Today we will look at a question that seems to be bothering techcomm newcomers and not only them: how do I discipline myself? Especially when the backlog keeps growing, I have to be chasing fickle deadlines constantly and procrastination is calling me.
Technical writing is tough. Tasks come in waves and it can be hard to tell how deadly and big a wave is from afar. One minute you are relaxed and concentrated on routine things and the other you get tons of messages from people, bug reports and new release dates piling up.
The first instinct of an inexperienced tech writer is either to try doing everything that comes up right away or simply start panicking. Both strategies suck. When the true wisdom of techcomm is revealed to you, you will understand that you need just to sit back and breathe. Do you want to be a good tech writer? Then you need to learn to zen. You see, a couple of minutes won’t matter, but they can help you regain confidence and look at the situation with more clarity.
If you don’t feel like you have it in you, try to create a better working environment that will help you get through this. This means keeping your desk in order, buying a couple of cute green plants, making sure the furniture is comfortable and the equipment is ergonomic and it feels great to work with it. Imagine a new shiny keyboard with smooth Cherry MX switches with precise electrical contact just as an example of a great tool that makes you want to start writing something. BTW, check out the post on geekiest keywords for tech writers to get inspired!
Another way to bring more zen into your workspace is tuning into the right music. The one that helps concentrate and doesn’t distract. With all that you will be more mentally prepared for the unexpected. When the time comes, sit back and give yourself time to adjust to the new situation. Then, you can start evaluating what is required of you and where all the tasks fall within the good old urgent-important matrix.
Stage two, make a list. This might not seem right to switch the focus in the middle of something, but the longer you postpone this, the higher are the chances of missing something.
Making efficient lists is an art and everyone ends up developing the kind of list that works best for them specifically. What we would suggest is using multiple lists. You can play around with the criteria before you settle, consider urgency and importance first of all. You might want to have separate lists for different products or work areas as well.
Another key advice — make your lists exhaustive by adding steps and descriptions. The truth is, if you don’t, you won’t remember any details in a week. For example, take your time to draw connections between different help topics to make sure you update the information everywhere. Of course, using single sourcing is a game-changer for such tasks. If you are not familiar with this approach, we highly recommend the following article on single sourcing.
That’s our take on surviving tech writing like a pro. One more thing you can try if you are lacking discipline is getting some great app — whatever works for you. You can use apps for setting goals and getting achievements for that if you are into this. Or, an app for controlling your social media surfing.
Remember, discipline is never about struggle or resistance. It is about accepting the situation, giving yourself time to adjust, and acting on it!
Good luck with your technical writing!
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