People who work in the financial services industry work a lot—and I mean A LOT.
There are arduous hours spent researching and modeling company valuations, long meetings with colleagues and other stakeholders, tight pressure to get deals done by ever-shorter deadlines, not to mention meeting with current and prospective clients after hours to generate new business.
So it’s easy to understand why few in financial services can find the time to create their own thought-leadership content—even if many are passionate about expressing their views on the issues influencing the world of business, finance, and economics.
In fact, the need for people to outsource writing because they are too busy to do it themselves is one of the core reasons why Wentworth Financial Communications exists.
But if you’re one of the few who still want to creatively express your opinions and views on what’s happening in equity markets or the economy, and you want to do this through writing, I have some advice for you: work deeper and give yourself time to decompress.
Any cognitively demanding activity such as writing requires concentration and the ability to create an environment where you eliminate distractions and devote large blocks of time to the task. This is one of the core premises of Carl Newport’s book “Deep Work: Rules For Focused Success in a Distracted World.” In the book, Newport explains the benefits of being able to devote uninterrupted blocks of time to a single task and then provides guidelines for creating a work schedule that facilitates “deep work.”
Writing is a difficult task, and it’s not something that you can do 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there. You need to give yourself the space to devote all of your mental energy to it. As Newport recommends, for most people this means closing your office door, turning off email and the television, and not checking your social media accounts. This might sound crazy in today’s always-on, hyper-connected world, but trust me, you can do it for a few hours at a time.
In addition to rearranging your schedule to give yourself large blocks of time to focus only on your writing, you also need to give yourself time to decompress.
Some of my best work has come after periods when my mind hasn’t been cluttered with the typical day-to-day madness of work. Add in whatever is happening in my personal life, and my brain is too wired and distracted with a flurry of thoughts to sit down and write something truly clear and unique.
But I’ve noticed over the course of my young career that the more I take time to get away from the page before I write—say, use my lunch break to go for a jog or unplug doing some other activity—the clearer my thoughts are and the better my writing becomes.
Come to think of it, this doesn’t just apply to my ability to write; in general, I’m better at all parts of my job when I’m able to find sufficient time to turn my brain off for stretches of time.
On the WFC blog, we talk a lot about why having a clear process for writing is crucial. Sitting down in front of a blank computer screen is hard, for instance, but starting out by preparing your thoughts through an outline makes the task far less daunting.
In the same vein, part of that writing process should be knowing when you need to set aside unstructured free time to de-clutter your mind before writing that outline or first draft.
In other words, part of your process should be to do … nothing. Literally.
For some, this could be time zoning out on your morning commute. For others, it could be going for a long walk outside or taking a break to get caught up on the latest episode of “Game of Thrones” or some other television obsession.
For me, it’s running. I enjoy going on long runs outside. Not only is it great exercise, but it helps clear my mind and creates space for spontaneous thinking.
My best writing ideas—or thoughts on how I might organize a particular piece of content or something that might be helpful to a client project—often come from such instances when I’m not actively trying to come up with these ideas or thoughts.
Just like sometimes your best ideas happen when you least expect them—like when you’re in the shower and not thinking about anything—the same works for me and running. My mind is totally tuned out, so therefore there’s room for thoughtful and creative ideas to come to light.
It’s much more difficult to expect unique, breakthrough market commentaries, for example, while your brain is trapped in the fog of a stressful workday, busy thinking about the 100 other things that need to get done.
Not only will it improve your overall health and quality of life, but it will also make your writing and thought leadership better. It might also surprise you by making you more effective at other parts of your job.
For more insights on how financial services firms can create and distribute compelling thought-leadership content—whether on their own or by working with a ghostwriter or outsourced writing agency—subscribe to WFC’s YouTube channel.
About the Author
Frank Kalman is the chief operations officer at Wentworth Financial Communications. Frank and the team of writers and editors at WFC help professionals across the financial services industry build their brands by creating investment-grade white papers, bylined articles, newsletters, blogs, social media posts, and other forms of content marketing.