Writing is often seen as a creative task outside the realm of executives. After all, no executive has never been praised for her writing skills. While there have been a number of high-profile executives who have published bestselling books — Sheryl Sandberg being the best example — they are more the exception than the rule.
This is an unfortunate reality because we live in a content-driven world where more than 3 million blog posts are published every day. An executive with the ability to communicate clearly through the written world can reap many benefits, including more press interviews, speaking opportunities and strategic partnerships.
Executives, however, often lack the time to write. How could an executive find the time to write? By building a habit. Here’s how you can get started.
Do it first thing in the day.
In theory, you could write anytime you are in front of your computer. You could write when you are on a lunch break, in between meetings or after you come back from work. The best time you could use for writing, it turns out, is the morning.
The morning offers several benefits that can’t be found at other times of the day.
First and foremost, you have more energy to spend on a creative task like writing (assuming you sleep enough hours). Second, you are less stressed, which also liberates your mind to express itself more freely. Finally, you face no meetings, calls or emails at this time of the day.
If you combine a morning writing ritual with the next three tips, you will face little friction from your own mind or your surroundings (e.g., family, coworkers, etc.), letting you write without restrictions.
Do it for 30 minutes.
A habit shouldn’t take you more time than you can offer to it. Sure, writing for two hours could bring you greater rewards, but you’re not a professional writer with unlimited time. You need to make the most of your writing time.
I recommend 30 minutes as a modest time frame that will help you kick off your writing habit. Setting up a specific amount of time beforehand will help you enter a state of deep focus that an open time schedule won’t. What’s more, everyone in your organization (and even your family) will know you shouldn’t be disturbed.
You can use a 25-minutes Pomodoro if you like, but 30 minutes will probably fit better in your calendar and will give you more time to warm up your writing skills.
Focus on a strict length — 500 words.
With 30 minutes set up for writing, you want to crank out as many words as you can, regardless of its quality. A problem you will likely face, however, is the blank page — often cited as one of the main creativity blocks writers face.
To help you guide your energies, focus on writing not more than 500 words. By focusing on that number, you’re establishing a parameter of success; a KPI if you will.
What’s more, the seemingly small volume can compound to great success: If you write every day, at the end of your first month you will have written 15,000 words, the length of an average non-fiction book, or many blog posts.
Write what you know.
If you have gotten to a C-level position in any organization, you must have lots of experience and knowledge about your industry — exactly what you need to use when you write.
When you sit down to write then, write about what you know. Don’t reinvent the wheel or try to imitate Malcolm Gladwell. Write about the problems and challenges you face daily, the situations you observe and the lessons you learn from being on the trenches. After all, writing doesn’t ask for Pulitzer-level journalistic research or prose.
After a while, you can improve the content to focus on more complex subjects; when you are just getting started, however, start small by talking about everything you already know.
Don’t hold yourself up — be vulnerable.
As an executive, you must represent your organization with a professional attitude. This, however, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t write like a robot. Your audience — potential customers, partners and journalists — wants to get to know you.
A good tip when you write is to think as if you were writing to a friend. Not only will this help lower your writing standards, which at first will help you break from the “blank page” spell mentioned above, but it will allow you to communicate in a personal way.
While you don’t want to say anything that can compromise your organization, you still want to express yourself freely, sharing your opinions, experiences and even failures.
The best part is, you will look much more relatable and real than most executives who hire ghostwriters.