Entrepreneur

Startups: Try ‘hot coffee sprints’ to keep your mojo

Crafting and communicating killer and persuasive messaging are some of those foundational skills that every marketer must master. Like many things, these skills atrophy if not continuously exercised.

That gets increasingly likely as you rise in your marketing career and become less hands-on or as you become specialized in a particular function.

Of course, we’re all ridiculously busy and stretched thin, but honing and maintaining your craft is important and shouldn’t feel like a chore or preparing for a marathon. You just need to make a little time in your schedule and focus. It’s more doable than you may think.

Hot coffee sprints: a burst of high focus

With my current team, we developed the concept of a “hot coffee sprint,” and we’ve found it a very effective way to jumpstart creativity and production across a variety of projects. It’s as simple as this:

  1. pour a cup of coffee
  2. eliminate all distractions, calls, email, tweets, and texts
  3. focus like a laser beam and work through a task before the coffee cools or is completely consumed

The beauty of the hot coffee sprint is that it’s a limited time investment and a great excuse to really focus on one task. Because you know it’s a controlled block of time you’ll be more inclined to focus intensively.

Sounds simple, but it works.

Do a hot coffee sprint to read & write

Do one sprint every day, and protect its focus to read and write more. Not about your company’s industry or products — you should already be doing that — but about your profession: marketing, strategy, or venture growth.

Why? Because it will force you to get to a higher altitude and look critically at what you’re doing at work. Because you’ll learn more about the art and science of your craft.

Use one sprint to think about type types of challenges you and your team are facing, and write them down. Use another sprint to find and read a few relevant articles or blog posts — or flip through a classic read, such as Crossing the Chasm.

Sprint on another day to map out your take on the particular topic and draft an outline for an article or blog post of your own.  Develop and follow a structure or use a tool to quickly and consistently organize your story. For the final sprint or two, treat yourself to an extra special cup of joe, and write (copy or code — up to you).

Writing is critical to pair with reading since it will force you to read more critically and actively. Without the intent of writing, reading will be more passive. And telling your own story forces clarity of thought. The more you write, the better and more efficiently you’ll write, and the more you’ll use your writing to accomplish specific tasks.

Do a hot coffee sprint to publish your work

Now ship it.

I feel strongly that by putting it out there and attaching your name you will do better work. You’ll become more critical in your thinking and will write with more purpose and clarity. You’ll want to make your output better than if simply writing notes for yourself.

Something just happens when you attach content to your personal brand. So start your own blog, or write guest posts for or leave thoughtful comments on someone else’s blog, or write an e-book, or start a project on GitHub, whatever. Just do something to get out there.

Publishing also allows you to hone your craft in a sandbox. There isn’t a team of marketing pros around you to tune the website or blog or to optimize copy for SEO. You figure it out: writing great copy, devising headlines and tweets that will resonate, earning and engaging your audience, analyzing traffic and linking and engagement trends, and so forth.

Get some joe, & pass it on

Maintaining any kind of cadence with this is hard — at least for me and others I know.  But, like exercising, it’s really good for you and much easier to maintain if you don’t fall off the wagon.

This is where a daily hot coffee sprint really helps. Keep a running list of ideas and watch for topics you’d like to explore and constantly chip away at it.

I know reading and writing about your job seems elementary, yet remarkably so few startup people actually do it.  Sharing and explaining are such superb ways of sharpening understanding and forcing clarity. It’s also a great way to pass along the investments that your mentors and other teachers have share with you.

This story originally appeared on www.marklorion.com.


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