“I work for a midsize corporation and I also write articles to increase my visibility in the industry. I think I write well. I don’t write as fast as I would like to. Got any tips for me?”
Frank sent that email. He’s like a lot of midcareer businesspeople who write for publication. After they’ve taken care of their work responsibilities, they don’t have a lot of time left. They also have demands on the time they have. There’s family time and there are community obligations. They want to put some time into personal development. Writing must fit in there somewhere.
Your challenge is to write more good stuff in the time you have available. Here are some ways to meet that challenge.
Are You Doing Things You Don’t Have to Do?
Review the steps on your writing process. Can you eliminate any?
Could you eliminate a revision and still be okay? I worked with a client a couple of years ago who revised his blog posts six times before he published them. He formed that habit years before, when his first drafts and revisions were not nearly as good as they are now. He was able to cut two revisions out of his process and save a bunch of time he could use for new writing.
Can you outsource some tasks? One of my clients produces the first draft of anything he wants to write and then sends it to me. We joke that my job is “finding the statue in the stone.” I usually identify the key idea and restructure his material to make his point more effectively. He reviews (and usually revises) my draft. He saves a bunch of writing time and spends it on his business.
I know several people who use some variation of that approach. One writes the first two drafts of her material, then sends it off to an editor for polishing and publishing. Another talks through what he wants to say with a writing partner who produces the first draft.
Changes like these can give you a big boost in productivity right away. You can also make small changes that help you get the most from your writing time.
How Can You Get the Most from Your Writing Time?
Be ready to write when it’s time to write. Don’t set aside a block of precious writing time and then spend most of it trying to think of what you’re going to say. Know what you’re going to say when you start your writing session. The proven way to do that is to quit every session only after you have decided exactly what you’re going to say when you start the next session.
Build strong writing habits. If you develop the habit to write in the same place at the same time with the same equipment every time, your brain will get the message. It will know, “It’s time to write!” and get started.
Don’t waste your precious writing time doing anything else. Avoid the temptation to do research or check your bank balance or think about what to have for lunch. Just write.
Block out distractions. Turn off your phone and leave it in the other room. If you have a weakness for checking the internet, pull the plug on your Wi-Fi until you’re done writing. Close the door to your writing cave. If you’re writing at home, make it a rule that no one should interrupt you while you’re writing. When I had kids at home, the rule was that, if my door to the writing cave was closed, they should only open it if they also had to call 911.
Develop pre-start and closeout rituals. Rituals help your brain help you. Start every writing session the same way. Get rid of those distractions and close the door. Then, do a couple of things the same way every time to get your brain ready to write. I do a couple of minutes of meditation and then turn on my writing playlist.
There are two basic ways to improve your writing productivity. Look for things you can eliminate and outsource. They will give you the biggest improvement quickly. Then, look at small changes to improve the way you write.