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3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Writing Speed

3 Easy Ways to Increase Your Writing Speed

Does this situation sound familiar? You sit in front of the computer with the full intention to write a blog post, paper, or article, but the moment your fingers touch the keyboard, you can’t bring yourself to type up anything decent. Your muse or source of inspiration is nowhere to be found and you’re easily distracted (*cough* Facebook!) Before you know it, an hour has passed and you’re still staring at a blank page.

Slow writing days aren’t pretty. They kill your productivity and leave you feeling like you just wasted a lot of time. And if you’re trying to make a living doing it, then you know that not being able to write fast enough can also kill your earnings.

Fortunately though, slow writing days don’t have to be the norm. As you’ll find out below, developing the right habits when it comes to writing and idea generation will save you lots of time and make the writing process smoother and easier.

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1. Always have your ideas handy

A lot of writers get stuck at the very beginning. They sit in front of the screen without having a clue as to what to write about, so they end up wasting time racking their brains for something to clever to put on paper.

Don’t make the same mistake. Avoid taking on a writing task empty-handed (or should we say “empty-minded”). It’s a one-way street to Writer’s Block Lane or Distraction Boulevard. Instead, develop the habit of always keeping your eyes and mind open for ideas.

If you’re reading a blog post and see something that you can write about in the future, take note of it immediately. Write it down or use a note taking app such as Evernote to do it. Hear an inspirational quote that you could possibly use? Make a note of it so you won’t forget.

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By doing so, you’ll always have a trusty note pad (or note app) filled with ideas, lines, or notions that you can draw inspiration from. Have your notes with you at all times and whip them out when you need to come up with content. Do this, and you’ll find it easier to begin writing.

2. Create an outline

Before proceeding to write a witty introduction or type up lengthy paragraphs, plan out your post by creating an outline. Jot down a quick line or two about what you need to say at the beginning, write down the main points that you want to discuss in the body, and then move on to the conclusion.

Having an outline gives you a plan. It gives your writing some direction, organizes your thoughts, and helps you flesh out your ideas quickly and more effectively. It also keeps you from being distracted. An outline enables you to stay on point and prevents you from wasting time writing things that are irrelevant or unimportant.

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3. Don’t mix research and editing with writing

Once you have an outline, do your research and look up all the things that you need before you begin writing. Get the research task out of the way so that you can just focus on finishing that article. Don’t do your research and writing simultaneously–this will only lead to distraction and it will slow you down.

Avoid looking up words or synonyms while you’re in the middle of writing. Doing so can curtail your thought process. If you think that there’s a better word than the one you just typed, highlight it, then keep writing. You can go back to it later when you’re polishing the piece.

The same goes for fact checking or ensuring that you spelled names or took down numbers correctly. One minute you’re looking up stats to make sure that you wrote them down, then, before you know it, you’re clicking through blogs or checking your Twitter feed.

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Just take note of these little things and deal with them once you’re done with the entire first daft.

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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