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I have a confession to make: Until recently, I wasn’t much of a writer.
For years, I was happy to hand the keyboard to others. But as I became more comfortable as a CEO and speaker, I started to experiment. At first, I wrote a journal entry here and a blog post there. After plenty of practice, I began working on Top of Mind. In the process, I noticed something: Not only did I enjoy writing, but I was becoming a better leader in the process.
Don’t believe me? Write something — a blog post, a poem, or even a thank-you note — every day. By writing consistently, you’ll:
Improve Your Sense of Self
Even before I began writing regularly, I admired E. E. Cummings, who said, “It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” Although Cummings was a poet, he would’ve made a wise leader.
Great leaders strive to become their best themselves. They see who they currently are, what they want to do, and how others can help them get there. The more they learn about themselves before and during that journey, the more authentic and effective they tend to be.
Treat writing as a chance to discover your true self. By becoming a more authentic version of yourself, you’ll boost employee satisfaction, happiness, and organizational commitment. Getting those thoughts out of your head and onto the page helps you understand not only your own behaviors and tendencies, but also those of your team members.
Become More Organized
But writing doesn’t just help me understand my long-term goals; it also helps me plan my short-term work. I can’t count, for instance, how many times I’ve laid awake at night worrying about an upcoming meeting or school event. Writing helps me untie my mental shoelaces so that I can get to sleep and wake up with a plan.
If your primary reason for writing is task-related, consider bullet journaling. For something less structured, try jotting down tomorrow’s goals every evening before bed. For example, I write down my three priorities for the next day right after I put my kids to bed. If those priorities are meetings or assignments, I add them to my calendar with some notes.
How can writing down your priorities before bed make you a better leader? When you get up, you’ll feel ready to tackle the day. You’ll know what you need to get done, and you’ll be less prone to distraction. By getting those shards of stress out of your head, you’ll focus more tightly on your true goals.
Strengthen Your Communication Skills
Whether you’re a startup CEO like me or a Fortune 500 executive, you must be a effective communicator. If you can’t share your ideas clearly, you’ll struggle to rally your team around them.
By writing regularly, you’ll come to understand the connotations of your words. Not only will you improve your emails and elevator pitches, but you’ll connect more closely with leads and peers. Plus, you’ll minimize misunderstandings by communicating concisely. Neither you nor your team members have time to sort through a word salad for the important points.
Best of all, writing consistently helps you clarify your purpose. If you can’t fit your intentions in the space of a tweet, you’ll struggle to get them out into the wider world. Once you can, you’ll find others are much more eager to share the news.
Become More Disciplined
Business today is, well, busy. You already have a full schedule, which can make it tough to find time to write in your journal or compose a blog post.
For better or worse, writing regularly requires you to ritualize it. You might dedicate your morning time to journaling, or you might set aside your lunch hour for blog writing. The type of writing and time of day aren’t important; what’s important is sticking with it, which requires discipline.
Especially if you’re new to writing, don’t worry about whether your work is “good.” Just sit down at the same time every day, open that Word document, and get started. If you’re stuck, just type your stream of consciousness. Slowly but surely, you’ll become both a better writer and a more diligent person.
Lower Your Stress Levels
When a top employee quits, a project falls through, or a customer leaves in anger, it’s easy to bottle up that stress. Not only can doing so cause you to lash out at your team, but it can seriously harm your mental health.
Fortunately, research shows that writing can reduce anxiety by giving you a chance to constructively process your emotions. Emotional writing helps you vent, count your blessings, and learn from negative experiences. In doing so, it helps you keep track of the bigger picture.
Although writing for 20 minutes per day about positive experiences may be the best way to improve your mood and health, don’t discount briefer sessions. Writing for just two minutes has been shown to reduce health complaints and facilitate healing.
How to Build a Writing Habit
Like most things in life, the toughest part of writing is getting started. Particularly if you’re not a natural writer, like me, then you may need some help getting started:
- Write when you’re alone. Try writing in the mornings or at night before bed. You’ll find the words come much more quickly when you’re not distracted by fires at work or worried about taking care of the kids.
- Don’t criticize yourself. Let’s be honest: You’re not Charles Dickens. Don’t worry about writing the perfect sentence. Just write. The more you do, the fewer mistakes you’ll make and the more benefits you’ll see.
- Make your own rules. Who says you have to write on pen and paper? Jot notes on your tablet. Sketch ideas on sticky notes. Use dictation software. Scratch them into the dirt, if it works for you.
- Get feedback. You don’t have to share your journal with anyone else. But if you wrote a blog post, an article, or even just a poem, let others look at it. Not only will it get you accustomed to the editing work that comes with writing, but it will give you confidence that you’re writing with purpose and to a relevant audience.
- Read and write daily. Nobody becomes a great writer without writing daily, or without reading the works of other writers. The more often you read and write, the stronger writer you’ll become — which, in turn, will motivate you to continue writing.
I may not be a novelist, but I’m no longer a novice, either. I write to understand myself, relate to others, communicate my goals, and get more done. I’m a leader, and I’m better at it because I bothered to pick up the pen.
January 9, 2019 at 07:14AM
Forbes – Entrepreneurs