Productivity Hacks for Writers

Online content writing may give you the freedom to pick your own hours and work from home, but make no mistake, it is a debilitating process, both mentally and physically. Most writers pen four or five articles in a single day – some manage even more. Heavy writing days are exhaustive, not because of the sheer volume of content, but because of the time-wasting activities that eat away at working hours.

Bruce Lee once said, “It’s not the daily increase but daily decrease. Hack away at the unessential.” – he really does hit the nail on the head! Some writers spend days working on a single 500 word article, while others can churn out several in a matter of hours. Does it mean that the quality suffers? Not necessarily. Some people are just more productive than others.

These sanity-saving writing hacks will help you shed hours of unproductive time, and improve your overall output.

Create a Suitable Working Environment

Everyone has their own creative catalyst. Some people like to work in complete silence, while others need the hustle and bustle of a busy coffee house. Work wherever you find it easiest to concentrate; just make sure that you’re free from distractions. Turn off your phone, close down Facebook, and tell your family and friends that writing time is work time. You wouldn’t let them interrupt your day if you were working in an office or on a construction site would you? It’s exactly the same scenario.

Stop Editing On-The Fly

First drafts are called “first drafts” for a reason; they’re not complete! Stopping your flow to self edit will block your train of thought. It doesn’t matter if your first draft – or even second draft – is riddled with poorly constructed sentences, spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Edit and proofread your work when it’s complete. If possible, set the article aside for an hour or two. Mistakes can be difficult to pinpoint when you’re still in writing mode. Fresh eyes will make all the difference.

Outsource Research Assignments

When work becomes overwhelming, consider outsourcing. As a writer you’ll probably want to maintain a consistent “voice,” so hiring a ghost-writer may not be a viable option. However, if you’re at a loss for topic ideas or need to source some important information, such as statistics or a quote from an industry expert, a virtual assistant could be of service. Outsourcing will allow you to maintain creative control and concentrate on the content, rather than the mundane activities beneath the service.

Keep a Journal of Ideas

More often than not, your best ideas will come outside of working hours when your mind has had time to recuperate. Keep a notebook with you at all times and scrawl down anything that pops into your head during these unexpected occasions. You should be training your ideas-muscle like a bodybuilder trains his biceps. Before you go to bed at night, spend five minutes to think of new ideas. Simply write down anything within the boundaries of your niche that springs to mind, no matter how ludicrous it may be. The next day, delete, refine and prioritize.

Use Batching to Group Related Activities

Batching is a highly practical way of working that’s commonly used by online entrepreneurs to enhance productivity. Organize your week into related categories (batches) and try to complete each batch before moving on to the next. For example, if you need to write multiple articles about the same topic – a common occurrence for SEO writers – group them together into one batch. Or if video blogging is a big part of your online presence, consider writing the scripts for several videos on one day, and recording all of them on another. Batching essentially provides a productive framework for your work week, which allows you to remain focused on a single task, rather than having to constantly adapt.

Moderate Your Social Network Activity

In today’s digital world, checking emails and social networks is part of our hourly routine. In a survey conducted by ContentWatch, 41% of participants admitted that Facebook was their number one distraction during working hours; 50% also admitted that they wasted two to five hours per week on social media – enough time to write several blog posts! Applications such as StayFocused and InboxPause can switch off your email and social network notifications during certain times of the day. You don’t have to ban yourself completely – this can have adverse effects – but you should definitely moderate your use. Save email checking and social networking for your scheduled breaks.

Write an Outline First

Forget about what you were taught in high school. There’s a world of difference between formal essay writing and blogging. You don’t need to plan out each and every paragraph, but at the very least, write down the sub-headings and shuffle them around to ensure your article is well-structured. When you have an outline, feel free to follow your stream of conciousness, even if it means that you’re not writing in order. This approach is known as the “attack and complete” method and is ideally suited to list-based content.

Use Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

If you need expert information for an upcoming article, post a query on Help a Reporter Out. Their database has over 250,000 active experts, including thousands of influencers who have a strong web presence. Within just a few hours, your inbox will be bombarded with responses. Unlike Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, you won’t have to build up a following or “cold connect” with established names. Queries only take a few minutes to write and will leave you with a wealth of unpublished and unique information from some of the best minds in your niche.

Write for People, Not Search Engines

SEO writing sticks out like a sore thumb; it’s bland, keyword heavy, lacks personality and, worst of all, is boring to write! Writing for the search engines has its benefits, and of course, there is a place for it in the profession, but it shouldn’t dictate your style. It’s a strange irony that the type of content Google is actively trying to combat is often believed to perform the best. Five years ago you could write keyword-stuffed articles on a content farm and receive a top listing within hours; three years ago you could retain a keyword heavy blog, as long as the content was original and met a certain word count/keyword density. But… Google’s algorithm is constantly advancing and these techniques no longer work. If you write to rank, your content will suffer in the long-run.

Embrace Writer’s Block

Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t think of the words. Rather than churning out uninspiring content riddled with unimaginative ideas, give yourself a break. Grab a coffee, take a walk and try to distance yourself from the task at hand. When you get back to writing, start off with something short and simple; something that doesn’t require too much thought or creativity. After warming up your mind, ideas will start to flow.

Trust yourself; not everything you write needs to be worthy of a Pulitzer Prize. You will inevitably read back your content in the future and wonder if it made the grade. Mulling over your mistakes will do nothing but hinder your motivation and harm productivity. Learn from your mistakes, but rather than criticize your past abilities, congratulate yourself; it means you’ve improved.

Hayden Miyamoto