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7 Habits Of A Good Writer: Develop Quality Content Your Audience Adores

7 Habits Of A Good Writer: Develop Quality Content Your Audience Adores

If writing was easy, we would all be best-selling authors by now. Whether you’re a career author or an aspiring blogger, I invite you to consider these 7 habits of a good writer so you can develop quality content that your audience adores.

1. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Before you even begin to write, you should ask yourself the following questions:

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  • Who am I writing for and what exactly do they struggle with?
  • How am I going to help them through that struggle?
  • Why do I want to help them? (hint: this is the most important one)

The best way to illustrate this habit is by example, so here’s how I would answer these questions: I write books for busy women who desire to lose fat and get fit so they can feel healthier and happier. They struggle with negative thoughts and limiting beliefs that make it difficult to find the motivation to begin a healthy living plan. I will help them by guiding them in the direction of increased self-confidence and mental strength, which will help them overcome the Mental Monsters they face every day. I want to help women specifically, because I have personally struggled with body-image issues, emotional eating, and low self-esteem myself. While men do face these struggles, they are far less likely to admit it (much less read a book about it), so I’d rather focus my attention on women since that is where I can make the greatest impact as a writer.

Who are you writing for? How are you going to help them? Why do you want to help them? Know the answers to these questions if you want to connect with your ideal audience; otherwise, you might find yourself performing for an empty house.

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2. Brevity is the soul of wit.

The above saying, popularized by Mr. William Shakespeare, is something you should apply today. Do not interpret this to say you shouldn’t write a full-length novel epic in proportion;  however, if you are adding content for the sole purpose of increasing your word count, I’m afraid you might find yourself with all fluff and no substance.

3. Condense, condense, condense.

When you have completed your blog, article, or book I encourage you to walk away from your finished project for at least a few hours (maybe even a few days). Look at it again with a fresh perspective and you’ll probably discover words and sentences that add little or no meaning to your work of art. If it doesn’t need to be there, cut it without mercy. The more quickly you can make your point, the more powerful it will be.

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4. Analyze your competition before you start.

If you’re writing a book about how to become a successful freelance blogger, you should look up other books about that very subject on Amazon before you write a single word. Find the most highly-rated books in that niche and check out the reviews. What did people like the most about this book? Don’t rip-off their ideas, because nobody likes a copycat, but do seek inspiration wherever you can find it. Also, pay attention to the negative reviews, because if you see a common theme in the criticisms, you’ll have an advance heads-up telling you what to avoid in the publishing of your book. You might want to buy a few of the top-rated books in your niche while you’re at it for inspiration that might steer you in the right direction.

5. Talk to (not at) your audience.

Have you ever read a self-help book that was helpful, but you felt like they were talking in words that were over your head, as if they were speaking a different language (I’m talking to you, Stephen Covey!)? If you don’t consider the language your audience speaks, you could elicit the same reaction. Buy magazines that are targeted to your audience and do a little research. For example, if you write for women, you would be wise to buy a few issues of Women’s Health or Shape. Pay attention to the language used in articles and advertisements and decide how you can apply this style to your writing (while maintaining your own unique voice). Your reader should feel like they are having a friendly chat with you over coffee. Unless you’re in the business of writing dry technical manuals, the more conversational your writing, the better.

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6. Feedback is your friend.

Wanna know a dirty secret that helped me craft a book that was so contagious it has now been read by over 20,000 people in 3 short months? My audience wrote it for me. I don’t mean that literally, because that would make me a dirty plagiarizing thief, but it isn’t far from the truth. During the writing process, I would post brief excerpts from my book on my Facebook page to see how they did in terms of interaction (i.e. likes, shares, and comments). This allowed me to quickly identify which ideas were winners and losers. If an excerpt exploded in interaction, I developed that idea further and made sure to highlight it in every way I could. If an excerpt didn’t do so well, this meant it needed to be modified, condensed, or cut. Assuming you have an audience of readers, you might consider giving away advance copies of your book in exchange for honest feedback. Just make sure you actually ask detailed questions like:

  • What did you think was most and least helpful?
  • Are there any sections that seemed out-of-place or beside the point?
  • Did anything seem like it was lacking in detail and needed to be fleshed out in more detail?
  • How do you think this book could be more interesting, helpful, and relevant?

While performing this process requires time and patience, it will greatly enhance the quality and relevance of your work. There is no better editor than the audience you are writing for, so let them help you make your work as powerful as possible. You could even ask them if they’d be willing to leave a review for your book as soon as you’re done, increasing the odds that browsers will consider it a worthy investment.

7. Always produce.

If you are an aspiring writer, the best advice I can give you is this: the only way to get better at writing is to write. People often tell me things like, “I’d love to put a blog out there, but I just don’t think I’m good enough yet.” I know putting your content out there for public consumption is scary, but it’s best to swallow your fear and click “Publish.” The sooner you become comfortable with the fact that not everyone will like your work, the better. Everybody is a critic and there is nothing you can do to change that. And besides, while you could receive some comments that are unnecessarily nasty, others might offer valuable feedback that will help you improve your craft. If you have a hard time finding the time or interest in writing, click here to check out the ultimate writing productivity resource.

Writers: What would you add to this list?

To help the aspiring creative types reading this, I invite you to drop a comment listing any additional habits of a good writer that you feel would be useful. I’d also love to hear questions from aspiring writers who haven’t developed the courage to begin: what is holding you back and how can I help?

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Daniel Wallen

Freelance Writer

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Published on January 16, 2019

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

How to Effectively Manage a Heavy Workload at Work

We’re all busy, but sometimes we go through periods where the work piles up and it seems like it might never end.

You might have such a heavy workload that it feels too intimidating to even start.

You may have said yes to some or too many projects, and now you’re afraid you won’t be able to deliver.

That’s when you need to take a step back, take a deep breath, and start looking at what’s working and what’s not working.

Here’re 13 strategies you can use to get out from under your overwhelming workload:

1. Acknowledge You Can’t Do It All

Many of us have a tendency to think we can do more than we actually can. We take on more and more projects and responsibility and wear numerous hats.

We all have the opportunity to have and take on more work than we can reasonably expect to get done. Unfortunately, our workload is not static. Even now, while you are reading this article, I’m guessing that your inbox is filling up with fresh new tasks.

To make real, effective progress, you have to have both the courage and resourcefulness to say, “This is not working”. Acknowledge that you can’t do it all and look for better solutions.

At any given time in your life, there are likely many things that aren’t going according to plan. You have to be willing to be honest with yourself and those around you about what’s not working for you, both personally and professionally.

The more you exercise your ability to tell the truth about what’s working and what’s not working, the faster you’ll make progress.

2. Focus on Your Unique Strengths

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a leader or working as part of a team, every individual has unique strengths they can bring to the table.

The challenge is that many people end up doing things that they’re simply not very good at.

In the pursuit of reaching your goals or delivering a project, people end up doing everything themselves or taking on things that don’t play to their unique strengths. This can result in frustration, overwhelm and overwork.

It can mean projects taking a lot longer to complete because of knowledge gaps, or simply not utilizing the unique strengths of other people you work with.

It is often not about how to complete this project more effectively but who can help deliver this project.

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So, what are your unique strengths that will ensure your workload is delivered more effectively? Here’re some questions to help you reflect:

  • Are you a great strategist?
  • Are you an effective planner?
  • Is Project Management your strength?
  • Is communication and bringing people together your strength?
  • Are you the ideas person?
  • Is Implementation your strength?

Think about how you can bring the biggest value to your work and the projects you undertake.

3. Use the Strengths of Your Team

One of the simplest ways to manage your workload effectively is to free up your time so you bring your highest level of energy, focus and strengths to each project.

Delegation or better teamwork is the solution.

Everyone has unique strengths. It’s essential to think teamwork rather than working in isolation to ensure projects can be completed effectively. Besides, every time you give away a task or project that doesn’t play to your unique strengths, you open up an opportunity to do something you’re more talented at. This will empower both yourself and those around you.

Rather than taking on all the responsibilities yourself, look at who you can work with to deliver the best results possible.

4. Take Time for Planning

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. – Abraham Lincoln

One hour of effective planning could save hours of time. Rather than just rushing in and getting started on projects, take the time to map everything in.

You can take the time to think about:

  • What’s the purpose of the project?
  • How Important is it?
  • When does it need to be delivered by?
  • What is the best result and worst result for this project?
  • What are the KPIs?
  • What does the project plan and key milestones look like?
  • Who is working on this project?
  • What is everyone’s responsibilities?
  • What tolerances can I add in?
  • What are the review stages?
  • What are the challenges we may face and the solutions for these challenges?

Having absolute clarity on the project, the project deliverables and the result you want can save a lot of time. It also gets you clear on the priorities and timelines, so you can block out the required amount of time to focus and concentrate.

5. Focus on Priorities

Not everything is a priority, although it can often feel, in the moment, that it is.

Whatever you’re working on, there is always the Most Urgent, Important or Most Valuable projects or tasks.

One tool you can use to maximize your productivity and focus on your biggest priorities is to use the Eisenhower Matrix. This strategic tool for taking action on the things that matter most is simple. You separate your actions based on four possibilities:

  1. Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
  2. Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
  3. Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
  4. Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

James Clear has a great description on how to use the Eisenhower Matrix: How to be More Productive By Using the Eisenhower Box

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    The method I use with my coaching clients is to ask them to lay out their Top Five priorities for the day. Then to start with the most important priority first. At the end of the day, you review performance against these priorities.

    If you didn’t get everything accomplished, start the next day with your number one priority.

    If you are given additional task/projects during the day, then you will need to gauge their importance V the other priorities.

    6. Take Time Out

    To stay on top of a heavy workload, it’s important to take time out to rest and recuperate.

    If your energy levels are high and your mind and body is refreshed and alert, you are in more of a peak state to handle a heavy workload.

    Take time out of your day to go for a walk or get some exercise in. Leave early when possible and spend time with people who give you a lot of energy.

    In the background, it’s essential to get a good night’s sleep and eat healthily to sharpen the mind.

    Take a look at this article learn about The Importance of Scheduling Downtime.

    7. Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance

    Maintaining a healthy work-life balance can be tough. The balance we all crave is very different from one another.

    I’ve written before about 13 Work Life Balance Tips for a Happy and Productive Life. Working longer and harder doesn’t mean achieving more, especially if you have no time to spend with the people that matter most. The quality of who you are as a person, the relationships you have, the time you spend in work, deciding on what matters most is completely within your control.

    Work-life balance is about finding peace within yourself to be fully present, wherever you are, whether that be in the office or at home, right now. It’s about choosing what matters most and creating your own balanced life.

    If you feel there is not enough balance, then it may be time to make a change.

    8. Stop Multitasking

    Multi-tasking is a myth. Your brain simply can’t work effectively by doing more than one thing at a time—at least more than one thing that requires focused attention.

    So get your list of priorities (see earlier point), do the most important thing first, then move to the next item and work down your list.

    When you split your focus over a multitude of different areas, you can’t consistently deliver a high performance. You won’t be fully present on the one task or project at hand.

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    If you allocate blocked time and create firm boundaries for specific activities and commitments, you won’t feel so overwhelmed or overworked with everything you have to do.

    9. Work in Blocks of Time

    To keep your energy up to produce your best results it’s essential to take regular breaks.

    I use the 60-60-30 method myself and teach it to my coaching clients.

    Work on a project for a sustained period of 50 minutes.

    Then take a 10-minute break. This could be taking a walk, having a healthy snack or just having a conversation with someone.

    Then continue to work on the project for a further 50 minutes.

    Then take another 10-minute break.

    Then take a complete 30-minute break to unplug from the work. This could be time for a proper lunch, a quick bit of exercise, reading or having a walk.

    By simply taking some time out, your energy levels stay up, the quality of your work improves and you reduce the risk of becoming burned out.

    10. Get Rid of Distractions

    Make an estimation on how many times you are distracted during an average working day. Now take that number and multiply it by 25. According to Gloria Mark in her study on The Cost of Interrupted Work, it takes us an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to return to the original task after interruption.[1]

    “Our research has shown that attention distraction can lead to higher stress, a bad mood and lower productivity.”

    Distractions don’t just take up your time during the distraction, they can derail your mental progress and focus for almost 25 minutes. So, if you are distracted 5 times per day, you could be losing almost 2 hours every day of productive work and almost 10 hours every week.

    If you have an important project to work on, find a space where you won’t be distracted, or try doing this.

    11. Commit Focused Time to Smaller Tasks

    You know sometimes, you need to simply tackle these tasks and take action on them. But there’s always something more pressing.

    Small tasks can often get in the way of your most important projects. They sit there on your daily To Do list but are often forgotten about because of more important priorities or because they hold no interest for you. But they take up mental energy. They clutter your mind.

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    Commit to spending a specific period of time completing all the small tasks you have on your To Do list. It will give you peace of mind and the space to focus more on your bigger priorities.

    12. Take a Time Audit

    Do you know exactly where your time is going each day? Are you spending too long on certain projects and tasks to the detriment of bigger opportunities?

    Spend a bit of time to analyze where you are spending your time. This insight will amaze you and give you the clarity to start adjusting where you focus your time and on what projects.

    You can start by taking a piece of paper and creating three columns:

    Column A is Priority Work. Column B is Good Work. Column C is low value work or stuff.

    Each day, write down the project or task and the time spent on each. Allocate that time to one of the columns.

    At the end of the week, record the total time spent in each column.

    If you are spending far too much time on certain types of work, look to change things so your focused time is in Column B and C.

    13. Protect Your Confidence

    It is essential to protect our confidence to ensure we don’t get overwhelmed, stressed and lose belief.

    When you have confidence as a daily resource, you are in a better position to problem solve, learn quicker, respond to anything, adjust to anything, and achieve your biggest opportunities.

    Confidence gives you the ability to transform fear into focused and relaxed thinking, communication, and action. This is key to put your mind into a productive state.

    When confidence is high, you can clearly see the possibilities at hand and create strategies to take advantage of them, or to solve the challenges you face each day.

    Final Words

    A heavy workload can be tough to deal with and can cause stress, burnout and ongoing frustration.

    The key is to tackle it head on, rather than let it go on and compound the long-term effects. Hopefully, you can take action on at least one of these tips.

    If it gets too much, and negatively affects your physical and mental health, it may be time to talk to someone. Instead of dealing with it alone and staying unhappier, resentful and getting to a point where you simply can’t cope, you have to make a change for your own sanity.

    Featured photo credit: Hannah Wei via unsplash.com

    Reference

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