5 Keys to Writing on a Tight Timeline

Person writing with notebook and laptop

As a strategist, I like to plan ahead. I have a content calendar laid out in front of me, with plans for why we have specific messages, when, the audience, and when they’ll be delivered. But sometimes it’s necessary to have a short turnaround or a tight timeline – not because of lack of planning, but because an issue is emergent or important, or urgent, or all of these together. When that happens to you, here are 5 keys to writing a strong, coherent message as soon as possible:

  1. Consider the audience: who will receive the message?
  2. Ask, “What do I want them to do, think, or feel?”
  3. Decide on no more than three points that must be made.
  4. Draft the message in the simplest language possible to avoid misunderstandings.
  5. If someone else will be delivering the message, imagine them reading it out loud from a podium, and adjust the language to fit their style.

As the pace of play in workplaces continues to accelerate (despite our best efforts to slow it down), using a systematic and consistent approach will help you get more done, in less time.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We help our clients see everything they need to consider, so they can make better decisions and find, understand, and engage their customers. You can also find us on Twitter, on Facebook, or on LinkedIn – or get messages delivered direct to your inbox by using the handy and practical orange button. Click it now!

The number one tool to build freedom into your job or business


Thanks for the photo from JillWellington via Pixabay
A recent Quora question got me thinking about this topic. Then, as often happens, the Baader Meinhof phenomenon kicked in. Suddenly opportunities to talk about the importance of this tool were everywhere. 

So what is it, you ask? It’s this: have a system. Whether you want more time for travel when you’re a business owner, or you’d like more reliable sales results, or you want to be sure your research about customers is a reliable guide to your decisions, a systematic approach makes the difference. Systems are the reason franchises improve many business owners’ success rate. Systems free you up to concentrate on your most important tasks. And systems let you see whether it’s your research approach, or a change in your customers attitudes, that has resulted in a different response than usual. 

Let me give you a couple of examples. The first has to do with the freedom to be working on your business, and not just in it. This is the freedom to travel more, to sell more, to do high-level thinking. The best system I know for doing this has two parts. Part A is to prioritize your work focus regularly, and don’t take on anything that doesn’t move you toward your over-arching goals for your life and business (those goals should be aligned, by the way). Part B is to invest in help if there is work that is important but can be done by others, more effectively or efficiently than by you. I learned Part B as the $10, $100 and $1000 tasks rule. 

Every day, make a list of all the tasks you must take on, and then prioritize them. If they do not contribute to your goals at all, find someone else to help, or eliminate them altogether. (Reading random posts on Facebook when you’re not a social media manager, or even when you are…gone). Secondly, figure out which tasks are both urgent and important. They should be at the top of your list. Which of these can be done only by you? (Selling to your best customers? Check. Making strategic decisions for the future of your business or career? Check.) Which of the jobs can be done by someone else, if you pay them? Look at those jobs, and as your first step, pay to get rid of any $10 tasks. Those are the tasks distract you from your most important, or $1000, jobs, like finding your next customer or finishing a project that will make your boss realize how valuable you are. You’d spend $10 (or even $100) to save or make $1000, wouldn’t you? I knew you would. 

Every business problem that seems like there isn’t enough of something (cash flow, customers, sales, ideas, insights) can benefit from putting a system in place. Buy yourself some freedom. Establish a system today.

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m the CEO and one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. You can also find insights from us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. And for News you can Use directed right to your inbox, sign up using the orange button. Are you stuck and looking to make a career turnaround or start a business? Let’s talk!

4 Ways to Find Your Focus

Target with arrows
Entrepreneurs and salespeople love opportunities. (Us included). We love hitting targets, self-imposed or otherwise. We’re always looking around, discovering new ways to do things, meeting people, and creating solutions. 

What’s wrong with that? It’s that it can make us unfocused. If you want to hit a target, you need to take aim. But where, when there are so many choices? Also, what if you’ve got a whole gallery of people giving you advice or direction? The customer wants one thing. Your boss wants another. Your colleagues have (in their mind, at least) a better idea. Your quota says you want something different. So if you’ve got a whole line of targets in front of you, how do you focus? Shouldn’t you seize every opportunity? When it comes to choosing which product to work on, or which new customer, focus is where the magic happens. Otherwise, when you let loose that arrow (your effort), there’s a chance it won’t hit any of the targets, and will just sail on by. Or that your effort won’t be sufficiently powerful to even get you to the targets in the first place.

Here are five time-tested methods for improving your focus, whether it’s on a finishing one of your projects, getting a new customer, or choosing which idea to develop. Start by making a list of all the things you could focus on to achieve your goal. Then do any one of these (all five are useful, but if you’ve read this far and you want to improve your focus, you might as well start practicing). 

  1. Play “optometrist”. Take that  all the things you could focus on, and then, two at a time, ask yourself which would be better to drop, until only one remains. 
  2. Go for early wins. Assign a probability score and work on the one that you are most likely to “hit” first. 
  3. Use the grab-bag approach. Put each individual target on a piece of paper, and draw one out of a bag. Commit to working on that one until you have a result. Your odds are as good this way, as trying to do them all, badly.
  4. Go big or go home. Identify the target that has the biggest upside, and put all your focus there. 

Now that you’ve found your focus, I’ll share a little secret. No one can focus 100% on anything. But follow the Pareto Principle, and you can get there. Find those 20% of your targets that will give you 80% of what you want, and give them 80% of your effort. Then you can feel free to give the other 20% of your time and resources to the remainder, in good conscience. 

I’m Megann Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below. 


Narrow your research, if you want to go deep.

Deep library corridor
“We’d like to investigate this. Oh, and it would also be great to find out more about this. And a few members of the team thought it would be really interesting to explore this.” 

When your product is new, or your team is new, or you’re just getting started with your business, you want to know everything. When you’ve been thrown into chaos by an unforeseen event, the same can happen. Any market information could be useful. All customer insights might be relevant. As a consequence, we often meet new clients, new teams, or founders, who want to look at a really big basket of questions. Sounds fair, doesn’t it? They have a lot to learn. So what’s the issue? 

The issue is that the other shoe usually drops, right about then. The client says, “And we really want you to do a deep dive on this.” 

The fact of the matter is, giant companies who can afford massive amounts of data, may be able to afford to be wasteful with their investigations. They may be able to “go deep” on a lot of different topics, all at once. If you look carefully, though, you’ll usually find that there are many teams, each going deep on a topic or two. If your company is small, you risk learning a little about a lot, and a lot…about nothing. 

How can you mitigate this risk? These four steps that can help:

  1. Make some calculated assumptions.
  2. Establish hypotheses to validate or invalidate with the respondents.
  3. Look at some secondary data and see if you can’t do some narrowing down or elimination on your own. 
  4. Choose the slice that, if the answers turn out to not be as you had hoped, would have the worst outcome. If there are rate-limiting or business-limiting questions, get them out of the way as soon as possible, so you can turn your attention elsewhere. 

So the next time you want to “go deep” in your customer understanding, narrow things down first. If you forget everything else, try this rule of thumb when you decide whether you want to look at something deeply, or in its entirety: Microscopes are tiny. Telescopes are big. 

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or a better frame of reference. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.