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7 Steps to Go From Slacker to Writing Machine

7 Steps to Go From Slacker to Writing Machine

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    We all love being lazy from time to time, and that’s perfectly alright, as long as it’s done in moderation. However, some of us are less disciplined than others, which means our “lazy” time spills over into our daily obligations. Writers, for instance, are extremely notorious for being lazy and prone to procrastination, which is perhaps best evident through their portrayal in the media. Fictional movie and TV characters such as Californication’s Hank Moody, or Secret Window’s Mort Rainey immediately spring to mind.

    While this image is certainly exaggerated, a lot of writers could use some help when it comes to organizing their time and improving their creative output. Since writing is often seen as heavily dependent on bouts of inspiration and ideas, the writers’ approach to occasional dry spells or writer’s block would be to wait it out, and not do much in the meantime.

    The good news is, not only can you make yourself more productive during those less-inspired periods, but you also can avoid them altogether, and it doesn’t require you to do anything revolutionary, other than making some tweaks to your usual approach and adopting some useful writing habits. No e-books, no magic pills, just 7 essential tips you can use to turn yourself into a writing machine you were supposed to be all along.

    1. Write Down Your Ideas

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    1. Write

      As a writer, you are probably aware that great ideas are hard to come by. There are two ways you can deal with this. The first one would be to do some serious brainstorming, organize and collect your thoughts, and distill them down to ideas you can actually use. The second one would be to always write down those ideas which appear inside your mind at the most unexpected moments and situations.

      Although it may seem like there is absolutely no way you’re going to forget about them, you probably will. You can fix this by writing them down using a piece of pen and paper, your smartphone, or specialized note-taking apps. Even though you may not use them right away, it’s great to have some of them in reserve.

      2. Set a Daily Word Count

      2. Word Count

        Making a decision to write more is commendable, but it only works in theory, because it’s pretty flexible. A better, smarter way of going about it would be to establish a minimum daily word count and fulfill that quota no matter what. Or, you can write for a certain number of hours. This is especially effective if you have a huge workload ahead of you, or if you are writing a novel.

        The idea of tackling such a huge project can be scary, but if you break it down into smaller sections and write a little bit each day, by the end of the month, you will be surprised at how much you’ve gotten done. Make sure the goal is realistic: 500 or 1000 words a day should do fine in the beginning.

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        3. Start Writing at the Same Time Every Day

        3. Time

          One of the reasons why you’re a writer is because you don’t do routines and constrictions, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid having any discipline and structure in your work. You can train yourself to be productive. Along with sticking to a certain word count, another way to make yourself more productive as a writer would be to start working at the same time each day. It will be hard at first, because you have to resist giving into the urge to give yourself and break and make an exception just that one time, which quickly snowballs into full-on procrastination.

          4. Create Your Very Own Writing Space

          4. Space

            If it’s possible, create a workplace for yourself inside your home that will allow you to focus on writing and nothing else, with no distractions that might hinder your progress. Keep your desk clutter-free and populate it with items that will inspire you. Make sure that it’s not your bedroom, the kitchen, or any room with a TV. If you find it too hard to concentrate within the comfort of your own home, give co-working communities a shot.

            5. Limit Non-Essential Activities and Rituals

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            5. Hobbies

              This doesn’t mean that the only thing in your life should be writing, but you can make more time for it if you drop some of the numerous activities which may not seem too time-consuming, but they add up to a significant chunk of time. For example, you can limit the number of hours you spend volunteering, or drop some unpaid writing projects you are currently involved in. Instead of soaking in the bathtub for an hour or two, take a quick shower. Avoid lengthy Netflix binges, watching several movies a week, or going out during business hours.

              6. Follow Writing Blogs

              6. Blogs

                There are countless blogs out there dedicated to writing and helping writers improve their writing skills, grammar, and productivity. Aside from gaining access to useful materials, such as articles, e-books, or webinars, you can also network with other writers and exchange ideas. Also, writing blogs usually contain reviews of writing-related apps which can speed up the writing process, and do some of the work for you, so check them out if you are struggling to be more productive.

                7. Edit after You Are Done Writing

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                  There are several reasons why you should avoid editing your work right away. Once you find yourself in that mode when you are churning out words so fast your fingers can’t seem to keep up with your brain, you should milk it for all it’s worth. Interrupting that process in order to edit is a huge mistake, because you can edit even if you don’t feel particularly creative.

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                  Also, it’s a good idea to set some distance between you and your work, so you can come back to it and edit it with a fresh mind. You’ll find you will be able to spot errors more efficiently and polish your writing the day after, provided that you don’t have a deadline looming over your head.

                  Featured photo credit: letters-keys-typewriter-retro via PixabayPerson animated, The Hunger Games, Now, Cat, 80s, Blog, Movie via Giphy

                  Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay.com

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                  Last Updated on February 20, 2019

                  The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

                  The Most Critical Career Advice that Helps You Climb the Career Ladder

                  You’ve got about three years in your current gig, and you love it. But you are reminded every now and then that there is greener grass somewhere. You would like for it to be here. But you’re willing to go elsewhere.

                  Regardless of whether you stay or go, you want more. How do you advance and skyrocket your earning potential? Where do you go to seek career advice?

                  In preparing for this article, I started hearing myself giving little tidbits of advice to my former students and new professionals. It occurred to me that these gems of wisdom are applicable to almost any career setting, and are especially impactful when you want to advance.

                  Then I recalled various bits of career advice I had been given over the years. And these have definitely resonated with me over the years as I’ve changed jobs multiple times.

                  Let’s get started.

                  1. Be Diplomatic

                  I shared this with a student leader at a large urban institution back in 2003. She was a very bold and outspoken young woman who wanted to be heard and make a difference.

                  On occasion, these desires made her difficult to work with. Olivia Edwardson wrote this about diplomacy in the workplace,[1]

                  “To be diplomatic, you need to understand and define your expectations clearly. What is it that you need, and what needs to be done in order to achieve this goal? At the same time, you must consider everyone else’s perspective: some tasks require different levels of help, and finding a balance between what everyone wants is crucial.”

                  How does this apply to you boosting your earning potential? In considering others’ perspective and finding balance, you show your managers that you are a team player and willing to work with others.

                  This insures that you are adding value to the company on a regular basis.

                  2. Embrace the Shades of Gray

                  I’m not talking the best selling novel here; I mean dealing with ambiguity.

                  In my first senior management position, my entire staff was also brand new and we were learning institutional culture day by day.

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                  Through this process, I had to model to my team the importance of being in the middle and not always making decisions from an all-or-nothing perspective. The plan isn’t always going to go from A to Z in alphabetical order.

                  Melanie Allen has said,[2]

                  “the best leaders are those that rise to the challenge of ambiguity and respond with confidence and adaptability.”

                  This means not being in control all the time, and learning to deal with uncertainty. It also requires that you be present, in the moment, so you can roll with the punches.

                  Getting comfortable with shades of gray can impact your earning potential in demonstrating your flexibility and willingness to accept change.

                  In trying times at corporations, managers and supervisors want leaders who are not stuck in their ways. Advancement comes to those who can go with the flow.

                  3. Keep Your Resume Updated (And Your Skills Fresh)

                  When was the last time you updated your resume? When you started job searching? After accepting a new job? Or every time you learned a new skill or took on a new project?

                  Prior to landing in my current position at a community college, I changed jobs every two years or so. That’s the topic of another article, but suffice to say that I got comfortable making updates and changes to that document.

                  When I switched to a Strengths-Focused resume in 1999, that changed everything for me. I learned how to represent my skills and achievements in my resume rather than just listing a bunch of “stuff” that I’d performed in my various jobs.

                  I push my agenda of a strengths-focused resume to about every career-changer with whom I interact, and for good reason.

                  This type of document has never failed to get me interviews.

                  But getting back to how often you should update your resume…

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                  Any time you develop a skill, create a program, or make a major change at your current place of employment.

                  In my current position, I’ve learned the basics of public relations, web design, communications and marketing, and branding all from the assignments and projects delegated to me.

                  Based on these new skills, I taught myself to use WordPress and other online tools because of the added value I bring to the organization now that I know these skills.

                  Walter Yate from Career Cast says of your resume,[3]

                  “You can start to change the trajectory of your life as soon as you take control of your career, with the careful development of the tools and skills of the new career management; and that all starts with owning a resume that gets results.

                  A resume is the foundation of your brand and is your primary marketing tool. When your resume works the doors of opportunity open for you, when it doesn’t they don’t. Keep your resume current at all times because you never know when you will need it, for that next promotion or a new job.”

                  Well, I couldn’t have said that better myself.

                  4. Never Turn down More Responsibility

                  Wait, doesn’t this advice fly in the face of the whole work/life balance thing?

                  Yes and no.

                  Let’s first ask why you are being offered the additional responsibility.

                  Is it because someone left the organization and the work needs to be spread out amongst the team?

                  Is it because you did an incredible job on the previous assignment and your supervisor trusts you and recognizes your added value?

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                  Is it because you’re being groomed for a promotion and your supervisor is running a little experiment with you?

                  It could be any or all or none of these. Your attitude and response will mean everything in this situation.

                  Accept the additional work with grace and style, and learn as much as you can. Then two or three weeks later you can bring up the new tasks with your supervisor and explore why the work was given to you.

                  Business Insider says,[4]

                  “Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to take on more responsibility is a great way to grow personally and professionally.”

                  Talk to your boss, be proactive, and make the new work fun.

                  Approaching the new work with a negative attitude and a “woe is me” is just a sign to your boss that you aren’t up to the challenge. And then that added value you just landed is gone. And you aren’t being a team player.

                  5. Add Value to Your Organization

                  By making yourself indispensable to your organization and demonstrating to your supervisor how you contribute, you should find yourself climbing the ladder at your current place of employment or getting the reference needed to secure that ideal job at the new firm.

                  But what exactly does it mean to “Add Value?”

                  Simply speaking, adding value is making a product more appealing to its customers. Making it better, showing how innovative and multifaceted it is, things like that.

                  Now you’re going to figure that out about YOU.

                  Chrissy Scivicque of Eat Your Career identified six ways that an employee can add value to an organization:[5]

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                  1. Save money
                  2. Make money
                  3. Improve efficiency of a process or procedure
                  4. Improve quality of a product or service
                  5. Fix an existing problem
                  6. Prevent a future problem

                  These themes are pretty simple: if you can handle money, problems, and processes well, then you can add value to your employer. So start approaching your day to day tasks in those terms.

                  Do you produce a fundraising event every year? Determine how you can raise more money while spending less on the event.

                  Do you have a brave idea on how you can make that annual job fair run more efficiently? Draft your idea and present it to your supervisor.

                  Has your team leader consistently asked you and your peers to think more critically on the problem of staff turnover? Do some research and propose a couple solutions.

                  Keep in mind that to prove you are adding value, you actually have to do the work. You have to be proactive, innovative, and have the organization’s best interests in mind.

                  Bonus Tips!

                  I thought it would be fun to get some additional pieces of advice from some actual managers out there…so I polled some of my colleagues around the country, both from higher education and the private sector. Here’s what they shared with me on how to advance your career:

                  “Put together data or examples to show the value the said employee has brought to the department. Don’t wait until annual review time – it’s generally too late!”

                  “Never be afraid to speak up during staff meetings or personal 1:1 sessions with supervisors. Pointing out carefully considered ideas and being willing to take on new responsibilities with various staff members shows flexibility, professionalism, and motivation.”

                  “They have to demonstrate that they are all-in on the values of the company. This can be tricky in environments where employee and supervisor are of different generations. At 25, I may think I’m working hard, but my 60-year-old boss might think I’m just doing what’s expected.”

                  “Do what you do well and be fully present at all times.”

                  “Bottom line is the key. If you are increasing income, you deserve to share in it.”

                  What was the best piece of career advice you’ve received, and how did it impact your earning potential?

                  Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

                  Reference

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