While I’m not much of a New Year’s Resolution guy, I guess I’ve set a resolution. I need to restart writing weekly articles for Accendo Reliability.
The thing is, I struggle to write. Plenty of other interests and tasks keep me away from the keyboard. Yet, as I explained to a few new authors how writing and posting on Accendo Reliability is a good thing, I realized I have been putting off hitting the keyboard again.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve explained to those interested in writing articles about the virtuous circle created by having many authors contribute articles, which increases interest, engagement, and traffic to those articles, which further increases the reach of those articles. Of course, this is just one reason, and there are others, plus plenty of hurdles to overcome.
Resolutions and Goals
Resolutions, to me, are a pledge to start. Start a new habit. Learn a new skill. Create a new habit. Connecting a resolution to a goal is a common practice. For example, a resolution to start exercising (new gym membership peak is in early January) is more likely to become a habit if there is a SMART goal related to exercising. For example, to lose some specific amount of weight.
Having a reason to start may be the motivation to do so and to keep going.
In reliability engineering work, we often have a goal. A reliability goal may be fully stated, yet a goal is not worth much if we do not get started with the work to achieve that goal.
Writing seems different. What is the goal? For some, it is to share their knowledge and experiences. For others, it is to build community. And for some, it is about exploring topics as a way to learn. It may be possible to craft a measurable goal around writing.
The trick, I think, is the benefits of the goal, the source of the motivation. Whether for writing for Accendo Reliability or executing a meaningful reliability plan, has to be enough motivation to get past all the ‘reasons’ not to get started and to keep going.
The Difficulties Around Writing for Accendo Reliability
I opened this writing application about 45 minutes ago. There isn’t 45 minutes of writing to show for that duration. I got some coffee. Started a playlist for background music. Washed and put away some dishes. And attended to a few other distractions.
Given the topic of this article, one may consider those distractions as ‘research.’ The trouble is I’ve been distracted for over a year. Iterating the benefits of writing while encouraging others to start or continue to write got me to sit down at my keyboard.
There are two major barriers to following through on a resolution or plan to achieve a goal: time horizon and doubt. We like quick wins and doing what we know how to do.
THE LONG ROI TIME HORIZON
My most-read article on Accendo Reliability is titled “4 Effective Risk Mitigation Strategies”. It was written in the fall of 2015. today it has over 200,000 reads with an average time with the article open (active window or screen) of over 6 minutes. It enjoyed little attention until the start of 2018 and has steadily grown.
Writing practical, useful content rarely goes viral or makes the evening news. The return on investment for the hour of crafting a post is not all that much after a month or a year. It takes time for our writing to make a difference—time for the right people to find, read and benefit from the work.
Cleaning and organizing my desk provides an immediate hit of accomplishment. I can check it off my to-do list right now. I can see the results immediately.
Being an author of an Accendo Reliability article series does provide a sense of accomplishment when you hit publish. And you can see your article online for all to see. The real benefit to your readers and you may take months or years to occur.
While we certainly enjoy quick wins, focusing on the urgent all the time is another way to avoid addressing the important work we should do to achieve our goals.
THE DOUBT THAT HOLDS US BACK
The second barrier is a bit more personal. We often are our own reason for not starting, trying, or continuing. We have a wonderful ability to avoid change. And we doubt our ability, which is never good enough.
Doubt comes in many forms. Internal and external criticism, fear of failure or success, fear of the unknown, and the doubt we can overcome the difficulties that will arise.
The lack of an immediate ROI doesn’t help, as we wonder if the effort is worth it.
Sometimes doubt comes from what would appear to be sage advice. One common career refrain is “follow your passion.” Instead, Dan Cable, in a Harvard Business Review article, suggests we should “follow our blisters.”
Dan suggests that we should embrace those tasks or opportunities that we find hard, difficult to master and that we are drawn to over and again. Following your passion is doing what you are good at, you love doing, and it is rewarding. Instead, focusing on what draws your attention and is hard to accomplish means you will get the experience of working through the ‘blisters’ (the difficult parts). By doing so, you master a skill, such as writing.
Now, writing may never become your passion. It may remain hard work. Yet, by deliberately focusing on overcoming the difficult parts, you can become very good at writing.
If you don’t start, doubt wins. If you don’t persevere, the benefits of the desired goal will not arrive.
I have found writing for Accendo Reliability rather rewarding. I suspect each author on the site likewise derives suitable benefits, too.
The reason for writing has changed over time for me. At first, it was to provide those preparing for the ASQ Certified Reliability Engineer exam with a set of short tutorials. At one point, the purpose of my writing was to allow potential clients to get to know, like and trust me. Today, it is to share what I know and by doing so encourage others to begin and continue writing.
The actual benefits have ranged from the satisfaction of publishing my words into the wild, to income, to words of encouragement and thanks from those that have enjoyed and benefitted from my writing.
So, this article, written the first week in 2023, is me restarting my writing. I’ve a few topics to address and if you’d suggest a topic or two, that would be most appreciated.
Richard Denning says
Really like the ROI chain of thought and something I need to explore in my own life as i can always find something with a more immediate ROI than put finger to keyboard.
Fred Schenkelberg says
Thanks for the note Richard, and yes, I find that even knowing that writing has a great ROI, I find plenty of ‘urgent’ things to provide a distraction. I found when I was writing articles every week, that, like exercise, the pull of the habit alone was enough to get me on the keyboard. Need to rebuild that rhythm and habit again. (and same applies to exercise for me, as well) cheers, Fred