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The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource

The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource
The Ultimate Writing Productivity Resource

    Last week, I launched a new site I’d been working on for several months, dedicated to technology and the writing life. Since I’ve been eating, drinking, breathing, and sleeping “writing” all week, it seemed natural to pull together some of the tools, sites, and Lifehack.org tips I know of that can help make writers more productive, organized, and creative.

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    Note: Maybe you don’t consider yourself a writer. Chances are, though, that you have to write — papers for school, memos for work, presentations for potential funders, grants for your organization, posts for your blog, and so on. I’m pretty sure you’ll find a lot of useful information below, whether or not you officially call yourself a “writer”.

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    10 9 Free Apps Every Writer Should Consider

    1. q10: A cool, minimalist full-screen text editor that includes a spellchecker and a couple other nice features. (Win Only; Alternatives: DarkRoom, also Win-only; WriteRoom, Mac-only but not free; Writer, online app)
    2. Freemind: Java-based mindmapping software. Great for brainstorming and taking notes. (Runs anywhere Java runs)
    3. EverNote: Capture formatted notes from any application to a single place. The new version (in private beta now) offers online access, too. (A paid version offers niceties like handwriting recognition.)
    4. Zotero: Firefox extension that allows you to capture bibliographic information from web pages, organize citiations and documents, and create bibliographies in Word and OpenOffice. Essential for anyone who does research on the web.
    5. yWriter4: Novel-writing software created by a working writer with writers in mind. Keeps character descriptions, notes, and other essential information at your fingertips as you write. (Win and Linux)
    6. Sonar: Submission tracking software from the same guy who wrote yWriter4. Keep track of markets and submissions easily. (Win and Linux)
    7. Foxit Reader: A super-fast PDF reader. Opens almost every document much more quickly than Adobe Reader. (Win only)
    8. PDF Creator: Open source program to create PDF files from any application that can print. Installs a “virtual printer” under your programs “Print” menu; select it to save as PDF. (Win only)
    9. Enso Words: Provides system-wide spellchecking and word count; simply select text and enter a keystroke combination (“Caps Lock” + s for spellcheck, “Caps Lock” + w for word count, etc.). (Win only)

    Update: Sorry, I don’t know what happened to my 10th! I had 10 when I outlined the post, then added a few and dropped a few while I wrote, and… Very mysterious. I could cheat and add Scholar’s Aid 4 Lite, a freeware bibliographic reference manager, but you’d see right through that, wouldn’t you?

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    10 Online Apps and Services Every Writer Should Check Out

    1. Buzzword: Luscious Flash-based word processor from Adobe. Includes running word count, sharing and collaboration features, and revision history. (Alternatives: Google Docs, Zoho Writer, and ThinkFree)
    2. Luminary Writer’s Database: AN online submission tracker with some social networking features, like sharing markets with other writers (and searching other writer’s shared markets).
    3. WriteWith: An online collaboration environment. Upload documents and assign tasks to different authors.
    4. Wrike: Project management app with an email interface (useful for adding documents and assigning tasks). Useful for information management, too. (Alternative: Basecamp)
    5. Mozy: Automatic online backup of selected folders. Free version allows up to 2GB of storage.
    6. Toodledo: Task management system that integrates well with various services, including Jott, Twitter, and Google Calendar. (Alternatives: RememberTheMilk, TadaList, more)
    7. Google Notebook: Online storage for notes and web snippets, with instant capture via a Firefox extension. Organize into “notebooks” and “sections”.
    8. iGoogle: Personal homepage with hundreds of add-on widgets. Create a writing dashboard with notes, calendar, project management info, your todo list, and access to files on Box.net or documents on Google Docs (or most other online word processors). (Alternative: Pageflakes)
    9. Box.net: 5GB free online storage. Offers file sharing and integration with online apps like Zoho Writer.
    10. Jott: Transcribes voice messages to text. Call from your mobile phone to leave reminders, or to send items to over 2 dozen web services including todo lists, blogging platforms, and online calendars.

    10 Sites Every Writer Should Bookmark (Besides Lifehack)

    1. Becoming a Writer Seriously: Tom Colvin is a working writer who gives tips and advice on writing, including great in-depth reviews of software and otehr tools for writers.
    2. Freelance Switch: Essential reading for freelancers of any sort, including writers.
    3. How Not to Write: News, tips, and amusements for writers when they’re not writing.
    4. Men with Pens: A great site written by freelance writers. Funny, irreverent, opinionated — and great advice.
    5. PODdyMouth: Everything you could ever want to know about print-on-demand publishing. Writers beware — there are a lot of scams out there, and PODdyMouth works hard to uncover them.
    6. The Renegade Writer Blog: Great advice aimed at freelance writers, from the authors of The Renegade Writer.
    7. Time to Write: Multi-faceted author Jurgen Wolff offers tips and advice on writing, promotion, and creativity.
    8. Write Now is Good: Author and editor Kristin Gorski writes about writing, creativity, inspiration. Write Now is Good is good.
    9. Write to Done: Leo Babauta, ex-Lifehackista and master of Zen Habits, shares the secrets of his success.
    10. Writing Power: Real down-in-the-trenches advice on things like narration, revision, and word usage from English professor Loren Blinde.

    30 Lifehack Posts Every Writer Should Read

    1. 10 Steps Toward Better Writing
    2. Fifty (50!) Tools which can help you in Writing
    3. Improve Your Writing with these Editing Tips
    4. Tips and Tricks for Distraction-Free Writing
    5. Persuasive Writing for Students, Webmasters, Bloggers, and Everyone Else
    6. How to Start a Writing Critique Group
    7. Eliminate Common Writing Mistakes
    8. Beat Blank Page Syndrome: 10 Tricks to Get Your Writing Started
    9. 7 Steps to Help You Better in Writing
    10. Writing as a Form of Self-Healing
    11. Writing — Just Do It!
    12. My Trick for Writing
    13. Rico Clusters: An Alternative to Mind Mapping
    14. Limit Your Word Count When Making a Point
    15. How to Become a Creative Genius
    16. 6 Lies About Creative Writing You Should Never Believe
    17. Writing Tip: Develop Your Style
    18. 9 Tips to Productive Revision
    19. A Guide to Becoming a Better Writer: 15 Practical Tips
    20. Six Ways to Start the Writing Process
    21. Book Discussion: Chip and Dan Heath’s “Made to Stick”
    22. Lifehack.org How-To Wiki: Project Planning
    23. Lifehack.org How-To Wiki: Writing
    24. Blog Your Way Through Writer’s Block
    25. A Simple Way to Publish Your Own eBook
    26. 10 Tips from Lincoln on Writing a Kick-Ass Speech
    27. How to Punctuate a Sentence
    28. 11 Tips to Carve Out More Time to Think
    29. Essential Resources for Creativity (163 techniques + 30 tips + books!)
    30. Communication: “Shipping News” Your Writing

    5 Online Communities Every Writer Should Join

    1. Writing.com: Focused around a forum where writers offer each other support, advice, and critiques, Writing.com also offers an online portfolio, writing.com email, online submission tracking, and otehr services. Some features are paid, but you can also earn points by doing various tasks on the site.
    2. MediaBistro: Membership group for freelance writers with forums, articles, courses, and job postings. Paid members (AvantGuild, $49/yr) also get discounts on research resources like Lexis-Nexis, access to market information, and can even sign up for health insurance, dental insurance, and other niceties often unavailable to freelancers.
    3. Meetup Writing Groups: An online space for arranging off-line events, Meetup has dozens of writing groups in almost every major metropolitan area, and often a couple or more even in smaller towns. Enter your location to narrow the search down to local groups.
    4. My Writers Circle: A forum just for writers, with critique groups, job postings, advice, and general writerly chit-chat.
    5. The Writer’s Cafe: An online community with forums, reviews, and contests.

    Anything to add? Let me know in the comments!

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    Last Updated on April 11, 2019

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

    I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

    I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

    Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    How Communication Skills Help Your Success

    Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

    Create a Positive Experience

    Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

    When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

    What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

    Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

    As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

    Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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    Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

    Help Leadership Skills

    It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

    Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

    As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

    Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

    If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

    Build Better Teams

    Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

    In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

    If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

    When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

    Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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    How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

    There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

    Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

    1. Listen

    Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

    Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

    People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

    Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

    Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

    2. Know Your Audience

    Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

    Here is a good way to think about it:

    Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

    You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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    3. Minimize

    I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

    He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

    Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

    State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

    The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

    4. Over Communicate

    So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

    What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

    Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

    Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

    Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

    There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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    5. Body Language

    The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

    When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

    In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

    When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

    Conclusion

    Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

    Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

    There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

    Now go communicate your way to success.

    More Resources About Effective Communication

    Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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