A Powerful Tool to Boost Your Writing Productivity
Today, you've hit the wall. You're exhausted, stressed, and don't feel like writing. But you still need to get that proposal out to a customer or finalize your pitch deck by tomorrow.
So, how can you motivate yourself to get the work done when your creative juices aren’t flowing?
As a journalist, I deal with this on a regular basis because I have deadlines to hit, with people who are counting on me to deliver. And that means I can’t be passive and wait until I’m in a creative mood. I must put myself into a highly productive state to write on demand.
But how do you do that?
One tool that I have developed to help me instantly get into the right mindset for creative work is what I call the Productive State Index (PSI), which I’ve adapted from Tony Robbins’ idea of The Quality Quantifier Tool.
The idea is that you can get into a highly productive state by asking yourself a series of questions about your level of enthusiasm for working on a project. I use a scale of -5 to +5, where “-5” says that you’re absolutely dreading the project and “+5” means you can’t wait to get on it!
By going through this exercise I’m about to share with you, I can change my state from negative to positive—and get genuinely excited to work on a project—within about five minutes.
Here’s how the PSI tool works.
In a journal or your favorite app (like Evernote) engage in a dialogue with yourself along these lines.
On a scale of -5 to +5, where do I stand on the PSI with this project?
Right now, I am at a -2. That’s because, even though I have made progress, I am still behind schedule and the deadline pressure gives me a negative feeling about working on it.
What would it take for me to get my PSI to a +1, where I at least feel positive and hopeful about this project?
Let me think about this: What would make this article fun to work on?
I can think of it as a puzzle.
Each section in the article would be like a separate piece of the puzzle. If I focus on one section at a time—and begin with the article lede (introduction), for example—I’ll take my mind off of the other “pieces” that have yet to take shape.
I would not only be putting a puzzle together, but I would also be designing the puzzle itself, along with the individual “pieces,” giving me a greater sense of control over the “game.”
In a sense, I would get to be both the “creator” and “participant.”
I could create the "pieces" on separate index cards or in different documents on the computer.
The bottom line: As I complete each section, I would gain greater clarity on how the other parts might fit, which will give me a feeling of momentum.
Ok. So, I can see myself enjoying this “puzzle.” But what could take me to a higher level of enthusiasm—to, say, a +3?
Let’s look at this project in the context of my WHY. How does working on this project help push me toward my overall business goals?
It could ...
- Help me hone and master my craft of writing
- Open doors to new business opportunities by producing excellent work
- Connect with my readers—to bring them value
- Learn how to grow an audience.
The idea of learning valuable lessons—and becoming more valuable in the marketplace—does make me more excited to work on this project. I can see this taking me to a +3. What, then, would take me from a +3 to +5, where I just can’t wait to get to work on this?
I could build upon the previous ideas—that this is a fun puzzle, and the work I’m doing today contributes to my longer-term goals—and envision my audience’s reaction to the content. If I think about it, I have a moral obligation to grab my readers’ attention and keep it—to get my message across in a way that improves their lives or makes their jobs easier.
This is an awesome responsibility—and privilege. And I can’t wait to take it on!
The Ground Rules
If you want to get the most out of the PSI tool, follow these three ground rules.
#1. Be brutally honest.
This is not the time to force yourself into positive thinking. If you're feeling like a -4, but tell yourself that you're at a +2, your mind will call BS on you. Instead be candid. "I'm at a -4. I feel exhausted, burnt out, and simply don't want to work on this right now."
#2. Imagine the possibilities.
Once you’ve gotten real with yourself about where you stand on the index, consider the possibilities. If you could get into a more positive mindset, what actions would you have taken to help you get there?
For example, you might think, “I can’t get to a +2.” And, yes, in your current state, that’s likely correct. But ask yourself, “What if I COULD get to a +2? What would that look like? And what would have put me in that state?”
#3. Take action.
Now it’s time to take the ideas you have brainstormed and act on them. The moment you start feeling positive about the project, don’t delay. Get to work on it as quickly as possible.
The Bottom Line
As an entrepreneur, you’re called upon to do a lot of work that requires creative thinking. But you don’t have the luxury to wait for the “muses to speak” to inspire or motivate you. You’ve got to deliver. Now. And this PSI tool can help you do just that.
Sean M. Lyden is CEO of Lyden Communications LLC, a Strategy and Storytelling consultancy that helps entrepreneurs tell their story in a way that grabs attention, garners trust, and grows their business.
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