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7 Tips That Will Make You Write Better and Faster

7 Tips That Will Make You Write Better and Faster

No matter how hard you try, it can sometimes be a battle to finish a piece of writing. Whether you’re writing a paper, article, novel or email, it can be a struggle to express your ideas quickly and clearly. Just like anything else, however, a little practice goes a long way towards fast, quality writing. With seven simple techniques, you can greatly minimize the amount of time you waste not writing, and increase the speed you do write. Plus, the more you do them, the easier these great writing habits get.

You Could Write Your Introduction Last

“My advice is to finish the book, then scrap the first chapter all together and write it again without looking at the original.” — Dr. Kim Wilkins

One way to write quicker is to write your introduction or first paragraph after writing everything else. If you have the majority of your writing planned out, it’s often faster to jump right in with what you’re planning on saying. This way, you won’t need to agonize over your content fitting the tone of the introduction. Additionally, writing the introduction last means you know exactly what you need to summarize, as it’s already on the page. Finally, writing your introduction last lets you avoid staring at a blank page, wondering where to begin. Once you have some things down, it can be much easier to put together an intro, saving you time.

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You Could Be Flexible On Wording

Another way to waste time when you’re trying to write is to agonize over every word. Like staring at a blank page, searching endless thesaurus definitions will knock you off track and interrupt your flow. Especially on the first draft, don’t worry if your wording isn’t quite right. Go through your document after finishing your draft, looking specifically for words you could improve. Better yet, highlight or change the text color of words you know you want to come back to. This way, you can keep your train of thought moving without your work suffering.

You Could Do All Your Research First

Nothing is a bigger distraction than needing to do research in the middle of your writing. Research can be time consuming, plus it will likely make you forget the point you are trying to make. Do as much research as you possibly can before you begin writing. This lets you focus all your energy on writing, without interrupting your thoughts.

You Could Outlaw Distractions

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

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Especially when you’re writing on a computer or device, it can be easy to get distracted. To save time, treat every trip away from your writing document as dangerous. The best way to avoid getting distracted is to leave your document as little as possible. Try keeping all your research and sources in the top portion of a document, then do your writing in the bottom portion of the document. Keep it organized with a slash or image between the two halves. This way, you won’t run the risk of getting caught in surfing the web or answering email every time you need to check your information.

You Could Relax On Your First Draft

“The first draft of everything is sh**.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Similar to rewording sentences as you write, nitpicking too much the first time around will slow you down. Most experts agree that your first draft is always going to need work. This means that no matter how long you take to make everything perfect, you will still need revisions. It’s much faster to keep your momentum going, than it is to get back on track several times a paragraph. Save yourself time as you write by powering through your first draft, then doing all your revisions at once.

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You Could Set A Writing Timer

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

Another way to increase how fast you write is to set a time, then force yourself to keep writing until it goes off. Not only will this force you away from distractions, if you’re struggling to come up with material, free flow writing can help you come up with ideas. Setting a timer and writing free form is also useful as a warm up exercise to get you in the zone.

You Could Easily Outthink Cliches

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

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When your struggling to find writing that grabs a reader, a quick way to burst through cliches is to be as specific as possible. Over generalizing descriptions can be too vague to garnish attention. For example, rather than having a character exclaim they’re freezing, have them say that the threads of their mittens are freezing to their fingers. By taking vague descriptions or phrases and being highly specific, you can quickly revise your writing, while improving your writing’s impact.

Featured photo credit: Pete O’Shea via flickr.com

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Alicia Prince

A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 13, 2020

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

    This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

    We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

    Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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    When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

    Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

    4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

    Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

    For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

    Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

    5. Make Decisions

    For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

    If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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    If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

    Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

    I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

    This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

    The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

    6. Take Some Form of Action

    Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

    The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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    It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

    Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

    The Bottom Line

    Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

    When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

    More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

    Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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