Member Update: Simple Tools

5 minute read

Between AI and smartphone apps, we have a ton of fancy tools at our disposal.

Tools to help us write better…

To be healthier…

To read more…

Forget less…

And I’m not going to knock a single one of those tools. If you find a tool that works for you and helps you get more of what you want — whether that’s relaxation or productivity — then I say embrace it and use the heck out of it.

But I am going to make a case for keeping a few simple tools in the rotation and near at hand.

A Timer

You can use a kitchen timer, the clock app on your phone, or a fancy Pomodoro tomato timer… whatever floats your boat. But timers are extremely useful to you as a writer.

A timer can get you through writer’s block. How? If you have writer’s block, just set a timer for five minutes and write down whatever is on your mind at the moment. It doesn’t have to be related to anything. You just want to write for five minutes without stopping.

Usually, you’ll find that at the end of five minutes, you’ve gotten a few ideas down about the project at hand. And then, it’s easy to keep going. And if this little exercise doesn’t get you started, you’ll know you need to do more research, ask more questions, or maybe just work on something else for a bit.

A timer can help you organize your thoughts. Whenever I have a project, I usually start with a fast write. This is a 10-minute, focused, uncensored writing session. If I’m working on a topic I’m already familiar with, the fast write usually gets my best thoughts down so I can start massaging them. If I don’t know much about the topic, the fast write gives me a way to explore all the questions I want to answer.

Often this 10-minute writing session gives me the foundation I need to start building a strong piece.

A timer is also a good tool for reminding yourself to take breaks. Put a timer on for 25 to 45 minutes, and focus on your work for that block. Then take a break. Stretch. Go for a quick walk. Read a chapter in a book. Then set your timer again, and do another focused block. You’ll be more productive and feel better when you take breaks.

A Pen and a Pad of Paper

Does it get any more old school?

But a pen and paper are super useful for writers.

I still use them for my daily to-do list. I’ve tried other tools, but I always come back to pen and paper. Writing my list by hand puts it into my head in a different way, so I don’t have to check my list as often to stay on track. Plus, I like the feeling of physically crossing things off.

Pen and paper are also good for beating writers block. The writer’s block and fast write exercises I shared above… they work even better if you write by hand instead of on a computer. I’m not sure why that is, but I unlock better connections, metaphors, and ideas when I’m using a pen and paper instead of a keyboard.

Finally, a pen and paper give you a catch-all list. That’s a place where you can write down the things that interrupt your thought process. So, if you’re working and you suddenly think about your need to schedule a dentist appointment, just jot that on your catch-all list to attend to later, and then keep going with the task at hand.

Books and Magazines

Sitting and reading a book or a magazine — and I’m talking about an actual print book or magazine — is enjoyable and feels weightier than reading a book on a Kindle or an article on a website.

You can make notes in the margins, fold down pages, and generally soak in the knowledge at a more relaxed and, in my opinion, more effective pace.

Here’s something new I’m doing this year with the business books I read. First, I’m buying them in hard cover or paperback. Second, I’m reading them through. And then third, I’m applying all the skills, strategies, and tactics in one book before I start the next book. I suspect I’ll only get through two or three this year… and I also suspect they’ll have far more impact than the dozen or so I read in a less deliberate way most years.

What about you? Do you have favorite simple tools? Tell us what they are and why you love them in the comments.

In Case You Missed It…

A well-researched e-book is an excellent way to offer value and grow credibility within your industry. This is something you can create for yourself to grow your business or write for a client to help them grow theirs. In this most recent Web Content & SEO column, Jonna Jerome walks you through all the ins and outs of creating an e-book, including how to publish it and what to charge. Check it out.

If you’re looking to invest in an AI tool to help you with some of your short-form writing — like creating social media posts based on articles and newsletters — then you’ll want to give the newest Social Media column a read. Inside, Bonnie Fanning reviews three popular tools, showing you how to use them and what to expect.

When you’re working on growing your business and your clientele, you’re bound to make some mistakes along the way. The important thing is to take a beat and learn from them. In her latest Reality Blog, Jennifer Ayling walks you through a couple of her own mistakes, including lessons learned.

Coming Up…

February 22: Join me for a live training event all about productivity. In this webinar, I’ll share 10 productivity tips that will save you time, lower your stress, help you produce your best work, and most importantly of all… keep you excited about what you’re working on.

February 23: Keep your eyes open for a new Practice Assignment. The brief will go live on February 23, and as always, you’ll have the opportunity to submit your assignment for a chance at a live review.

February 28: Writing with your reader’s needs and goals in mind is a sure way to boost the success of any page or project. It’s also a cornerstone of UX copywriting. In this webinar event, I’ll share five user experience principles you can apply to your writing to give your copy an edge… and to get the attention of your clients and prospects. Details will be posted soon!

3 Things I Thought You Might Enjoy

If you can help your clients retain more of their customers, you’ll be doing a lot to help them grow and succeed. In this post on HubSpot, you’ll find seven ways to improve retention.

I’ve been on a personal branding kick lately, so I enjoyed this post from Copyblogger sharing 15 examples of personal branding done well… and I thought you might like it, too.

Which is better… an all-human marketing team or a marketer paired up with AI? This look at the different scenarios — and the strengths and weaknesses of each — is a fun and insightful read.

That’s all for now. Have a great weekend!