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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

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.

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 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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