Every blogger wants to write supremely useful and insightful content.
The question is — how do I pull that off consistently without my blog eating up every waking hour of my day?
And if you write for other sites in addition to writing for yourself, there’s even more pressure to keep the quality up. Whether you’re getting paid in cash or traffic, you can bet your host blogs are counting on you for great posts — every time.
They can write crappy posts on their own, thank you.
There was a time when I was on deadline to deliver nearly 60 blog posts per month — mostly for paying clients — so I learned how to do it efficiently.
I didn’t really have a choice, unless I wanted to give up sleep and raising of my children.
Thankfully, there are a few simple, universal habits that will help you do your best writing in less time.
Here are my five tips for becoming a creatively prolific content producer:
1. Always keep a stack of good ideas up your sleeve
Nothing wastes a writer’s time more than sitting down to write and not knowing what you want to say.
If a deadline is looming, you’re just stuck in that chair until inspiration strikes. This is a major time-waster. That pressure to deliver a great post idea — right now — also inhibits creativity for many writers.
Prevent this problem by scanning many and varied sources for ideas.
Keep a running list of possible content topics — I keep track of mine with the free WordPress Editorial Calendar plugin.
I also keep newsletters and possible headline sources in an email folder together. With my raw idea material organized, it doesn’t usually take more than a half-hour to scan through everything and add enough ideas to my list to hold me for weeks.
By contrast, trolling for ideas one at a time can easily consume countless hours.
Planning ahead with an editorial calendar also helps you consider the whole month’s blogging needs instead of just thinking about your next post. This shift in mindset helps ensure any special events, holidays, or other “time pegs” are on your radar and don’t get missed.
Thinking ahead can help you see how your posts’ topics relate to each other, which can spotlight gaps that additional posts could fill. Presto! New post ideas.
You might also spin related posts into a content series. Grouping topics helps the writing flow faster. If some breaking news crops up you want to write on, you can always move another post idea forward.
Now that’s far preferable to finding yourself with no idea for tomorrow’s post, and little beads of sweat forming on your furrowed brow.
2. Blog in batches
Blogs involve a certain amount of technical grunt work.
You may need to find photos, upload them, enter a photo credit, write your alternate and title tags. And of course you definitely need to write a great headline.
It’ll save a lot of time to sit and do a whole slew of these basic tasks at once.
Now that you’re planning ahead, you could find and upload the next five photos you need all in a batch, instead of hunting them down one by one. Get all those photos installed on their posts, even if you’re not writing those entries today.
Then, when it’s time to write, you’ll feel like your post is already half done. Taming the administrivia frees you up to get into a better flow with your writing, instead of stopping with each post to search for the right image or tinker with the headline.
While you’re thinking in batches, consider writing several posts in a sitting.
Once you’re writing in the style of your blog or your client’s blog, keep rolling with that tone and knock out several entries.
This is far more efficient than writing each post in a separate sitting, and trying to recapture that groove the next day or even a week later.
3. Know your chronobiology
Every human being has a different natural rhythm to their creative life.
Some of us reliably do our best writing before breakfast, while others would find it difficult to write a coherent sentence until after noon.
Scientists call this chronobiology — your natural, internal biological clock.
Simply put, you’re hard-wired to be more naturally creative at certain times of day, and you’re less brilliant at other times.
Whenever possible, don’t fight your biology. Don’t try to write in your least productive time periods. It’ll take you longer to do the same amount of work, and the results probably won’t be as good.
Instead, try to organize your life so that your peak creative time is free of trivial tasks, phone appointments, or twitter.
Then, write like mad.
4. Write ahead
One of the biggest threats to producing quality content is time pressure.
If you’re writing content the same day you need it to go up, you sacrifice one of the most powerful tools for improving your writing: The chance to read it again tomorrow before you click “send.”
Essentially, if you’re writing and immediately posting, you’re posting a first draft. Also known as a rough draft.
This is not your best work.
Instead of writing frantically and having to post right away, back up all your deadlines by at least 48 hours. Now you’ve got time to dash off a first draft today, leave it alone, and revisit it tomorrow.
That fresh perspective will help you spot the weak areas and buff them up (or cut them) quickly, where you could torment yourself all day trying to squeeze out the draft in one go.
5. Keep it simple
Too often, writers let blog posts ramble on too long, or wander off onto multiple trails and tangents.
Good blog posts are concise and stick to a single topic.
Posts that follow one train of thought also take less time to write. Over-thinking it can waste hours, and you’ll end up pruning out the miscellaneous observations in the end anyway.
Got more ideas on a topic? Split them up and create a series. Don’t try to cram it all into one post.
Be on guard against side issues that will end up as deadwood anyway, and send them over to your idea list instead.
Mix a little advance planning with tightly focused topics, and you’ll crank out better content in less time.
Maybe you’ll even get to catch a nap.
How about you? What’s your favorite tip for kicking your writing efficiency into high gear? Let us know about it in the comments.