Consistently writing awesome articles is difficult, especially when you have a million and one other items on your to do list. However, after consistently writing at least one long form post per week for two and a half years, I’ve picked up a trick or two to stack the odds in your favor.
So, here are six ways you can get yourself writing a killer blog post in three hours or less; from mental research libraries to making the most of your unproductive hours, it’s time to hit the ground running and start publishing consistently.
Keep Your Mental Library Topped Up
You can’t expect to write at your best (let alone quickly) if your mind is running on empty. Writers need material to draw on, and the only way to make sure that you can consistently produce quality articles quickly is to have plenty to fuel your mind.
This can be daunting if you’re just starting out, but don’t worry – everything I say here can be used to quickly get yourself up to speed in your niche too.
One of the best ways to stay up to date on current events and breakthroughs is to use an RSS feed like Feedly. These gather articles published from whatever you subscribe to in one place, so it’s great for saving yourself the trouble of surfing through your niche’s various frontrunners.
Just make sure that you remember to check it at least once every couple of days.
There isn’t, however, any substitute for the level of detail you can get from books, so it’s good to also have one to hand at all times that you can dip in and out of. Whether you physically carry the book around with you or just install Kindle on your mobile devices, dive into topics that interest you and read more whenever you can.
If you don’t fancy reading full books, you can always get them as an audiobook through services like Audible. This lets you “read” the same books while freeing up your hands and eyes to do something else, although you probably won’t take in the same level of detail if you don’t focus on the recording.
Finally, it’s great practice to fill your dead air with podcasts to get the most out of your day. Some of my best ideas have struck me while listening to podcasts such as ProBlogger and The Startup Chat, and all of these have struck during times I’d otherwise be focusing on nothing (while traveling, commuting, cooking, and so on).
I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep your mental library topped up. Even if you’re writing for clients with set topics rather than running free with your own blog, the ideas and resources that this provides are incredibly valuable, boosting the quality of your articles and reducing the time it takes to find relevant resources.
Try Writing by Speaking
Some writers (myself included) are useless at speaking eloquently. We can write a 1,000-word chain of thought flawlessly first time (with enough practice), but when speaking out loud we make more mistakes than should be possible.
However, if you’re better at speaking than writing, you can use dictation software to use your voice instead of your hands.
Windows has an admittedly fairly poor speech recognition program (it does the job, but you can’t expect any kind of speedy delivery or pinpoint accuracy), but Google Docs has a free dictation feature when accessed through Google Chrome which is surprisingly good.
When using Google Docs, just press Ctrl+Shift+S (or go into the “Tools” menu and look for “Voice Typing”) to open the dictation window, then click the microphone icon and start talking – it’ll type whatever you say starting wherever your cursor is.
Check out their help article for more information, including commands to format and edit whatever you dictate still by using your voice.
Use a Writing App That Won’t Distract You
Sadly it’s not enough to block out your time and isolate yourself from external distractions – the software you use to write can be just as destructive when you’re setting such a strict timers for yourself.
Cluttered menus and bright colors draw your eyes and attention away from what you should be doing; instead of spending all your time writing and editing to be as efficient as possible, you’re left wandering around your browser, which can quickly snowball into a half-hour Google tangent.
So, instead, use an app that uses a minimal design to keep yourself on track. The best writing app I’ve found for this is Quip, which has such a boring display (especially when using the fullscreen mode) that you start writing just to have something new to look at.
Alternatively, Dropbox Paper and Google Docs are also good choices, although more so for how they link to their respective cloud storage services, and for their sharing and collaborative editing properties.
Essentially, if you want to write quickly enough to get a quality post done in three hours, use Quip to write the majority of it. Once you have the bulk written you can neaten it up and format it properly in Google Docs, WordPress, or wherever else you do the main bulk of your editing and formatting.
Research, Write, and Edit on Separate Days
Unfortunately, if you want to create outstanding posts in one continuous three-hour chunk of time, doing so is incredibly difficult. In fact, I’d say it’s downright impossible to be that productive on a consistent basis.
However, you can write a post within three hours if you spread those hours over three consecutive days.
Researching, writing, and editing all require different schools of thought and all of which suffer if you’re having to flit between them without giving your mind a rest first. So, rather than dragging your mind through the coals and slowing your performance to a crawl by trying to power through, do your research and planning on one day, your writing on another, and your editing on the third.
This is also a great way to make your edits more effective, since giving your mind time to digest what you’ve written and come back a day later will let you easily spot mistakes and improvements.
Keep a Research Folder
I’ve already mentioned how writers need to have plenty of material to draw from and get inspired. However, all the ideas in the world won’t be able to help you if you can’t quickly find and bring up the source of that idea or fact, hence why you should keep a research folder.
Evernote is a great note taking app that (among other things) lets you store anything and everything that might be useful to draw from in an article, and I’d highly recommend installing it on your computer, as a browser extension, and on any mobile devices. That way you can quickly jot down ideas or links you come across in a central location which you can access anywhere.
All you have to do now is remember to save any useful articles, books, ideas, and so on into your research folder for safe keeping going forwards. Then if you need to use anything (or if you just want to search for research you’ve already done), you can search Evernote for a specific item or tag.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I used to hate hearing that “practice makes perfect”, but it’s absolutely true. The more you practice your writing, the quicker your will be able to produce quality work, and the more you’ll settle into your own unique writing style and tone.
This is especially true if you’re working on a personal blog – you’ll want to find your personal tone as quickly as possible to start securing a core audience, and the best way to do this is to write at least a couple hundred words every day.
Some days you might breeze through a few thousand words without a second thought, and others you’ll struggle to even face your keyboard, but force yourself to write every day. It doesn’t matter how much you do, as long as you consistently do something.
There you have it – my top six tips for consistently writing a quality blog post in three hours flat. The only thing I have left to say is that it’s important to remember that speed isn’t everything, and not all blog posts should be completed in less than three hours. It’s better to take longer on a post with more detail after all.
How about you? Have any tips or lessons of your own to share about consistently writing when you’re on a strict timeline? I’d love to start chatting in the comments of this article.
Guest Post by Benjamin Brandall, he is a content marketer at Process Street, where he writes on startups, SaaS, and workflows. In his spare time, he runs Secret Cave, a blog about obscure entertainment and internet culture.