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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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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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