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The Productivity Strategy for Writing I Guarantee You WON’T Try

The Productivity Strategy for Writing I Guarantee You WON’T Try


    With a bold headline like that, you might think it would be easy to “cop out” and give you a ridiculous strategy that would be stupid to try. Instead, I’m going to give you a strategy will do three things to your writing:

    1. It will make it part of the top 1% of the best writing online
    2. It will make people sit up and listen to you
    3. It will generate more action than any other writing you’ve done

    What’s this fancy new secret, you ask? 

    Here it is: write everything at least three times.

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    I can almost hear the groaning and complaining. You thought I was going to hand you a “magic bullet” of blogging and productivity strategy; one that will immediately–and without an once of real work–shoot your efforts to the moon.

    You might wonder how super-producers like Danny Iny can craft such compelling, thorough content, literally churning it out at inhuman speeds. Chances are he’s gotten to that point by practicing: literally writing, rewriting, and rewriting some more.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have a magic bullet. However, this strategy does need to be examined just a bit more.

    First, let me give you the “three-step” process I’m talking about:

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    1. Write. As in “free-writing.” Unhindered, brainstorming-like, free-flowing thought. No editing allowed.
    2. Write again. This time around, work on taking out words like “very,” “really,” and many instances of the words “that” and “so.” Chop 10% off of the total word count.
    3. Write one more time. Think your work’s ready to be sent out the door? Think again. I rewrote my first novel about four times, and that was easy–it was all made-up. If you’re writing a blog post, article, or anything worthy of anyone else’s eyes, give them the benefit of your best work.

    You may not like the idea of writing everything thrice (I knew I’d use the word thrice some day in a blog post!), but let me assure you:

    Your writing will improve drastically, and quickly. 

    And that is the secret of this technique: While the initial process is time-intensive, counter-productive, and sometimes downright hard, you’ll notice that the more you implement these steps, the quicker your writing will improve.

    Eventually, you won’t need to follow the formula every time. The words will flow, your thoughts will magically orient themselves into an organized stream of outline-worthy notes, and the overall feel of your style and clarity will shine through.

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    Until then, though, give us all the benefit of working through your copy at least three times before you publish it!

    One final strategy.

    Lastly, if it’s really bothering you to chop up your content that many times, “trick” yourself into it by using this writing/productivity method:

    • Write first in a minimalistic editor, like OmmWriter, or Byword.
    • Then, copy/paste the text into a second editor–something like Evernote–that lets you add in links and additional notes.
    • Finally, paste the content into a “real” text editor, like Microsoft Word or Pages, for final editing/publishing.

    I know most of you won’t try this–that’s why I wrote a headline like that. Many people will continue pushing “Submit” on half-finished content, eventually burning out from a lack of an audience. But to me, that’s good news.

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    The fewer people there are truly striving for the best writing they can produce, the less competition there is for guys like me!

    (Photo credit: Fountain Pen and Notebook via Shutterstock)

    More by this author

    Nick Thacker

    Nick is a novelist and founder of Sonata & Scribe. He shares productivity hacks on Lifehack.

    7 Ways to Leverage Your Time to Increase Your Productivity How to Maintain a Blog AND a Full-Time Job Why I Write Using a Minimal Text Editor Why You Should Be a Writer The Amazing Secret Behind All Habits

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    Last Updated on August 6, 2020

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

    We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

    “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

    Are we speaking the same language?

    My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

    When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

    Am I being lazy?

    When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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    Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

    Early in the relationship:

    “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

    When the relationship is established:

    “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

    It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

    Have I actually got anything to say?

    When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

    A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

    When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

    Am I painting an accurate picture?

    One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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    How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

    Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

    What words am I using?

    It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

    Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

    Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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    Is the map really the territory?

    Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

    A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

    I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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