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5 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Unblock Writer’s Block

5 Ridiculously Easy Ways To Unblock Writer’s Block

    You would say that after more than 500 articles it’s highly unlikely to hit the writer’s block. Well, think again. Yes, I’ve written more than 500 articles so far in my career, but still, there are times when that white, empty computer screen makes me wanna scream. When all the happy and green pastures where my ideas used to fly from tree to tree, light and playful, are nothing but an empty desert. When words are turning their back on me, leaving behind a dumb smile and foggy eyes. Yes, even after 500 articles, this ugly beast can still makes you shiver.

    If you’re not paying close attention to it, that is. Because, and that’s the good news, you can (and you should) fight it with very good chances to win, each and every time you see those empty spaces around you. You cannot make it disappear, it will still be there, but, if you’re carefully planning your moves, if you do a little bit of trickery, mixed with some mild discipline, all combined into just 5 simple principles, well, you can say an honest and vigorous “bye-bye” to the most hated enemy of the professional blogger (or writer, let’s not start a debate here, ok?).

    1. Don’t Let It Happen

    They say is far more easily to prevent an illness than to cure it. And they say that for a good reason. Don’t let your ideas well go dry. Keep close some capturing device and, each and every time you see an idea (I don’t think we’re having ideas, we’re more like seeing them) stop whatever you’re doing and write that thing down. Use a notebook, a notepad on your smartphone, an audio recorder, or whatever works for you.

    There aren’t really any rules for this capturing device, as long as you’re going to actually use what you’re writing down. I’m kinda of techie guy so I use my own iPhone app (iAdd) for this, but you can use whatever you like. Pen and paper is great. Sending yourself emails with your Blackberry is also good. Whatever works for you.

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    I have an incredible feeling of relief every time when, some solitary morning, almost sensing the writer’s block jumping at me, immobilizing my hands on the keyboard with a short and unbeatable: “there’s nothing more to write about, Dragos!”, I just fire up my app and randomly pick one idea out of the dozens already saved there.

    2. Write For Somebody Else

    Believe it or not, we’re wired to act and perform in a group. We’re social animals, hence, our constant need for support and encouragement. If you keep writing only for your own projects (being it blogs, or books or columns), at some point, something will stop inside. You’re gonna run out of power.

    This “stop” may come in the form of a writer’s block. Sometimes it may come in the form of a depression, but we’re not going there now. If it’s about a writer’s block, though, try to do this: write for somebody else. If you’re a journalist, do a favor to a colleague. If you’re a blogger, do a guest post. A genuine guest post, like giving the best of you for somebody else.

    Magically, the words will start flowing. The inspiration will hit you like a Newtonian apple and fantabulous images and ideas will literally explode from your brain. Deep down, you’re seeking a form of validation. Sometimes, all you have to do in order to unblock your path is to first unblock somebody else path.

    3. Free Form Writing

    A very common source of writer’s block is the constant need of a “meaning”, or a “form”, or some sort of constraint, like the size (1000 words by noon, ok?). This can be really pressuring. My articles are usually between 1000  and 1200 words. But sometimes I can express everything I need to in just 30 words.

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    When I hit this wall, I usually put that specific project aside and start doing what I call free form writing. No constraints. No limits. Just writing whatever comes into my mind. I never keep those free form writing sessions. Because, of course, everything is so dull, or boring or ridiculous, that I just couldn’t stand reading it.

    But the effect of this short exercise is amazing. After all the small pieces of garbage from all the corners of my conscious mind have been dumped into a disposable recipient, something that I know I will throw away immediately after, my normal, organized mind takes the lead. Paragraphs are forming naturally, structure is created on the fly and my project is finished in minutes.

    4. From A To B In 5 Semantic Fractures

    That’s a serious one. Although I used to play this game when I was a child, I only use it now when none of the above can be applied (namely, when I have nothing jotted down in my app, when I can’t write for somebody else or when no free form writing will produce the expected results).

    I pick a random word (usually by opening a book at a random page), write it down, then pick another one using the same technique. Then I try to create 5 semantic structures (or fractures) from the word A to the word B. Going from “skyscraper” to “cabbage” may look like this: skyscraper – sky – birds – planes – wings – leaves – cabbage.

    You can do this even when you’re not having the writer’s block. It will work like a sort of “brain muscle fitness”, forcing you to make unexpected connections. And unexpected connections will always lead to unexpected ideas, strategies or approaches. Unexpected is good. Go for it.

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    5. Silence Your Mind

    If you could turn your mind into some kind of a radio, I’m sure you’d be completely blown away by the number of stations you’re listening simultaneously. Even if you “think” you’re not thinking at anything, you’re in fact thinking at something. Yup, you guessed it, this last tip is in fact just a form of meditation. I call it “silence your mind” because it makes me look smart, but in fact, is just a form of meditation.

    Sometimes, our focus is hijacked by all these thousands of thoughts we’re continuously fostering, modifying, adjusting and we simply don’t have any focus left to finish that bloody page. The only solution here is to silence your mind. But don’t do it with violence, it will only make the noise higher.

    Gently follow each and every thought until it’s no longer there, witness your visions and memories, look at the show put up on your brain scene by somebody you think it was you. If you do this long enough, if you resist the temptation to unfold all those stubs into independent scenes, the characters will eventually turn to you with obedience. You will be able to commend them. And only then you will be able to make them stop that gibberish you thought it’s yourself.

    ***

    Writer’s block is more often than not just another form of life imbalance. Those tips here are not really just for writers. Or, if you really understand that we’re really the authors of our own lives, then, yes, we’re all writers of some sort.

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    So, plan carefully, don’t be selfish, empty your mind from time to time, play with your words and don’t take yourself too seriously.

    You’ll be amazed how many people will start to enjoy your book of life.

     

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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

      Reference

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