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10 Tips To Write Better, Faster And With Insight

10 Tips To Write Better, Faster And With Insight

When it comes to most skills, practice usually makes perfect. The more we do it, the better we become at it. Easy, right? Well, with writing, this isn’t always so simple. Transcribing your thoughts onto paper quickly and efficiently is pretty challenging for anyone, no matter how often they write.

They don’t call it writer’s block for nothing.

It can actually become more difficult to write well as you start to write often, resulting in stagnation or the output of works that aren’t really your best. Fortunately, there are practical and applicable tips for improving your writing and ensuring that the quality keeps growing. Here are just a few of them:

1. Write in silence or with music that helps you focus.

Let’s face it: the music we like is pretty distracting, especially the type of music with strong lyrics.

That said, some of us like white noise over silence. For me, writing in a coffee shop is actually preferable to writing in my office.

Everyone is different in this case, so it’s important to identify the best method for getting you focused, whether it be classical music, techno, or even nature sounds.

The more focus you have, the easier it will be for you to write quickly and in one setting.

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2. Outline what you want to write, first.

You want your work to be useful for the people who read it. The trouble is that our scattered thoughts tend to lead to essays with a flow only we understand easily.

This can be avoided by simply thinking through what you’re going to write before you start rambling away. Granted, it’s still important to let yourself be inspired as you’re putting the words together, but structure will help you keep everything organized and on point.

3. Read more.

You’ve probably heard this a million times, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The best writers are the best readers.

This is because reading ensures that you’re still learning and consuming content. The details of writing include the ability to form phrases and transitions that exhibit expert writing skills. Most of these “details” are picked up subconsciously as we read books and news articles consistently. In fact, I personally take this to the extreme by always opting for Closed Captions and subtitles for all of the visual media I consume, which includes movies, television, and even video games.

It may seem excessive, but this allows you to draw from a larger pool of words and expressions that keep your writing fresh and unique.

4. Observe and travel.

If reading helps you learn the details, observation helps you learn the big picture. New experiences and ways of thinking are crucial for anyone who wants to keep their momentum going.

With writing, we sometimes fall into a rut. We start writing about the same things in the same ways, and we run out of things to say. That’s why you need to have the traveler’s mindset.

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Always be on the lookout for new sources of inspiration. That hiking trip that your friends are going on? Instead of flaking out, go with them and write about it.

5. Kill your comfort zone.

Writing can be like a relationship. We spend so much time with that person, that we begin to get bored with the relationship. The same goes with writing.

Kill your comfort zone by writing somewhere new. Go to a coffee shop, out in the woods or even sit in your car to write. Force yourself to stay there until you’re finished.

Writing in a familiar environment with too many distractions (like our homes) keeps us from writing faster. But if you’re in a place where the only thing you can do is write, then the task gets done much quicker.

6. Deviate.

Because we get bored with our writing pretty easily, it’s smart to shake things up. You can do this by deviating from your old patterns and trying a new format.

For example, if you write opinion articles a lot, shift gears. Try interviewing someone else and making sense of their opinion. In other words, give objective a writing a shot.

Also, you should always be looking for new places or websites to write for. The excitement you gain from writing for someone else can be the spark you need to reignite the passion you have for writing. This then leads to work that is more meaningful and full of passion that your readers will respond to.

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And it’s pretty easy to find new opportunities. A lot of great websites are always looking for new contributors, so you never know who is willing to give you a shot.

7. Take a break.

Don’t burn yourself out. If you’re at the point when you don’t feel like writing anything at all, take a break for a while. Eventually, you’ll actually miss writing.

For some of you, this isn’t possible because you have deadlines and commitments you can’t drop. Even so, consider taking a vacation when possible to let your mind refuel. You’ll be itching to write again before you know it.

8. Find some rivals.

Nothing inspires me to step up my game more than keeping up with the successes of others. You don’t want to be envious, but it’s OK to view someone else’s success with respect and a desire to catch up to them.

This is a far cry from what some people say is beneficial for the average writer. I’ve been told plenty of times that I shouldn’t dwell on what other people are doing. “Listen to your heart,” and all that.

That’s a nice sentiment, but the reality is that healthy competition spurs the best in us. Make friends that are better than you at writing and challenge yourself to be just as good as them, if not better.

9. Write for yourself.

This may seem contradictory to what I just said, but stay with me.

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When you first start to write, it’s usually for yourself. You don’t have an audience yet, so no one is really expecting anything from you.

Time goes on, however, and people start watching you. It’s easy to start believing it’s more important to write for them than yourself. In some cases, your job is to cater to an audience, which is fine to an extent. But if you want your writing to keep growing and making you happy, then it’s important to set aside a place where you can write for yourself, whether it be a personal blog, a journal or something different.

10. Be yourself.

When people read your work, do they know for sure it’s you? Does your writing give off a flair that distinguishes you from everyone else?

If the answer is no, then make that your goal. Insert some personality into your writing so that it can be just as likable as you are (hopefully).

This looks different for everyone. Personally, my most unique writing is when I let myself be humorous. Stories and anecdotes are also smart ways to invoke some character.

Also, this is a great method for keeping people hooked on your writing. They’ve gotten to know you, which makes your take on the subject far superior to someone else’s monotone offering.

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Jon Negroni

An author and blogger who shares about lifestyle advice

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Last Updated on January 6, 2021

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

14 Ideas on How to Measure Productivity to Make Progress

Everyone has heard the term productivity, and people talk about it in terms of how high it is and how to improve it. But fewer know how to measure productivity, or even what exactly we are talking about when using the term “productivity.”

In its simplest form, the productivity formula looks like this: Output ÷ Input = Productivity.

For example, you have two salespeople each making 10 calls to customers per week. The first one averages 2 sales per week and the second one averages 3 sales per week. By plugging in the numbers we get the following productivity levels for each sales person.

For salesperson one, the output is 2 sales and the input is 10 sales: 2 ÷ 10 = .2 or 20% productivity. For salesperson two, the output is 3 sales and the input is 10 sales: 3 ÷ 10 = .3 or 30% productivity.

Knowing how to measure and interpret productivity is an invaluable asset for any manager or business owner in today’s world. As an example, in the above scenario, salesperson #1 is clearly not doing as well as salesperson #2.

Knowing this information we can now better determine what course of action to take with salesperson #1.

Some possible outcomes might be to require more in-house training for that salesperson, or to have them accompany the more productive salesperson to learn a better technique. It might be that salesperson #1 just isn’t suited for sales and would do a better job in a different position.

How to Measure Productivity With Management Techniques

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to fine tune your business by minimizing costs and maximizing profits:

1. Identify Long and Short-Term Goals

Having a good understanding of what you (or your company’s) goals are is key to measuring productivity.

For example, if your company’s goal is to maximize market share, you’ll want to measure your team’s productivity by their ability to acquire new customers, not necessarily on actual sales made.

2. Break Down Goals Into Smaller Weekly Objectives

Your long-term goal might be to get 1,000 new customers in a year. That’s going to be 20 new customers per week. If you have 5 people on your team, then each one needs to bring in 4 new customers per week.

Now that you’ve broken it down, you can track each person’s productivity week-by-week just by plugging in the numbers:

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Productivity = number of new customers ÷ number of sales calls made

3. Create a System

Have you ever noticed that whenever you walk into a McDonald’s, the French fry machine is always to your left? 

This is because McDonald’s created a system. They have determined that the most efficient way to set up a kitchen is to always have the French fry machine on the left when you walk in.

You can do the same thing and just adapt it to your business.

Let’s say that you know that your most productive salespeople are making the most sales between the hours of 3 and 7 pm. If the other salespeople are working from 9 am to 4 pm, you can potentially increase productivity through something as simple as adjusting the workday.

Knowing how to measure productivity allows you to set up, monitor, and fine tune systems to maximize output.

4. Evaluate, Evaluate, Evaluate!

We’ve already touched on using these productivity numbers to evaluate and monitor your employees, but don’t forget to evaluate yourself using these same measurements.

If you have set up a system to track and measure employees’ performance, but you’re still not meeting goals, it may be time to look at your management style. After all, your management is a big part of the input side of our equation.

Are you more of a carrot or a stick type of manager? Maybe you can try being more of the opposite type to see if that changes productivity. Are you managing your employees as a group? Perhaps taking a more one-on-one approach would be a better way to utilize each individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

Just remember that you and your management style contribute directly to your employees’ productivity.

5. Use a Ratings Scale

Having clear and concise objectives for individual employees is a crucial part of any attempt to increase workplace productivity. Once you have set the goals or objectives, it’s important that your employees are given regular feedback regarding their progress.

Using a ratings scale is a good way to provide a standardized visual representation of progress. Using a scale of 1-5 or 1-10 is a good way to give clear and concise feedback on an individual basis.

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It’s also a good way to track long-term progress and growth in areas that need improvement.

6. Hire “Mystery Shoppers”

This is especially helpful in retail operations where customer service is critical. A mystery shopper can give feedback based on what a typical customer is likely to experience.

You can hire your own shopper, or there are firms that will provide them for you. No matter which route you choose, it’s important that the mystery shoppers have a standardized checklist for their evaluation.

You can request evaluations for your employees friendliness, how long it took to greet the shopper, employees’ knowledge of the products or services, and just about anything else that’s important to a retail operation.

7. Offer Feedback Forms

Using a feedback form is a great way to get direct input from existing customers. There are just a couple of things to keep in mind when using feedback forms.

First, keep the form short, 2-3 questions max with a space for any additional comments. Asking people to fill out a long form with lots of questions will significantly reduce the amount of information you receive.

Secondly, be aware that customers are much more likely to submit feedback forms when they are unhappy or have a complaint than when they are satisfied.

You can offset this tendency by asking everyone to take the survey at the end of their interaction. This will increase compliance and give you a broader range of customer experiences, which will help as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

8. Track Cost Effectiveness

This is a great metric to have, especially if your employees have some discretion over their budgets. You can track how much each person spends and how they spend it against their productivity.

Again, this one is easy to plug into the equation: Productivity = amount of money brought in ÷ amount of money spent.

Having this information is very useful in forecasting expenses and estimating budgets.

9. Use Self-Evaluations

Asking your staff to do self evaluations can be a win-win for everyone. Studies have shown that when employees feel that they are involved and their input is taken seriously, morale improves. And as we all know, high employee morale translates into higher productivity.

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Using self-evaluations is also a good way to make sure that the employees and employers goals are in alignment.

10. Monitor Time Management

This is the number one killer of productivity in the workplace. Time spent browsing the internet, playing games, checking email, and making personal calls all contribute to lower productivity[1].

Time Management Tips to Improve Productivity

    The trick is to limit these activities without becoming overbearing and affecting morale. Studies have shown that most people will adhere to rules that they feel are fair and applied to everyone equally.

    While ideally, we may think that none of these activities should be done on company time, employees will almost certainly have a different opinion. From a productivity standpoint, it is best to have policies and rules that are seen as fair to both sides as you’re learning how to measure productivity.

    11. Analyze New Customer Acquisition

    We’ve all heard the phrase that “It’s more expensive to get a new customer than it is to keep an existing one.” And while that is very true, in order for your business to keep growing, you will need to continually add new customers.

    Knowing how to measure productivity via new customer acquisition will make sure that your marketing dollars are being spent in the most efficient way possible. This is another metric that’s easy to plug into the formula: Productivity = number of new customers ÷ amount of money spent to acquire those customers.

    For example, if you run any kind of advertising campaign, you can compare results and base your future spending accordingly.

    Let’s say that your total advertising budget is $3,000. You put $2,000 into television ads, $700 into radio ads, and $300 into print ads. When you track the results, you find that your television ad produced 50 new customers, your radio ad produced 15 new customers, and your print ad produced 9 new customers.

    Let’s plug those numbers into our equation. Television produced 50 new customers at a cost of $2,000 (50 ÷ 2000 = .025, or a productivity rate of 2.5%). The radio ads produced 15 new customers and cost $700 (15 ÷ 700 = .022, or a 2.2% productivity rate). Print ads brought in 9 new customers and cost $300 (9 ÷ 300 = .03, or a 3% return on productivity).

    From this analysis, it is clear that you would be getting the biggest bang for your advertising dollar using print ads.

    12. Utilize Peer Feedback

    This is especially useful when people who work in teams or groups. While self-assessments can be very useful, the average person is notoriously bad at assessing their own abilities.

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    Just ask a room full of people how many consider themselves to be an above average driver and you’ll see 70% of the hands go up[2]! Now we clearly know that in reality about 25% of drivers are below average, 25% are above average, and 50% are average.

    Are all these people lying? No, they just don’t have an accurate assessment of their own abilities.

    It’s the same in the workplace. Using peer feedback will often provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s ability than a self-assessment would.

    13. Encourage Innovation and Don’t Penalize Failure

    When it comes to productivity, encouraging employee input and adopting their ideas can be a great way to boost productivity. Just make sure that any changes you adopt translate into higher productivity.

    Let’s say that someone comes to you requesting an entertainment budget so that they can take potential customers golfing or out to dinner. By utilizing simple productivity metrics, you can easily produce a cost benefit analysis and either expand the program to the rest of the sales team, or terminate it completely.

    Either way, you have gained valuable knowledge and boosted morale by including employees in the decision-making process.

    14. Use an External Evaluator

    Using an external evaluator is the pinnacle of objective evaluations. Firms that provide professional evaluations use highly trained personnel that even specialize in specific industries.

    They will design a complete analysis of your business’ productivity level. In their final report, they will offer suggestions and recommendations on how to improve productivity.

    While the benefits of a professional evaluation are many, their costs make them prohibitive for most businesses.

    Final Thoughts

    These are just a few of the things you can do when learning how to measure productivity. Some may work for your particular situation, and some may not.

    The most important thing to remember when deciding how to track productivity is to choose a method consistent with your goals. Once you’ve decided on that, it’s just a matter of continuously monitoring your progress, making minor adjustments, and analyzing the results of those adjustments.

    The business world is changing fast, and having the right tools to track and monitor your productivity can give you the edge over your competition.

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    Featured photo credit: William Iven via unsplash.com

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