You can read everything there is to know about creating great content and still fail to reach your marketing goals.

It’s called self-sabotage. And today we’re going to tackle this issue head-on.

Over the Christmas holidays I picked up a book that I swear everyone in my professional network seems to have already read. It’s called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and In Business by Charles Duhigg. Little did I know that I would end up reading it through it in one day—something that I usually only do when reading fiction.

Not surprisingly, The Power of Habit explains why habits exist. But more importantly, it provides a framework for how they can be changed.

“Habits aren’t destiny.”

A couple of days after reading the book I decided to run a little test. I took out a writing pad and created 4 columns. In the first two columns I tracked when I started and ended a task. The third column listed the actual task and the final column was where I mentioned what I was feeling when I stopped working on a particular task.

A few hours later a pattern emerged. One that I gotta admit, I didn’t like seeing.

I realized that I would stop writing whenever I got frustrated, usually when my outline didn’t adequately cover what I needed to write about next. That would have been fine except that I would then jump out of my seat to do something around the house (I work from home most days) and wouldn’t return to my chair for anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour later.

This is not a recipe for a productive workday.

After a while I realized that I was looking to feel comfortable again. Safe. And that until I did, I felt little incentive to start writing again.

Now I personally love feeling comfortable. That’s why PJs and hot chocolate were invented. But comfort—when you don’t know what will make you feel comfortable—can be frustratingly elusive.

Whether it’s in your personal life or at work, most of us engage in self-sabotaging behaviors that keep us from being as successful as we could be. In this blog post, I’m going to discuss three habits (or stumbling blocks) that that might be keeping you from developing content that resonates with your audience. I’ve arranged them in reverse order:

#3: Not giving yourself enough time

Writing is an analytical process as well as a creative act. And while you can try to take short cuts, developing strong, well-targeted content takes time.

Time to ask questions and get feedback.

Time to sift through research.

Time to consider and discard different approaches and make innumerable decisions.

What no one in a rush wants to hear (and who isn’t in a rush these days?) is that the first draft is almost never the final draft.

Writing isn’t just writing, it’s rewriting. Lots of it. Roll-up-your-sleeves, put-the-coffee-pot-on rounds of revision that gets pretty messy and only looks easy when someone else is reading the finished copy.

Writing relevant is worth the effort.

Related article: How content marketing can boost your fundraising efforts

#2: Not challenging your assumptions

“I don’t have to do any research. People will like what I like.”

Allowing personal preference to influence how and where you connect with your stakeholders can prevent you from creating content that is relevant and useful. How this can show up.

Believing that print is dead and everyone you need to reach is already spending time online. It’s easy to fall into the echo chamber that is the Internet. But it’s a trap to believe that everyone has embraced email or social media.

The conviction that the Internet is overrated. These people stubbornly focus only on traditional print media, missing out on the multiple ways that digital media can deepen engagement with today’s audiences.

#1: Giving into fear

This one is the biggie. That’s why I left it for last.

Creating targeted content that’s relevant to your audience requires you to strip your messaging to its key elements. Instead of a wall of words inserted by a lawyer or an insistent board member, you produce a story that reveals not just who you are but why you do what you do.

And if that’s not enough, you get to do it again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that because your mission—whatever cause unites your organization and brought it into being—hasn’t been accomplished yet.

There will always be an excuse to delay creating relevant, compelling content. Content that uses everyday words that anybody, even your critics can understand. Telling powerful, relevant stories is an act of courage. They leave you feeling exposed. Like you’re taking a big risk, which in case you’re wondering, you are.

You risk being clear about what you stand for.

You risk revealing your organization as a thought leader.

You risk sounding audacious, decisive, about what needs to happen next.

You risk sounding like you may have an answer. Or if you don’t have the answer, you risk sounding like someone who is asking the right questions.

Lack of action serves no one. So guess what? It’s not an option.

I wish I could say that I magically discovered a solution to my unproductive writing habits but I can’t. Not yet. It’s a process. But awareness is, as they say, the first and important step.

So here’s today’s question. What behaviors or habits are keeping you from sitting down and writing? Share your experiences in the comments below or send me an email.

And if you know someone who is looking for ideas to feel more confident about their ability to create effective, engaging content, be sure to share this post with them!

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