I am a big advocate that everyone should take time to write regularly. In a world where information growth is measured in exabytes and the inner thoughts of every individual is easily dispensed in 140 character blurbs, learning to write on a regular basis may be the difference between drowning in our own information flow and thriving in it.
You may already write as part of a company or individual blog, or twitter account, and that has its own benefits. But the writing that I am advocating doesn't need to be tied to a publish button. In fact, it may never be seen in its current form by anyone other than yourself.
Our personal information deluge is severe; by one account, consume approximately 9.57 zettabytes of information per year on this planet, and each of us has access terrabytes of our own personal data storage at our fingertips and more data streaming at us that we can possibly remember. I personally read at least a dozen articles per day, in addition to books, blogs, news stories, many daily conversations, and more.
We all consume a lot of information; how much time do we spend actually processing it? We spend so much of our time trying to swim up our lane that we don't think about the actual impact of it, much to our detriment.
Think about the last time someone brought up a recent article or news story to you, that you had already read. Perhaps it was about a competitor, customer, or new emerging trend. Your response may have been something like this, "Oh yeah. I saw something about that, but I didn't catch the details." We spend little time looking at the details, and even less thinking about impact because we don’t prioritize it. We often dismiss new information until that small item snowballs before us to become a major trend or perhaps a competitive disruption. We consume the information but we forget to process it and understand it.
Part of the problem is a belief that we need to be busy to be productive; we need to be doing something to show our worth. In our world, action is key, thoughts are secondary.
Even when we take time to question some new piece of information, we mainly think in, and use action-oriented words to approach a response. What do we do? How should we respond? These types of questions lead us to conclusions before evaluation. We don't think about assessment or evaluation words. What does this mean? Is this a single circumstance or a trend? What would happen if continued? Is it better to respond or wait and see?
Writing will help with your ability to process these bigger questions in two ways. First, writing has been shown to improve memory. Writing down information helps your brain to sort out what is important and what isn’t from the vast amount of information you consume each day. Second, writing will improve yourcognitive skills, allowing you to better process what you have learned. There are many other benefits to writing regularly as well, some of which I may post in the future.
The simple practice of taking a few minutes each day to write down what you have learned and your impressions of the day can have a tremendous impact on your thought process. A simple, effective way to start this is to just take note of two or three new pieces of information you learned that day, and run it through a few basic questions. The information could be about a competitor, customer feedback, or a comment or observation by someone. A sample of questions could include:
- What is the impact of this new information on our organization, industry?
- What is the impact on my specific work?
- If this is true, what does in enable, inhibit?
- What questions does that leave open?
- What if I extrapolated this information to the extreme? What would be the impact?
- What would we could we do differently with this new knowledge?
Whatever you choose as your writing medium, you will find that the knowledge is more likely to stay with you and you will become more insightful about options. In short, you will become a thoughtful leader.
Please share experiences you have had where writing has helped you to become a better or more thoughtful leader.