Time is money and all that. It’s true. I wish I knew how to calculate the value of the lost productivity that can be traced back to bad writing. It would be HUGE.
So in my trainings that’s one objective lots of people have:
- How can I write faster?
- Speed up my writing?
- Be more efficient in emails and documents?
Here’s my advice.
1 – Think first, write second
It’s the thinking that slows us down. We get an idea, start to write it, get stuck on a word, forget what we were going to write next.
So we should REALLY separate the thinking part from the writing part. Think first, write second.
2 – Plan
The thinking part needs to result in an Actual. Written. Plan.
Your world is literally full of distractions. They’re internal and external.
Don’t forget to buy milk. Did I lock the car? Heeeeeey, Shelly, how about that All Blacks game last night? An email notification. A text message. A phone call.
Every time one of those things distracts you mid-sentence, mid-paragraph, mid-chapter, it takes you anywhere from 17 seconds to 17 minutes to get back on track (depending which study you believe).
Writing out a very simple plan means you get back on track faster, every time.
3 – Write the easiest bits first
A plan also means you can pick and choose which bits of an email or document to write first. You know the thing about eating an elephant one bite at a time?
It’s the same with documents. People procrastinate writing a report because they’re thinking about writing the WHOLE THING. ALL AT ONCE. It feels big, daunting, and that puts us off.
The same thing happens when you’re faced with a section of a document that’s hard: I have to write the introduction. I don’t know how to write that. Kill me now.
Imagine if your document has 6 sections, and 4 of them are super easy to write. You know exactly what needs to be said for those 4. You have all the info. You can copy and paste some stuff. If you write those 4 bits first, then you feel like you’re almost done.
You sit back and the bulk of the document is finished.
Suddenly accomplishing this thing (eating this elephant) feels possible.
4 – Less wordsmithing
In my estimate, anywhere from 30 – 100% of the wordsmithing (editing, polishing, sculpting, fine-tuning) we do has a negligible effect on the outcome. If we’re focused on our readers, those tiny changes that can take so much time and effort, make very little difference. We’re usually making those changes for our own benefit.
Language is too subjective for lots of those small things to have much impact. You start to make changes at a level that has so much subtlety the likelihood your reader will infer the same things as you is diminished.
So there you go. Write faster, write smarter, write purposefully.
Then go have a coffee. You’ve earned it.