Let’s face it: if writing were easy, there wouldn’t be 136,500 professional copywriters currently employed by businesses of all sizes and in all verticals.
Yet we all know the best content comes from the actual individuals who carry real expertise – that means you. As such, regular blogging for your organization is likely an expectation in your role, but unless it is your primary function, it probably takes you more than a couple of hours to write - those are 2+ hours that are not built into your workflow.
And thus, many zealous professionals end up giving up the blog fight due to an inability to consistently produce high-quality content.
Don’t lose heart, blogging neophytes!
Although making the time to contribute quality content to your blog will always be a challenge, incorporating the following time management strategies will remedy writer’s block, save you time, and free you from paying that copywriter-for-hire to write from Google results and recycled Wikipedia information.
But before we get to the strategies, we must cover the Foundational Principle for Iterative Blog Writing:
Do Not Attempt to Complete Your Blog from Start to Finish in One Setting
Would you attempt to build a website from strategy to production in one day? Writing is a strategic process that requires thought, attention, research, creativity, and strategy. It is unreasonable to believe that you will produce research, title, hook, body, sound arguments, and supported images in one sitting.
It is also unlikely that you have 2-6 hours of uninterrupted time to dedicate to writing, the amount of time that 52% of marketers need to complete a single blog post. So, instead of waiting for that magical day when half your meetings get canceled and you have no other tasks on your plate, consider taking an iterative approach to your writing – one that could be completed over a series of lunch breaks.
Task 1: Brainstorm Your Title & Hook in Advance
Time to set aside for task: 20 minutes
Most likely, you have been given direction by your content managers on a general topic or keyword to write about, so you simply have to drill down to a title and hook.
If you’re having a difficult time deciding on a title, use the Rule of 20:
Rule of 20
Set a timer for 10 minutes. Within 10 minutes, try to come up with 20 different title options for your topic. Then, narrow them down by crossing off the rejects one by one, until you’ve arrived at the best option.
You can use the same concept to determine your hook. Try out different styles of voice: are you going to grip readers by being clever? Sarcastic? Analytical? By establishing the title and hook early, the direction and voice of your article will feed your creativity as you move through the writing process.
Once you’ve made a decision, put your title and hook into a note-taking tool like Evernote and don’t move on to the next step in the writing process for a week or two. As you go about your work, you will have this in the back of your mind and will likely pick up useful resources, examples, and clever metaphors to drop into that note. This prep work will make the next steps much easier.
Task 2: Create an Outline
Time to set aside for task: 15 minutes
You have the direction for your blog in your title and your hook, so the next step is to identify the main points - and their supporting content - for your article.
By doing this in outline form, you will be able to quickly identify if the points you are trying to make are in support of your main argument and in line with the voice and direction of the post. The outline will also guide you as you move to the writing stage, ensuring that you do not miss any important arguments.
Task 3: Write Your Blog Unabashedly and Without Interruption
Time to set aside for task: 30 minutes
The key to this task is to make sure you are focused, open, and uninterrupted:
- Open up your blank slate - whether in Word, Google Docs, etc.
- Shut down all other applications.
- Turn off popups.
- The only open programs on your screen should be a "blank sheet of paper" and your blog outline to guide you.
- Shut yourself behind a closed door via a conference room, office, bedroom, etc.
- If shutting a door is not an option in your office, put headphones in with white noise or non-vocal music.
- You can even have silence in your headphones; the fact that you have them in will signify to your coworkers that you do not want to be disturbed.
- Start writing...don't stop until it's done.
No, really. DO NOT STOP WRITING.
Don’t backspace for misspellings. Don’t worry about grammar. Don’t erase a stupid sentence. Don’t stop to look up a better word. Don’t look at the word count and worry that you’re saying too much...or too little. Don’t mind (right now) if you expressed something in a less than politically correct way. Just -
Get – Your – Thoughts – On - The - Page.
As you’re releasing all your brilliance, use format codes to denote areas that you know will need revision. For instance,
- Red italicized text = need a better vocabulary word
- Light blue text = need to insert a statistic or reference a link to back up the statement
- Highlighted text = insert image example here
Whatever you do, do not stop writing to fix these areas. The purpose of this part of the process is to get all of your thoughts and ideas surrounding your topic on the page.
Task 4: Take a Break
Time allotted for this task: up to 48 hours
Once you’ve liberated all of your brilliance around the subject, it’s important to step away. Take a walk. Get a glass of water. Eat a snack. Read the news. Check your email. Post a selfie to Instagram. Whateva.
Break for a few minutes up to a couple of days. But don’t wait more than 48 hours to get back to your article. Wait too long and you risk losing the momentum that you have built up through the process so far.
Task 5: Take a Machete to Your Writing
Time allotted for this task: 45 minutes
You’re so smart. Everything you have to say is valuable; just not in this single piece of content.
Cutting up your writing will most likely be the most difficult – and maybe even a little emotional - part of the entire writing process, but it is without question the most important. In the famous words of Blaise Pascal,
“I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have the time.”
So how do you decide what to keep and what to slice? For each section in your outline, ask yourself:
- What is the main point I want to get across?
- What do I need to back up this point?
Everything else is fluff: cut it. Unless it’s clever, then keep some of it... and cut and paste the rest into a note for the next blog.
Lastly, go through and highlight words that could use a more descriptive word or phrase. Use Thesaurus.com or a good, old paperback dictionary to look up synonyms.
To spice up your vocabulary, try email subscriptions such as Word a Day which deliver daily vocabulary definitions, etymology, and idiom meanings to your inbox. When I need inspiration, I search my Word a Day folder for my original word to see if any associated words or phrases come up.
Task 6: Add Final Touches like Images and Resources
Time allotted for this task: 20 minutes
The best blogs come complete with supporting images, internal links, and external links to reputable sources.
You have already decided what resources you need and where you need them. Because you saved this step for the end, you are not wasting time finding resources to match content that ultimately got cut or don’t fit the final message.
Task 7: Order Dessert – Your Blog is Complete
You did it! By taking an iterative approach, you wrote a quality and complete blog from start to finish in approximately 2 hours or over 5 lunch breaks.
Quality blogging IS possible, even when it’s not your primary responsibility.
We’re a blogging organization here at Groove, too. Subscribe to our blog by entering your email address at the bottom of this page to see what our bloggers can do!