Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Video Marketing Advantage

Content marketers are claiming 2016 to be the year of the video. As marketing strategies continue to embrace the hot new trends in the online community, video marketing has risen above the fray in terms of reach and impact on target markets.  Videos can be used in a multitude of ways – from comedy to educational, to reach customers at critical points along the buying life cycle and build ongoing relationships with users. In addition to this, there are many other reasons why video marketing can be beneficial to your business.

The Age of Information Overload

These days, most people who frequent the internet are bombarded with information from social media, and mixed in with it is advertisers trying to cut through the noise to get their products and
services noticed. With the rise of 140 character tweets and 10 second Snap Chats, it’s hard to get users to pay attention to anything for any length of time. Videos are way to get your information out there in short bursts so that users get relevant information without too much effort on their part. It’s easier for brains to consume and process visual content rather than taking in a wall of text, so making a video visually appealing with audio enhancements will take your message to the next level. Your videos can range from customer testimonials and product demonstrations, to funny and creative ads that showcase your business.

Social Media Reach

Most internet users have at least one social media account that they check regularly, so social media is the best place to be for advertisers online.  While YouTube is the most well-known website for video watchers, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have enhanced the way videos are watched on their apps and websites to keep up with the video trend by enabling videos to be played directly in news feeds so users can easily watch without being directed away from the platform.

Posting videos on social media pages can reach thousands, and potentially millions, of people and it costs nothing to do so. If you’re a small business with only a small social media following, paid social media campaigns can broaden your reach very inexpensively. You’ll get more people watching your videos, which can translate into more followers and, potentially, more business.

The Viral Potential

We’ve all seen the work of viral videos – they appear seemingly out of the blue on your Facebook timeline and subsequently get continuously shared across all social media platforms. There’s no magic potion in making a video go viral, most times it’s just a mix of creativity, engaging content, and luck. But the potential is there for anyone to make a video that catches on and becomes a trending topic and, even if it only lasts for a day, a viral video can do wonders for your business. Users are more likely to share a video over any other content on social media, so it’s a great tool to get your business noticed.

While you may have to invest some time and money into video production, the result are videos that highlight your business and can be shared across social media, and have a permanent place on YouTube and your website as a way for users to get quick insight into what makes your business special. 



Thursday, July 14, 2016

Minding Your Business with a Business Plan

“By recording your dreams and goals on paper, you set in motion the process of becoming the person you most want to be." Mark Victor Hansen could not have spoken truer words. The idea of writing down thoughts, goals, and dreams, is a transcendental one. In fact this very practice has materialized to a standard requirement in the world of business, formally known as a business plan. It is the vital blueprint for any startup and entrepreneurs are recognizing just how drastic business can change positively, with written foundations. So why are business plans so important?

Vision

If you were traveling somewhere you’ve never been before, would you go without a map? Probably not, so why would you embark on a business venture, where the risk is far greater, without having a blueprint? Your business plan functions as a map—your big picture. Before you start any business your only tool is your idea. As you begin to think about it more and more, ideas develop and a plan emerges. You start to consider factors like your target audience, market research, funding, staff/ employees, business registration, and the list goes on, but they still just classify as ideas in your head.

Documenting this information is what keeps your vision alive. It is your way of stepping outside of yourself to allow your vision to materialize. Further, organizing your ideas by formulating them in a business plan helps you build effectively and remove information that may be detrimental to your business as a whole. This inherent editing and buffering allows you to keep your vision in mind; the more you work on the plan, the realer your entrepreneurship becomes. Simply put, creating your business plan takes you from a dreamer to a doer.

Accountability

Your ability to transition from the phase of a dreamer to a doer often determines how serious you are about your startup. Creating a business plan requires work and research and this investigative nature of the process keeps you accountable in more ways than one. Firstly, your business plan makes you accountable for your own actions. When you make a plan and write it down you are more likely to follow through on that plan than if you had simply stored it away in your mind. Your business plan is your personal correctional officer, ensuring that you are working towards the fulfillment of your startup. 

Secondly, a business plan keeps you accountable to your potential investors, sponsors, and banks (when you apply for a business loan).  At some point you will realize that your startup is less about you and more about what service you are capable of bringing to the table. Investors and those alike, want to ensure that you are worth the investment: a) is there a market for your idea b) is it lucrative, and c) how big is the return on investment. Additionally, they want to be able to trust you and your abilities. In most cases, the primary source of endorsement is a well-orchestrated and thought-out business plan.

To Answer the Question: Should you really be starting a business?

A common mistake entrepreneurs make is underestimating how much work actually goes into starting and running a business. A business plan is one of the primary tools to weed out the weak from the strong, the able from the disabled, and the determined from the desolate. As mentioned above, your business plan is where the evolution of your idea takes place. As you comb through each category of the plan and consider your place in the entrepreneurial world, things can become overwhelming. It is at this point that you must reason with yourself. Consider whether this is a journey you should embark on now or, alternatively, if you would benefit by waiting a while. 

You might also reflect on whether you should partner with someone or work individually. How much time would you have to invest daily, especially if you’re pursuing a startup while working a full time job? At the very least, your business plan is your platform for evaluation; don’t take it lightly.

We’ve shared some of the most fundamental reasons for using a business plan for your startup and we encourage you to consider them before your next venture.  If you’ve been working on a business plan tell us why it’s an important starting point for you!


Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mentorship: The Secret Weapon to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

 At the forefront of every entrepreneurial venture are two certainties: the conception of an idea and the desire for seamless execution. Everything else is a mere combination of fear, inexperience, ignorance, and zeal.  Although this disposition can be unforgiving, it is a part of the courageous discourse of entrepreneurship that every entrepreneur encounters and often overcomes. For example, entrepreneurship is theoretically equivalent to preparing for war; you know you want to fight, the foreseeable outcome is winning, but executing that victory is jumbled in your lack of experience as a fighter, the fear that it may kill you, and jumping head first into a situation with inadequate preparation. Fortunately, proactive and preventative resources exist to minimize the risk of failure when taking on the battle of business. More specifically, mentorship is a key weapon capable of optimizing success in the realm of entrepreneurship.  

Mentorship, although commonly undermined and underestimated, places you in a position of observation (and in some instances, participation), allowing you to become more familiar with the craft or career of your choosing. Consider this: having a single conversation with an individual who has soldiered through the trenches of entrepreneurship can spark myriad ideas and transform the way you approach your own business. Imagine then, what magnitude a series of conversations throughout your journey can yield when you answer the call into the world of start-ups. In fact, don’t just imagine; having a mentor should be attached to any business idea that you intend to pursue, so much so, that the idea should be impossible to fulfill without one. 


The benefit of being a protégé to a professional who can enlighten you far outweighs the cost of seeking the right mentor (it can be an intimidating and daunting process finding the right person who is willing to work with you as much as you are willing to work with them). In a 2003 study conducted by Jackson et al., it was reported that mentoring relationships are key to developing productive careers and yield personal satisfaction for both the mentor and the protégé. The ability to have someone who can critique your ideas, give you constructive criticism, and encourage you along the way can eliminate potential setbacks that derive from error. This is not to say that you won’t make mistakes, because you will. However, there is a safety net the works both proactively and retroactively to activate damage control. “Mentors provide a safe, secure culture in which protégés can develop ideas/innovations, ensuring that they receive the recognition their efforts deserve”.

Once you’ve come to terms with the necessity of a mentor/mentee relationship for any startup or entrepreneurial endeavor, “the search” must commence. The search is simply finding someone who is adequate enough to lead you and humble enough to be challenged. Equally important is your connection—how well your personality gels—with the professional. Research suggests that mentor relationships are best formed in unprofessional environments.  Perhaps find common interests and build on those first. Finally, seek someone that can contribute effectively to the circle of inspiration; you inspire him and he inspires you. Mentors gravitate towards rising stars, so show why you deserve to be among and even transcend them.

Entrepreneurship will never be easy, but if you’re prepared you can handle whatever it throws in your direction. Look at it this way: You would never show up to war without your weapon and expect a victory, let alone an easy one, so don’t show up for business without the right tools expecting success to fall in your lap.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

When Clients Take a Long Time To Pay

If you’re a business owner or independent contractor, you’ve probably dealt with clients who fail to remunerate you in a timely manner. It can be awkward.

Of course, you’d like your late-paying client to expedite the payment you’ve earned. On the other hand, you don’t want to alienate someone who might otherwise have been inclined to retain your services again in the future, and perhaps tell h/er friends and associates how exemplary your work was.

How can you encourage clients to make timelier payments without sounding overly pushy, souring a professional relationship, and potentially undermining your reputation?

Agree in advance on a payments system that is convenient for the client.

You’ll probably find that different clients have their own preferences with respect to payment methods. Some may favour writing cheques, others may be more comfortable with PayPal, bank transfers, credit card, or even in-person cash transactions.

Set up accounts with multiple secure payment processing services and through your bank. If the client can choose among several payment options, s/he is likely to find one that is convenient for h/er.

Expect to receive payments late, and plan ahead.

As a general rule, you shouldn’t depend on timely payments from invoiced clients. Instead, try to keep a fairly robust cash reserve on hand to cover your own short- and medium-term expenses.

Although you want to encourage all clients to pay on time, realistically you’ll almost certainly encounter laggards here and there. One way to compensate for this is to request payment on a date well in advance of the time when you actually need the money—if possible, leave a margin of at least ten days.

Remember: you’re unlikely to suffer significantly negative consequences from being paid earlier than you expected.

Be clear and specific about when you expect to be compensated.

“Payment on this invoice is due within 20 days” as opposed to “Payment due upon receipt.” (In the latter case, your client could invoke the phony excuse that s/he received your invoice late.)

The clearer and more comprehensible the instructions, the less of an excuse the client has for failing to follow them.

Consider an early-bird discount.

No one enjoys wasting money, and by offering your client a slight discount for early payment, you introduce a direct economic incentive in favour of timelier compensation. Even a discount of one or two percent can provide your client sufficient impetus to get the ball rolling sooner.

Alternatively, you could institute a penalty of one or two percent for late payment.

Send cordial reminders.

If a week or more has passed since the deadline you originally established for payment, it’s reasonable to send the lagging client a gentle reminder, indicating that you would appreciate being compensated for your work as soon as reasonably possible.

Withholding of services is a drastic, but sometimes necessary, step.

You won’t need to resort to withholding services in the vast majority of cases. However, you may encounter a handful of situations in your career where there is simply no reasonable alternative. Your client has failed to pay up despite numerous polite reminders, and you need to draw a line in the sand. 

Your skills have value in the marketplace, you can’t afford to work for free, and you don’t want to garner a reputation for being overly lax on clients who refuse to keep their end of the bargain.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

How To Ensure Your Business Remains Innovative As It Grows

As companies get larger, there is a tendency for them to lose some of the innovative edge and versatility that defined them as start-ups and young enterprises. Several factors common to larger firms contribute to this, including increased bureaucracy and more rigid, hierarchical command structures.

Accordingly, one of the challenges that growing businesses face involves keeping the company nimble, and ensuring that the workforce and leadership alike continue to adapt to technology and changing market conditions.

Encourage experimentation, with some margin for error.

All businesses strive to offer products and services that are commercially viable, and for larger firms in particular, a preoccupation with maximizing shareholder value can intensify those commercial pressures. Unfortunately, a drive for immediate windfalls can undermine more sophisticated forms of innovation that require time and capital investment to develop.

Major innovations cannot happen without experimentation, and experimentation is inherently risky. Many successful businesses have invested in products and technologies that never really took off. (Think of Google Glass, or QR codes, for example.) To genuinely innovate, managers must be willing to take risks on novel concepts that may not always pan out.

Consider the potential, and not just past achievements, of job candidates.

In applying for a position at your company, job candidates will typically emphasize their past experience and achievements that are relevant to the role—and well they should. But in looking to hire and promote, don’t get so fixated on the past successes of a candidate that you overlook the potential of applicants to grow as individuals and expand their skill sets.

In the recruitment stage, in interviews, and in personality surveys, try to incorporate questions that will reveal whether a candidate is curious, open to new approaches to old problems, and believes in h/er own potential to cultivate new skills.

One question that may reveal all of these attributes is: “What new skills or knowledge have you gained in the past year, and what did the learning process involve?” Alternatively, the common interview question “Do you have any questions for me?” can help bring out the curiosity, level of engagement, and preparedness of the candidate. Consider giving job candidates an assignment that will test their skills and approach to problem-solving.

Personal accountability matters.

One of the most important attributes of strong leaders is a capacity to assume responsibility when something goes wrong. In other words, they believe the locus of control is primarily internal rather than external. These are the types of individuals you should seek to hire and promote.

Personal responsibility is important from the perspective of organizational growth. Individuals who are willing to assume primary responsibility for their own shortcomings are more likely to learn from them and modify their approach. By contrast, those who convince themselves that their errors are entirely attributable to bad luck or circumstances beyond their control risk missing the lesson.

Reflect on your performance.

It’s not enough to merely work harder or put in longer hours when your business faces a challenge: you need a plan to help steer your efforts in a productive direction. Real learning requires not only hard work and persistence, but also active mental engagement.

One practice that can help is daily reflection—over the course of the work day, what did you do well, what would you have done differently if offered a second chance, and where do you see room for improvement? To facilitate this kind of reflection, you can encourage staff to keep a work journal, and set aside time (10-15 minutes of the workday) for entry-writing.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Getting The Most Out Of Focus Groups

Large organizations, including corporations, academic institutions, and government agencies, have recruited focus groups for decades to help them gain insight into the wants, needs, and behaviour of the public. For businesses, it’s useful to ascertain what current and potential customers and clients are looking for, and the focus group can be a cost-effective and highly revelatory source of information.

Consider the following points when you’re planning to recruit focus groups, so that you can separate the signal from the noise and ultimately derive useful data from the sessions.

The overall composition of the groups should accurately reflect your target demographic.

While this principle seems like common sense, its importance is difficult to overstate. A series of focus groups whose composition substantially differs from that of the target demographic won’t necessarily yield helpful data.

What age are your prospective clients or customers? Gender? Marital circumstances? Ethnicity, or mix of ethnicities? What language(s) do they speak? Where and in what circumstances do they live?

The better you can form a mental picture of your customer/client base before you begin recruitment, the more informative your focus group sessions are likely to be.

Stay on track.

One the of purposes of a focus group is to enable participants to share their own thoughts and feelings in an open, accepting environment, and in relative spontaneity. But whenever you gather strangers or acquaintances together and encourage them to converse spontaneously, the discussion is likely to wander off topic. This is where the skill set of a competent moderator becomes essential.

Attributes you should look for in a moderator include patience, firmness, articulacy, strong organization skills, the ability to appear neutral and impartial over the course of the discussion, and ideally some credible previous experience in the field. A moderator will also occasionally need to call on participants who haven’t said anything in a while, to encourage their input.

Would Goldilocks approve of the size of your group?

A focus group that is too small will tend to be stilted and fail to generate rich discussion. On the other hand, when the group is overly large, it will tend to segment into several smaller cliques, or a core group will form that excludes participants on the periphery.

Ideally, the scale of your group should be six to 10—not too big, not too small, but just the right size to facilitate an inclusive, respectful, productive exchange of ideas.

Ask the right questions.

To design effective questions for a focus group, you must begin by posing one to yourself: What exactly do you want to know? Until you can narrow down what you’re looking for, you’ll find it difficult to design questions that are specific enough to meet your needs.

You’ll also want to limit the number of questions to a manageable level. A good rule of thumb is that the number of questions (except for clarifying queries that the moderator may inject once in a while) should be roughly equal to the number of participants.

One of the main advantages of a focus group over a survey is the opportunity for participants to modify their views during the discussion. It’s common for a focus group participant to end the session with an opinion significantly different from the one s/he started with.

Conduct at least three or four unique group sessions.

This is likely the minimum you’ll require in order to generate valid, applicable results.

Each session should last anywhere from 45 to 90 minutes. Beyond that point, group productivity tends to stall, and you’ll probably have covered all of your questions anyway.

You’ll know when you’ve reached the “saturation point”.

When new focus group sessions aren’t generating many new ideas, you’ve probably retrieved about as much data as you can reasonably expect from the focus group endeavour. It’s time to wrap up and analyze what you’ve collected.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Dealing With an Unproductive Colleague

Among the most common complaints that employees of large organizations and co-founders of businesses express, involve a colleague or associate who doesn’t seem to pull h/er own weight.

This situation can become especially awkward if the aggrieved party and the espied slacker share equal authority within an organization. The reason for this is straightforward: bosses have the authority to keep under-performers in line, and to dismiss them if the problem persists. But staff members and associates who occupy the same position in the organizational hierarchy as an alleged slacker don’t have this luxury, and face a multifaceted dilemma.

Is it better to confront the offending party, or try to ignore the issue? Face to face, or by reporting the problem to superiors or other colleagues? What about the risk of being labeled a tattle-tale, the potential strain on interpersonal relationships, or even the prospect of retaliation? What if it becomes one person’s word against another’s?

How does the perceived slacker’s underperformance affect you?

The answer to this question will determine whether it’s worth your time and energy to actively address the problem.

If the behaviour of the alleged slacker affects your work and professional relationships very little, or not at all, then you’re better off minding your own business. On the other hand, if your ability to complete job tasks and/or your rapport with colleagues and superiors suffers due to an unproductive colleague, then you have a legitimate concern and should take action.

Once you resolve to act, your first step (barring extraordinary circumstances) should be to address the matter directly with the perceived slacker.

Start by favouring diplomacy over confrontation.

Even if you suspect your colleague’s lack of productivity owes to laziness, don’t assume that. Your colleague may be experiencing a legitimate mental health issue, may be distracted by difficult conditions in h/er personal life that are beyond h/er control, or may have an easily resoluble gap in h/er skill set that is slowing h/er down.
 
Instead of adopting a confrontational tone, try approaching the issue tactfully at first—e.g. “Is everything OK? I’ve noticed that you seem less engaged with this task than you normally are.” Then ask if there’s anything you can do to help. The “slacker” may call your attention to a factor you hadn’t considered that changes your perception of the problem. Be prepared to afford h/er the benefit of the doubt.

This exchange also gives you an opportunity to clarify exactly what you expect from your underperforming colleague, and ensure that you’re both on the same page.

Use impersonal, non-accusatory language, and cite specific examples.

Outward hostility on your part can cause your interlocutor to shut down or become defensive; you’ll effectively sabotage the conversation right at the outset. Pay close attention to the language and tone you use.

Instead of leading with “When you do (or fail to do) X, it makes me Y,” go with something like “Last week, this (specific event) happened, and consequently I had to remain at work late in order to complete some unfinished tasks. That experience was frustrating and unpleasant for me.”

Don’t make the conversation any more personal than it needs to be. Ultimately, the issue is not your colleague’s personality or character; it is h/er behaviour, which consists of identifiable actions and omissions. Keep a documentary record of these, and of your own efforts to improve the situation, so you can be accountable and transparent.

Don’t involve your boss or higher authorities unless you have to.

The capacity to deal with relatively minor, day-to-day differences of opinion in a constructive manner is a valuable skill. If you are an employee or middle-manager, don’t involve higher-ups in a “slacker” case unless you believe the problem is too serious for you to solve on your own.

Addressing a colleague’s underperformance directly with that person has two big advantages over reporting to higher authorities right away: 1) it is friendlier and more conducive to an amicable working relationship moving forward; 2) it shows that you are prepared to take initiative and demonstrate leadership in dealing with interpersonal conflict at work.

If you and the “slacker” are joint founders of a business, it is even more essential for you to confront the issue head-on rather than let it fester.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Finding Your Calling

Nearly everyone wants a career that is emotionally, spiritually, and financially rewarding. But unfortunately, a lot of people never find that professional sweet spot—either because their passion
doesn’t happen to pay well, or because they feel stuck at a job they dislike for the sake of a steady paycheque.

To achieve a fulfilling career, think about how you can find synergy between your professional endeavours and your personal affinities, values, and strengths.

Let your character and values be your compass.
 
Consider your basic personality traits. Are you typically organized or disorganized? Are you patient and deliberate, or do you prefer to see results quickly? Extroverted, or introverted? Analytical, or intuitive?

Most importantly, what are the principles you believe in most strongly?

We can all imagine blatant examples of career mismatches: people who are vegetarians and vegans for ethical reasons shouldn’t become butchers; innumerate individuals are unlikely to thrive as accountants.

But there are many more subtle instances of career misalignment as well. If you like to keep moving and spend much of your time outdoors, a sedentary office job may wear you down. And if you have an artistic flair, you may desire significant creative autonomy, and feel frustrated if your career path doesn’t offer that.

Perseverance and resiliency are essential.

The main difference between a dream and a goal, is that a goal revolves around a concrete and achievable plan. But there is another important distinction: dreams occupy the realm of fantasy, while goals must contend with reality. In dreams, you can envision your own triumphs, but not necessarily the barriers that stand in the way.

In the real world, meaningful success rarely happens overnight—in fact, it often requires years, if not decades. You might have an extraordinary passion for something, but you’ll also be competing against many other individuals and organizations that share your enthusiasm. Almost invariably, you will encounter a great deal of rejection and shortfalls before you experience the thrill of victory. To bring your vision to fruition, you’ll need to remain committed to your goals through thick and thin.

An alternative mental approach to failure or rejection is to remember that your disappointments needn’t define you or even necessarily set you back. You can instead look at them as stepping stones that bring your closer to your final goal by affording you valuable lessons and experience.

Instead of “work-life balance”, think about your life’s work.

Of course, human beings are social animals, and it’s important to make time for family and friends outside of work hours. Your physical and mental health also depend on a healthy diet and regular exercise.

However, the optimal career path for you should bring you enough satisfaction that you believe your time on the job is beneficial to you, and that your work is fully integrated into the life you want. This is one reason why the concept of “work-life balance” is flawed: it implies that a firewall should separate your profession from the rest of your existence, and not that your career endeavours are a vital component of your life.

Instead of trying to achieve equilibrium between work and “life”, consider instead what you’d like to accomplish during your lifetime, and why. If you can’t identify how your current professional trajectory is helping you achieve the long-term goals you’ve set for yourself, then it’s time to contemplate a career change.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Benefits Of A Work Journal

The classic to-do list can be useful tool to facilitate productivity, but it’s not without shortcomings.

For instance, assignments on your list may involve a series of interconnected tasks, or require multiple steps that you can’t easily describe in list format. Sometimes in the midst of carrying out one duty, you’ll identify other issues that require attention, but which you don’t necessarily have time for right now. Instead of crossing out items on your to-do list, you may find yourself modifying and even extending it as the hours march on.

For these reasons, you may find it useful to keep a work journal, to either supplement or substitute for your to-do list.

Self-awareness

By simply taking the time to write down your goals, lessons, and experiences you draw from each day, and any feelings or thoughts you have about them, you afford yourself a chance to troubleshoot, and engage your self-awareness and critical thinking skills.

Have you been avoiding, procrastinating over, or struggling with a task? If so, your difficulties may owe to an emotional obstacle, such as the fear of failure, an unwillingness to check your ego and ask for help, or confusion over the next steps in the process. Journalling forces you to put these barriers to success into words.

Paper or digital?

Of course, this is a matter of personal preference. A digital version offers the advantages of searchability and easy modifiability. A paper (book) version helps to reduce your daily screen time, and you won’t risk losing your journal entries due to a computer malfunction or virus.

Regardless of the medium you choose for your journal, organization is key: each entry should be clearly dated and easily retrievable. You may also benefit from headlining each entry with two or three main themes, for purposes of future reference. For example, “Order confirmation for Mrs. Jafari; keyboard shortcuts”.

Honesty and confidentiality

Like a personal diary, your work journal should be a safe forum for you to express thoughts and concerns related to your job, including the state of interpersonal relationships at the workplace. For this reason, confidentiality is important.

If you believe there’s a risk that another person will discover your journal, and that this discovery may affect your relationships with colleagues or superiors, you’ll censor yourself. The more extensively you engage in self-censorship, the less meaningful your journalling will be to you, especially as the passage of time places distance between your present state of mind and the content of older entries.

Learning from experience

By writing down observations about your own performance, new information you encounter, and lessons you learn from day to day, you’ll stand a better chance of recalling those items when you need them. For example, if an IT technologist at the office shows you a nifty trick for accessing files on a database more quickly, your journal is a great place to record the steps involved. Journalling can also help you learn from your mistakes by noting both the specific details of an error, and the reason(s) why it occurred.

Consider making two daily entries.

A morning entry allows you to envision the day ahead, and draw up your game plan. A second, follow-up entry in the evening allows you to handicap your performance and hold yourself accountable.

Did you accomplish all of the goals you had set for that day? If not, why not? Did you exceed your own expectations? If so, what were the keys to your success?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Overcoming Writer’s Block At Work

We’ve all had the experience of sitting down to pen a new article, marketing e-mail, or blog post, and struggling to get the words out. Even professional authors find that writing can be either simple and straightforward or slow and cumbersome. The first sentence is often the hardest.

A bout of writer’s block is frustrating regardless of the circumstances. But it’s especially annoying when you’re at work, time is of the essence, and you have a lot of other assignments to complete.

If you find that the writing process is challenging or stalled completely, try the following tactics to get yourself back on track.

Make a list of essential items you plan to mention in the piece

This will help to guide and constrain your train of thought. You can also use the items on the list as “seeds” for your paragraphs—start from each individual point, then elaborate upon it in full sentences.

Begin at the end

In writing, as in many other endeavours, it sometimes helps to reorient yourself, or approach the problem from a different angle, when you find yourself stuck. To defeat what I call the first-sentence blues, try starting your written composition at the end—with the last sentence or paragraph. Rather than obsessing about how you want to lead off, think about how you plan to wrap up.

Alternatively, you can simply pretend the first sentence doesn’t exist, write the rest of the article without it, and then add a “first” sentence once 99 percent of the task is already complete.

If time permits, step away and engage yourself in something else

Your writer’s block may be partly attributable to a mental block, which you can remedy by either stimulating your creativity and problem-solving skills, working on a different task for a while, immersing yourself in fresh air, and/or improving circulation of blood and oxygen to your brain.

If you have time for a break, devote a few minutes to a pleasurable activity—like reading, ping-pong, a full-body stretch, or a walk around the neighbourhood. Ideas may occur to you more readily upon your return.

Freewrite

This is exactly what it sounds like: just jot down whatever pops into your head.

Freewriting offers numerous advantages: it helps you structure sentences and express yourself in imaginative ways, enables you to purge distracting or tangential thoughts, and temporarily quiets your inner critic. It can also help you develop a feel for and ease with writing, and furnish ideas that can inspire future articles and posts.

Change your environment

Creativity is among the most complex and mysterious of all human attributes, and surroundings that are conducive to exceptional creativity for some writers are like intellectual deserts for others. For example, at a busy coffee shop, you may be stimulated by the ambient noise, or distracted by conversations at neghbouring tables, order-taking, and the grinding, whistling, and gurgling sounds continually emitted by the machines.

Sometimes our subconscious is acutely aware of barriers to creativity in a particular environment, even when our conscious mind is not. If you find yourself unable to get writing done in one place, try moving somewhere else.

If you don’t need the internet right now, disconnect

The internet is the most powerful informational resource that human beings have ever created, but also arguably the greatest single purveyor of distractions—e-mails, social media, news headlines, celebrity gossip, funny videos of animals doing zany things, to name just a few. This is why Zadie Smith and many other wordsmiths advocate writing on a computer that is disconnected from the internet.