By Emily Matras
Meredith recently asked me to share some tips about writing productivity with attendees at our last TESA Mastermind Retreat in Turks & Caicos – because she’s under the impression that when it comes to my GIFTE writing duties, I don’t procrastinate. I’m flattered that Meredith doesn’t think I procrastinate on my writing assignments … but that’s not quite the case. I love to write, but like many, sometimes the last thing I want to do is put pen to paper. My occasional tendency to procrastinate, however, is exactly what led me to develop strong writing productivity habits – because I really need them! In this article, I share my top three strategies for keeping your writing productivity high:
It sounds like a simple tip, but there’s nothing more daunting than trying to fill a blank page with words. Having an outline takes the pressure off. And once you create an outline, try going back and outlining the outline – if you have a super detailed outline, then when it comes to actually writing the piece you’re basically just stringing words together. This works for blog posts, email campaigns, presentations, you name it. Just keep drilling down your outline until all you have to do is fill in the “filler” words. If your outline is detailed enough, chances are that more than half of your piece will be written with the outline alone.
2. Write first and edit later.
As a former English major, it pains me to write a bad sentence. But I write bad sentences all the time; if I got hung up on making every sentence perfect as I’m writing, then GIFTE would probably never send out any emails … Try to get everything down on paper (or in Word) first, and then go back later to edit and make things sound better. With distance comes clarity, so when you return to your writing you’ll often find that the sentence you agonized over sounds perfectly fine, but a different sentence or two needs tightening up.
And if you’re in the middle of writing and can’t remember a reference or don’t know a statistic off the top of your head, use the old journalistic trick of employing “TK” as a place marker (it’s an abbreviation for “To Come”). I recently wrote a blog post about Facebook ad images and wanted to use a tip dispensed by a well-known Facebook ad guru – but I had forgotten this guru’s name! I was in the writing groove, so instead of interrupting my groove to use Google, I just turned to my trusty “TK” trick. The first draft of my post read like this: “And here’s a tip from online media guru TK: yellow buttons get higher conversion rates.” When I use “TK” I can just keep writing, and I don’t lose my train of thought. Later I go back and ctrl-f “TK” to find what I need to replace; it works because the letters T and K don’t occur naturally next to one another in the English language very often – so the only thing your “TK” search should bring up is the place holders you need to replace. After I finished writing my blog post I turned to Google to figure out that guru’s name, and so the final version read: “And here’s a tip from online media guru Amy Porterfield: yellow buttons get higher conversion rates.”
3. Use the Pomodoro Method to light your writing fire.
You might have heard of the Pomodoro Method: it involves working in short bursts of time, say 25 minutes, and then giving yourself a break afterward. You take a 3-5 minute break after each “pomodoro” (25-minute time increment) and a longer break of 15-30 minutes after four pomodori. Try writing within these chunks of time. It’s the “dangling the carrot” method of writing, since those short breaks serve as rewards. If you really dread writing, then I highly suggest you try the Pomodoro Method – since knowing that you only have to write for 25 minutes straight might ease your writing anxiety. Sometimes I don’t want to interrupt my writing flow, but this works on the days when writing just feels like pulling teeth (and I bet we all have those days).
Next time you dive into a writing project, try these three tips to see what works best for you. Maybe one of two of these strategies will really stick. That way, you can spend less time writing and more time on your own brilliance – planning incredible trips for incredible clients.