5 practical productivity tips for content writers

Published Aug 19, 2015 | Written by Jeremy Knight

Creating B2B content can be difficult at times – even for the most seasoned content writers.

You may have prepared thoroughly – undertaking hours of research; interviewing customers and relevant members of your team; and crafting a detailed plan – but, ultimately, you have to sit down and put pen to paper, or finger to keyboard. And that’s when the hard work really begins.

Speaking to the Guardian, American author Joyce Carol Oates said: "Given that the act of writing provokes such misery, why do you do it? – here is the writer's perennial riddle."

She added: "Most writers find first drafts painfully difficult, like climbing a steep stairs, the end of which isn't in sight. Only just persevere!"

That’s coming from a prolific award-winning novelist! You may well have become a content creator because you, too, love writing but, equally, you may write because it is a necessity in B2B marketing, or simply because it’s part of your job.

Either way, a looming deadline coupled with a blank page can truly be the stuff of nightmares.

So how can we boost our productivity and ensure that we get words down on the page consistently and on time, in order to connect with our target audience?

1. Just write 

It seems obvious, but there’s no substitute for simply getting on with it.

Writing on Copyblogger, Richard M Hartian says: "Just write, stream-of-consciousness style, anything that comes into your head. Don’t think about style, grammar, or punctuation. Just keep writing.

"[…] Before long, you will have emptied your brain of the clutter and some ideas that make sense will come to the surface. Voila! You’re writing!"

A first draft doesn’t have to be perfect – but it’s often a lot easier to mould a muddle of words and ideas into a coherent and valuable piece of content, than it is to agonise over every sentence as you go along.

2. Work in bursts

Writing is mentally labour-intensive and it can be difficult to concentrate for hours at a time. So why not divide your time into manageable chunks? For example, you could write for 45 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.

Perhaps you work better at a certain time of day - for instance, many people experience a mid-afternoon slump. If this is the case consider scheduling your writing work – where possible - in a way that allows you to capitalise on your most productive hours.

3. Look after yourself

Not even the very best content writers can expect to get to the heart of their readers’ problems and desires if they’re wired up on sugar, tired and mentally drained. Of course, we can’t always control all of these factors – you might be tired because you have a teething baby at home; or personal problems may have left you struggling to concentrate.

But, usually, we tend to have control over what we eat each day. We all know that reaching for salty and sugary foods can affect our productivity but it’s not always easy to resist – so why not plan ahead?

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Ron Friedman says: "Make your eating decisions before you get hungry. If you’re going out to lunch, choose where you’re eating in the morning, not at 12:30 PM. […] Studies show we’re a lot better at resisting salt, calories, and fat in the future than we are in the present."

4. Avoid multi-tasking

Many of us need to keep various plates spinning in the line of our work – but when you’re creating a piece of content it’s a good idea to stay focused. That might mean not checking your email, putting your mobile phone in a drawer, or closing down all your browser windows.

Studies have found that multitasking has a detrimental effect on productivity. In 2014, researchers at the University of Sussex found that people who use several media devices – such as a computer, tablet and mobile phone - at the same time have "smaller grey matter density in the part of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), the region notably responsible for cognitive and emotional control functions".

Trying to do more than one thing at once can seem like a smart move, but it could actually be harming your brainpower – which is definitely something you’ll want to avoid if you’re writing.

5. Plan tomorrow at the end of the day

It’s easy to come to work in the morning and feel overwhelmed by your to-do list. You can spend precious time trying to decide what job to tackle first. Perhaps you have some emails to send or a meeting to attend before you start your writing for the day.

So why not work out the order in which you need to complete the next day's tasks before you go home in the evening? Knowing these things in advance will allow you to get stuck as soon as you arrive at work in the morning, thereby freeing up more time to focus on producing valuable content.

Creating content is not always easy - but it's integral to an effective B2B marketing strategy. As content writers, we have the responsibilty of engaging with our organisation's target audience, in order to show them how our product or service can deliver real benefits. 

Increasing our productivity can help us to improve our writing processes and get the words down on the paper every time.

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Published by Jeremy Knight August 19, 2015
Jeremy Knight