Whether you’re writing an email, a social media update or web content, it’s always frustrating to feel like you’re moving at a glacial pace.
While there’s no way to eliminate the time necessitated by the creative process, I have a few tricks that can help you turn that glacier into an ice floe.
1. Create an Outline
Your teachers have been encouraging you to do this since grade school, and it turns out they were right.
Try to think of your outline as a road map. It doesn’t need to include every detail, but it should show you how to get from point A to point B.
Sure, it may seem like outlining your piece will simply add another step to your already lengthy work, but if you take just a few minutes at the beginning of your process to create a rough outline, the remainder of your work will go a lot quicker.
To get started, take a look at this sample blog post outline from Social Triggers:
Here at bizbuzzcontent, we write outlines in the form of content briefs. Our content briefs typically organize information in the following way:
- State the topic, which serves as the thesis
- List who the post matters to (the personas, for example)
- Explain why they would care; this helps you write about the things that matter to that specific audience, and helps shape the angle (No. 4)
- Define what the audience needs to know about the topic right now–why is it relevant? This helps shape the introduction of the post
- List three to five key points that will serve as the body of the content. Each main point will have a subsection. For each point, list the bullet points of what you want to write about.
- For the closing, list three takeaways that a reader can apply to their situation right away, and that supports the subject matter
- Do some research upfront, and collect resources you can use to support your ideas throughout when you’re ready to write
The benefit of creating a content brief in this way is that you’ll have everything you need neatly arranged in one place, which means zero distractions during the writing process.
(For more on writing outlines, see a previous post we wrote here.)
2. Don’t Sweat the First Draft
One of the most useful ways to write faster is, in my opinion, to embrace the ugly, scrapped-together mess that is your first draft.
That’s not to say that you should strive for mediocrity. It is to say, however, that you should learn to relax and make mistakes at the outset of every new project.
Writing is like building a skyscraper: you won’t get very far if can’t stop worrying about the type of windows you’ll use before you even lay the foundation.
And, best of all, polishing a less-than-desirable first draft is much quicker than trying to write a perfect piece of content from the start.
If you’re having trouble letting go of your idea of perfection, try turning off your spell-checker. And, if you find yourself obsessing over missing information, use the old journalist’s trick of simply writing “TK” (short for “to come”) wherever you intend to add material later on in the process.
That way, you’ll be able to worry about the nitty-gritty details later, and focus on simply writing for now.
3. Set Specific Goals
While it may seem unnecessary, setting specific goals will drastically increase your productivity, and increased productivity means less time spent staring at a blank Word document.
Need proof? In the British Journal of Health Psychology, a study found that 91 percent of participants who set specific goals for when and where they would exercise each week ended up sticking to their plan.
Notice that the participants who used motivation alone (i.e., those who read about the benefits of exercise) actually exercised less than the participants who used neither motivation nor intention.
The lesson here is that simply thinking about how you need to write is not nearly enough. Take a few minutes to open up your calendar, carve out a couple blocks throughout the week to dedicate to writing and set some reminders. Chances are, you’ll be done before you know it.
Do any of these tricks work for you? What other tips do you have for speeding up the writing process? Let’s discuss in the comments section below!