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In our Better Blogger Survey, we found out two things about (most) of you:
Nathan suggested that I talk a bit more about this topic, partially because of the fact that I work as a solo blogger and write about 6,000 to 10,000 words each week, and also because you and I have similar goals (yep, I took that same survey and can vouch for these two concern points).
Usually, I’ll push the idea that if you can’t handle more, you can’t do more. But for the go-getters out there who are insisting that you are going to write more no matter what, here’s the ugly truth: Self-discipline and work lie ahead, not gimmicks or hacks.
And, to get things off to a great start, let’s talk about distractions.
I’ve talked about distraction-free writing in terms of the writing space itself, and how the visual distractions of the app you write in might hamper your writing efforts.
Nothing derails my ability to write more, though, than the fact that I can check Facebook, my phone, Twitter, and every other non-work “information” source under the sun to avoid the work of writing. I blame my browser’s URL recognition and the fact that I can start typing “facebook” with just my left hand for sending me over there so much. It’s as if my hand starts typing “face–” on its own at this point.
These technology and computer-based distractions are a struggle to deal with, but there are some technological based solutions you can use (e.g. Chrome plugins that limit time on social media, or a browser that locks you out of websites you’ve deemed distracting during work hours).
But there are other distractions that have nothing to do with technology.
I write at home, and since we’ve been having wonderful warm fall weather lately, I like to open up the windows for fresh air. The distraction? A neighbor who leaves the dog out all day while he is at work, leaving the neighborhood with incessant barking and howling the entire day. If you’re like me, once you hear a noise and really notice it, it’s all you hear. That white noise machine works great for putting you to sleep at night, for example, until one night you hear the loop and from that point on, all you can hear is the loop. So with Mr. McBarky in the neighborhood, I find I have to write elsewhere (basement, coffee shops, library) or keep the windows closed. If not, I inevitably end up enraged on a ridiculous level, calling animal control to report the dog.
So what to do about the distractions that keep you from writing more content and hitting your blog schedule goals?
Distractions can be digital, they can be audible, they can be hunger, they can be coworkers, they can be disinterest, they can be emotional—anything that sends your thought off track. Before you can defeat them, you have to be able to identify them.
What am I doing when I realize I’m not writing?
If you sat down to write and suddenly realize you aren’t, diagnose what happened. Write down what distracted you, and where you ended up. Write down what time of day it was, and the setting (where you were) when it took place. Note why you think you were distracted.
Distraction patterns often follow typical paths.
We can focus better in the morning (especially as you get older), while we almost look for distraction later in the afternoon. We can focus better if we haven’t been sitting still in the same place too long. We get sleepy after a big meal.
Look at those moments of distraction that keep popping up. Can you see a pattern? Was it because you were bored, tired, or had just eaten lunch?
Try to figure out when and why you are the most distracted, and see if you can plan your writing to happen when you are least distracted. This is tricky in a team; the plans and meetings of others are inevitably going to force you into distraction zones. This is a valid topic of discussion with your team regarding the scheduling of meetings and other distractions versus the goal of writing more content.
You may find one key reason for “distraction” is procrastination.
When I am trying to read something difficult that I know is good for me, I find my mind wandering. I will miraculously remember a million valid things I need to remember doing, things I don’t seem to recall unless I’m otherwise trying to harness my attention to something difficult.
Keep a piece of paper handy and write down those to-dos, those “oh yeah” moments so that you can get it out of your mind and can get on with the main thing at hand. Otherwise, they just sit there and fester and make it impossible for you to get your writing done.
And heck, you’ll probably end up with a fine task list when you’re done. Might as well capitalize on the inevitable distraction and turn them from something negative into something useful.
Here’s where the meat of the whole “control your distractions” approach takes effect, and it won’t be fun or pretty. It’s going to hurt. I mean, if we are people who are checking our mobile phones nearly once every six waking minutes of the day, we are clearly addicted to distractions. We give lip service to our disgust with experiencing distractions while we secretly crave any chance to be interrupted from work.
If your team is serious about writing more content and also realizes that distractions are a serious issue, you will need to essentially create a “clean room”, a place where distractions cannot be found. No phones, no noises, a door—whatever you’ve determined is derailing your writing efforts.
John Donne said that no man was an island, and the same can be said for your team. There are other people out there who can help you write more content through things like guest posts and interviews.
It’s just a guess, but when most content marketers (particularly solo marketers) start thinking about the overwhelming state of writing more content, they are thinking as islanders. They are thinking it’s all on them. They are thinking that each piece of content is brand new, from scratch, all on their lonesome.
A couple of truths about writing content that can help get you off the island:
In other words, you can include other people’s content in your efforts to “write” more content, even if you didn’t exactly create the content. The big trap for you comes when you view writing as starting fresh and new each day. You think you’re running a race on your own when you’re actually running a relay and passing off the baton.
It’s not that you don’t already know those things in that list; we’ve talked about them a lot here on this blog.
But I think it’s easy to think of them in terms of “these are growth hacks” and forget that they are also a part the “writing more content” set. More content often leads to more growth, but if you step back and see it not just as part of your plan to grow but also part of how you’ll simply go about increasing your content output, it might help you approach these ideas better. Growth tends to be numbers we measure after something has occurred. Writing a larger quantity of content is something that has to simply happen right now.
So, if you have a list of things to do to grow your brand, and you have a different list of things to do to write more content, and those lists don’t have these similarities, you need to rethink your approach.
Perhaps the stumbling block for writing more content is that you lack resources. These might include:
Well, that’s really all of it, isn’t it?
Any kind of blogging resource falls into one of those biggies.
I can’t conjure up more time for you, though I can talk to you about using it more wisely and defeating procrastination. I can also suggest a couple of things that might be consuming the limited amount of time and resources that you have.
When tallying up what resources you think you need as you create your content marketing plan, list resources you actually have instead of resources others have that you want. You can still make great stuff with fewer resources.
Remember, necessity is the mother of invention.
The key to writing more content from a small amount of input is to be creative with what you have, not what you think you should have.
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