write an ebook in 21 days?This is Week 47-52 of a Year of Living Productively

These last six weeks I tested whether I could write a nonfiction ebook in 21 days. I wanted to summarize my findings in a Year of Living Productively in ebook form and used the ebook by Steve Scott to do so as described in my last post. While I was working, I shared some amazing guest posts with you that I felt added to my investigations. They are listed at the end of this post.

How Writing an Ebook This Way Saved My Sanity

  • Gave me the opportunity to assess the past year. I have learned so much doing these experiments and writing about them. If I hadn’t worked on an ebook, I don’t know that I would have gleaned as much as I did from the process.
  • Enabled me to quickly outline a book. Steve Scott’s approach to outlining a nonfiction ebook is a good one. I really enjoyed using note cards to do it — something I haven’t used in writing for years. My outline was finished right on time.
  • Enabled me to quickly write a first draft. Steve’s admonition to write quickly got me into a Nanowrimo frame of mind and I was able to produce the first draft in a little more than 8 hours.

How Writing an Ebook This Way Made Me Crazy

  • Required too much time. Steve Scott recommends writing for two hours a day to finish the book in 21 days. I thought I would have more than enough time to start the book before I left for vacation the second week of January. Not so much. Then I thought I would have plenty of time to write on vacation. I did have some time, but not nearly the amount I anticipated. I planned to write the book in a two-hour time block each evening when I returned. When that didn’t work, I gave up, rather than using the little-and-often approach that had worked so well for me. I also struggled to find the time for editing the book because…
  • I was confused about my purpose. Steve suggests writing to answer people’s questions, but that felt like I was writing this book to tell people how to be productive. That’s the opposite of my purpose in writing this series! Once I figured that out, I was able to finish the first draft. But I was still confused. I wondered if the book would really be valuable to readers. I wondered if it was worth putting on Amazon, instead of just making it a blog freebie. I wondered if it was worth the sacrifice of time. And I wondered if I could really do the book justice in just 21 days. Now I wonder if I had written a weekly update during the process if I would have gotten more clarity.
  • I had competing priorities. I foolishly over-committed these past weeks and tried to write the ebook while going on vacation, starting a new weekly series on organization for homeschoolers, and more stuff that would just bore you (you may be thinking “too late!”). I had to reread a post I wrote on the high cost of over-commitment and how to avoid it. I realized that I succeeded writing 50,000 words in a month for Nanowrimo when it was my only extra commitment. Throw in a lot of unexpected and emotional events this month and I’m amazed I finished the first draft. That’s as far as I got.

Can I really write a nonfiction ebook in 21 days?

I don’t know. If I had invested the full 42 hours, I could answer that question, but I didn’t. I really wanted to, but if I had been miserable pushing myself to get the book done, I don’t think it would have been as helpful as honestly telling you that I couldn’t do it. At least not this last month.

The Productivity Approach I’ll Be Using Going Forward

I am going to finish the ebook using Little and Often. I want to finish the book because I think I will get a deeper understanding of how I work best as I refine it. I also want to bring closure to this series for faithful readers. I will still work through the steps that Steve Scott clearly explains, but I am not going to block time and promise it on a deadline. I have succeeded using writing deadlines in the past, but I am experiencing some obligation-based procrastination now. I think it will be interesting to see how long it takes to finish the book using little and often. Of course, I will post to let you know when the book is available!

Following the publication of the book, I will be posting about productivity hacks, books, apps, or ideas that catch my fancy as I’m inspired. Originally, I thought I would do that weekly. But one of the important things I learned from trying to finish this ebook is not to obligate myself to too much. I love the friends I’ve made through this series, but I love my family more. That’s as it should be.

If you’d like to join me going forward, here’s what you do. Write your ebook using a Little-and-Often approach. Keep reading, trying new things, and sharing what you learn about yourself with others. I would love to hear about what’s working for you!


I made the very difficult choice NOT to write a productivity ebook, not because I couldn’t, but because I was putting off what I REALLY wanted to do until I wrote the ebook. Instead, I am close to publishing my dream book–a language arts curriculum for elementary students. As an alternative, I’ve created a landing page and updates for all the productivity posts I’ve written. My desire is that this series benefits you the way it has me.

I have written and spoken about what I’ve learned in this series here:

6 Important Habits for Getting More Done

Interview with Francis Wade

Productivity Posts That Followed the Series

Motivation to Do What’s Most Important Today

A Better Daily / Weekly / Monthly To-Do List

Automatic Scheduling for Busy People

Get More Done with a 1-Thing To-Do List

5 Days of Productivity Favorites


The posts in A Year of Living Productively:

A Year of Living Productively

Week 1: Paper To-Do List

Week 2: Covey’s Quadrants

Week 3: Routines

Week 4: Paper Planner

Week 5: SMEMA

Week 6: Guilt Hour

Week 7: Envision Ideal Day

Week 8: Do it Tomorrow

Week 9: Pomodoro

Week 10: Time Warrior

Week 11: Scheduling

Week 12: The Repeat Test

Week 13: Personal Kanban

Week 14: Eat That Frog

Week 15: Vacation

Week 16: David Seah’s7:15AM Ritual

Week 17: Another Simple and Effective Method

Week 18: Daily/Weekly/Monthly To-Do List

Week 19: Ultimate Time Management System

Week 20: Getting Things Done

Week 21: Time Blocking

Week 22: Morning Ritual

Week 23: Beat the Week

Week 24: Productivity Ritual

Week 25: Make it Happen in 10 Minutes

Week 26: Focus & Relief List

Week 27: Accountability Chart

Week 28: Limiting Choices

Week 29: Zen to Done

Week 30: Heatmapping

Week 31: Gamification

Week 32: The 12 Week Year

Week 33: David Seah’s Ten for Ten

Week 34: David Seah’s Emergent Task Planner

Week 35: Steve Kamb’s Do It Now

Week 36: Rising Early

Week 37: Computer Shortcuts

Week 38: Interrupter’s Log

Week 39: Project Management

Week 40: Little and Often

Week 41: Problem Solving Approach

Week 42: Inbox Zero

Week 43: Resistance List

Week 44: Time Tracking

Week 45: No To-Do List

Week 46: Delegating

Why College Students & CEOs Manage Time the Same Way

How to Set Goals That Work

How to Get Things Done Regardless of Your App or System

The Real Cure for Time Management Anxiety

Roles & Goals: Lessons in Productivity from the 7 Habits