Attention management for writers, part 3: The obligatory Slack and email post, or: guilt management for writers

Until now, we’ve focused on calming the chaos of our internal voice. Now it’s time we talked about that other attention killer: external voices. And, because I like to cheat, their influence on our internal voice. One thing you can do this week: Understand the difference between objective obligations and emotions. Nothing new here Honestly, …

Attention management for writers, part 2: Plan your week, then your day

We tend to focus on planing one day at a time. And sure, we need to look at our plan in the morning (or the previous evening) and tidy it up. But we should also plan each week , either on Monday morning or, if you like spoiling your weekend, on Sunday evening. Some people …

Attention management for writers, part 1.2: Make your to do list work for you

By now, we’ve got a to do list app that we like. We’ve figured out the features that allow us to divide and conquer tasks – projects, tags, status flags, priorities, due dates. And that’s great for keeping things tidy, but we’re after more than that: we’re after peace of mind. One thing you can …

Attention management for writers, part 1.1: Forget about remembering

Intuitively, we know there are two things that destroy our attention: the voice in our head, and the voices of our colleagues (I am not qualified to tell you how – or whether – to ignore your kids). This blog series starts with the voice in our head. The one desperately trying to keep on …

Attention management for writers: foreword

It’s been a year of working from home. For some writers – parents, mostly – it’s been a year of zero focus. But for others, it’s been a revelatory year. One that showed them what work looks like when they control their interruptions. When no one can walk up to their desk to ask a …

You’re not suffering from writer’s block; you’re suffering from indecision

That dreadful moment (hour? day?) when the words won’t come. We think of writer’s block as something that is stopping a well formed image from settling into the right words. But in reality, a writer’s block happens when our mental image is a little hazy and abstract. We can’t put it into words because words …

Separate the user’s needs from the solution

In a conversation about your user’s needs, it’s natural to start throwing out solutions almost immediately. Someone brings up an aspect of the user’s needs, and someone knows how to answer that aspect. But suddenly, that one aspect is all you’re talking about. You’ve just blinkered your view of the user to whatever can be …

Writing from the ground up

Writing begins with awareness of the single word, then moves up. What can a word mean, and what does it actually mean in its current context? Does the sentence make its point as clearly as possible? Does the paragraph come together as a single point? Is it in the right place Does the whole document tell …

Redefine your audience through the gaps

When users find a gap in your documentation – some jump from A to C that gets negative feedback – don’t just fix it. Ask yourself how it got there. Gaps happen because: Someone didn’t think users needed the topic. This demonstrates a misunderstanding of the audience. someone didn’t think about the topic at all. …

This isn’t the job you were hired to do

When you start a new job, you can’t really work without a mental image of the job: “This is my role. This is what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.” But that image is about 90% wrong (yes, I made that number up), and you need to let go of it …