Eat That Frog!

Eat That Frog!

I’ll admit it. I’m a planner.

I used to be proud of it and even tried my hand at wedding planning. But I gradually came to realize that spending an entire working day just planning a project is not a good use of my time.

One of the great things about freelancing is the ability to raise your hourly income by being more productive. Planning doesn’t directly equal income. Productivity does.

As I’ve become more focused on productivity, I’ve begun to recognize a lot of planning for what it is: a convenient way to procrastinate. Sure, you feel like you’re working, but you’re probably just delaying the actual work.

To make sure I’m getting the most important thing on my schedule done every morning, I … eat a frog.

If you haven’t heard of this technique, let me assure you, I don’t eat an actual frog.

Brian Tracy, author of Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, made this concept popular.

Basically, you do the worst thing on your list first thing. Then the rest of the day is easy.

Here’s how to determine what your own frog is and make sure you eat it:

Before you end work for the day today, figure out your most important tasks for tomorrow. These should be things that will move you closer to your goals or directly impact your income. My list includes writing a project proposal, calling a client, and updating my website.

Now, choose the worst of the most important things – the one you’re dreading the most – and circle it. Then put a star next to your favorite item.

I’m scared to death of making phone calls – even “warm” calls – so that’s definitely my frog. I’ll do it first thing tomorrow morning.

This sets my tone for the day. I can do anything! And I have more energy and passion.

Next, I’ll write and send that project proposal. But in comparison to my frog, the proposal is a piece of cake.

Then, once all my tasks are done for the day, I’ll reward myself with my favorite task: updating my website.

Now, this only works if you eat the frog first thing in the morning. Resist the temptation to do small things first. Don’t check email. Don’t return phone calls. Don’t write a nonessential blog post. And don’t plan how you’re going to eat that frog.

Just eat it.

If you allow yourself to procrastinate by doing smaller, less essential tasks, your motivation and valuable time will be gone. Then you’ll have to tackle that big, scary task with less enthusiasm and energy. If you’re like me, that means you’ll put it off until tomorrow and feel guilty.

If you have a 9-to-5 job, you might be wondering how you can eat the frog first thing in the morning and still get to work …

You have a few choices. You could get up earlier and eat your frog before work, or you could schedule time each evening to eat your frog.

I personally recommend getting up earlier because after you come home from your J.O.B., your creative energy is likely gone. And other obligations will be screaming for your attention.

If you commute to work in traffic, try leaving your house an hour earlier. Eat your frog at the office. This way, you miss the morning traffic and save yourself some time and frustration.

What do you think? Do you already eat a frog every morning? Or are you going to start by making it your New Year’s resolution? Comment below to join the discussion …

Danger … “Shiny Objects” Ahead!

Danger … “Shiny Objects” Ahead!

Today, I want to talk about shiny objects and how they’ll hold back your freelance career if you let them.

Shiny objects are tips, tricks, or techniques that distract you from your main path. They make you think there might be a better, faster way to succeed.

When I started my journey to the writer’s life, I was plagued by indecision. I couldn’t figure out which direction I wanted to go or which route would give me the best payout in the shortest time.

Shiny objects constantly tempted me.

I would choose one direction only to hear about a better, faster one the next day. I would start learning about that, but in no time, I’d hear about something else that seemed even better.

It was a frustrating struggle that left me with a mess of training programs and bookmarked articles, but no progress. No matter how fast I learned, it felt like I would never know enough.

Finally, I heard about FOCUS (follow one course until successful), and I decided to come up with a plan – and stick to it.

I joined AWAI’s Circle of Success and met with Rebecca Matter. She helped me come up with a plan, and I didn’t look back.

I put away the programs and started ignoring the emails that didn’t support my focused path.

Filtering out the temptations to stray from my path is one thing that allows me to live the writer’s life.

Here’s how you can start avoiding shiny objects today:

First, decide on your path.

To make it really simple, pick an AWAI course. They come with step-by-step directions. It doesn’t matter which one as long as it’s something you’re excited about doing. Then make a commitment to finish that course and take action on what you learn.

Once you’ve made that commitment, it won’t be easy to stick to it. You’re likely to hear about all kinds of other paths and programs.

If you find yourself unable to commit and constantly chasing one method after another, but not making any real progress, take stock:

What happened with my last method? Did I follow through or abandon it? Why?

If you still think your last method is worth pursuing, don’t move on until you follow through. File away the new method for later.

If you still want to move forward on the new method, ask yourself:

Is this method essential to my success or another reason for me to procrastinate?

Essential would be contacting clients. Nonessential would be signing up for the newest social media site. Then ask:

What proof do I have that this method is better than my last method?

If it’s not better – or you have no way to know if it’s better – proceed with caution. Don’t try stuff just for the sake of trying it. Make sure you have concrete evidence that this is the way to go and that you will see results with this method.

Then, no matter which method you choose, make a commitment to see it through.

Going through this process has helped keep me on a path where I’m making progress instead of chasing after the newest thing.

I’ve found the key to achieving the writer’s life is staying focused and avoiding the pitfall of shiny objects.

Looking back, I realize my fascination with new programs was just an excuse to procrastinate. But along the way, I did find a few shortcuts that work and will get anyone to the writer’s life faster. (I’ll share them in next week’s article.)

So how about you? Do shiny objects distract you or have you found a way to overcome them?

How to Write an Article in 30 Minutes or Less

How to Write an Article in 30 Minutes or Less

An Article in 30 MinutesIf you have your own blog or website, you’re going to need to write content regularly. Fresh, new content on your site can bring you more traffic, make you look like an expert, and as a result, increase your income.

But a lot of people put off creating their own content because they think they don’t have the time to write quality articles or blog posts.

How would you feel if you could write 500- to 800-word original articles for your blog or website in just 30 minutes each?

If you have a money-making website and you’re dreading the process of writing hundreds of pages of individual articles for it, or if you’re trying to make a quick, big splash in your niche by contributing articles to industry blogs and newsletters, this article is for you, too.

It’s an easy, step-by-step process:

Think about what you’re going to say

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 200 words

Before you write anything, spend a few minutes thinking about what your article will say.

Get your head clear and find your message. Ask yourself …

  • What is the argument that I am trying to make?
  • What is the problem I am solving?
  • What action do I want my reader to take?

Remember, your article should be on a topic valuable and relevant to your readers.

If you’re writing to potential clients, for example, a good article topic might be “Why You Should Hire a Copywriter” or “7 Things a Copywriter Can Do to Make Your Life Easier.”

A great way to come up with topics is to review questions you’ve had from previous clients and answer them in a post. If you don’t have any past clients, you could look for questions on forums or in social media and answer those.

The fastest way to write an article is to write about a subject you know a lot about. But keep in mind, it should also be of interest to your readers.

If you’re studying something, for instance, how to increase traffic to your website, you could write about that because it’s fresh in your mind, you’ve spent some time thinking about it, and because your prospective clients are trying to increase their profits, they would probably be interested in learning about increasing their traffic.

Another example: let’s say a client asks you how to optimize their site for SEO. You might need to spend some time researching, but you could double your efforts. You could charge your client for your advice, and you could write an article (or several) to build your credibility.

Also, think about how tips from other industries can be applied to your niche to help your reader.

Then start writing. Write the one thing your article will cover at the top of your page.

Next, quickly write down keywords you want to craft your article around and any quick thoughts that come to you. Don’t worry about formatting or clarity at this point.

Just dump all your thoughts onto the page.

If you find you need to do a lot of research on your topic, maybe it’s not the right topic for a 30-minute article.

Organize your thoughts

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 100 additional words

Spend the next five minutes organizing everything you dumped on the page in the first step. Lump ideas that go together into parts of your article.

For example, if you have several pieces of advice on your topic, you can format it into a “tip” article, like “5 Ways to Get More Sunshine.”

Fill in any missing parts with questions your reader might have. For the above example, they might ask, “Why do I need more sunshine?”

Once you have a message or big idea, an outline, and some questions to answer, you’re ready to move on. Get ready to write.

Write fast and furious

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 300 additional words

For the next five minutes, write (or type) as fast as possible. Move through your outline filling in each part with anything that comes to mind – as long as it’s relevant.

This is completely about getting the words on the page as fast as possible. Don’t put any thought into the quality of your writing. This is purely about the quantity of words that you can get down on paper.

If you pause to consider what you’re saying, you’ll lose your momentum and slow down the process.

This might be very difficult the first few times you do it, and it might even take you 10, 20, or 30 minutes. But the more you do it, the faster you’ll get.

Remember, you don’t need to be long-winded because people have short attention spans anyway. Say what you have to say and say it quickly.

After you have written for a solid five minutes, just letting it come out without thinking, you should have upwards of 300 words or so.

It may be difficult at first, but with practice, you’ll be able to increase your writing speed and good ideas will come much faster.

Now, you’re almost done.

Clean it up

Time: 10 minutes
Goal: 200 words

You may be wondering how you can edit an article with just 10 minutes left on the clock. But the magic is, if you let yourself write without thinking, you should have less to edit. You have captured your natural voice, and your writing is already conversational and friendly.

Spend half your remaining time elaborating on your ideas and cleaning up anything that might not be clear.

Then use the last half of your editing time to check spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

Craft a headline

Time: 5 minutes
Goal: 5-10 words

When you’re writing copy designed to sell a product or service, you should spend a great deal of time on the headline.

In fact, you should write a lot of headlines, sit on them a while, revise them, come up with more ideas, attend peer review groups, and do everything you can to get the best headline possible.

But when you’re writing content for your blog or money-making website, you don’t need to stress quite so much.

Look at your big idea and see if you can work it into a headline that will grab attention. You can even pull words directly from the article.

Ideally, you can quickly choose a headline because you’re familiar with your topic and message. You just spent 25 minutes writing your article, so coming up with a headline for it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Just make sure you use your keywords in your headline and that your headline is compelling enough to make someone want to read your article.

If you want to spend more time on your article, I recommend spending it on your headline. After all, if your headline doesn’t grab their attention, they won’t read your article.

So to review, here are the steps again:

Step 1: Spend 5 minutes thinking about what you’re going to say.

For example, let’s say I’m writing an article on social media. That’s really broad, so I’ll spend five minutes coming up with my exact topic. I remember that I had one client ask me what times of day were most effective to update their status, so I decide to write about that. I’ve already done the research, so I know what to say.

Step 2: Spend 5 minutes organizing your thoughts.

Next, I would quickly outline my article. I know I’ll have an introduction, body, and conclusion, plus I’ll want to list out the best times to update social media profiles and why.

Also, I think it would be good to include a few tips on how to batch and pre-schedule updates.

Step 3: Spend 5 minutes writing fast and furious.

The next five minutes I would write down everything I can remember about how often and when they should update their social media profiles. I would talk about how it’s important to know when you’re audience is active and how they can find out and take advantage of it. I would also list the most popular times for social media activity – the times when their posts are most likely to be seen

Step 4: Spend 10 minutes editing your article or cleaning it up.

Then I would spend 10 minutes editing my article. First, I would make sure all my points are clear and probably look up a couple of statistics to prove my points. Then I would make sure there aren’t any spelling errors and that it reads well.

Step 5: Spend 5 minutes crafting a headline.

Finally, I would quickly come up with a headline. Possible headlines for this example could be: “The Best Times to Update Your Social Media Profiles” or “Your Customers are on Facebook Wednesday Afternoons – If You’re Not, You’re Losing Money.”

So how did you do? Did you finish your article in 30 minutes or less?

What other tips do you have for writing quickly? Comment below to join the discussion …