Stop Stalling and Write Already!
Content marketers would be at least 60% more efficient if Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist. We’re joking, and we definitely made that statistic up. However, one of the most-essential skills for content creators is definitely an ability to focus in on a document, and block out the world, especially the internet. It’s an ironic and frustrating occupational hazard that developing a social media following is critical for driving traffic and positive SEO, but they’re pretty darn distracting. Red eApp research has found that the average American worker is distracted every 10.5 minutes, and it can take up to 23 minutes to re-focus and resume writing. We’re not suggesting that your boss implement a strict social media policy on the clock, but rather that you adopt these focus tips outlined below:
1. Write Awful First Drafts
Don’t hit publish on thin or awkward content, but don’t take yourself so seriously that you can’t afford to write a laughable first draft. Perfectionism is a bit of a vicious cycle: you get frustrated because you can’t figure out the perfect word or phrase and decide to find out what’s up in your Facebook timeline. It’s a bad habit, and you should kick it to the curb. Allot time to editing, and realize that first drafts are a work in progress. According to author Jennifer Egan, “maybe good writing isn't happening, but let some bad writing happen.”
2. Stop Switching Screens
Multi-tasking has been proven to be pretty ineffective - in fact, Red eApp has found that tasks performed simultaneously take 30% longer than if they were finished at the same time. Stop writing two or more pieces of content at once, and start working in a single window. One of IMA’s most efficient writers, Jen, even creates her in-text citations first and then writes, to avoid having to open and close tabs throughout the blogging process.
Programs like Freedom are gaining steam among authors, due to the fact it allows individuals to disable the ability to jump between windows or tabs. We’re not convinced it’s valuable for content creators, due to the need to access online resources, but we’d love to hear if you’ve found a viable alternative.
3. Embrace Parkinson’s Law
One of the most-controversial productivity proverbs is known as Parkinson’s Law: “word expands to fill the time provided.” If you sit down to start writing for the day with no clue what you’re going to accomplish, there’s a good chance you’ll end up with less than if you’d started with specific goals. Create your content calendars well in advance. Set specific and attainable, yet lofty goals. Your sole focus on most days out of the month should be creating content. Don’t let anything else stand in your way.
4. Find Your Rhythm and Take Breaks
Every writer will sometimes go on a word bender, where they spend an entire weekend hammering out concepts for the great American novel or outstanding blog articles. However, this inspiration is often few and far between. The rest of the time, give yourself permission to walk around and take frequent breaks. Blogger David Deleon Baker states that breaks can actually improve focus and creativity, citing that medical researchers have found an increase in “activation associated with physical activity...which can then be invested into cognition.” Find your rhythm, and walk around. It’s why the Pomodoro technique, which prescribes a short break every 25 minutes, is such an effective method for professional creatives.
5. Ignore Emails
While you should check with your boss before making any serious decisions, kill your inbox already. By which we mean, shut it while you’re creating content, and check it at regular, well-spaced intervals. Researchers at UC Irvine recently asked a group of professionals to simply stop checking their email for 5 days. Their productivity soared, stress levels tanked and health flourished. Break up with your email inbox addiction, and the same goes for Google Talk/Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/Quora. You get the picture.
6. Have an Extra-Special Inspiration Folder
Your content calendar should be an ongoing effort, and you know that you’re a rock star if you can sit down to write a piece of content and find that you’ve curated enough examples ahead of time to just press “go.” Whether you decide to save tabs or copy and paste links into your content calendar, it’s essential to work towards a point of constantly curating research, resources and inspiration.
Also, I have it on good authority that some of the world’s most effective content creators spend a whole bunch of their time subscribing to email lists to curate examples of brands doing marketing automation the wrong or right way. You should strive to never break your workflow once you’ve started writing in order to find appropriate research!
7. Stop Getting Ready to Get Ready
It’s kind of an abstract saying, but it’s one of our CEO, Bill’s favorites. Stop preparing to write. Don’t connect to anything until you’ve completed your core content creation tasks for the day. Don’t check your email, Twitter or Facebook (unless you’re a social media manager, in which case you should ignore that previous sentence). Stop getting ready, and just get it done.
In case you're curious why you should listen to me about focus tips? I’m definitely a work in progress, but this took me 27 minutes, start to finish, to write.
We’re dying to learn how you focus and create content at a high velocity. Please share your insights and experience in the comments!