One of the biggest killers of productivity in marketing, for me at least, is struggling for ideas.
It's difficult to be prolific if most of your time is spent staring at a blank screen.
I've mentioned before I started using the “zettelkasten” method of note-taking to make sure I always have a good base of ideas to write about. But sometimes I get stuck knowing how to illustrate those ideas in a non-boring way.
In other words, what story am I going to use?
Here's where story-prompts come in helpful. Little triggers to stimulate your creativity.
The ones that work best for me are often time based. I've used similar ones when I've run “writing challenges” for Momentum club members.
All I do is ask myself about an interesting thing that happened at various times in my life.
For example, a story my parents told about me as a very young child (with a lesson for today).
Or something painful/fun/weird that happened to me as a teenager (with a lesson for today).
Or when I hit a problem early on in my career and what I learned from it.
Or when I was riding high later in my career but found out I wasn't brilliant at everything.
Or a piece of wisdom I've learned through the benefit of age and experience.
Or something that happened yesterday that made me angry/happy/confused.
Or something that's just happened right now.
For example, a very good friend of mine told me that yesterday he'd just written an article for marketing purposes when the tool he was using blew up and lost it.
Undaunted he got his head down and wrote an article about how his system had blown up and lost his work – and how a stoic mindset helped him get refocused quickly rather than wallowing in anger and self-pity.
Your long term past and your immediate experiences are rich seams for mining stories. You can go through the list of timeframes I've just shared almost like a checklist and use it to trigger ideas for stories to illustrate a business point.
Or if you've got a particular topic in mind (e.g. that you've been exploring in your Zettelkasten) then you can run through them thinking “is there a story from my early work years that illustrates this topic? etc”
It doesn't work 100% of the time. Nothing does.
But I'd say at least 80% of the time it triggers ideas for a good, interesting piece of content. Often more than one, so you can “bank” the idea to use later.
It gets you productive fast rather than being stuck staring at that white screen of frustration.
PS as you can probably guess, today's post was inspired by the last of the timeframes. Me being short of ideas and thinking “what can I say about what's happening to me right now?”