Tuesday 10 October 2017

5 easy tips to stop researching and start writing

On any strengths test I have ever completed, being a lifelong learner is top of my list. The desire to learn everything I can about whatever fascinates me right now has lead to Google and Pinterest being my best friends, and some pretty random conversations with my kids as I lead them towards the same path of learning everything.

But following every random squirrel thought (after Doug from the Disney movie UP!) can create chaos, in thought and action. When you've read too much information about a topic it can cloud your own work with someone else's words, or your brain becomes so overwhelmed that you can't move past the research stage into action, it's time to try something else.

1 - do the good stuff first 

if you're like most people, you spend your day getting everything out of the way, so you can focus on your personal projects or hobbies at the end of the day. But what if we tried flipping this around, and did the good stuff first, the stuff that fulfilled us, and allowed us the space to be ourselves (and get in some super-important self care while we're at it.)

Anecdotal reports are starting to appear around the internet that people who take self care first have been more productive during the day, better focused, and mentally stronger.

2 - set a timer 

the pomodoro technique of chunking time doing one activity for a set period of time is a great way to get things moving when you're stuck. If you don't have the will power to just ignore the open tabs on your computer, why not try a program like Cold Turkey, or Cold Turkey Writer? Cold Turkey can block your access to certain websites at times set by you, while Cold Turkey Writer blocks your whole computer, and offers you a screen that only allows you to type.

30 minutes is enough time to get words flowing, and once the timer rings, you can either keep going, to keep up with your thoughts, or take a five minute break (set a timer again, if you need to, to avoid getting distracted again.)

3 - brain dump 

one of the best ways to clarify your thoughts on a particular idea that you're researching is to dump everything out into a draft first. This can help you see where the gaps in your knowledge are, and slows you down from researching everything without a clear end in sight.

But be careful, because this can also lead you back down the path of over-research when you think you don't know as much about a topic as you thought you did. This is where the following point can help you.

4 - decide your hypothesis first 

as I have researched various thoughts recently, I have discovered that there was a lot of unexpected value in the science reports that we wrote at school. When we want to teach with our writing (which is usually why we research), having a clear idea to follow helps avoid the random tangents that research can often lead to.

You can either write this out on a piece of paper, so it's sitting in front of you as you type, or just make it the first line of your writing, and then move on from there.

5 - just do it 

look, I don't have all the answers in the world, or even have much success at actually applying this to myself, but sometimes I have found that the simplest ways to get anything done is to actually stand up and do it. Don't promise yourself any reward, don't yell at yourself, just start doing whatever the task is. I'll often find that I'm finished way quicker than I thought I would be (this happened every quarter when we still had our truck and I had put off the accounts all month)

The action of getting up (because we're often sitting down when the thought crosses our mind that we must do something) and placing one foot in front of the other with a clear action in mind will get us moving from one task to the next in a logical pattern. I find this most helpful when I've been procrastinating the big sorting jobs of bedrooms, or starting to write again after a period of no words.

bonus tip - invest in a class 

sometimes all the research in the world is related to something that we're struggling to put into place for ourselves, whether it's related to our work (eg, creating a sales funnel for your blog) or personal (eg, learning to stop the mindless Facebook scroll.) Sometimes it's impossible to learn to do those things by ourselves, and we need the words of someone who doesn't know us to guide us in the right direction.

Related - How to choose the right expert for you

The explosion of online courses means that there really is someone out there who can teach anybody anything, so pay close attention, because the right person often pops up when you least expect them (or can afford to pay them, so take a chance!)

How do you get yourself writing again after a break?
linking up with Capturing Life


  1. I love the 'do the good stuff first' idea!

  2. I wish I could do the good stuff first, but I refuse to wake up any earlier than I already do for work! It's something I'd like to do once I get to find a job that doesn't have such a crappy commute.

  3. That is great advice for my freelance writing. I do tend to spend an awful lot of time researching and it can definitely cloud your own writing. #teamIBOT

  4. So many great tips, Cate! i think I really need to get that Cold Turkey thing, the amount of times I've found myself mindlessly scrolling through FB and realize that I've just wasted 3 hours of prime work time is appalling! I really need to curb it!

  5. I love hearing the "do the good stuff first" ... I always feel kinda guilty when i do (because i hear to many people say you need to "eat the frog") but you are so right about it feeling good to get your teeth into something you love first up.

  6. So many great tips! I need to get myself to "just do it" more too. Your blog looks great, by the way!


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