Writing Hacks: How To Write Fast For Increased Productivity
Last week I wrote about how to come up with blog post ideas when you're in a bit of a content slump. Hopefully now you've got a lot of ideas and are brimming with excitement at the thought of how full your content calendar is going to be.
The only problem is that you have to write all this content now. Where in the hell are you going to get the time to do that? Well unfortunately we can't conjure up an extra hour out of nowhere, but we can learn to write faster so that we can get more done in the hours we have. These are some tips I've picked up that have helped me to be more productive when writing up content.
1. Plan Your Post
A lot of the work that goes into writing fast actually happens before you even think about putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard). Planning is one of the most beneficial things you can do for your writing.
If you have any interest in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, then you will have heard of planners and pantsers. Planners plan their novels before they write them, sometimes meticulously. Pantsers 'fly by the seat of their pants,' jumping into their writing with only a vague idea of what it is they're going to write about.
I used to be a pantser and I got nowhere. I would leap in all guns blazing, and land face first flat on the floor. I never managed to get anything finished because I would always get stuck with no idea where my writing was going.
Once I started planning I realised that I was never going to write without it again. It was so much easier and less stressful. I didn't dread sitting at my computer anymore because I knew exactly what I was going to write every day. Creating content is no different. Having a plan will make it so much easier to write it all up quickly.
The best way to do this is to list out all the points you want to make and organise them into a coherent structure. I like to use a mind map because I find it easy to add a thought or idea as I go through my research and I can link up different points to make the post flow better.
Even just jotting your points down on a piece of paper beside your computer is better than doing nothing at all.
2. Separate Your Writing and Your Research
Before you can do any planning, however, you need to get your research done so you have points to plan out.
It's important to keep your research and your writing separate and not try to do the two at the same time. You don't want to have to stop mid sentence to look up a statistic or fact, it'll break your rhythm and slow you down. So make sure to get all of the information you need before you start writing.
Also, make sure that you don't go overboard when it comes to research. You can easily get lost in bits of information and content that you think is important for your piece. But you need to know when to stop or else you'll realise it's three hours later and all you have is a list of statistics.
3. Get Rid Of Distractions
We all love social media, but it's not a friend of productivity. Facebook and Twitter are the ultimate distractions from your writing, so the best thing to do is just turn them off. I don't mean delete your accounts, I'm not crazy. But there are plenty of ways to mute them while you work:
Stay Focused is a Chrome extension that limits the amount of time you can spend on a website. Just put in the sites you don't want distracting you and the extension will give you an allotted amount of time you can spend on those sites before blocking them.
Freedom is an app that lets you schedule times during the day when certain sites (or the whole internet if you're that easily distracted) are blocked completely from your computer so you have no choice but to write.
Cold Turkey is a software that basically does what Freedom does, but for free. It lets you block certain websites for a certain amount of time. The good (or bad, depending on which way you look at it) thing about Cold Turkey is that you can't turn the timer off once it's on. So choose your schedule carefully.
There's plenty more apps and software that can block distracting sites, so it's worth looking around and seeing what would work best for you.
4. Silence Your Inner Editor
This is the hardest one for a lot of writers. We all have that little voice inside our head that starts screaming at us if we make a grammatical mistake, or if a sentence doesn't sound right. But when you're trying to write quickly you have to ignore that voice completely. That voice is your enemy. The only thing that will happen when you listen to that voice is you'll lose precious writing time trying to perfect a word or sentence, and you won't get anywhere near getting your post finished.
'But you can't have a piece of content that's littered with grammatical mistakes!' I hear you gasp, clasping at your chest in horror.
I know. I'm not saying don't edit. I'm just saying write first, then edit when it's done. Ignore the little red and green squiggly lines (or turn off your spellchecker completely if they're bothering you), and worry about perfecting your sentences later. The important thing is to get words down on paper, then edit to your heart's content once you're done writing.
5. Take Breaks
Breaks from work are important. They stop your brain from burning out, prevent boredom and even help you focus once you get back to the task. Even just a 15 second break from looking at your screen reduces fatigue by 50%.
Taking a quick break will help your writing as well. It doesn't have to be a lengthy amount of time, just a few minutes even just for a bathroom break or to make a cup of coffee (I like to bother my cat for a few minutes; he's not as much a fan of my breaks as I am).
A good tip is to set a timer, around 20 or 30 minutes, and write until the timer stops. Then take a 5 minute break, and come back again for another 20 or 30 minutes. Personally I can write about 600 words in a 20 minute block, which I think earns me a cup of something and a stretch of the legs.
This tip also helps with the previous point about your inner editor. When you're writing against the clock it's much easier to ignore the voice in your head telling you to fix your spelling, and focus on writing until the time runs out.
Keep writing and you'll keep getting faster.
Like most things in life, fast writing is all about practice. You're not going to churn out 1000 words in your first 30 minutes. But hopefully these tips will set you on the right path to getting all those blog posts written in record time.