Monthly Archives: November 2010

Six Great Articles To Improve Your Writing

Do you want to become more comfortable blogging? Crafting a strategy to post interesting posts frequently can be a challenge.  Here are 6 articles from expert bloggers who discuss how to generate useful posts, how to get over the need to be perfect, and how to get your ideas out there as often as you can.

1.  “How to write 3 blog posts in one day” by Chris Brogan (writes 4000 words per day!).  Chris encourages readers to get over the need for everything to be perfect in order to write, but to instead find pockets of time to write. You can do this if you keep a notebook in your back pocket, take photos of interesting things, use Evernote to capture your thoughts, etc. He advises that you get into the habit of seeing everything with curious eyes, and show the world what you are seeing. He also says not to be afraid to write clunkers, and write imperfectly…

2. “How to write a great blogpost in 15 minutes” by Nerma Moore
Nerma recommends developing an organizational format for each of your articles (so you don’t have to think about this each time). She says to keep a bank of headlines (questions, quotes, short story title spoofs, stats). She of course says to time yourself, and strive to write short, comprehensible sentences – then, step away from the computer. She says to “think progression, not perfection.”

3. “5 simple ways to open your blog post with a bang” by Brian Clark.
Brian outlines 5 ways to start your blog posts. The most interesting ideas were to share an anecdote that will make people laugh, and use words like “Imagine” or “Picture this” or “Do you remember when…” I think I could also have fun with using analogies, metaphors, or similes, as he suggested, especially if I can conclude the article with a tie back to the beginning. Fantastic read!

4. “The reason you are stuck”
by Seth Godin.
“You must find something SO IMPORTANT that it is worth enraging your prehistoric fears, SO IMPORTANT that you can’t sleep until it ships, SO IMPORTANT that yes, you are willing to go through all the hoops Leo lays out for you in order to ship. Either that, or you could be mediocre instead.”

5. “How to write an executive summary” by Eric Markowitz.
Eric starts out his article with a 2 sentence sub-headline, that summarizes why you should read the article – great technique! He also advises that the executive summary should tell readers what it is that you do, and why they should read the rest of your text, proposal, results, report, etc. He says your first sentence is the executive summary of the executive summary, and that you should tailor your summary to your audience (much like you tailor a resume to a job description). Your summary should strike a chord with your readers, and describe how you’re report is special/unique in a certain way. Finally, I really liked his idea to create an executive summary that matches the outline of your report, and to include a section called Why Now, to show the urgency of reading the report. Great ideas!

6. “Rethink your web presence” by Chris Brogan.
Chris says we need to think about what users want when they come to our Web site, Twitter page, LinkedIn page, Facebook page, etc. First, we need to spell out who we want to come to our sites. Next, we need to identify how they will know they belong there. After that, we need to show what we want them to do – and make this really obvious. Finally, we need to explain how they can stay in touch with us. Great tips!

What materials have you read about how to write better? Please feel free to share in the comments!



Bonus Articles:

“Elements of a Good LinkedIn Recommendation” by Chris Brogan

“How to write Better Linked In Recommendations” by Lisa B. Marshall

Do you need to be right all the time?

Have you ever tried to introduce a new idea, but had people tell you that it is a bad idea? Have you ever voiced a concern, or offered an alternative direction, and heard someone say to you:

“No, that won’t work…that’s not possible…that’s not relevant.”

It can be unsettling to face resistance, especially when the resistance happens in front of others. It can feel like a huge blow, and can be very hard to swallow the fact that people don’t see where you are coming from. It seems as though UX Professionals in particular feel tempted not to voice their opinion at all, when they have faced too much resistance. However, we can’t let these things get to us. We need to learn to let things roll off our backs, and move on. Here are five tips and advice that UX professionals can use to approach conflict:

1. Change your attitude. UX professionals think very highly of themselves, and have a tendency to position themselves as higher, or more important than others. When others resist their idea, it comes into conflict with how they view themselves – how could anyone not support my brilliant design decision? How could they not understand all this brilliant research I have done? Newsflash: you are not more important than anyone else. So, change your attitude, get over it, drop the ego, and move on.

2. Be humble and gentle. You may be very passionate about your idea, and you may want change to happen no matter what the cost. You might be tempted to talk about your years of experience and accomplishments, thinking that it makes you more credible, and that they should listen to you more. But this just makes you come off arrogant and conceited. It really does NOTHING for your cause. Also, be sensitive to the fact that maybe those you are talking to are not ready to fully embrace your idea. Give them the opportunity to solve the problem as well – treat them the way you want to be treated, and seek out their thinking and expertise on the issue. Be gentle and soft-mannered in your response back.

3. Do not introduce a new idea out of selfish ambition. Before talking with your team about a new idea, determine why you are introducing this new idea. Your team will be able to sniff out any selfish reason you are trying to get them to adopt your thinking, especially if you are looking to get more recognition. Think instead about what would be best for the team, and for your fellow teammates. Generate new ideas and opinions that make them shine, advance, give them more flexibility, or help them become a more balanced employee.

4. Don’t consider perfection as something you can grasp. Accept the fact that you will fail, and make mistakes, and that others will make mistakes too. You can’t possibly be perfect at everything, and mistakes will come, no matter how hard you try to prevent them. Keep a notepad with you at all times – when you make a mistake, write it down, and what you will do differently next time. Then move on. Also, don’t expect others to be perfect either – they are human, just like you.

5. Be patient. Your idea may be a good one, or you may have a legitimate concern. However it might just not be the right time to introduce your idea. You can always come back to it later, if you feel you are still concerned. But just be patient for your team to get to a point where they are ready to try your new idea.

You don’t have to be right all the time, and you don’t have to stress when others don’t see things from your point of view. Life goes on, and if you treat each other right, you might just get more accomplished than you thought you could have otherwise.

“The happiest of people make the most of what comes their way.” ~Unknown

Sometimes User Experience Research can be stressful. It can be difficult to manage competing priorities between clients and projects, and it is nearly impossible to please everyone. No matter how hard you try, you can’t be “perfect.” How then, can we make sure that we are delivering value to the organizations we serve?

Make the most of your mistakes. I’m learning more and more, that instead of perfecting a project to flawlessness, it is more important to make the most of the hours I’m given, and embrace any mistakes that come my way. Doing your very best, and giving it your all, suddenly isn’t about putting in all the hours you can, but making the most of your mistakes.

Address the root cause of your failures. Instead of putting in a ton of hours perfecting your work, embrace your failures, and instead spend more time finding new ways to solve the root problem for the failure (lack of resources, clarifying priorities, etc.).

Show your clients & employers that you can pace yourself, and won’t burn out. Clients and employers really want to make the most of our services, and are happiest when they can use our talents and skills to their fullest potential. They don’t want us to burn out, hit a wall, or crash. They want us to continue to produce high value to their organization.

The only choice I see, is to work hard during the hours we are given, make mistakes along the way, and learn from them. This does not mean we should slack off, and not do our best at work. It means learning to say no to distractions, and being highly efficient in our work.