When you write for a living, every minute of your day is important. If you’re not writing, you’re not making money. Learning how to write fast is crucial to increasing your productivity, and your income. And even if you’re not a full-time writer, chances are your job requires A LOT of writing. We’ve compiled nine of our favorite techniques to get you working faster from the king of content creation, Neil Patel.
1. Talk it out
“Everyone is different, but most people can talk significantly faster than they can type,” says Patel. “I’m talking 3-4 times as fast.”
He recommends Google docs voice typing, where you speak into your computer’s microphone and your words are automatically typed onto the page. With this tool, you can create a very quick “spoken draft” which you go back and clean up later.
2. Limit distractions
When you’re really in a time crunch, distractions can lead to disaster. So, put your phone on silent, turn off your music and close the door. Use a tool that will block you from visiting certain websites while you’re working.
“The urge to check email, visit social media sites, or just click a bookmark to go to your favorite site to kill time is strong,” Patel says.
Don’t give in!
3. Pick the right time of day
Maybe you’re a night owl, or maybe you’re an early bird. “Writing is a mentally demanding task,” says Patel. “You should do your writing during your most productive time of the day. If you do so, you could turn a two-hour article into a one-hour job.”
Not sure what time of day is right for you? Try writing in the morning one day, mid-day the next, and at night the next. Take a few notes after each work session to document how much you got done and how easy or hard it was to do.
4. Outline first
Never start with a blank screen. When you sit down to write, you should have an outline ready to go.
“When you have an outline in place, your brain is already familiar with the way you should structure ideas,” Patel says. All you have to do is flesh out your bullet points into sentences. Far less intimidating than a blank screen—and lots easier to write.
5. Take frequent breaks
When you’re hurtling towards the finish line, your brain gets tired and you become less productive. It might seem counterintuitive, but taking time away from your work is the best way to get things done fast.
Patel recommends structuring your time using the Pomodoro Technique, created by Francesco Cirillo. According to this productivity method, you work for 25 minutes followed by a 5 minute break. Repeat this four times, then take a longer break of 15-30 minutes.
Try it out using Tomato Timer.
6. Set a deadline
According to Patel, “The problem many professional writers have is that they give themselves a day to write a post, even if they may not need it.”
Try giving yourself a more strenuous deadline—one or two hours from now, instead of at the end of the day or end of the week. “If you give yourself too much time to finish something,” he says, “it will take longer to do.”
7. Skip the tough parts
We all hit a wall at one point or another. It could be an idea, a sentence, or even a single word. Whatever has you stuck, don’t waste time trying to come up with a solution right then and there. Instead, skip it. Move on to an easier part of your project, and come back to the tough part later. By the time you revisit, you’ll have a solution.
Find yourself getting stuck frequently? You might want to rethink your content topics altogether.
“If you’re trying to write about boring topics, you’ll have trouble getting very far,” says Patel. “You’ll be banging your head against a wall if you try to produce content you’re not passionate about.”
8. Use short sentences and simple words
Your writing doesn’t have to be fancy and flowery. Keep it simple. Big words and complex sentences take more time to write—and they also take more time to read.
Patel notes a study that found reading from a screen is painful for our eyes. “For this reason, people read 25% slower on a computer screen compared to print,” he says. “Writing shorter sentences will help your readers assimilate your ideas and put them to work.”
9. Edit later
“Research has shown that constantly shifting focus can decrease productivity by up to 40%. This is the main reason you don’t want to write a sentence and then think about whether you should edit it,” according to Patel.
Focus on putting new words on the page, and don’t worry about whether they’re perfect. Come back later and edit with fresh eyes.