Content marketing success requires consistent individual and team productivity.
Content marketing productivity requires more than a knowledge of the latest best practices, tools, and techniques. On both individual and departmental levels, success involves acknowledging and accommodating the “human elements” that often undermine well-intentioned efforts by talented individuals.
If you are looking to become more productive, check out the seven books below. Each offers a different perspective on the overlap between the creative, writing, and project management competence needed for consistent high-level content marketing productivity.
1. Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky
Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality addresses a broad range of real-world productivity issues for a broad spectrum of content marketing writers and designers — plus managers who hire and manage them. It describes the challenges shared by creative individuals and outlines specific, actionable ways the challenges can be overcome.
Belsky identifies three types of creative individuals:
- Dreamers: Always generating new ideas
- Doers: Focused on the logistics of implementing ideas
- Incrementalists: They shift between dreaming and doing, but often waste their energy by working on too many different projects at once.
Making Ideas Happen also introduces terms we often encounter every day, such as:
- Idea intoxication: The “euphoria of new idea generation,” which is always more fun than testing and implementing tasks
- Insecurity work: Tasks undertaken out of avoidance or fear, but work that has no intended consequence
Making Ideas Happen avoids a “one size fits all” solution. Instead, it outlines a variety of strategies for enhancing content marketing productivity, including the following:
- Action method: This is based on immediately following up new ideas by identifying the specific tasks needed to bring an idea closer to reality. This involves prioritizing, delegating, and monitoring progress.
- Creative’s compromise: In this approach, managers must encourage writers and designers to explore new restraints and best practices that may initially be uncomfortable. The structure that creative individuals often desire can work against project completion.
In researching the ways that leading firms enhance staff creativity, Belsky discovered the power of workgroups and visuals to move projects forward. Too many writers and designers are isolated from their peers, instead of being inspired and motivated by them.
Often, the most creative firms have special work spaces with walls covered with impromptu sketches of current projects used to explore solutions and track progress.
In fact, in many firms he found done walls — walls covered with completed action steps from previous projects used as motivation tools to maintain team enthusiasm and morale.
2. The Pomodoro Effect, by Francesco Cirillo
Francesco Cirillo’s The Pomodoro Effect is a proven and established writing, productivity, and time management system. Used since the 1980s, it continues to gain enthusiastic followers. It’s based on focused, short, “beat the clock” writing sessions, frequent breaks, and strategies to handle interruptions.
There are four valuable, free resources at the Pomodoro Technique website. You can download them without registration for use on your own or in a group environment. The free resources include:
- Pomodoro Technique eBook: A 45-page, illustrated overview and implementation guide
- Pomodoro Technique Cheat Sheet: An exquisitely formatted one-page introduction to the Pomodoro Technique
- To Do Today Worksheet: One of the Pomodoro Technique’s most important tools, ready to download, print, and put to daily use
- Activity Inventory Worksheet: If your content marketing productivity is frequently interrupted, the Activity Inventory will help you document the tasks you’re trying to accomplish and help you see how you actually spend your time.
3. Help! for Writers, by Roy Peter Clark
Roy Peter Clark’s Help! For Writers: 210 Solutions to the Problems Every Writer Faces brings a journalist’s pragmatic approach to content marketing productivity. On the faculty of the Poynter Institute for over 30 years, Clark’s newspaper background doesn’t allow for missed deadlines.
Unlike many authors, writing teachers, and coaches, Roy Peter Clark is equally at home writing about, teaching, and coaching both fiction and nonfiction. He’s particularly skilled in creative nonfiction — sharing tips for crafting stories with a strong lead that immediately engage the reader’s attention… a storytelling approach that is perfect for content marketing.
Help! For Writers is Roy Peter Clark’s third (and most useful) book in his current series. (See his Amazon Author’s Page for details about his earlier books.) It’s also his most organized book. He organized it around a seven-step writing process, with three chapters addressing the most common problems associated with each step.
In each chapter, he addresses the 10 most frequently heard challenges or obstacles that interfere with writing productivity.
Unlike most media-specific writing guides, (i.e., how to write a book, how to write for the web, etc.), the 210 solutions presented in Help! For Writers are appropriate for all experience levels and all types of writing — articles, blog posts, books, speeches, etc.
4. The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg
Charles Duhigg’s recent bestselling book, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, describes seven practical ideas and case studies showing content marketers how to improve their habits so they can become more efficient and get more done in less time.
It’s a jargon-free approach with proven approaches for harnessing existing talents and abilities from this day forward — without introspection.
The Power of Habit builds on previous books, like Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Les Hewitt’s The Power of Focus (which stresses that, “Your habits are you future”), but provides dozens of up-to-the-minute case studies, implementation ideas, and examples.
The Power of Habit begins by describing the Habit Loop — the building blocks of repeated behaviors that put our brain on auto-pilot:
- Cue: Habitual behavior begins when you encounter a stimulus. The cue can be a sensation (i.e., I’m hungry), a stimulus (i.e., a sound or image), or an emotion (i.e., I’m lonesome).
- Routine: The cue is followed by a routine, behaviors that occur without consciously thinking about them. When you put on your shoes in the morning, for example, you don’t think about how you’re going to tie the laces.
- Reward: The reward is the benefit you enjoy after you’ve performed the routine — a feeling of accomplishment, a burst of energy, an emotional connection with others, or renewed sense of purpose.
By consciously manipulating routines and the rewards, it’s possible to develop new routines and rewards to replace inappropriate behaviors that can be interfering with your content marketing productivity — or the productivity of those you work with. Often, relatively subtle changes can lead to major benefits.
Hint: A great recipe for creating sustained content marketing productivity enhancement would be to read Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit along with Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen!
5. Accidental Genius, by Mark Levy
All writers are blocked at one time or another. When the words fail to appear, it’s nice to know that there are books like Mark Levy’s Accidental Genius: Using Writing to Generate Your Best Ideas, Insight, and Content.
Mark’s idea is very simple: When the words don’t appear, write anything. Write a letter to your mother explaining why you can’t write what you’re trying to write. Write a letter to your client or your boss explaining why you can’t write what you’re trying to write (but, of course, don’t send it!), etc.
Mark Levy is a corporate writing coach who encourages stuck business professionals to set a timer and write for 7 minutes. Then, stop — but don’t review what you’ve written. Then write for another 7 minutes. Soon, quality ideas and appropriate words and sentences will begin to appear. And, you’ll be on your way to success!
That’s an oversimplification, of course, but it’s the essence of Mark Levy’s book. Nothing happens unless you write something! When you write, even if your writing begins as nonsense, useful ideas will soon begin to appear… ideas you can later go back and harvest, to be used in your final drafts.
Accidental Genius is a great book for any freelance content marketer’s library or marketing department-shared bookshelf.
6. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield
In the Introduction to his 2010 bestselling Lynchpin: Are You Indispensable?, Seth Godin referred to Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles as “The most important book you’ve never heard of.” With an introduction like that, I couldn’t resist reading it… and, I’m thankful for the referral.
Although The War of Art describes many of Steven Pressfield’s decades of experience as a best-selling author, it’s not just a “writer’s book.” It documents the self-imposed trials that anyone — including job hunters and entrepreneurs — face when making major changes in their lives.
Inside all of us is a Resistance, an inbred predisposition to avoid change — even positive change. As mankind evolved, changes in the environment typically signaled danger — an approaching dinosaur, a warring tribe, fire, or threatening weather. As a result, we experience distress even if it’s submitting the final draft of an article or white paper.
Our resistance to change is often proportional to the importance of the project. Worse, resistance often increases as project completion nears.
The War of Art is not always a pretty book. Hopefully, no one reading these words will ever experience the angst that even most accomplished authors suffer from. But, we should all thank Seth Godin for bringing The War of Art to new audiences that can recognize its dangers and take appropriate action.
7. The Disorganized Mind, by Nancy Ratey
Have you ever noticed how some of the most brilliant, creative, people you know experience difficulties completing even routine tasks? Nancy Ratey’s The Disorganized Mind: Coaching Your ADHD Mind To Take Control of Your Time, Tasks, and Talents offers a possible explanation: They may be suffering from ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
When ADHD is present, the mind travels too quickly, responding so quickly to new ideas and opportunities that the original tasks are overlooked and forgotten. Think of ADHD as multi-tasking on steroids. Someone may start to write an article, answer a phone call, pick up on a new idea, go online to explore it in Wikipedia, and order a book on the topic from Amazon — all without making further progress on the article.
The Disorganized Mind is not a “medicine” book, but rather it’s a self-coaching book. It describes the author’s struggles with her own ADHD and the experiences she’s had over the years helping her clients. It’s a book about acknowledging the way your brain operates and developing self-monitoring strategies to assign priorities, resist distractions, and focus on what needs to be done right now in order to achieve long-term goals.
Like The Power of Habits, The Disorganized Mind is a positive book that reinforces an individual’s ability to make positive changes in their work habits at any age. Behavior is not “set in stone,” but it can be purposefully and positively improved.
Section 4, Living or Working with Someone with ADHD, may be of particular interest to content marketers managing, or working, in departmental settings.
What do you think?
Have you read any of the above productivity books for content marketing? What were they, and what did you like best, or like least, about them? Can you suggest other productivity books that you’ve found helpful? Share your comments or suggestions, below.
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