How to write faster and be more productive
Productivity and time management skills from the best content writers around
We all know the siren song of procrastination; a cappella harmonies that prevent us from reaching our goals and pull us into the jagged rocks of internet surfing, obsessive snacking and self-doubt.
And while writing might be a labour of love for some people, it’s certainly a task that many people dread, but still need to be able to do. You might want to write blogs faster, draft reports or tick off another goal. Nothing makes you feel worse than looking back at the hours wasted almost completing a task.
Forcing myself into a regular writing routine has taught me how to write faster (*most* of the time, I’m human too) and these are the lessons I’ve learned.
Ignore the voice of procrastination
Procrastination is the biggest battle I have with myself. Every. Damn. Day. But sitting my butt in the chair without waiting for inspiration to hit, has taught me that if you can start writing (or taking action), everything will begin to flow from there.
Sydney-based copywriter, Angela Denly agrees. Her tip? “Just start. If not knowing where to start is the problem, just start anywhere. Write a random middle paragraph, or a rough outline, just anything. Do it when you can, as you never know when a sick kid/life drama is going to take over the time when you’d planned to do it in the future.”
Using a Pomodoro timer has worked wonders into tricking myself into getting started – particularly if it’s a job I’m not looking forward to. Once I’ve smashed my way through that first 25 minutes, I’ve found my groove and I’m able to write faster and tick off those goals.
Focus on the task at hand
Novelists of all sorts talk about the ‘shiny new idea syndrome’ that beckons when you reach the middle of your book. On the other hand, I seem to get ‘shiny new task syndrome’ when I sit down to write for a client.
As soon as the cursor starts blinking at me from the blank page my brain says – ‘Ooh, you’ve been meaning to email that person back’, or, ‘I think you need to pee again (for the zillionth time)’, or ‘Is that your stomach rumbling? Weren’t you hungry?’
It’s easy to listen to that little voice inside your head and put off writing that report or that blog, but I know in order to make money I need to be putting words on the page.
Setting a regular routine teaches your brain to ignore those impulses. It does take practice, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.
Prioritise what’s important (and get past perfectionism)
Sitting your butt in that chair and committing to the task at hand is what being productive is all about, right?! Learning to turn off that voice of procrastination is arguably easier than learning to turn off the inner voice of self-doubt and perfectionism. Ernest Hemmingway understood this too. I’ve no doubt that’s what he was referring to when he wrote, “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
Every task begins with an action, and like writing, that action (or verb) is what propels us forward. Editing is about refining the content you’ve already created but the voice of perfectionism and self-doubt urges us to agonise over every detail. And eventually, you lose steam and give up.
Pushing through to get that draft finished is better than not having written anything, just like doing something to reach your goal (even if you made mistakes) is better than not doing anything at all.
Copywriter & Word Coach, Sandra Muller uses a great tactic to help her write fast. She says, “If I struggle coming up with a word for something I’ll write purple bananas or yak burger… It helps keep the flow going. Otherwise I can procrastinate over word choices for decades.”
Be honest about the time you require to get stuff done
After many years working on my novel, I’ve learned the hard way I need to be honest with my family (and myself) about how much time I need to work on it. After all, a large project like that can take many months or years to complete. Having someone else who understands the time commitment, keeps me accountable to my writing time.
This has been my biggest hurdle. I don’t think either my husband or I understood how much this would impact our lives when I started to take my own writing seriously a little over eight years ago now. I thought that drawing up a timetable and putting it in front of me would be enough. It wasn’t.
Making time is a learnt skill.
It’s also something that takes time to perfect. I still go through periods where I feel so incredibly guilty because I have found myself flooded with jobs and responsibilities. My stress levels go up. I feel like I’m not achieving much and so I begin to procrastinate again because I’m afraid of making the time again.
The only way I get out of this downward spiral is to open up and ask for a kick up the bum. It is so easy for all of us to default to the “when I have time” way of thinking, but with a little prep we can overcome it.
If you find yourself struggling with your productivity, these tools might help with managing your time:
Rescue Time – a time tracking app that runs in the background on your computer and helps you become more aware of what you are spending your time on
Pomodoro App – A handy planning and task tracking tool to improve productivity using the Pomodoro Technique
Freedom – an app blocking platform to help you stay on task
Need help getting your content written? I can help. Let’s chat.
Over to you
What techniques do you use to help you write faster and reach your goals? I’d love to know!
Great suggestions here. When I have work to do, I can crack on and do it, but the problem I have is when there’s too much time and not enough to fill it. So instead of doing something productive, I get sucked into the social media vortex. Suspect the Freedom app could be a good investment to save me from myself.
Let me know how you go with it! I’m using Rescue Time before I move onto a paid option, but if I can’t bring it under control myself – I’ll also be investing in the Freedom app.