Do you want to write blog posts, create videos, podcasts, freebies, and so much more… But feel like you have zero time to do it?
Does it seem that every time you try, you waste a lot of time and end up with a piece of content that you know could have been much better?
I know how you feel. Every content creator does. Writing or recording brilliant content requires lots of focus, effort, time, patience and skill, which is exactly what makes it so hard.
Luckily, in this post I have five techniques I’ve used and perfected over a long time that have helped me exponentially increase my content creation productivity and reduced the time it takes me to produce high-quality, long-form content.
The first two sections will apply to you if you’re writing online content, but the rest is applicable across all content formats.
Let’s make you productive!
Separate writing from editing
This is a big one, and it was holding me back for a very long time. I’ve been writing in some shape or form for many years now.
However, it was only about a year or so ago when I realized I’m doing double work simultaneously – and probably about 4 times slower – because I’m trying to write a perfect piece of content in the first go.
How did this work out for me?
I’d write the first paragraph.
Then the second.
Then I’d come back to the first one, move some sentences and thoughts around, fix some punctuation, add bullet points.
Then the second paragraph wouldn’t work, so I’d rewrite it immediately.
And then fix its punctuation, too. And move stuff around.
Then it’s 45 minutes later, and I have two paragraphs and a brain full of scattered thoughts because I’m thinking 1,000 words ahead, and I’m not sure how to structure my words based on what I have so far.
Luckily, I came across many resources that made me realize how wrong my approach was.
You’ve heard me mention Ann Handley before, and I’m mentioning her again: in her book Everybody Writes, she mentions something called The Ugly First Draft.
The Ugly First Draft – or TUFD for short – is what happens when, after your research and initial preparation, you sit and write, without editing or even fixing typos, until you have a completed first draft.
It’s intimidating and weird at first. Oh, and ugly. But it’s also so liberating and it’s basically the path to freedom. (Okay, I may be overreacting. Still, though.)
And I say so because as writers, we tend to expect so much from ourselves (I’m very guilty of that, and I will never let a bad piece of writing see the light of day), and we want to get it right on our first go.
So trust me when I say: Do your research and prep work first. Then, sit down and write your words. All of them. When you get your message and your key points, and you have an introduction and an outro, that’s it. Stop.
Let it sit for 24 hours (at least).
Come back to it. Laugh at it first if it will make you feel better. Then make it awesome with editing. You’ll use your editing process to:
- Make your ugly draft a pretty final version
- Get rid of bloated writing
- Catch any misspellings and errors like duplicate information
- Perfect your flow and storytelling
So let’s get into editing into more depth.
A good editing process is made of several stages, and you shouldn’t skip them.
Also, you shouldn’t be doing them all at once.
- Big picture editing
- Introduction editing
- Call to action
Big picture editing
This will be your first go at TUFD. In this initial stage of editing, I usually read through the post a couple of time and remove any repetitions, add any information that’s missing, and move around sentences, paragraphs or sometimes entire sections in order to ensure a good flow of information.
Use this time to look at your blog post as a whole, rather than at details such as spelling, punctuation and individual words.
I love talking about this one!
It’s not so rare to see a lot of fluff in the introduction. Paragraph after paragraph leading into the matter of the article, but they are all saying the same thing and unnecessarily delaying the actual core of the post.
The solution? Cut sentences from your blog post introduction. It’s kind of scary at first, but it’s also insanely effective.
It’s very simple: remove the first sentence. Do your introduction and blog post still hold the same meaning? If yes, great. Do it again. Keep removing sentences for as long as your overall point remains unchanged. Sometimes I’ll remove a whole paragraph, realizing it was pure fluff!
If you’re not feeling so comfortable doing this so rigorously, try to shorten your intro in any other way that works well for you. Trust me, there’s almost always room for shortening it, and it simply works.
Call to action
Your post will be infinitely better when you add a purpose to it and tie it with a clear call to action (I’ve written more about it here). This step is as simple as defining that CTA (in case you haven’t done so beforehand) and ensuring it’s naturally mentioned in the blog post!
Proofreading will ensure all your spelling is correct, with all full stops, commas, parentheses, quotation marks and other punctuation in place.
While it’s easy to cave to a spellcheck to do your job for you, avoid taking that path as your first step.
In fact, the way I do this is to start out by manually proofreading every single word and sentence, using one of the two common strategies:
- Reading the article out loud
- Reading everything backwards, i.e. word by word starting from the last one
Both of these techniques will ensure you consciously pay attention to the mechanics of your words rather than the flow. While both of these strategies will make you focus on the actual spelling and typos, the first one is the one that will help you catch punctuation errors, too.
Once I’m finished with my manual checks – but only then and not any sooner – I go to my loyal editing partner Grammarly. Because I’m using the premium version of Grammarly, it will catch some more advanced mistakes, repetitive words, passive voice use, unusual word pairings, and more.
But don’t think you must take the Premium road. I was using Grammarly for a long time before I even considered Premium, which I only upgraded to once writing became my bread and butter.
Install the free extension and see how Grammarly can make it easy for you to proofread your work!
I start my formatting process after all the steps above, but before I transfer the text into WordPress. I make sure I include:
- H2 and H3 tags
- Bullet points
- Paragraph breaks
- Bold and italic text
- Notes for any images I’ll use
Then, once everything is in WordPress and I add images, I will open the post in Preview mode and check that everything is flowing nicely from a visual standpoint. If there is a wall of text that’s difficult to follow at any part of the post, I will go back into the editing mode and find an opportunity to break up the text differently or emphasize something in it with an embedded quote box.
Once I fix it, I’ll go back to Preview mode and keep doing this until I’m completely happy with the visual flow of the blog post.
And then, editing is done!
Have a bulletproof workflow
No productivity ‘hacks’ will help you unless you have a solid content workflow and know exactly which tasks need to be completed, by whom and by which date, and in what order.
In essence, your workflow should contain the following:
- Goals: all content formats that need to be completed. For example: blog posts, videos, ebooks, and so on; you’ll also want to define the amount per month.
- Steps: all the steps included in getting these things done
- Roles: the people in charge for each of the steps
- Times: the timeframe for each of the steps
And finally, from these pieces of information, you’ll be able to build a checklist for ongoing reference.
While you might be thinking you can skip this step in case you’re creating your content alone, don’t be fooled – even if you don’t see the ‘Roles’ point as something applicable to you, you still need to define everything else and build every step into your calendar.
This will help you to always stay on track and create your content quicker and more efficiently!
I’ve written about this already in detail – check out this post to build your entire content production workflow and be able to streamline it.
Single-task like there’s no tomorrow
I can’t stress this enough, and trust me when I say I’m the worst when it comes to keeping sharp focus and high levels of attention to just one task.
There’s this false belief out there that we, as humans, are multitaskers. You know, we pride ourselves in being multitaskers. We put it on our CVs and LinkedIn bios. We think it’s a strong work skill to have.
Hear me out when I say: multitasking (or an attempt to do it) is a productivity killer, and particularly a content productivity killer.
When you’re creating content, you have many tasks to complete (which is exactly why you need a workflow!), and the more complex your piece of content, the worse it gets. Topic brainstorm. Research. Writing. More writing. Editing. More editing. CMS work. Design. Promotion. Outreach. Emails. Collaborations. Messages.
So. Many. Things.
Here’s the thing, though: when you’re trying to do all of it at once, you’re not doing any of it. Or you are, but it’s taking you much longer, your work is of lower quality, you make mistakes, and you get stressed.
The solution? Do one thing at a time.
Only one thing!
So when you’re writing, just write. Don’t try to write your headlines at the same time. Don’t try to think of clever tweets you can write for promotion. Don’t think of the next blog post already. Do just that one thing.
And the same goes for every other task that’s up next on your workflow.
It took me a very long time to accept that my attention span is ridiculously short and that I have to make extra effort to be focused on a single task for a longer time. I am that person that is only one smartphone notification away from an hour of unproductivity.
I’m getting so much better, though, and I’m more productive than I’ve ever been before! One thing that helped me get to this point is Focus@will – a productivity/concentration tool that combines neuroscience with music and helps you stay focused for an amount of time you set.
Once you go through a test that analyzes your current habits and productivity levels, it suggests the best music for you to work along with. I use the Pomodoro technique here and work in sprints of 25 minutes and take a few minutes of rest before the next one. After four of those, I take a larger break.
The key here: during that one sprint, I ONLY work on one task. Only writing. Only editing. Only outlining a video. Only emails. And once I’m done with that one task, I will move to the next one in one of the next sprints.
This has by far been the biggest reason I’m able to get so much done in a single day and often write over 10,000 words in less than a week.
If you want to try Focus@will, this link will give you a $20 credit, too!
Batch similar tasks together
And finally, one of the great strategies that will help you stay focused for long periods of time, like 4-5 hours or even a full day, is batching similar tasks together.
For example, if I have to work on social media for myself and one of my clients, I will do it all in the same part of the day in several sprints rather than over several days.
If I’m writing several blog posts on similar topics (for example, for this blog, a guest blog post, and for a client), I will batch my research together and do it all in one day before I write the following week.
I do the same with outlining upcoming content, editing videos, admin work like invoicing, planning my week/month, emails, and pretty much everything else.
The reason this works is the fact that it costs significant time and effort to switch between tasks and to adjust to the new context, lowering the overall productivity for that day, no matter how thorough your preparation was. And if you do it every day and multiple times a day, your productivity will never reach its peak!
Getting ahead of this is as easy as looking at your task list for the week and batching together those that won’t demand a context switch, allowing you to flow easily between similar tasks.
That’s it! You’re now ready to create content faster and with better results. What are your ways of increasing your content marketing productivity and save time? Tweet me to let me know 🙂
P.S. Pin this post so you can refer to it later: