Subscribing To Less – Mastering What You Have

Master
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We all need tools to do our work, build our businesses and make processes more efficient. However lately I’ve been feeling that our ability to buy has surpassed our ability to implement WHAT we buy.  Money regularly stops us from being creative. We buy generic solutions instead of working to create a tailored fit. The products that we buy can only take us so far.

What if, for a little while we didn’t buy anything extra. Nothing for our business, no new tools to speed up the work we do.

Sounds a little boring, right?

It’s easy to forget that the purchase isn’t the fix.

The benefit comes from the implementation. You can hand over the money for a fantastic product and still get zero benefit. The only things that separate your business & others that use the same tools as you is effort.

Buying more takes us directly away from increased profit. Instead we should regularly try to get every last drop out of the tools we already have. Assess what we have access to, what we’re already paying for and pour our effort into putting those tools to use before we look for new ones. Chances are we haven’t even scratched the surface of everything we own yet.

I’m always interested in trying new products but for now, I think I already have enough.

Now I know that fellow product makers will dislike this advice after all, we’re always after new customers. Those are the metrics that matter. What should matter more than new customers is seeing your existing customers succeed. A loyal customer base comes directly from helping users to implement what is right for them.

Product owners, are you helping your existing customers more than looking for new ones to cover the churn? Remember, the most common reason for product cancellation is “Didn’t have time to use it.”

  • If your product business has inactive users – cancel them.
  • If you have trial users – remind them.
  • If you want engaged users – teach them.

If you want to keep your customers, help them to master what they have.

Breaking Blocks – Techniques For Easier Writing

Writer's Block

Just like in Minecraft, writers are presented with an infinite number of blocks during their writing lives. Getting started seems to be an unsurmountable wall at times.

This post isn’t about producing exceptional writing, having perfect grammar or finding your unique voice. Those are the things that take years to master, sometimes a lifetime.

This is about the difference between creating and not creating, getting started or remaining at a stand still. Suffering with writer’s block or not.

For me quality will always be a slow process, something that can only be improved with repetition & feedback over time. I usually start with as much information as possible and slowly reduce and remove.

Even in a technical role, I still spend a large portion of my day writing. Combining the volume of e-mails, documentation and hand written notes I produce daily, I am easily producing multiple thousands of words every day.

Here are a couple of my techniques for getting over the initial hurdle.

1) Say More With Less

Writing For Results (E-mails & Project Communication)

I used to make all of my writing long, detailed and tried to cover every angle. I got into this habit from University. Meeting word counts & producing lengthy essays became routine.  In the world of work writing long form also became my attempt at speeding up the usual back and forth of e-mail communication. Yet I’d still get questions back that made it clear people just hadn’t read what I had sent to them. So I experimented with writing less and less and using formatting for emphasis. The response was incredible. As a communication style people get back to you sooner, they appreciate you keeping it simple for them. We all know that long e-mails elicit a ‘I’ll deal with that later’ reaction which is not what you want, especially if you’re waiting for an answer.

Fewer Words = More Impact.

I want that on a T-shirt.

A fantastic example of this is the http://themagicemail.com - a short 17 word follow-up e-mail for freelancers that turns radio silence into responses, apologies and signed contracts.

An Experiment

I’ve experienced the impact of shorter writing from the opposite side too, when hiring. A while back I posted the same job twice on Elance, both requested the same end product, needed the same skills, had the same budget and time. The only difference was they were described differently. The first one was long form. I wrote out absolutely everything about the project, gave reference links, was very clear about the milestones, deliverables. The second description was short, I gave a bulleted list of what I wanted and another short list of what I did not want. I grouped the questions I wanted the freelancer to answer at the end and in bold.

I got double the amount of bids on the concisely written post. I had bidders expressing how it was clear I knew what I wanted that they loved how direct it was. They all promptly answered my questions.

The most surprising thing though was that the average bid price on my long form job post was double that of my shorter job posting!

People perceived there was TWICE the work in the project because I had overwhelmed them with information.

I was expecting the shorter description to be more appealing and easier to answer to, I did not expect the difference in price. Of course I want people to know it’ll be easy to work with me so now I always layout projects & e-mails in this style. Now the only time I create longer content is when it is more valuable, for example in an epic instructional resource.

2) Writing Isn’t Just 1 Thing

Creative Writing (Blog Posts & Books)

Our expectations tell us that writing should be reasonably easy. We have opinions & vocabulary which should combine into content right?

Yet how many times do we look at a blank white page & a blinking cursor and feel stuck. Our expectations tell us that we read a blog post from start to finish so that must be how they’re written. We’re expecting ordered thought to just pour out of our fingers correct first time.

Our expectations are the wall of writer’s block

The process of writing is actually more like :-

  1. Topic
  2. Ideas
  3. Words
  4. Syntax
  5. Phrases
  6. Central Point
  7. Order
  8. Formatting
  9. Grammar
  10. Paragraphs
  11. Title
  12. Font
  13. Alignment
  14. Headings
  15. Image
  16. Publication

Some of us start at the end and try to work backwards.

Some of us start with Step 1 and jump straight to Step 8, shuffling around with fonts and alignment with a single header in a word processor. As much as I love technology, it will only really provide assistance from Step 8 onwards. Prior to that, paper wins out every time. From a central topic I usually move onto a brainstorm. Getting ideas out of your head and onto paper in whatever order they fall out in frees up your mind to focus on the next step. Words turn into phrases which turn into specific points. The bullet points are cut into strips and re-grouped into a natural order. It’s easier to spot gaps in your thinking and if you get stuck you can just refer back to the word soup your created in your brainstorm earlier.

We’re making it tough for ourselves when we skip steps because we aren’t backed up by the foundations of our work.

Writing gets easier and becomes more enjoyable when we let ourselves break the wall down and examine it block by block.

New Idea Syndrome – Do You Have It?

Magpie

A notebook of ideas is a classic symptom.

If you’ve ever bought domains ‘just because’ or have a string of unfinished projects then you’ve got it bad.

So, what exactly does this super bug do?

It turns us into idea magpies, collectors of shiny new projects. All the actions of creativity without the output or results.

It’s an easy habit to recognise. Firstly, the notebook gets filled. Secondly, a hive of research and activity. Thirdly, well – nothing happens.

That’s right. Nothing. All these ideas and no final product.

Enjoying the feeling of a new idea can be great. One to revert into, drop everything for, start work straight-away on, research, review, plan, analyse and investigate. However over time collecting ideas and not seeing results gets frustrating! It can be detrimental when you want to make progress but get distracted and move on too soon.

There’s a fine line between being interested in an idea because it has merit and becoming too precious over it because it came out of your head.

I’ve been working on fixing this habit for a while now in a way that doesn’t stop me being enthusiastic or curious. Day to day, I’ll still subconsciously pick out needs, wants & requirements trying to seek out a pain point. It only takes a few sentences to make my ears tune in… “If only there was a way to….” “What we really need is….” I can hear the synapses in my brain fizzing like a sparkler kicking into life on Bonfire night.

However I’ve learned it’s not my job to research it to within an inch of it’s life just minutes after discovery. This is a sure way to get weighed down in the detail. In the past I would work through the process until I hit unsurmountable “obstacles”. I’d catch myself worrying about scaling issues, legal problems and commitment worries concerning ideas I came up with 20 minutes before!

Not anymore though.

Some people entertain ideas;
others put them to work

Anon

There is in fact an easy way to turn this mindset into a Super Power! – A daily dose of action.

Add in focus, consistency and support and you’ll be unstoppable!

I’ve seen the most success with projects that I’ve just chipped away at. This blog was once an idea and now you’re reading it.

We are in an era where any great idea can be hashed together in basic form in just one caffeine fuelled night. There’s no excuse.

It’s time to make stuff…

Join Us!
Over the years I’ve collected many viable ideas and over the coming months I’ll be working to bring them to life and writing about what I learn along the way. I hope you’ll join me.

Drop your e-mail below, as the group grows I’ll be hosting hangouts online – you can jump in to chat about your ideas & get feedback or just listen to stories for inspiration.

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