When you’re involved in affiliate marketing, you’re likely to spend a lot of time writing.
Is this as productive as it could be for you?
We’re going to look at some of the things you can do to speed up the process of blog posting – or article writing – and how to avoid some of the traps.
Some of your behaviors that stop you from being as productive as you’d like to be can have some surprising origins.
Think about how you were taught to write as a child. All the things you learned at school about writing can fly out the window when it comes to writing online. You know – things like never starting a sentence with a conjunction. Not using fragments of sentences (like this one).
If all these old rules are swimming around in your head while you try to write, it can take a while to get out of the starting blocks. You’ve got to feel comfortable writing in a totally different sort of way than most of us learned at school.
In my own case, I got into bad writing habits at a very early age. I had both a father and mother whose professional strengths were the English language. Although I received national media coverage for my award-winning writing at the age of 13, my father was always highly critical of anything I wrote. The overall feeling I had about my writing was that it was never good enough. So I constantly self-edited everything I wrote to get things “just right”.
In an effort to deal with a sort of “performance anxiety”, as I wrote, I’d correct any phrase that could be better, and these constant changes wasted lots of time. A stop-start editing approach like this makes it a lot harder to pick up from where you left off, as you lose the flow of your writing. In fact, it took me a while to even want to be a professional writer because of this painful experience.
Take it from my experience; perfectionism in writing can really put you in slow mode when you need speed!
Beware of perfectionism – it slows you down.
Hopefully, in this article, I’ll be able to show you how you can drop any not-so-useful ways to write, and really boost your productivity through the preparation you do.
So, given that as affiliate marketers we can spend such a long time writing, how do we make this process work for us? How can we avoid any bad habits that we may have picked up from past writing experiences, speed things up, and make it as easy as possible?
Let’s look at some of the ways you can maximize your production:
1. Work When You’re At Your Best
Get clear on your best times for writing. If you’re an early bird, make the most of this time to do the bulk of your work when you’re at your most clear and alert.
For example, if you suffer from an “after lunch slump”, make sure you work around this as much as possible. You might write solidly in the morning and save your less important tasks for later.
We’re all different beasts – work out what works best for you. Once you know this, schedule your day accordingly. You’ll find that whatever “zone” is the one for you, working during this period can be more productive than trying to slog through things at a time you’re not at your best.
2. Walk (Or Do Something Similar) Before You Get Going
Before you begin anything, get some fresh oxygen into your brain for the day. While other exercise can require too much concentration to think clearly without distraction, walking is different. It can actually help you “pre-write” in your head some of the things you want to cover.
I’ll be talking more about how important this process is later on.
In fact, walking is one of the best activities to promote hemispheric balance in the brain. That left leg, right leg, left leg action uses both.
And so does writing blog posts. You’re not just using your right brain for creativity. You’re also using your left brain to analyze information and sort through things in a logical, methodical manner. Find some activity that gets your brain “warmed” up for the main event./p>
Plus there’s something else to consider… If you’re going to sit in a chair for a large part of the day, you’ll find that getting a bit of this sort of exercise early on minimizes the sore buttocks and any achy bits by the end of the day.
3. Get Distractions Out Of The Way
The first thing you need to do is get and stay honest with yourself! No one can do this for you.
What do I mean by this?
Well, only you know what constitutes a distraction, and what you actually need to perform at your best. And only you know when your supposed “must-do” activities are actually just procrastinations in a not-so-clever disguise.
Unless you’re in a timeframe that you’ve allocated to take a break, get tough on distractions.
For example, phone calls, non-essential communication, stretching your legs, or doing things “to get the juices flowing” need to be done at a time that you have allocated outside the actual writing itself. These sorts of things need to be done as part of your prep for writing, not while you're in actual writing mode.
That’s why you need to get yourself organized beforehand, so that once you start writing, that’s what you’re doing – nothing else.
Otherwise you can fall victim to being a person of perpetual preparation. It’s like having a starter’s gun that goes “Ready, aim, ready!” You’re constantly interrupting yourself, and your writing flow never picks up any speed. Trying to get things done feels like an exercise in frustration.
Studies have also shown that “multi-tasking” actually slows overall productivity. So unless you can’t possibly do without your music, it’s probably best to keep your focus solely on your writing!
Once you’ve identified what’s purely a delaying tactic for you, and what actually needs to happen to eliminate any potential distractions or procrastination, do what needs to be done.
Go to the toilet. Get your cup of coffee, and make sure the dog is in (or out) before you sit down. If you’re honestly hungry, have something light to eat. However, don’t make it a huge meal. Otherwise your body will be concentrating on digesting food instead of sending your brain the blood it needs to get into gear.
You need to remove every possible excuse you have for not parking yourself in front of that computer screen and writing.
Don’t let yourself be disturbed. Depending on your writing environment, you might want to put a sign on your computer to stop interruptions from those around you. You could also wear headphones to minimize outside noise. Even a simple closed door can act as the signal to others that you’re “in the zone”, and can’t be disturbed.
I also often turn off my cell phone and let the landline take a message. There’s nothing worse than having just got into a good writing flow, and you're suddenly interrupted by a phone call. If it’s important, they can always leave a message.
However, doing this will obviously depend on your own situation – if you have a sick relative or children, not answering certain calls could become a distraction in itself. In this case, screen your calls for only the most important ones to take.
4. Stay Hydrated
Fatigue can set in if you don’t have enough water in your body. Given that a whopping 80% of your energy is used by your brain, you need to keep on top of this.
If you don’t drink enough H20, you can also feel hungrier when it’s actually water your body is craving, rather than food. It all adds up to yet another distraction when you decide you need something because you’re feeling a bit peckish. And another useful segment of time bites the dust!
5. Set A Timer
While you don’t want to become a time-Nazi, having some sort of timer helps keep you on track with where you’re at.
You can do anything if you know it’s for a limited time. Get yourself a stopwatch or online timer, and block out time segments for what you’re doing. Jay here at Associate Programs finds that 90 minute blocks work best for him.
Others swear by 20 minutes (citing average concentration spans), half an hour, or one-hour blocks. Experiment and find out what works best for you.
6. Schedule Breaks
Use scheduled breaks to check emails, or make an important business call that can’t wait. Use these breaks in order of priority of things that are taking up your headspace because they need to be addressed. Get them sorted, and then get back into writing.
Make sure these breaks don’t go over the time you allot for them.
7. Glue Your Butt To That Chair
The next step is to actually sit at your desk. Now you’re there, and while you’re there – make sure you STAY there.
You've prepared yourself for the duration. You've eliminated all possible distractions. And you know when your next scheduled break is.
Your only legitimate excuse is World War 3 breaking out, or a similar calamity. You’re now there at that spot to write for the time you’ve allocated.
Turn your computer on. And you thought that was the end of the self discipline!
8. Avoid The Internet Trap
This is a doozie for writers. It’s so easy to get sidetracked online. Doing both email and research can end up with you being somewhere entirely unrelated to what you started off with.
If you find something that interests you that’s outside the topic you’re writing, park it for later or you’ll regret it!
Either add it to your bookmarks, or put it in an online folder specifically for you to check out at a later time. Or just make a note of it to come back to later on in a non-writing time allocation.
If you can get any research you need to do out of the way before you start writing, this will also help you concentrate.
9. Get Unplugged
Depending on what you’re writing about, and how much research you need to do with fact-checking info on websites, you may be able to get this research done and then go completely offline.
Whenever you can, turn off your browser for the time you’re actually writing.
When you check your emails, make sure this is also only for an allotted time. It's all too easy to think, “I’ll just open this,” and then find yourself clicking on links and answering emails. Allocating a time-limit a session means that you don’t let yourself get trapped by this.
Any emails that need your attention for more than a few minutes, leave and come back to when you have the time. You can set up a folder in your inbox for anything that needs more of your focus.
Once you’ve done this, close down your email. Close your browser. And log off any message boards that may be open. Do whatever it takes to eliminate distractions in this area.
Once you have what you want in terms of research, just pull the plug. Yes, you CAN do it!
10. Get Better With Search
If you’re not completely up to speed with using search engines, consider learning a bit more about how to search for things on the internet. Being able to find what you want fast will save you buckets of time.
Instead of poring through the Google results pages and sifting through things that aren’t what you’re after, you’ll get what you’re looking much more quickly.
For example, it’s so easy to forget to do it, but a simple thing is to put quotation marks around what you’re looking for. When you use quotation marks around a phrase, you’re telling the search engine to bring back only pages that include these search terms exactly how you typed them.
Just doing this by itself can save you some serious web search time over the years.
Here are the top Google Shortcuts in a “cheat-sheet” that I recommend you print out and stick on your wall unless you’re really familiar with all these timesavers.
These will slice your Google search time, and make your searches more efficient!
11. Be Prepared
It’s much easier to start writing if you do any research you need to, and then make an outline – written or mental – of what you want to say. Without an outline, sometimes your words just won’t come. Think of it as your brain telling you it’s still not time to pass “GO!”
You don’t have to complete an outline, but you do need to have some idea about what you want to communicate. One thing that can help is creating an outline of your post before you start to work on covering each point.
Build your skeleton, and then add the flesh to it as you go.
For example, sometimes it can help to write a list of bullet points that you then expand on.
Start with these bullet points which cover the main topics, and this will help provide you with an initial structure. This technique can work particularly well if you’re writing a list-type of post.
In writing this post, I used the screen to make a note of the points I wanted to make. I then expanded these ideas. Even if it’s just a phrase, a quote, a heading, or an idea, I write it on screen or down on paper, and then work to build on it.
12. Start Wherever You Want To
If writing something from start to finish works for you – go for it!
But there’s no rule that says you need to write things in order, so mix them up a little if this approach feels better to you. Do the segment that’s starting to form in your mind, and go from there. You can connect it up to the rest of the post later.
Much of getting stuck happens when you're pushing for something to happen, but you can't seem to get there. Changing the order of things can help break through this.
13. Use Your Unscheduled Breaks
Let’s take an obvious one as an example. If you need to go to the toilet, this is one activity where multi-tasking can actually be really helpful.
As you get up from your chair to leave the room, ask yourself about something you need to know, and focus on it.
For example, “What’s the word I need to convey the right meaning in that sentence?”, or “What do I need to add there to fully cover that segment?” Ask yourself what your reader needs to know at that particular point.
The very act of shifting your state (so to speak!) can save you time from staring at the screen.
By already starting the thought process, and getting into that good old left brain, right brain activity as you move around, a funny thing can happen. When you return, very often you’ll be able to then write an idea that helps answer the question you asked (or at least the start of it) directly on to the screen.
If you're not quite there, you’ll find that you can still get a lot clearer on where you’re going by using this tip regularly.
14. Reward Yourself
Positive reinforcement works well here. Once you’ve decided how long your work blocks are going to be, make sure you schedule a small reward at the end of each one. It might be a refreshing cup of coffee, lunch with a friend, or even a social phone call.
It’s impossible to work for long hours in one stretch in the same brain wave patterns without losing some of your focus, so make sure you factor these things in to stay on top of your game.
15. Start Writing – Any Writing
One of the most threatening things for a writer can be a blinking cursor atop a snowy-white screen.
So get some words down – it doesn’t matter too much what you write at this stage. Think of this as warm-up stretches for your writing brain – you need to get things moving up there.
Promise yourself you’re not going to be judgmental on yourself if it’s rubbish. There’s a high probability it might be while you get your left and right brain working in sync for the task ahead!
If you get hung up on making things “just right” at this point, you slow everything down.
Give yourself permission to write whatever comes to you and just get started – even if your words “scream” back at you. This is not the time for ruthless self-editing!
You’ll soon pick up the pace. If you just sit there waiting for that “perfect” opening sentence to make itself known to you, you could be waiting a loooonnnng while…
Just get stuck in, and you’ll be surprised how things start to free up just by doing this.
Don’t stop until there are no words left in your brain. Don’t stop for typos. Don’t stop for grammar. Just don’t stop!
If you do, you’ll lose your train of thought as it starts to gather the momentum you need.
If you’re not sure about something, just write yourself a quick note.
For example, if I’m not sure about the spelling of a word, I don’t stop to use Spell Check at that time. This would take me out of any flow.
I just write “Sp?”as a note to myself to check the spelling, and continue on. If there’s a sentence that is not quite working properly, I just go: ________________________ as a note to myself come back to this later, when things are “happening” for me.
Doing screenshots or images are the same. Resizing pictures and uploading them waits until I’m ready to publish. While I’m in writing mode, I simply put: (INSERT SHOT OF _____). I then continue on, rather than slow myself down by backtracking on all the details.
The idea is to get the main thrust of the information down, and then go back and do all your tweaking. This means that you don’t get in your own way.
You may find yourself challenged by starting to do things this way – I certainly did! I still itch when I see myself make an obvious typo, and want to go back to fix it. (And I admit, sometimes I do succumb to it!)
The perfectionist in me wants to continually self-edit. But I’ve learned that if I do give in to this temptation, it breaks the flow, slows me down, and isn’t anything that I can’t sort out later. A forward momentum is much more valuable, rather than a stop-start approach and the resultant changing brain waves. It’s also less tiring!
And it sure beats staring at a blinking cursor.
16. Resist The Temptation To Format Copy Too Early
If you’re writing headings, don’t worry about “bolding” these, numbering points, spacing things correctly, or putting them in the right font size, etc.This can be a time-waster in the blogging/writing process.
And if you’re writing a “list” type post, you don’t even have to place a lot of your main points in order at this stage. (A plus for doing these types of posts!)
Chances are as you edit later, you’ll be mixing things up and changing them around, and you may end up re-doing some things anyway.
Save your time!
17. Stay Free
I know a lot of what I’ve written here might seem a bit heavy on the “self discipline” side. And there’s no doubt that effective post writing needs to have this in spades.
However, I’m not talking about rigidity here. In fact, if you get too hung up on getting exactly the right outlines or details, such expectations can bring your post to a grinding halt.
You’ll get stuck with a capital “S”. What you need to strike is a balance between being relevant, and what your readers will get the most out of.
Don’t get locked into something just because you think that’s where you have to go.
Sometimes new information comes to light that begs to be included, but takes things in a somewhat different direction. If this still gives value to your overall goal, and to your readers, allow yourself to change your original plans.
When you write, you can sometimes go places you don’t expect, intend, or even like sometimes. If things are still working well, go with it. Mix things up a little. Don’t be afraid to take things in a different direction, even if that means your post becomes something other than what you had originally intended.
Chances are, if a different angle has captured your own attention to such a degree, it’s also going to be of interest to your readers.
18. Choose A Specific Subtopic
Unless you’re doing a broad overview of a topic, sometimes you can make it easier (read: quicker) if you stick to a single subtopic. It's time to narrow your focus…
Well, if you have a large niche, trying to write about it in depth can be challenging. Most large niches also have significant sub niches. If you write a post that’s not specific enough, you can suddenly find that it’s rivalling the size of War and Peace, and you’re still nowhere near finished.
You have two choices here.
1) Find a natural split in your topic materials. If it’s just one split, you can have a “Part One”, and then do a “Part Two” on the subject.
2) If you can see that you’ve actually got several different angles to follow and the material to do so, there’s another option. Divide the subject matter up into different segments. Now you've got the promising beginnings of a series of blog posts that all relate to each other!
This is one way to make sure that you don’t waste any of the material you’ve already written. It'll make great fodder for other posts.
19. Start Small And Build
By identifying a subtopic of your post subject, you can hone your writing much more quickly. If you start too broadly, chances are you’ll end up having to split your copy as outlined above.
As you can see, this has its own benefits, but if you want to make sure you’ll stick to just one topic for one post, this is how…
Start small and build on your topic, rather than trying to cover too much in one post. This way, you’ll save yourself time in having to re-jig things to make it all work.
It’s often easier to find other topics that relate to your subject and add these to your post, rather than start too “wide”, and then constantly find you’re having to refine your focus. A good post often involves a considerable amount of detail to make it worth reading.
If you start with too broad a topic, achieving a sharp focus with enough useful detail on your subject can be extremely challenging.
20. Keep Your “Copy Orphans”
Sometimes you can come up with other ideas while you're busy writing. Or you begin going down a certain track, but then realize that’s a whole new post. Don’t just delete these ideas, or any words you've started on!
Have an “Orphans” folder that keeps these tangents and add-ons. They'll be ready and waiting for you when you’re looking for inspiration or additional material for a subject.
This is an effective way to get a head start when you next write a post relating to the original subject. And since you’ll already be at least somewhat familiar with the topic, you’ll often have less research to do.
21. Think About Your Next Post As Soon As You Finish The Current One
Use the time before you write your next post as a kind of “pre-writing” phase.
Ask yourself if there’s something about the subject you’ve just written about, or a related matter that might make a good blog post. What questions might the post you’ve just written bring up for your readers?
Sometimes what you uncover in your research gives you an idea for another post. Writing itself can spark related ideas.
For example, writing this post has made me think that discussing the different styles of blog posts could really help inspire many of our readers. There's not enough room in this post, so that’s a potential blog topic that I’ll be thinking about over the next few days.
Like walking, I often find other right brain and left brain activities help this process along, such as driving along the freeway.
And I think there really is something to all those negative ions (which are the good ones) in flowing water! I’ll often get writing ideas in the shower, and I’ve spoken to other writers who have a shower purely to get their “writing mind” started with ideas.
That’s not the only way to get things happening!
For example, when I was a creative writer in a mainstream advertising agency, my art director always knew when it was time I needed to eat, because my usual stream of ideas would start to dwindle. She’d drag me off for a wander to grab some food, and lo and behold, we’d be back on track again.
I’ve even heard that juggling is also great for right and left brain co-ordination as well, although this is something I admit I haven’t tried!
See what works for you.
22. Print Your Post And Read It Aloud
I’m not sure why it is, but for me, it’s often a lot easier to spot errors on a piece of paper than on my computer screen.
It also helps me see any “gaps” in my writing in terms of flow. Once I’ve put my ideas on paper and gone through correcting the obvious typos (otherwise they distract my reading), I print what I’ve got out on paper.
Doing this can also be encouraging because it shows you how much you’ve already achieved.
By reading it aloud, you can soon see if some sentences are too long. You can also identify any ambiguities that might confuse your readers.
23. Get Someone Else To Read It For You
Because your brain tells your eyes to read what you expect to see, you can miss all sorts of horrors.
I’m a shocker for this, even though I’ve been known for spotting others' typos at 50 paces
However, after a full day writing, I’m toast in terms of spotting my own mistakes.
If you get the opportunity to have someone read your words before you publish them, take it!
If you don’t have someone to help, try to wait a bit before you actually publish. Sleep on it for a couple of nights.
Dollars to donuts, with a pair of fresh eyes, it's a different story. You’ll spot obvious errors, and also see improvements you can make that you had little to no chance of spotting before. A small delay can pay off big-time.
So, there are a few ideas to get you started writing more effectively!
You can see that there are a number of things that you can do to make the time you spend blogging as productive as possible. Give them a go!
See if they help you create a better focus in your writing, and speed the process.
Different things work for different people. Let me know what’s worked for you!