In case you missed our “warmup” last month, this is the official kickoff for our 2017 Content Excellence Challenge.
January resolutions are fine, but we’re more interested in helping you make consistent, ongoing improvement.
Every month, we’ll give you a pair of prompts that we can all work on together as a community.
- The first prompt each month will be creative — prompts intended to improve your craft.
- The second will be productive — prompts intended to improve your productivity.
We’d love to have you join us for every pair of prompts, but of course you’re always welcome to jump on and off the bus as you need to. All progress is good progress!
January’s creative prompt: Headlines
This month, we’re going to work on headlines.
Copyblogger has been known for advice about headlines from the beginning, and headlines continue to be a “Basic” that pays major dividends.
As we work together to create stronger and more powerful content this year, it just makes sense to give each piece the attention it deserves by pairing it with a solid headline.
Well-crafted headlines will get you more shares and traffic. They make it easier for more people to click through to your work. They can make a massive difference in the impact your content makes.
Brainstorm 20 or 30 headlines for a significant piece of content you’re intending to create in the next few weeks. Try to incorporate as many ideas as you can from the resources below.
- Pick up our Magnetic Headlines ebook (it’s free and part of a whole library of content marketing ebooks for you)
- My favorite “cheat” for headlines — the Cosmo Headline Technique
- Brian Clark on why you should always write your headline first
Each day for the rest of this month, come up with two or three more headline ideas. They can be for any piece of content you might want to create — a blog post, an infographic, a podcast episode, whatever. If you gather them in a notebook or an app, you’ll be able to turn back to this list any time you’re stuck for ideas.
January’s productive prompt: Decide tomorrow’s creative priority today
This is one I’ve been playing with, and it’s a quick habit that works amazingly well. This is particularly powerful for creative work, but it’s also a nice “hack” for any challenging task.
Decide tomorrow’s creative priority today. Every day, take a few minutes to decide on your next day’s most important creative task, and get it into your calendar. When possible, schedule it “first thing” on that calendar.
Here’s the twist on this dusty old productivity tip:
Make this decision relatively early in the day. Before lunch is a good time.
We’ve all heard a million times that we should plan out our following day. But in the evenings, we’re exhausted, our willpower is depleted, and we just want to wind down. If you plan tomorrow’s priority before lunch today, you’ll be able to put your full creative energy into the decision.
Decision-making uses a lot of willpower and mental energy. So do it while you’re still fresh.
The task should be something you can work on for one or two “pomodoros” — 25-minute chunks. If you have more time to devote to your task, that’s terrific. But even a single pomodoro a day can yield astonishing results, if the time is focused and you’re working on the right thing. That’s why you make the decision the day before, rather than on the fly.
Some possible tasks you could decide to work on tomorrow:
- Writing a blog post
- Planning an infographic
- Doing in-depth research for a larger piece of content
- Working on a book
- Planning themes for a content calendar
- Brainstorming a big stack of headlines for the January challenge
If it needs focus and creativity, it counts.
- Some nice refinements on this idea on the Complice blog: “Frogs in tomato reduction”
- If you’re not familiar with the term pomodoro, here’s a primer: The Pomodoro Technique
The TL;DR version
Here’s the pocket version of the prompts:
- Creative: Work on your headlines. Brainstorm a big stack (at least 20–30) for an upcoming project, then add 2–3 headline ideas to your list every day.
- Productive: Decide on tomorrow’s highest-priority creative task today, before lunch. Do this every day.
Let us know what you’re doing with it!
If you’re joining us for this month’s challenge prompts, let us know how it’s going in the comments below. We love to hear about what you’re working on.