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The Lever #025: The Top Down Writing System

Read Time: 6.7 minutes

Welcome to issue No. 25 of The Lever

As a creator with a busy 9-5 it can be hard to find time to create. You've got to work smart, and understand WHAT you should be working on at all times.

This top-down writing system is the most efficient way possible to create content for a book or product, newsletter, and regularly scheduled content - all at the same time.


But first:

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Write Once - Distribute Twice

Imagine that you had already written your book.

Chapter after chapter of your ideas, your methods, your systems. In your words.

Do you think you could share a little piece from your book each week as an online article, or a newsletter?

Of course you could.

Now, with an article extracted from your manuscript, how hard do you think it would be to quickly turn it into a Twitter thread, or LinkedIn post?

If you guessed "not very", you would be right. It's really easy.

Finally, with your Twitter thread complete, it seems like it would probably be pretty simple to pull out a couple of standalone tweets and schedule them for delivery, right?

Yes, yes it is.

Starting from an existing piece of work allows you to repurpose content in different formats quickly and easily. This lets you focus more time on other aspects of online creation, such as building offers or building a bigger audience.

But what if you have the ideas, but don't have the book?

That's where the TDW System comes in.

But first, a little prerequisite knowledge.

The 3 Types of Content

I'll be brief, because I've written about this before, but to be successful as a creator online there are 3 types of content you need to work on simultaneously.

1. Ongoing

2. Big Project

3. Relationship

1/ Ongoing Content

Ongoing content is the top of your attention funnel. Its what welcomes people into your idea ecosystem.

Daily tweets. Weekly threads. A regular newsletter, podcast, or video release.

This is what builds trust, creates authority in the space, and attracts your audience.

2/ Big Project

If you never go further than just creating regular content then you are dabbling at the fringes. In order to truly leverage the value of the creator economy you need to create bigger, more valuable offerings.

Big projects are how you build these offers.

Books, courses, resources. These are the digital deliverables in the creator economy, and the keys to building some diversification into your life. But they take time to create.

And there is also the underlying infrastructure that needs to be built.

Websites, landing pages, email sequences.

All big projects that need constant attention.

3/ Relationships

The key to success in business and life has always been the same.

It's the people you know.

Like Mike Kim says, "Relationships are rocket ships".

Building a genuine relationship takes work. You need to invest time in others to receive their trust.

Its no different online.

Supporting others, adding to their ideas, sharing their work.

This is an activity where you can't take any days off.

The Top-Down Writing System focuses on the first two types of content, how to create them efficiently and simultaneously, so you have more time to focus on building strong relationships online.

Here's how its done:

The Top Down Writing System

The purpose of the system is to allow you to efficiently create content that engages and attracts, while writing your book at the same time.

It reorders the sequence that you develop your ideas, but while keeping the end goal in mind.

Here are the steps to get it done.

Step 0 - Prerequisites

Before approaching this idea, make sure you have a sufficiently well thought out idea or framework.

Something you can talk about for 30 minutes without notes, or having to ask ChatGPT for ideas.

If you are still finding your voice online, then start at the bottom and come back here when you've got a better idea of what your thing really is.

Step 1 - Map Your Idea

Your content should have a few key pillars or core ideas.

Understanding how these interconnect is the first step to developing them fully. It will also show their weak points.

This is what my productivity work looks like:

The main three categories are Time, Tasks, and Attention.

Each of these has supporting ideas or components underneath.

And the intersection of these three main ideas is the tool that ties them all together - time blocking.

Try mind mapping or freewriting. Get your idea infrastructure out of your head and onto paper.

Step 2 - Outline Your Book

Use your content map to create an outline.

Using mine again as an example you could see how the book could have three parts, each with chapters that support the bigger idea.

The goal here is to capture ALL the ideas in a logical order that guides the reader through.

You want this to be as comprehensive as possible. Capture all of your ideas in detail.

A simple nested list will do the trick.

The Weekly Writing Sequence

Step 3a - The Newsletter

This is where the fun starts!

Using your outline as a checklist, start working your way through the sections.

Every week, start by writing a newsletter or article that would stand alone as an excerpt from a chapter.

Stick to ONE core idea. ONE bullet point from your outline.

The finished piece will eventually be a sub-section within the chapter.

Step 3b - The Thread

Next, take your newsletter and trim it way down until it works as a twitter thread.

Format it nicely and keep the core ideas in place. Add a great hook at the start, and a call to action at the end.

For reference, a standalone thread takes me an hour or so to write.

Doing it this way takes ~10 minutes.

Try this writing sequence out to do it fast:

Step 3c - The Tweets

Now, if you've written the thread right you'll be able to pull out a few tweets that stand on their own.

You can also use the thread contents to inspire a few others.

Keep templates of proven tweet structures. Plug your ideas into that.

10 minutes later you should have 5-7 good tweets based on the idea.

Step 4 - Schedule It All

It really helps to use a scheduling software.

I use HypeFury for Twitter content, and ConvertKit for delivering the newsletter (affiliate links)

Schedule your thread. Schedule your tweets.

You can have theme days for different types of content.

Don't schedule them all at once. Spread the tweets out over a few weeks.

Step 5 - Repeat

When done right you'll have just finished a newsletter, thread, and tweets - plus scheduling!

This takes care of your main content creation obligation, plus advances the big project. If you did nothing else all week, you'd still be moving things ahead.

Now do it all again! Or work on something else if you need a change of pace:

• Website updates

• Email sequences

• Landing pages

There are lots of little projects that need doing. You can work on these knowing that your pillar content for the week is ready.

How much time?

The amount of time it takes each week will depend on a few variables:

• Idea complexity

• Writing speed

• Research

This is why outlining the overall structure, then breaking it down into small writing projects is so important. It helps keep the time commitment reasonable.

For reference, it takes me 2-3 hours per week to run through the above sequence.

Bonus - Quadruple Your Content

Last piece of advice.

If you really want to supercharge your content creation, try this:

Every time you write and post a twitter thread, only about 25% of your followers will see it.

Sad, but this also presents a huge opportunity. This means that you can post that same content again later, and only you will see the repetition.

The best way to do this?

When you finish writing the thread in the sequence above, go back to the top and write five new versions of the hook.

Try different formats:

• Contrarian

• If X, then Y

• Bold statement

• Challenging

• Curiosity gap

Now schedule these a month apart. Repeat this for 4 threads and you will have a post scheduled every week for the next 6 months.

All for the smallest amount of extra effort.

Work the Plan

I'm working through this system now myself, slowly writing book number 2.

This allows me to:

• Get out a quality newsletter every week

• Create a complementary thread

• And take care of a weekly tweet slot for a month

This gets done on Monday and Tuesday. Then I switch gears and work on my course Wednesday to Friday.

On Saturday I write my weekly roundup. And on Sunday I work on whatever has been tickling my brain that week.

You have to create content anyway.

Might as well create it smart, so you ALSO end up with a book, guide, or course in the end.


When you are ready, here are a few ways I can help:

1. Subscribe to The Lever (if you haven't already)

This covers a science-based productivity concept each week, in about five minutes. Try a free chapter of my new book when you subscribe. And if you like it...

Peaceful Productivity outlines the time-management system I've created over the years as a ship's Captain and business executive. It will help you plan, prioritize, and get more of the right things done. Also available on Amazon  

This short course will teach you the fundamentals of a powerful timeblocking system to make sure you never miss an obligation and always show up prepared. Give yourself the space you need to create the life you deserve.

Smart systems to make you productive, prolific, and profitable | Find me on Twitter @SeanPHogue | Sign up here for the weekly newsletter, The Lever, and create some leverage in your life.


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