How To Save Time On Writing Good Content Whilst Running A Business
Time. We’ve all got an equal share of it, and we understand how quick it passes and slips through our fingers like sand.
Why do we let this happen? We’re great procrastinators, and the easy options are something our brains jump for.
We tend to put hard things off and go for the lazy choice.
What’s this got to do with writing good content? A friggin’ lot.
Almost all businesses are online and have the power to connect with their target market easier than ever before through content marketing.
BUT, this takes time to create; time from somewhere else in your day.
Unless you’re a skilled content marketer who does this day in and day out, content writing can be difficult to do fast and keep to a high standard.
There are ways to help you write faster and sharper in a limited time.
The ways I’m suggesting are about setting up a routine for writing that fits into your schedule. A routine that once you get used to, can help you write amazing content in a shorter time.
Everyone and every business has their own idiosyncrasies, and only you know yours.
Suggestion one – Book some time in
Look at your working week and see where a regular slot can be utilised for writing.
It’s not easy, especially with work and family commitments, but somewhere there is an available place.
Maybe getting up an hour earlier or doing one more hour before bed? How about lunchtime? Where you open up a time is up to you. Your situation and tasks are best known by you.
My point is, there will be a trade-off. You have to burn one task to place another. Yet you can lock in one hour a day or two hours a week. In any schedule, it can be done.
My Google calendar is easily accessed from any device and lets me know exactly when my business writing can be done. There’s plenty of other time management apps to choose from, Remember The Milk comes to mind, that help you sort out your day or week.
For productivity and project management apps, I have Trello. I can break up various topics, future blog post ideas and the research needed for those ideas into folders.
There’s a Content Marketing folder which is divided into my writing steps, blog post ideas, upcoming blog posts, research and outline, writing, and promotion.
Once a blog post idea is chosen, a due date attached. When one is completed, I archive the note and remove it from the folder.
You can see the collaborative nature of Trello for a team; even as a freelancer, it’s easy to work with.
At the start, the time spent will not be as efficient as you’d like. Like most things you start.
But when the routine gets more ingrained and solidified, you surprise yourself at how good you get at it.
My turnover time for a new blog post is three hours.
This includes research, outline, writing, revising, rewriting and editing (which is given to a proofreading service to polish). Content marketers for larger companies will be quicker, yet their job is pumping out content daily.
When you’re a small business owner or freelancer, that’s not realistic.
But you will save time – there’s no doubt in my mind.
Suggestion two – Your environment setup
In a perfect world, you would have the perfect place to sit down and write. In reality, you make do with what you’ve got.
There’s going to be issues wherever you sit (or stand) and work. What you do need is somewhere that cuts out interruptions.
First thing to get are ear phones or ear plugs. Unless your work is a library, noise will come up at some point, through employees, customers and phone conversations.
Your writing time is for writing, and placing the ear phones on with music helps your mind focus onto your computer.
I also suggest not using music that rocks, lays down a beat or gets you up to dance as it can lead your mind away from writing. Research points out that unfamiliar music helps productivity and focus rather than the stuff you know.
It’s there to separate you from the physical space of where you write.
Aren’t a fan of any music? Take the cheaper way: ear plugs.
Suggestion three – Removing distractions
Distractions occupy our waking world and the technology we use has doubled down on this issue.
Our brains are active beasts in trying to find interesting things and going down pointless rabbit holes. So stopping your mind from chasing shiny objects at the side means removing them altogether.
Turn off email and social media notifications:
If you’ve set up your inbox to notify you with a pop-up window when a new email has appeared, turn it off.
When you’re writing at a laptop or desktop, a pop-up message breaks your concentration and rhythm, even if it’s for one second.
Tim Ferriss has a great post on cutting email interaction down to set times during the day. Not when you wake up or even start work but mid-morning after you’ve completed your first essential tasks.
Don’t check emails before bed, where you’re looking for rest and shouldn’t be firing up your brain.
Take a leaf from Tim’s book (or post) and keep emails well away from your writing time.
Same goes for social media messages. Twitter and Snapchat messages and Facebook notifications don’t help anyone write.
Turn them off in your writing time, then back on when you’re finished. Nothing’s that important it can’t wait an hour (or two).
You’re running on limited time and want to make the most out of it. Take up the Pomodoro Technique.
It’s a timer that countdowns from twenty-five minutes then sounds an alarm or bell. The idea being you must complete whatever work or task you are doing within this timeframe.
You get a five minutes break to relax. Then you go again for another twenty-five minutes.
That set deadline holds you accountable so you just have to work. All the hang-ups of not being able to do anything in that twenty five minutes don’t stack up once you get into the routine.
The more you use it, the better you get at completing your work. You can also extend the timeframe out as you become more efficient at the technique.
Make a twenty-five minute slot into a fifty-minute one, so you don’t need to break your writing groove.
When you run a small business, this technique can be a godsend. You want the most productive writing session out of your set time and that’s exactly what it does.
Suggestion three – Research and an outline
Your set time isn’t just there for writing something down, it’s for planning what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and who you’re saying it to.
I’ve spoken about blogging and targeting your audience in other posts but an important part that helps when you write is a segmented outline.
An outline laid out like a contents page in a book, where the introduction, chapters, breakdown of the issues in those chapters, data points to use, the summary and end paragraph (with a call to action) are placed onto a page or flowchart.
The page setup, so anytime you need to touch base with what you need to write about, it’s right there to help.
A host of authors and bloggers use a great outline as a blueprint before they write. If they do trail off course or indulge in a side issue, it’s there to bring them back to the path.
Hubspot’s Ginny Mineo has a blog post that depicts what’s needed in an outline and the pathway it lays out for writing.
How she boils down to the main elements of a post, what’s relevant and what isn’t, is definitely something I’ve taken on board.
Suggestion four – Write
Everything is in place, the topic, the research and your approach to it. Now you’ve got to write it.
Writing is a personal skill and each of us have their own style and pattern for doing it. But everyone needs to shift their brain into the right gear to write. That means you just start doing it.
When you begin the words will come out clunky, the word choice won’t be awesome and the focus can be flustered.
In one word – awful.
You push through that start and like a car on a cold winter morning, once its warm, you can speed through the streets with ease.
You break through the ice and the snowball effect happens, the momentum shifts into your writing.
The words begin falling into place, they come out faster and your mind gets into sync with your hands. The rhythm of the writing process seems to work.
Studies have shown that once your brain is into that flow state, the more settled and focused you are in the work you are doing.
I have to smash down that wall of resistance every time I write.
It doesn’t get easier to do but I know what’s on the other side when I keep at it. The idea is to pour your first draft out onto the page. Yes, it’s going to be clunky, maybe even unreadable in certain places, but the raw material is down. It’s out.
The next step is shaping your writing into something better.
Suggestion five – Revise and renew
Okay, you’ve set the first draft aside and gone to work on your business. Then you come back to it.
You take out the scissors and put on the editor’s hat to clean up what you’ve written.
This will be brutal and bruising for your ego but writing good content is rewriting.
When you revise, you want to condense and sharpen what you’ve done into something pithy. What you thought was a point well written, well, wasn’t. At all.
As you edit, thinking of getting from start to finish as directly as possible helps discard the words that don’t help achieve this.
As screenwriter/director Joss Whedon eloquently puts it, you must ‘kill your darlings’. Just because you like a sentence/phrase or saying doesn’t mean it has the right to stay there.
My final tip here is also essential: outsource to another person or a professional proofreader. They cast an independent eye over your draft and return constructive criticism on how to improve it.
Without this input, you can’t really assess how good your post is before publishing. Which isn’t good.
Putting the time aside to write good content, the time out of your busy work day, is a hard decision you have to make.
You run a small business or startup – your time is your most precious resource. So if you’re giving something up, it better be worth it. And the rewards content writing gives you adds value to your business.
Find that time in your schedule to sit down, think and write. The more writing you do, the more practice you fit into your week, the better and more efficient you become.
Routine and momentum are your best friends in writing anything. Put them to good use and your digital marketing output and quality will take off like never before.
What other tips would you give on being more productive in writing faster and better? I’ve opened the can of worms and am interested to know what other people do.