Right now as I’m writing this, it’s Friday morning at around 10am.
My head is in a fog, and I can barely sit up straight.
Last weekend I ran the Rock & Roll Half-Marathon in Las Vegas. 48 hours later, I was hit by the flu. I spent the next 72 hours in bed, unable to move.
Now I’m behind on client work, stressed, and forcing myself to sit down and work. Next week I’m traveling to Minnesota to be with my in-laws for Thanksgiving. So I need to get caught-up, and then get-ahead on work for next week.
The last thing I feel like doing right now is sitting down to write. But writing is the building block of digital marketing — it fuels my presentations, webinars, email newsletters, social media updates and more.
So I have to do it, whether I want to or not.
But here’s the interesting thing…
The most difficult part about creating content for a business isn’t the actual writing part, but sitting down to write in the first place.
Because I know the topic and objective of each FixCourse post so well, they only take me about an hour or two to write. One or two hours, out of a 40 hour work week, is a tiny investment for the large returns it provides.
The difficult part is actually forcing myself to sit down and commit to getting started. Especially when you’re behind on other work, fighting the flu, dealing with travel, and any other number of distractions or excuses that are completely valid.
So here are 5 tips that help me sit down to write (and help move my business forward each and every day).
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Tip #1. Keep Ideas Flowing
According to WordPress, I have 190 posts “Published” on this blog since inception. But I have another 273 “Drafts” saved that haven’t seen the light of day.
What does that say about me? That I have trouble finishing things? (Well, that might be true.)
It says I’m constantly coming up with new ideas for posts or articles. Before something is ever published, I may have thought about it and worked on it for months in advance.
Idea generation — coming up with new ideas for business or even for blog posts — is like a muscle… if you stop working out, then you’ll lose it.
Tip #2. Track Everything
Once you get better at consistently generating new ideas, then it becomes imperative that you keep track of everything.
Typically, that means collecting your thoughts ASAP in a safe place you can reference later. Because us “knowledge workers” today are completely overwhelmed and overtaxed. We are prone to forgetfulness. And good ideas or inspiration usually disappear as quickly as the come to us.
I like to use a combination of Getting Things Done and Trello to keep track of new ideas in an “inbox” that I can process through-out the week or on Friday afternoons (when I do my “Weekly Review”, which is probably one of the most beneficial aspects of the GTD system).
But at one time or another, I’ve also used (and recommend) Evernote, Google Drive, the Notes tab on your iPhone, or even a nice Moleskin notebook and pen.
(By the way, why am I emphasizing a *nice*, name-brand notebook as opposed to any cheap one you can buy in a drug store? Because we humans place more value on things that cost us more money. So this way you’ll take it seriously. Don’t believe me? Invest in a personal trainer and then try to skip a gym workout.)
Tip #3. Get to the Point
One key journalism concept says “don’t bury the lead”. The lesson is that you should state the main lesson quickly and upfront of each piece.
When you’re generating ideas and keeping track of them, remember to also include context for the point or purpose behind each idea. Because if you don’t, then it will be impossible to re-create your stream of consciousness at a later date.
For example when I came up with the idea for this post, I immediately knew it would take the form of “quick, actionable tips” and also started jotting down possible ideas for each tip. Some of these made the final cut, and some of them didn’t.
But when I sat down to start writing, it immediately helped me get started and that forward momentum ultimately carried me through to the end.
Tip #4. Consistency is Key
One of my professional goals over the past year was to become a better public speaker and communicator. But as someone who works from home frequently and only with a handful of others, it’s easier said than done.
So back in March, I joined a local Toastmasters group and have been on-pace to deliver around 2 speeches per month. Add to that the frequent online webinars and events I do, and I’ve probably given at least 1 speech to a group of people each week for the past six months.
You can’t help but get MUCH better when you’re on that pace — for that sustained amount of time. Volume by itself is helpful. But as you get better at a new skill, you also start to notice the details and finer points.
The only way to practice for a half-marathon or marathon is to run A LOT. The same is true for pretty much everything else in life.
Tip #5. Get Public Accountability
The single best way to stick to a deadline is to have others count on you.
We can easily lie to ourselves and cut ourselves slack. But when other people — peers, family, friends, potential clients, etc. — are counting on us, then it becomes A LOT more difficult to hide.
I’ve been writing a weekly article for a little over 2 years now. That means somehow, someway I need to deliver an email to people’s inboxes each week.
Seth Godin calls it “shipping”, because at the end of the day the ONLY thing that matters is whether you ship or not. You can have the best ideas in the world, but if they’re all locked up as “Drafts” in WordPress instead of “Published”, then nobody cares.
But sticking your neck out, making a commitment to people, and then fulfilling it again and again can help give you the extra motivation needed when it’s time to sit down and write — even when you don’t feel like it.
Or when you’re sick, tired, stressed, and behind on other “more important” work.