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Super-Efficient Writing: How I Consistently Write Over 1,000 High-Quality Words in Less Than 60 Minutes

Super-Efficient Writing: How I Consistently Write Over 1,000 High-Quality Words in Less Than 60 Minutes

Writing is the bottleneck.

Not for everyone… but for a lot of people – particularly who are involved in any kind of blogging or content creation. It’s time-consuming, which keeps you from creating all the content that you want to create. And it’s frustrating, which prevents you from expressing your ideas as compellingly as you like.

Except… it doesn’t have to be that way.

My blog posts are usually between 1,200 and 1,400 words long, and I usually spend 60-90 minutes writing them. Often I’ll write two blog posts in a morning, and then spend the rest of the day on other things. That’s how I wrote 80+ guest posts in less than a year, and it’s why people started calling me the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”.

Is it because I’m some kind of writing genius? I wish, but sadly, no. ;-) It’s because of the process, and it’ll work as well for you as it does for me…

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Defeating the blank screen with ruthless proceduralization

When most people write, they do it all wrong. They fire up their word processor, create a new document, and try to decide what their first sentence will be.

Big mistake.

See, if you start by staring at the blank screen, you’ve already lost. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we’re often most creative, and most effective, when working within very tight parameters.

By the same token, writing works best when you take the guess-work out of it. This is done by developing procedures for everything; straight from coming up with the angle, to writing the last word of the post. That way, we avoid wasting energy and thought on stuff that isn’t relevant or useful at all, and divert it all towards the goal of excellent and effective writing.

That’s what I do, and it works like a charm, every time. Here’s my process:

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  • Start with the headline – this gives you a solid grasp on the scope of your post, and ensures that everything you write after the headline will be relevant and on-topic.
  • Then write the hook – this is the first few paragraphs of the post, that will grab the reader’s attention and focus their attention on reading through to the end.
  • Outline the rest of the post – create sub-heads for each of the sections, with a short note of what will go in each section.
  • Write the post – you’ll be amazed at how easy it is if you followed the first steps, because there’s no more guesswork!

Okay, let’s explore this process, one step at a time…

Start with the headline

You’ve probably already heard that the headline is the most important part of the post, and that serious writers spend as much time writing the headline as they do writing everything else combined. Which is true, but most people don’t understand what that really means.

See, writing a good headline isn’t just about choosing the words that will grab the reader’s attention – it’s about choosing the angle for the post, that will genuinely interest them. That’s what the headline is really about: the angle of the post. And by writing it first, you guarantee that you will stay focused on your actual topic, stay relevant, and not get lost on a tangent somewhere along the way. So how do you write a great headline?

First, of course, you need an idea. There are lots of good ways to find those; you can lean on your Assess, Decide and Do buckets brimming with good ones to write about, or try one of 21 great content ideas as a starting point. For starters, you should know that this is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Take a few minutes to see which posts have been very popular with your target audience (i.e. on the blogs that they actually read). Do they like list posts (## ways to SOMETHING)? How-to posts (How to SOMETHING)? Comparison headlines (How SOMETHING is like SOMETHING)?

Find a few formulas that are proven with your target audience, and stick with them. It’s really that simple!

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Write the hook and outline the post

Next, you have to write the hook and outline the main sections of the post. A good hook describes the symptoms of the problem that your post is going to solve. Really hammer home the pain and difficulty that the problem causes, and then pivot to say that you’ve got a solution.

It sounds simple, because it is, and it works like a charm, every time (go back to the top and read the opening section of this post as an example). Then you can go ahead and outline the rest of the post. The four main sections that you’re going to want after the hook are:

  1. The problem that is causing the symptoms
  2. The underlying cause of that problem
  3. The solution to the problem
  4. How the reader can implement your solution

Almost all of my posts follow this structure, and the beauty is that rather than making your posts seem formulaic, it gives you the space to make the posts truly detailed, in-depth, and valuable to the reader. For each section, just write the sub-head for each section, and a few notes about what you’re going to put under it. Give enough information in the heading that readers who skim will have an idea what the section is about.

Now that we’ve outlined the whole post, it’s time to do the actual writing…

Write the post (this is the easy part!)

The great news is that by this point, you’ve already done all the heavy lifting, and the hard part is over! If you’ve really outlined the entire post, the rest is really easy. All you have to do is go section by section, expanding on your notes, adding appropriate links, and delivering the information that you promised in the headline, hook and section headings.

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The beauty of this method is that by this point, you already know what you need to write! Your brain is ready and waiting with the information, and all you have to do is spell it out. Once you’ve got the sections fleshed out, do a quick proofread for spelling, grammar and flow, then hit save, and you’re done!

I’m not kidding when I say that filling in the entire body of the post can take less than half an hour – try it and see for yourself! And the very best part of this process is that it can be done in batches…

Works well with batching, too!

You don’t have to do one post at a time, either – you can do them in batches (that’s how I routinely write guest posts these days).

Write all the headlines, create all the hooks, and then go do the section headings for each post, one by one. Once you add the body paragraphs to each post – bang! You’ve just written an entire week’s worth of content (assuming you post daily) in one morning!

You’ll be writing post like a speed demon. Or, *ahem* like the Freddy Krueger of Blogging.

Actually, if you apply this process to your writing, you could even become the next Freddy Krueger of blogging. That’s what my Write like Freddy training program is all about – this very same process, but amped up to the Nth degree.

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Last Updated on March 15, 2019

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

What Makes a Leader Fail?

A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

What Is Effective Leadership?

Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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“… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

1. Courage

The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

“Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

4. Likability

Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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5. Vulnerability

Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

6. Authenticity

Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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“A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

9. A Passion for Continual Learning

Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

The Bottom Line

No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

More Resources About Effective Leadership

Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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