The ROI of good writing will be higher than people realize in the post-COVID-19 world. Being a good writer can ease the gaps in asynchronous communication. But to effectively communicate within your remote team you must learn to write for yourself first.
When internal information isn’t shared in a steady stream, high-quality written communication is paramount. Due to the pandemic, teams have been forced to work remotely and this trend will most likely continue. Twitter announced employees will be allowed to work from home forever. According to a Zillow survey, 75% of those working from home say they would like to continue to do that, at least half the time, after the health crisis subsides. Fully-remote work requires high levels of consistent communication. Long-form asynchronous communication will save time, create less confusion, and reduce real-time video conferences.
Distributed teams and remote work is new territory for many professionals. There is a wide array of playbooks that efficient remote teams practice, but one thing is universal — writing helps everyone. Before espousing a new way of work, it’s critical to learn by doing and caring about the reader you write for. As Jeff Goins, author of the national bestseller The Art of Work, once said, “Writing for yourself is the only way to begin writing.” Writing for yourself allows you to turn off the internal critic, examine yourself, and solve your own problem. Below is a brief reflection on my journey to publishing content consistently over a long period, the added benefits to my remote team and how you can free the writer within:
Four years ago was a new beginning of sorts. I sold my startup, started business school, and was working full-time at an early-stage investment firm.
I had experience launching and scaling startups, but the other side of the table was new to me. I became a voracious reader picking up anything business-related I could get my hands on. I soon realized that retaining this information outside of my mind would be beneficial to turn back to as a resource.
I wasn’t a writer, per se, but I decided to write for myself first.
I had hesitations about writing. I considered other methods to disseminate content, from visual videos to audio podcasts. Writing inevitably won out because it could serve as a living document that I could continue to refine.
You might be familiar with the 10,000 hours rule made famous by Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers. What Gladwell neglected to identify is that success is not solely predicated on the number of hours, but rather the quality of hours spent in deliberate practice. Deliberate practice is the root of all skill and has four components that I maniacally followed to fine-tune my writing ability:
• Set well-defined and specific goals — Publish one post a month.
• Focus and block out all distractions — Three hours at a time.
• Accept feedback — Ask girlfriend (now wife) for revision edits.
• Push outside my comfort zone — Write about the unfamiliar.
Deliberate practice empowered me to evolve my mind.
I initially posted on Medium without expecting anyone to notice. Little did I know, Medium would become the best content platform for discovery and social engagement to develop as a writer.
The hardest part when it comes to writing, at least for me, is starting. Once I built up muscle to power through deliberate practice, I realized I could spread it out over a more extended period without completing an article while sitting in place three hours straight. I began jotting down observations and ideas into my iPhone Notes app. I have a section in my Notes labeled “Posts.” It’s like an idea bank for content. When I’m ready to start drafting, I switch to my Medium app. I click “New Story.” I title it, add a beautiful image from Unsplash, and maybe an outline — problem, insights, solution.
My posts are between 400–900 words or three-to-five-minute reading time. I try to be as direct as possible and keep the readers’ attention, which are both qualities your remote team will appreciate.
Since 2016, I’ve published 272 articles and have been featured in respected publications. My articles are viewed 9,000+ times a month, amassing 5,000 followers. I never thought it would be possible to eclipse my measly Twitter following. Writing has improved my team’s communication, given me the confidence to write for a wider audience, put me in a position to do public speaking engagements, and made meaningful business connections.
Deliberate practice is a positive forcing function. Monthly articles quickly turned to writing weekly to simply…writing. Writing visibly shows growth over time not only by what’s on the page but the person behind the keyboard. Here’s a passage from an old post, “How I Achieved My Goal Of Writing One Story A Week In 2016”:
“I began 2016 with a few resolutions with one of them being to write more. Specifically, write one story a week revolving around detailed information about the subject I immersed myself with every single day: entrepreneurship. By setting a goal, I’ve been able to choose actions each day to support this goal. Week by week, the choices and decisions I needed to make became a lot clearer and often driven by the creative powers of my subconscious.”
Explicitly telling myself what I wanted to achieve helped my brain make better choices every day whether I was aware of it or not. The more I did it, the more automatic it became.
I wrote for myself solving my own problem before writing for anyone else. My desire to learn as well as my professional growth is evident in my work. The ROI from writing is only evident after putting the time, effort, and focus into it. Working together in a world where we’re physically apart will depend more on written communication. So start writing!
Harry Alford III is Co-Founder of humble ventures, a venture development firm accelerating tech startups in partnership with large organizations and investors. firstname.lastname@example.org