Goals

Impactful Writing Are You Asking These 3 Questions Before You Start Typing?

Have you ever spent a lot of time writing – and re-writing – a text that ultimately failed at accomplishing what you wanted it to?  

It is frustrating when this happens. Especially when we spent hours crafting a beautiful text only for it to be rejected or, even worse, ignored. 

But did you know that 90% of writing failures happen before you start typing?

Yes, your success is most at risk before a single word has been crafted. Because if you have the wrong idea from the start, you will turn out with the wrong text at the end

Starting right requires you to ask 3 questions: 

  • Who is my audience?
  • What action do I want them to take?
  • What do they know and need to know?

As an example, let’s look at Sharon – a personal financial advisor writing a marketing email to pitch her services to new customers. 

1. Who is my audience?

The first thing Sharon must determine is who her message is intended for. Is this email for:

  • 60-year-old retirees or 30-year-olds building their career?
  • Do they value security or maximizing their wealth?
  • Do they prefer to be involved or a hands-off solution?

These potential target groups have very different needs. For an email to be effective, it has to target just one of these groups and speak to their needs specifically. 

In Sharon’s case, she specifies her audience to be:

  • 30-something millennials
  • Who wish to plan for long-term security, and
  • Want to be involved in the investment process

2. What action do I want them to do?

Sharon’s goal with her email is to convince them to become long-term clients. 

However, choosing a financial advisor is a slow decision. You wouldn’t want someone to handle your finances before you felt sure that they have good intentions and the right competence, would you? Building such deep trust is a long process. 

Sharon therefore decides not to pitch her services in the email. Instead, she attaches an article she has written titled “Three financial mistakes that can cost your retirement $100,000” in order to:

  • Open the readers’ minds to the idea that they might need a financial advisor, and 
  • Show that she is an advisor who cares about helping her clients first.  

To get the recipients to learn more about her services, Sharon also adds a link to her firm’s website. Sharon has now specified the action she wants her audience to take: 

  1. Read the attached article, and 
  2. Visit her website for more information. 

3. What do they know and need to know?

There is a ton of information Sharon could include about her services, but not everything will be relevant for building trust. A possible analysis of what to include might look something like this:

Writing the text

Only now – having determined the audience, goal, and relevant information of her email – does Sharon start writing. This is her result:

Email subject:
“Do you have a plan for how wealthy you want to retire?”

Email body:
“Dear [recipient], 

You know how important it is to have a financial plan for retirement, and how hard it can be to know where to begin and whom to trust?

If so, you are not alone. Nearly everyone in their 30s wants to feel more in control of their long-term finances, but is unsure of how to do it. 

During my 15 years of advising individuals on their finances, I have noticed three common mistakes that many 30-40-year olds make unknowingly, that can cost their retirement as much as $100,000. 

Would you like to ensure that you are not making one of these mistakes? 

If so, I have attached an article below that explains what these three pitfalls are, and what steps you can take now to fix them. 

I hope you will find this helpful. Retirement may seem daunting, but it does not need to be. I have helped hundreds of individuals to retire with more than $500,000 in savings, and it is not rocket science. If you want to learn more about how to retire soundly, visit my website www.[url].com to find even more free articles. 

Best regards,
Sharon Conway”

This email is by no means perfect. But it’s likely much better than if Sharon had jumped into writing getting before asking herself:

  1. Who is my audience?
  2. What action do I want them to take?
  3. What do they know and need to know?

I personally felt that it seemed so inefficient to ask these 3 questions every time before I could start writing.

But now that I have tried it, I am never going back to my old ways again!

How Can I Achieve My Goals Faster? The 3 principles effective people use to get more done in less time

We would all like to achieve our goals faster. But why is it often so hard to get things done quickly?? 

I believe the main reason we struggle with productivity because we don’t understand where speed comes from. Sometimes we are super productive. But what we lack is a recipe for being productive on a consistent basis. 

Speed utltmately comes down to just 3 things: Focus, Urgency, and Trust

Focus

Focus is all about limiting how much you are allowed to do. This is the most important part of speed. Effective people get things done quickly because they choose to do fewer tasks – not work faster. There are two pieces to zeroing in on fewer tasks:

  1. Limiting the SCOPE of the work
    The first part is to cut all todos that are not absolutely, can’t-live-without, essential for getting what you need done. You only have focus when you physically can’t cut anything more from the list without certainly failing the goal.
  2. Limiting how much of the work YOU get to do
    This part is about asking yourself: “How can I achieve my goal by not doing ANY work?”. This question helps you identify work you need – but which don’t have to be done by you.
          For example, when my thesis partner and I were deciding our theis topic, we settled on doing a study with machine learning? Why? Because 1) the AI program would collect the data for us, and 2) a previous paper had already written 80% of the AI code we needed so we could just build upon their work. This decision saved us weeks of work. 

Urgency

Urgency is the twin of Focus. When you are forced to do something quickly, you limit the scope of the work and how much work you get to do. But Urgency also has a second gift – it forces you to settle for GOOD ENOUGH and move on. When you don’t have time to perfect the details (a.k.a unnecessary fluff) you have no choice but to say: “Good enough. Next!!

The mother of Urgency are deadlines. Deadlines can be either internal (we set them ourselves) or external (someone else sets them for us). But external deadlines are always best, for they leave you with no place to hide without disappointing someone or missing an opportunity. To get more done in less time, you can create external deadlines by:

  1. Promising someone that you will fulfill it by date X, or 
  2. Having someone else set the deadline for you

I just started a project at work I knew would take unnecessarily long to complete without a hard deadline. So I promised my boss I would have the report done by Wednesday next week, and wow did that force me to work fast!

Trust

The saying “Things move at the speed of trust” is repeated often for a reason – it is so true. Trust is what allows us to work faster together because we don’t have to spend any effort on protecting ourselves. There are 3 things that create trust:

  1. Mutual connections
  2. Shared values
  3. Giving to help

A personal example is how I got a job offer just 2 weeks after meeting the company – and without interviewing. First, the company’s CEO and I had a mutual connection with one of my professors at school, who gave me a personal introduction to the CEO. Second, the CEO and I connected immediately over our shared passion for helping young people find their life passion. Third, I then spent a week writing a report for solving an issue the company was struggling with just to help. My only goal was to contribute what they were building, and I gladly did that work for free. Within 2 weeks of meeting her, the CEO invited me to her home(!) and personally gave me a job offer. 

If you want to get more done in less time, think about how you can use Focus, Urgency, and Trust to increase your speed. Can you: 

  • Limit the SCOPE of your work?
  • Limit how much of the work YOU need to do? 
  • Promise someone to complete the task by Date X?
  • Use mutual connections, shared values, and giving to help to gain others’ cooperation?

When all 3 speed principles – Focus, Urgency, and Trust – come together, it’s remarkable how fast things can happen!