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Tried, Tested and True: 3 Ways to Get Writing Done

Tried, Tested and True: 3 Ways to Get Writing Done

    If you’re a writer, then becoming disciplined with your writing is one of your biggest challenges. It’s not something that you tackle once and then never have to worry about again. It’s an ongoing battle. and you have to have a ton of weapons at the ready in order to take it on each and every day.

    That said, if you’re not a writer by trade and simply want to use writing as means to express yourself (online or off), then discipline is something you’ll need to have to keep it up. As someone who has trasitioned from writing as a hobby to a career, I’ve had my struggles with this in both realms. And I’ve conquered them over and over again because I’ve had the willpower and determination to make it through.

    How have I done this?

    While I’ve tried several tactics to combat a lack of discipline and find a way to get writing done, I’ve found that there are really 3 ways to get your writing done that can either work in tandem or independently. I’ve used all of these consistently throughout my time spent writing — both as a hobby and as a career — and the results have been the same: I get writing done.

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    1. The Write Time

    When I first started to become more serious about my writing, I dismissed the notion of setting aside specific time for writing. I thought that if I wrote as the ideas came to me then I’d have a much better success rate in terms of creating great written work. I was way off base on that.

    While it’s important to capture your ideas as they come to you – I’ve captured ideas using a variety of methods during my writing career – you can’t just pick up and write whenever. You need to block out time to write. It doesn’t matter if you do it early in the morning or in the wee hours of the evening – but you need to set out specific times to flesh out your ideas and get the writing done.

    I’ve discussed my current writing schedule before, but as a writing hobbyist my schedule was set up as follows:

    • Wake up/Daily Routine: 7 am to 8 am
    • Work: 8:30 am to 5:30 pm (including commute)
    • Dinner: 6 pm to 7 pm
    • Time with kids before bed: 7 pm to 8 pm
    • Time with wife before we did our own things: 8 pm to 9 pm
    • Writing: 9:30 pm to 11:30 pm (never less than this amount of time, often more)
    • Bed: No later than 1 am

    On weekends, I’d spend one day doing absolutely no writing (we called this Family Day) and the other doing more than my 2 hours – often I’d get in about 4 hours on that day. As a result of putting a system like this in place, I built up a great portfolio of work that landed me more and more writing work that not only paid, but were in my areas of interest. And now I’m a full time writer. Making time for your words not only will instill self-discipline like nothing else, it can lead you to a writing career if that’s what you want.

    There’s no right time of day to do this, but you’d better set aside a “write time of day” or you’ll have a much harder time getting the words out of you. I cannot stress this enough.

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    2. The Write Place

    Scheduling your writing is crucial, but you need to have a place to go when that time arrives. Having a place to do your writing is like having a touchstone for your work; it’s a sacred place you go to where the words flow out of you. It doesn’t have to be serene, it doesn’t have to be in the home, it doesn’t have to be a huge setup. But it does have to be there.

    I’ve tried a ton of different places, an entirely separate “pseudo-office” in the basement, a standing desk in our large walk-in closet and a larger area in the main part of the house. None of them were necessarily right for me, but I found that the further removed I was from the rest of the house the less friction I had in getting my writing done. My standing desk was ideal for podcasting or talking out my ideas, but not so much for the act of writing. The basement setup felt as if I’d been banished to dungeon to do my work, so I didn’t enjoy going down there. That had an impact on my writing.

    Now I’ve got a very comfortable writing chair and a Levenger lap desk in the master bedroom that suits me best as my “write place” – and it works best for a number of reasons:

    1. It has a door, giving me privacy when I need it.
    2. It is bright, with a sliding door out to our back deck.
    3. It doesn’t “feel” like an office, yet it acts like one during the day.
    4. It is in the back of the house, furthest from the reaches of noise.
    5. It’s easily accessible.

    Create a place for you to do your writing. Work within the limits you have for now and then adjust as needed. But remember that adjusting your writing space isn’t actually getting the writing done, so don’t get caught up in the “where” over the “why” and “what” because they are the most important factors.

    3. The Write Tools

    This is where you can really get caught up in fiddling. Don’t fall victim to that.

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    Don’t experiment or tinker too much once you’ve got the right tools in place. Chances are you’ve already been writing using some sort of tools, so stick with those until you get in the habit of scheduling your time to write. Outside of that scheduled time, look for tools that will improve how you get the words out without barriers that keep you from that. Again, the “why” and “what” are far more important.

    I use different tools for different forms of writing. On my MacBook Air, I use Byword for weblog writing, Scrivener for longer form writing. On my iPad, it’s Writing Kit. I use index cards to capture ideas, along with my iPhone and Evernote. All of these tools help me get my writing done more effectively and efficiently.

    I can’t tell you what tools are right for you. But what I can say is that the real “write tool” is you. Writers have been writing well before computers, typewriters and even paper came to be, so keep that in mind when picking out tools that will help you become a better writer. Because no tool can do that.

    Think of it this way: These tools are the drill bits. You’re the drill.

    The Write Mind

    All of these have a way of leading you to The Write Mind, and that’s where you need to be to put out the best words to paper or screen that you possibly can on an ongoing basis.

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    Do right by you and your writing with these 3 foolproof methods, and you’ll create better and better written work each and every time. Keep at it and calling on self-discipline will happen easier over time.

    And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    (Photo credit: Once Upon a Time via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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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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