Writing Waste 1: Not enough focus – A million little pieces (of sh!t)…
I opened the Word Document, scrolled to the end and started furiously writing.
An hour later, 2,000 un-edited words had spilled out – about horse training. I had woken up with an idea for an article, perhaps even a book, about natural horse training methods using hula hoops.
The problem was I wasn’t an expert on horse training, people didn’t contact me and ask me to help them with their horse behaviour problems, I didn’t sell anything to do with horses, I had no horse training course, didn’t do livery, nothing, zilch, just a big load of horse poo. That didn’t stop me. I then wrote an amusing article about HIIT (high intensity interval training) I called it SHIIT and based it on the optimum way of collecting horse shit and giving yourself a really great, all body workout, quickly.
Most mornings I wake up with an idea for an article: some mornings it actually has some connection to my day job – helping people write and get published!
Lack of focus catches me out regularly – it probably catches you too and leads to waste (or horse sh!t articles).
If you’re like me, you probably have too many interests, too many different clients you could serve, too many connecting ideas. Lack of focus for an expert (thought leader, consultant, coach, public speaker, etc.) means your audience doesn’t know who you are, what you can do for them, nor why they should contact you. You never fully serve a client or reader group. Lack of focus for an expert who wants to write (articles, blog posts, books, speeches) leads to paralysis or a million little pieces of unfinished content that sit on your computer staring back at you, accusingly!
Your smart, polymathic mind paralyses you in over-thinking.
Writing waste 1: Not enough focus because your thoughts are in control of your activity.
In fact you’re probably over-thinking everything!
Lack of focus in writing (and business) can come from a number of areas:
- Reading too much*: over-consumption of other people’s ideas can cause too many of your own as you make connections, links, jumps and flit around.
- Wide interest base: whilst being interested in broad areas makes you a great dinner party guest, when it comes to writing it means you probably have digit diarrhoea.
- You serve ‘anyone who needs your help’: when you don’t intimately know your audience you don’t deeply understand their needs. You cannot write for everyone, you have to pick a team.
- Scared of picking the wrong team: fear of missing out on a new area, or a rising idea can lead to never making a decision.
- Listening to your thoughts and believing them!
* You might be shocked that I say you can read too much – but it’s true, especially when you’re in the writing phase. You become plagued with self-doubt (“I’ll never be able to write that well”), find extra ideas that you want to shove in (and ruin a great structure), distract yourself with over-consumption (see waste #3). You can read more later!
However, you’ve not been completely bad! In Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein argues that to succeed in any field it’s a great idea to develop broad interests and skills while everyone around you is rushing to specialize. He discovered that in most complex and unpredictable fields it’s the generalists, not specialists, who excel. Generalists often find their path late, they’re more creative, more agile, and able to make connections that the specialists can’t see. So, you’ve been doing the right things all these years. Now, however, it’s time to specialise – for now!
How to fix a lack of focus
If the problem is over-thinking then the solution is to stop (for now). Give yourself a break from thinking about everything. Capture the thoughts, of course, but then put them aside. Your brain will know where they are and be able to retrieve them when the time is right. For now, just stop (thinking!).
- Make Dump Files: write your ideas in your journal, capture them on your iPhone, have a box by your desk or bed where you throw post-it notes and scraps of paper with all your wonderful (non-focused) ideas, have an Evernote (or note-taking app of your choosing) category for each of your interests.
- Decide: get clear on what you really love, what you are excellent at doing / teaching / creating, what need you can serve, and who has the money to pay you to serve them. Use my magic niche-omatic tool for experts below.
- Focus in: go deep on one area, one niche, one person. Imagine them, give them a name, describe their pain, and how you can help them. List all the ways you can help, capture all your helpful thoughts.
- Master that one niche: specialize (for now) on solving the problems for your selected group of people. Consider all the ways you can help them: tools, techniques, books, podcasts, courses, training. Develop a portfolio of IP (intellectual property) that you can earn from.
- Automate: if you really must move on to another area, make sure you have created a legacy that will continue to bring you rewards from your previous hard work.
Niche-omatic Tool for Experts
If you’re struggling to decide on one niche (for now) then try plotting your ideas on my niftily titled: Niche-omatic Tool for Experts. You can see I plotted a couple of my “niches”.
If your idea for a niche falls into any category except the top right (heart) then stop, pick a different niche (unless of course you don’t want to make money or you don’t want to make readers/clients happy!) If you’re over in the exclamation points or question marks there’s still room for manoeuvre, but you do need to move!
I have written a lot of books on Spain, moving to Spain, buying property in Spain, the food and cooking of Spain. I have a website that includes hundreds of articles on this niche. It does well in the search engines. I have a mailing list for that niche. I learnt and earnt a lot creating, writing and serving that niche. It’s almost on autopilot, and that frees me up to serve my next niche – experts who want to write.
I also have a website for horse lovers who want to train naturally with hula hoops – only me and my other half ever go there!
Solution for writing waste #1: Pick one niche, master it, automate it, move on. Stop (for now).
The Thought Leaders Practice – Matt Church: A great book for helping experts find a focus. It explains how you identify and target the market which values your knowledge most highly, refine and package your IP to make it commercially smart and utilise multiple delivery modes to maximise the value of your offering. Read it!
Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World – David Epstein: Will make you feel better about your lack of focus till now!
PS: I made up some words in this article – soz!