Eliminating Distractions in a Social Media World

I don’t usually share the big parts of my life in this blog, but once in a while I think there’s a valuable lesson here, so you know, there you go.  This week has been one really big learning experience after the next.  It’s been one of those weeks, you know what I mean?  It’s a week where there’s not a curse word long enough to encompass the fuckery and so all I can do is mutter calmly, which should scare the shit out of most people in my general wake.

The real world has been highly distracting.  For example, yesterday, Wednesday, August 31, 2016, there was a drugged up madman roaming my neighborhood with a fucking gun.  I wish I was making that up.  I was already dealing with plenty enough distractions in my personal life that adding this weasel on top of it all was much too much, you know?  So, yesterday was kind of a pisser and not much got done besides a lot of tea drinking and stress spiraling and general freaking out.  But from those ashes an idea was born.

The World is Big and Loud and Awful

I’ve been really stressed out lately and I can’t figure out why I can’t get more done with increasingly smaller amounts of time.  What I didn’t realize until yesterday is how much of my day is spent juggling social media, email, friends, family, work and this blog.  And it is a juggling act because all of those things need attention.  It’s not like I can just stop answering emails or let my social media wells run dry.  I can’t ignore my friends or family or just stop working (wouldn’t that be nice?), I can’t give any of it up, but each thing is such a demand that there has to be some way to make it all work better.

I spent last night thinking about all of this.  I’ve actually written a stack of B2B blogs about how managers can better schedule their time, how business owners can avoid burn-out and so forth — but do I take my own advice?  Of course not.  What the fuck do I know?  Obviously nothing.  Clearly.  I’m not trustworthy.  I think we all know that.  But, as it turns out, I’ve written some things that are actually useful, so I’m going to sort of round them all out for you here.  My top tips, as it were, for dealing with a big, loud world of virtual and real problems that seem to tug and tug and tug at a person until they feel like they’re going to explode.

This goes for everyone, not just freelance writers or creatives or artists.  I mean, everyone.  Parents, people with cats, owners of Ford Broncos.  Absolutely everyone needs to learn how to better compartmentalize the noise that’s coming at us all constantly.  We’re drowning in silent screams, whether we know it or not.  It’s time for a change, kids.

These are my top tips.  Gobble them up.  Like Superman’s mom said about the world in Man of Steel, “Make it small.”  Super Mom.  That’s who she is, guys.

1. Prioritize. Your. Shit.  Hey, I’m the first to admit that I’m terrible at this, but I’m working on it.  There are things that will always jump up in your face and get in the way, but every morning, before you do anything, sit down and make a list of things that need to get done.  List them in the order they must be accomplished and check them off. in. order.  If an armed gunman pops up in the middle of your checking things off and screws up your list don’t panic, just do your best to stick to the plan.  Get the stuff done that has to get done.

2. Shut out the noise.  If you’re anything like me, you have several email boxes that allow you to sort out the incoming garbage.  This email is for work, this one is where you get personal stuff, that one’s for spam, but sometimes coupons… you know what I mean.  Spend some time going through those boxes and bother to unsubscribe from the stuff you literally never look at.  If it’s an automatic File 13, make sure it never gets to your box in the first place.  It’ll slow down the pace that your email goes off and you’ll have less to sort through in the morning.  Seems simple enough, but this is a major undertaking, so treat it like eating an elephant: do it one bite at a time.

3. Get organized.  I know you think you’re organized, but you’re not.  If you’re constantly distracted from what you’re doing, if you can’t finish a blog for your email going off or your social media demanding your attention, your organization is shit.  You can turn off the social media for an hour, you can leave the email alone long enough to go to the bathroom.  It can be done.  Organize more than your desk, organize your mind and your time.  This hour is for email, this hour is for work, this hour is for ice cream.  Google Calendar can be a great help for this and doubles as a checklist if you delete things as you accomplish them.

4. Automate your day.  It might not seem as genuine as posting live, but automation is awesome.  Tools like Buffer and HootSuite are amazing for keeping your social media roaring on without your having to constantly monitor it.  I use Buffer, I’m not ashamed to say, and I love it.  I can top it off with 10 or 15 posts in an hour and go on with my day and it feeds my social media crowd for most of a week.  The same goes for things like your blog.  Often (obviously not today), I write these posts way ahead of time and schedule them to go off when it’s time.  You can always bump timeless pieces for breaking news, but having a few scheduled blogs is a great way to keep things rolling.  I’m told that automated email replies are also awesome, though I don’t use those.  I generally just check my email once an hour or so.  Can’t be perfect all the time.

5. Let yourself fuck up.  You heard me.  Guess who’s not perfect.  Yep, it’s you.  You’re a giant bag of failure, in fact.  I saw you fuck up last week when you thought no one noticed.  You got stressed over that thing and shit slid sideways.  Let it go, baby.  It happens.  Things won’t always go your way, life won’t always be perfect.  What will keep you from being at your best is how you respond to those days when it feels like the world is crumbling in your hands.  Do you reach out and phone someone, do you get a friend to help you pick up the pieces, do you hold all that shit inside until you implode into a singularity?  How you respond to fucking up is what defines you, not the fact that you fuck up.  And fucking up your response to fucking up isn’t a death sentence either, so long as you recognize, regroup and respond better next time.

Even this blog could be a source of distraction if you’re reading it instead of, say, drinking coffee if it’s supposed to be your coffee drinking hour.  So, I guess my point is that you’re kind of a jerk and you really need to get your act together.

I can’t believe you writers.  You’re such a fucking mess.  My lunch alarm just went off, so I’m outta here.  Go fuck yourselves.

 

Campsite Rule Applies to Writing Clients, Too

Look, there’s something we need to seriously talk about, Copywriters.  I’m finding myself picking up the pieces you left in your wake, and frankly, I’m tired of it.  So, from now on out, the Campsite Rule is in place for client contacts.  Just like Dan Savage (a talented writer and seemingly decent human) long ago declared for human relationships, I declare that you shall no longer leave your clients a wreck.

If you’ve not heard of the Campsite Rule, let me introduce you.  Savage, a sex columnist, coined the phrase in the mid 2000s for relationships where one person is considerably older than the other — but let’s face it, this shit applies to all sorts of situations.  The gist of it is that you’re to leave the other person in at least as good of a condition as you found them, just like at a campsite.  Don’t break them and leave a mess for the next guy.  And, boy, do you Copywriters love to leave a string of bodies in your wake.

You’re Fucking Up Big Time, Writers

If there’s one thing — one thing — that I always advise when it comes to clients, it’s to never, ever fuck them or burn your bridges.  You never know when you’re going to need a reference, a recommendation or simply want to reconnect with them.

This life is too unpredictable to destroy carefully cultivated relationships.  Period.  Your clients are putting their trust in you and their business’s marketing in your hands.  If you can’t commit to that fully, you need to bow out gracefully — not leave them in the lurch.  Let me give you an example.

I know of a guy who isn’t the best client in the world — he’s not going to get any sort of award for being an amazing client, but he’s still an ok guy.  He’s gun shy about working with copywriters because some, a few, have taken his money and never delivered.  Because it’s been small potatoes, he didn’t have much in the way of recourse, other than to become even more defensive and paranoid about the next writer.  I’ve worked with this particular fellow on and off for the better part of three years because he keeps trying to find a cheaper copywriter and keeps running into this problem.

Well, I can hear you say, he deserves it for being such a cheap bastard.  Normally, I’d agree with you, but no… no, you’re wrong.  Super fucking wrong.  No one deserves to be treated like this.  If you feel like you deserve more money, it’s on you for not asking for it or for not finding a client who can or will pay the toll.  It’s NOT on you to rip off a client because you can.

I have another client who is entirely too nice and lets a lot of things slide.  One of her former writers was consistently late, putting her into a bad position with the companies she was cultivating.  She either had to pick up the slack, or more often, deliver late and further damage her reputation.  This is also not cool, people.  Campsite Rule.  You don’t burn down the fucking campground where you’re staying!

Being a Better Human and Copywriter

I work with writers at all levels of this profession, both as Project Manager at Top Shelf Copy and as an independent freelancer who frequently collaborates with others.  When I say all levels, I mean from green behind the ears junior copywriters to 20 year veterans in the field.  These guys earn a huge range of pay, but the ones at the top have a few things in common.  Mostly, they observe the Campsite Rule.

But, since some of you can’t fathom what that even means, I’m going to give you some tips for being a better human, earning more as a copywriter and building a solid reputation that will be worth more in referrals than you can possibly realize right now.

1. Always deliver on time.  Sure, things happen — we all get sick, we all have accidents and whatnot.  You can’t be expected to be invincible.  However, you have to make every effort to deliver on time, every time.  Otherwise, you not only put your job at stake, but the reputation for that person who is taking your delivery.  If you know you can’t deliver, tell your client as soon as you realize it.  Then work out a plan to make sure you hit the deadline.  Collaborating with other writers of a similar skill level is a great solution, as long as the client approves this strategy.

2. Your copy better shine.  That copy you deliver can’t be shit.  I don’t care if you spent all night writing and rewriting and you’re strung up on coffee, you dig down deep, channel your inner beast and you do your fucking job.  Follow the guidelines for the project and then polish that product until it shines as much as it can.  Some are better than others, some days we’re better than other days, but if you give your all, you’ll always be enough.  I can tell when writers phone it in, I guarantee your clients can, too.

3. Do everything you’ve agreed to do.  This is especially important if you’ve taken a deposit or are working on a prepaid project.  You do everything you agreed to do, get it?  Just man up and fucking do it.  I don’t care if the client stopped responding to your questions, you track that motherfucker down and get some answers.  It’s up to you to be the kind of writer who makes a client a better client, for the sake of the entire industry.  Sometimes clients need to be taught how to work with a writer — that’s an implied part of the contract, too.

4. Inspire confidence in clients.  Above all else, give off an air of confidence that is genuinely hard-earned.  Don’t be iffy, be confident.  Even if that means you’re confident you can’t get to those web pages for a month — always be honest, always have integrity and never, ever promise things you can’t deliver.  Inspire confidence that the product will be given the time it deserves, even if that means you need a month.  Be honest and then write like the wind.

5.  When you fuck up, come back swinging.  Everybody fails sometimes.  Don’t make it the story of your life.  When you screw up big time, take a breath to figure out what went wrong.  Are you overworked, do you take on too much, are you poorly organized?  Sort out your shit and then come back swinging.  I promise the time you invest in yourself will pay out in the end.

I know that most of you don’t mean to fuck up.  I really do.  You either want to please everybody, or you underestimate how much time a project will take — or both.  But part of doing this job is learning, every day.  You learn your clients, you learn your projects and you learn about your abilities as a writer.

Learn, motherfuckers, and clean up your fucking campsites.  I’m really tired of finding such big messes.