Recently, I wrote an article for a corporate newsletter that focused on BDPs, or best demonstrated practices, for sales professionals.
Several seasoned veterans in the field shared their most successful strategies for sealing the deal. Trial and error was key, as it turned out. Sometimes they’d try one tactic, only to realize that it wasn’t working very well, so they’d tinker with it or even switch to something else. When that second effort worked better, they adopted it. And they shared their proven strategies with others in their corporations — spreading the wealth, in effect.
As writers and editors, most of us who have been doing this for a while have also developed some strategies that help us get the job done. We might use the corporate-speak phrase “best demonstrated practices,” but the concept is essentially the same.
The strategies below — BDPs — help these writers succeed, and they might help you, too. And who doesn’t want to succeed at what you love doing?
Get up from your desk to do your thinking
Staring at your computer monitor, with that tyrant of a blinking cursor, can be the death of great ideas. So it’s time to step away from the screen, folks. Often, getting a change of scenery is a great way to get your ideas flowing.
And you might not even have go that far away.
GiGi Rose, a writer based in Nashville, Tennessee, calls herself a shower thinker. “A shower helps get my ideas moving. No pressure to write, just to think,” she says.
Food writer and blogger Susan Williams is a shower thinker, too. “I always thought that was a bit odd, but it seems to be where ideas come best,” says Williams. “It’s like everything that’s a few layers deep rises to the surface there.”
Make technology your friend
Email can be a godsend. It can also pile up in your inbox and taunt you. (Just me? Nah, I didn’t think so.) Fortunately, you can make technology work for you, rather than against you.
Liza Graves, co-founder of the website Style Blueprint, found help for dealing with mountains of email in an email management program called SaneBox. The program pulls emails that don’t seem urgent or perhaps as relevant into a separate folder dubbed the @SaneLater folder. The emails that get shunted into the @SaneLater folder get summarized in a daily email digest that arrives each afternoon, so users can check to see if they missed anything.
“It’s not 100 percent, but it helps,” says Graves, adding that she likes not having lots of folders to check.
Jennifer Dunn, writer and chief of content for TaxJar, is a big fan of the web-based project management program Trello. Trello enables users to create boards full of lists and tasks, then customize the due dates, make checklists and upload relevant files, among other features. The program also sends notifications to users so they don’t miss anything.
Dunn estimates that she’s been using the program for about two years — ever since her company strongly encouraged her to give it a try. “I got thrown in feet first and fell in love,” she says. “I use it for everything.”
Other useful apps and programs that many writers have turned for help in using technology to help them manage their work include Remember the Milk (Me! What did I ever do before I found this app?), insight.ly and Freshbooks, which many freelancers swear by for invoicing.
Give yourself a break
There should be no guilt in taking a break, whether it’s for an hour-long exercise class at the gym or for an entire day of the week. The truth is, all work and no rest can burn out a writer.
You might even discover some new ideas that bubble to the surface when you’re not trying so hard.
When she was working as a “solopreneur,” JoAnn Takasaki, a writer in Houston, Texas, realized that she was working all the time, including nights and weekends, and decided to take action. “I put aside Wednesday for my personal day,” she says. That’s the day when she could head to the grocery store at 10 a.m. if she felt like it, or tackle other personal tasks.
Marketing professional Phyllis Nichols is a big fan of taking a walk. “Nothing helps me focus better,” she says. “I don’t listen to music. Sometimes, a podcast, but usually (just) quiet. My brain always gives me some great ideas when I introduce some quiet time and let it help.”
Rose also believes in the value of taking a break and often seeks out her favorite spot in her house, bringing along her coffee mug. “I believe in making yourself a sanctuary,” she says. “And I either talk to myself out loud or read what I have written out loud. My little quirks keep me focused and centered. And they help me enjoy what I am doing.”
You might also experiment with taking short breaks during your workday. A method called the Pomodoro Technique is helpful for writer and editor Rebecca Schiller. The technique calls for 25-minute writing sessions, with short breaks in between. “I make mine longer and take a 15 minute break,” she says.
What works for you?
You might be able to adapt one of these best demonstrated practices to your own writing business. Or maybe you have developed a surefire winning strategy of our own, maybe a way that you strategically schedule your day or manage your income and expenses.
Please share your best BDPs with us!