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Super-Efficient Writing: How I Consistently Write Over 1,000 High-Quality Words in Less Than 60 Minutes

Super-Efficient Writing: How I Consistently Write Over 1,000 High-Quality Words in Less Than 60 Minutes
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Writing is the bottleneck.

Not for everyone… but for a lot of people – particularly who are involved in any kind of blogging or content creation. It’s time-consuming, which keeps you from creating all the content that you want to create. And it’s frustrating, which prevents you from expressing your ideas as compellingly as you like.

Except… it doesn’t have to be that way.

My blog posts are usually between 1,200 and 1,400 words long, and I usually spend 60-90 minutes writing them. Often I’ll write two blog posts in a morning, and then spend the rest of the day on other things. That’s how I wrote 80+ guest posts in less than a year, and it’s why people started calling me the “Freddy Krueger of Blogging”.

Is it because I’m some kind of writing genius? I wish, but sadly, no. ;-) It’s because of the process, and it’ll work as well for you as it does for me…

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Defeating the blank screen with ruthless proceduralization

When most people write, they do it all wrong. They fire up their word processor, create a new document, and try to decide what their first sentence will be.

Big mistake.

See, if you start by staring at the blank screen, you’ve already lost. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we’re often most creative, and most effective, when working within very tight parameters.

By the same token, writing works best when you take the guess-work out of it. This is done by developing procedures for everything; straight from coming up with the angle, to writing the last word of the post. That way, we avoid wasting energy and thought on stuff that isn’t relevant or useful at all, and divert it all towards the goal of excellent and effective writing.

That’s what I do, and it works like a charm, every time. Here’s my process:

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  • Start with the headline – this gives you a solid grasp on the scope of your post, and ensures that everything you write after the headline will be relevant and on-topic.
  • Then write the hook – this is the first few paragraphs of the post, that will grab the reader’s attention and focus their attention on reading through to the end.
  • Outline the rest of the post – create sub-heads for each of the sections, with a short note of what will go in each section.
  • Write the post – you’ll be amazed at how easy it is if you followed the first steps, because there’s no more guesswork!

Okay, let’s explore this process, one step at a time…

Start with the headline

You’ve probably already heard that the headline is the most important part of the post, and that serious writers spend as much time writing the headline as they do writing everything else combined. Which is true, but most people don’t understand what that really means.

See, writing a good headline isn’t just about choosing the words that will grab the reader’s attention – it’s about choosing the angle for the post, that will genuinely interest them. That’s what the headline is really about: the angle of the post. And by writing it first, you guarantee that you will stay focused on your actual topic, stay relevant, and not get lost on a tangent somewhere along the way. So how do you write a great headline?

First, of course, you need an idea. There are lots of good ways to find those; you can lean on your Assess, Decide and Do buckets brimming with good ones to write about, or try one of 21 great content ideas as a starting point. For starters, you should know that this is not the time to reinvent the wheel. Take a few minutes to see which posts have been very popular with your target audience (i.e. on the blogs that they actually read). Do they like list posts (## ways to SOMETHING)? How-to posts (How to SOMETHING)? Comparison headlines (How SOMETHING is like SOMETHING)?

Find a few formulas that are proven with your target audience, and stick with them. It’s really that simple!

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Write the hook and outline the post

Next, you have to write the hook and outline the main sections of the post. A good hook describes the symptoms of the problem that your post is going to solve. Really hammer home the pain and difficulty that the problem causes, and then pivot to say that you’ve got a solution.

It sounds simple, because it is, and it works like a charm, every time (go back to the top and read the opening section of this post as an example). Then you can go ahead and outline the rest of the post. The four main sections that you’re going to want after the hook are:

  1. The problem that is causing the symptoms
  2. The underlying cause of that problem
  3. The solution to the problem
  4. How the reader can implement your solution

Almost all of my posts follow this structure, and the beauty is that rather than making your posts seem formulaic, it gives you the space to make the posts truly detailed, in-depth, and valuable to the reader. For each section, just write the sub-head for each section, and a few notes about what you’re going to put under it. Give enough information in the heading that readers who skim will have an idea what the section is about.

Now that we’ve outlined the whole post, it’s time to do the actual writing…

Write the post (this is the easy part!)

The great news is that by this point, you’ve already done all the heavy lifting, and the hard part is over! If you’ve really outlined the entire post, the rest is really easy. All you have to do is go section by section, expanding on your notes, adding appropriate links, and delivering the information that you promised in the headline, hook and section headings.

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The beauty of this method is that by this point, you already know what you need to write! Your brain is ready and waiting with the information, and all you have to do is spell it out. Once you’ve got the sections fleshed out, do a quick proofread for spelling, grammar and flow, then hit save, and you’re done!

I’m not kidding when I say that filling in the entire body of the post can take less than half an hour – try it and see for yourself! And the very best part of this process is that it can be done in batches…

Works well with batching, too!

You don’t have to do one post at a time, either – you can do them in batches (that’s how I routinely write guest posts these days).

Write all the headlines, create all the hooks, and then go do the section headings for each post, one by one. Once you add the body paragraphs to each post – bang! You’ve just written an entire week’s worth of content (assuming you post daily) in one morning!

You’ll be writing post like a speed demon. Or, *ahem* like the Freddy Krueger of Blogging.

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Actually, if you apply this process to your writing, you could even become the next Freddy Krueger of blogging. That’s what my Write like Freddy training program is all about – this very same process, but amped up to the Nth degree.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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