Writing in professional environments is challenging, but worse, all too often, we’re our own worst enemies when trying to produce successful written documents.
Whether it's battling procrastination, adopting poorly designed writing processes, or resorting to shortcuts, self-sabotaging behaviors can hinder writing productivity and effectiveness. Recognizing and addressing these issues is crucial to creating effective documents that generate desired outcomes. But how can you tell if you (or other members of your team) are part of the problem?
Do you under-resource your writers?
According to the latest State of Writing survey, more than six in ten businesses plan on producing more writing, but fewer than four in ten plan to increase the budget for it! That gap increases the potential for writing problems and subpar writing output. The reality is that good writing requires a lot of resources: skill and knowledge; the right tools; a comprehensive production process that involves multiple people including, potentially, original authors, editors/reviewers, proofreaders/copyeditors, and “beta readers” (sample readers drawn from the target audience); and more. If the organization doesn’t allocate enough of those resources, writing output will underperform.
Do you undervalue writing?
Sometimes professionals – or even entire organizations – don’t attach a sense of importance to the writing they produce. For example, the State of Writing survey also found that only 30% of respondents were “very satisfied” with the performance of their written content. Why? “The industry has accepted Meh as the acceptable standard,” says Doug Kessler, Creative Director and co-founder at Velocity Partners, of the survey results. “There’s a strong sense of giving up [emphasis ours] in all of this: of settling for less.”
In some cases, this may be due to team members believing that writing is a secondary task – not a core duty – that interrupts their “real” work. The only solution is to give writing its due: ensure both team members and the organization recognize the importance of the writing they produce.
Do your writers procrastinate?
If your team undervalues writing, they probably put off writing tasks. Why undertake a task until you have absolutely no other choice if you don’t want to do it and don’t believe it’s important? Yet procrastination is a writer's nemesis; the longer we delay, the more daunting the task becomes and the less time we have to produce good work. Procrastinated work is usually rushed work, and hurried writing will inevitably be worse than it otherwise would be.
To break free from this trap, set manageable goals. Dividing the writing task into smaller, achievable milestones can make the process less overwhelming. Moreover, setting aside dedicated time for writing, free from distractions, can help build a habit of consistent productivity. Finally, make writing a daily habit; just as with any other skill, the more you do it, the more ingrained it will become in your everyday work life and the better you’ll become at it.
Are your writing processes dysfunctional?
Inefficient writing processes can derail even the most talented writers. Several issues can potentially play into poor writing processes, including:
- Inadequate feedback mechanisms
- Poor documentation (e.g., a lack of style guides or standard operating procedures to ensure consistency)
- Overreliance on email for collaboration and communication during writing projects
- Departmental silos that restrict the flow of information between writing project stakeholders
- Unrealistic deadlines
- Unproductive review/editing processes
For a deeper dive into this question, read our article, “People, Process, or Strategy: What’s Really Causing Writing Problems at Your Company?”
Do your writers actually know how to write?
In most hiring situations, “writing” is considered a soft skill that falls under the much broader “communication skills” umbrella. Recruiters might ask for evidence of writing or communication skills, but most are more interested in the “hard” skills that they deem central to the job applicant’s role. The result is that most new hires join the team with writing skills that are just “adequate” and often heavily skewed toward an academic understanding of good writing.
In other words, they might be okay at stringing together grammatically correct sentences, but they’re probably less adept at crafting goal-driven documents that successfully achieve business objectives. If this is an issue, the only solution is a professional writing course that can develop the appropriate skills in a business context.
The battle against procrastination, inefficient writing processes, and other self-inflicted problems may seem tough, but by acknowledging these issues and implementing corrective strategies, any organization can overcome self-sabotage and unleash their productive potential.
For help identifying and resolving writing self-sabotage, contact Hurley Write for more information about what writing programs could make your team more efficient and effective.