Writing is the most important thing we do every day (at least at the office). But writing well is time-consuming, so to create that superior product, we must use our writing time efficiently.
As I discussed in our post on writer’s block, the key to writing well is to edit, edit, edit. But we must also go to meetings, handle other projects, and tend to our personal lives. How can we find the time to edit multiple drafts? At WordRake, we write a lot, and we use the strategies below to help us write well and still have time for other things.
Tell others when you’re working on something
People are distracting. Set and publicize a time when you will close your office door and work. Our colleagues can usually wait for an hour to hear our answers to their questions. At two of my previous jobs, I worked in open office environments with very kind, but very talkative coworkers. My bosses suggested I use earbuds to block the noise. They were right; wearing headphones reduced those well-intentioned disruptions, and I produced more and better writing in shorter amounts of time. And for those who struggle to focus while listening to music, remember no one has to know if our headphones aren’t playing music.
Make an outline
If we list our objectives before we write, we don’t have to worry about forgetting something important. Plus sorting through our ideas first helps us see the best way to make them flow.
Turn off notifications
Notifications updating us on other tasks try to convince us we can focus on more than one task at a time. We can’t. Scientists have proven that. Notifications only distract us from writing. Prevent them by turning off notifications.
Don’t focus on perfection in the first draft
I wrote four drafts of this piece before I felt comfortable sending it to my editor, and he often writes eight or ten drafts before he’s satisfied with his own work. No one gets it right the first time; we’re not supposed to; that’s not how the creative process works.
My strategy is to write the first draft entirely as I would speak it. I imagine myself explaining it to a friend, and I take notes on what I hear myself saying. That becomes my first draft, and it gets easier from there. I put it aside to attend a meeting, answer an email, or refill my water bottle. When I return to my last draft, I look for clunky phrases and stylistic inconsistencies. After that, I run it through WordRake before starting my final round of edits, where I focus on patterns I know I should avoid, like repetitive topic sentences. Then I scan the document one last time for typos and homonyms to ensure everything is cohesive and error-free.
Take advantage of short pockets of time
If our schedules don’t allow for an uninterrupted hour to write, we can work in shorter spurts. Any time we have fifteen minutes—or even five minutes—we can often revise another draft. Even a few of these short writing sessions will help us craft a more refined piece. And that’s our goal.