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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 March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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