Time. None of us ever seems to have any. We're all too busy tweeting, texting, posting and Google Plussing. (That's what I've decided to call it.)
Although many of us spend countless hours writing on social networks, most of us could probably use a refresher in the art of actual writing.
With the lack of time yet a desire—and need in many communications careers—to communicate well via the written word, is there a way to improve our skills while still managing our busy lifestyles?
You have 15 minutes a day to spare. Trust me, you do. Try these three techniques that, when used together, take less than 15 minutes, and watch your writing improve.
Pick a topic; it can be anything. For example, say your topic is "How to become a better communicator." In 10 minutes, aim to write three well-written paragraphs on this topic.
1. Practice writing creatively
Set a timer for one minute. During your allotted minute, come up with three talking points on your topic. As you get better at this, really challenge yourself to think innovatively and choose topics with which you aren't very familiar. You might surprise yourself.
a. Learn to use body language that engages your audience.
b. Speak with assuredness—avoid "umms" and "uhhs."
c. Read often so you're able to speak confidently about a number of topics.
2. Learn to write quickly and clearly
After your minute is over, set your timer for 10 minutes and power out a clear, concise essay on the topic and talking points that you chose. This exercise will help you not only to think on the spot, but also to save time as you learn to get your ideas on paper quickly.
3. Practice editing your work
You have four minutes left. Use these four—and only four—minutes to edit your essay.
Do this every day, perhaps twice a day, and watch as your writing improves.
Bonus tip: Read at least one post a day from your favorite writing advisors: Ragan.com (shameless plug), PR Daily (shameless plug No. 2), Grammar Girl, or resources like Purdue's online writing lab. Put what you learn into practice in the above writing challenges.
I know this technique helps because I witnessed a very good friend improve his writing skills in a week—a week, folks!
It's your turn. You have 15 minutes—GO!
This story first appeared on PR Daily in September 2011.