When a marketing campaign works, celebrating new leads and increasing sales numbers is the natural tendency. Sometimes, vital components of a marketing campaign – like design, email, content, and SEO – get completely overlooked. Each of these core elements requires the skill of an expert marketer. Unfortunately, many of these skills get underrated or misunderstood.
Writing is perhaps the most misunderstood skill of the bunch. We all write in some capacity, which causes people who don’t write well to assume it comes naturally to those who do. But answering an email or sending a text isn’t the same thing as writing creative and informative content.
So let’s make one thing clear: writing is not easy.
In our fast-paced digital world, the difficulty of creating great content gets magnified. With everybody clamoring for more content and faster production rates, the pressure to write can get overwhelming.
Whether you’re a freelance content marketer writing from home, or part of a team in an office, here are four things you can do to boost your productivity:
Structure your day.
The idea of structure flies in the face of many creative ideologies, and there are successful writers out there who would say structure ruins their process.
But, there are plenty of reasons writers should structure their day, especially if they feel like they’re stuck in a productivity rut.
For freelance writers or those who work from home, distraction – or any reason not to write – is everywhere. Whether it’s a household task or an errand to run, it’s common to push writing to the side when the words aren’t flowing. When you structure your day with a schedule, it’s easier to run your errands when it’s time to run errands and write when it’s time to write.
A structured day is all about helping you do your tasks by reducing the number of decisions you have to make. Do what the schedule says, and you’ll get more done. I know, “easier said than done,” but if you’re a writer that gets easily distracted, maybe testing a more structured process to your day will help. What have you got to lose?
Don’t wait for perfection.
In terms of writing to perfection, I have one piece of advice: don’t do it. A writer either crafts every sentence to perfection, working on each sentence until it’s just right, or they let the words flow and rely on editing.
Consider these time frames. Let’s assume there are roughly 60 sentences in a 1000 word blog post. We’ll allow two hours for research and ideation of a post. If a writer can write free-form, we’ll give them one minute per sentence – so 60 minutes to write the post. Add another hour for editing. If a writer doesn’t write to perfection, in total, it’s about four hours of steady work.
But, if writing each sentence to perfection takes an average of three times longer – now, that’s three minutes per sentence. If we allow the same time allocation for research and ideation but cut editing time in half, that’s five and a half hours to create the same 1000 word blog post. An hour and a half longer for the “perfectionist” writer, and that’s assuming you can ever get past the first sentence!
It’s easier said than done, but for productivity’s sake, don’t wait for perfection. Besides, who’s to say your idea of perfection will match that of the readers?!
WSI’s COO Valerie Brown-Dufour recently wrote, “One of the biggest obstacles to doing anything, whether it’s launching a business or packing a suitcase, is getting started.”
Writers everywhere, including myself, shudder when they read that sentence – only because of how true it rings.
Every writer knows the first sentence of a blog post is the hook that pulls in the reader. For writers stuck on perfection, the first sentence is a nightmare because it’s difficult to get right the first time.
My advice, which holds true to what I said about perfection, is just to start writing. The best way to start writing is to skip the first sentence – maybe even the first paragraph – and get the cold hard facts and ideas down on the page. Once you have the body of the post done, it’s surprising how much easier it is to write the introduction – and that all important first sentence.
Take fun breaks.
It’s important for writers to remember they need breaks too. For writers who work from home and are itching to do those chores or errands, leave those tasks for after hours. Take fun breaks instead.
Look, sometimes writing isn’t fun, even if you’re good at it. What’s the point in taking a break to do something else that takes a lot of effort, like a chore or an errand? That won’t feel like much of a break.
Writers: take a mindless break that allows you to relax. Walk or play with your pets if you work from home. Fire up a game on your phone or computer if you’re at the office or a coffee shop. If you have the freedom, call a friend for a quick chat. Or, engage in some “watercooler” discussions with your colleagues, like what happened on the last episode of Game of Thrones.
Breaks should give you an opportunity to recharge your batteries, not sap even more of your mental energy.
Writing is a tough gig, even more so in today’s content-hungry digital world. For writers, the key to increased productivity is putting aside expectations, deadlines, and perfection. These things only add to the difficulties of writing.
The most important thing for a writer to do is to structure their time behind the keyboard. Never sit down and stare at your screen again. Have a plan and stick to it.
For writers out there: have you tried any of these methods for boosting your productivity? What are some of your unique tactics for coaxing your words onto the page? We’re all about helping marketers up their productivity, and we’d love to hear your tips and tricks!