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Break it down

by Colin Nederkoorn

Breaking things down helps you deliver better results. This lesson repeats itself almost everywhere people are thinking about how to do things better.

Common productivity advice is to break a complex task down in to simpler steps. When you list things out in your to-do list it is much easier to finish a smaller, well defined task than a big nebulous one.

In software development, you break down a new feature in to stories that deliver user-value, and then might break those down even further until you have smaller specific development tasks.

When building a business, having a clearly defined audience (with a clearly defined pain) helps you make sure what you’re making is useful.

So why would writing emails or writing for your blog be any different?

When starting a new email or article, break it down using the 5Ws (I heard about these applied to email from Justine Jordan at Litmus).

  • WHO are you sending to?
  • WHAT are you trying to communicate?
  • WHEN is it appropriate to send the message?
  • WHERE will the recipient read it?
  • WHY are you sending this message?
  • HOW does the recipient take action?

Before you write, if you think about these things, that will help you avoid waffling on. It will help you write as if you’re speaking directly to someone. And it will help you write tight, clear copy.

If you can’t answer these questions, should you even be sending the email at all?

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