How do you find the time to write great content?

VC

Time, time, time. We recently ran a survey of our email subscribers, asking them to name the biggest challenge they face when it comes to their content. Again and again ‘finding the time to write’ came up as the biggie for our community. It seems there’s never enough time to do all the things you have to do, let alone the things you want to do. How the hell do we carve space to create or write the content we need to promote what we do?

No shame in this challenge. The time question is a massive one for most of us in business. Many of us now recognise the content marketing opportunity but just can’t seem to shoehorn content creation into our working weeks.

Sharon and I struggle with it too. We’ve been facing a version of this challenge ourselves with trying to fit book writing in alongside client work, day to day content writing and making some fairly big changes to our business. We know how much value we’ll get from the second edition of the book – it’s our opportunity to move this company on again – so this is an imperative for us. We’ve had to make some radical decisions to make sure we get it done.

Our solution – we shut up shop every Friday and just write*. No calls, no emails, no social media checking on a Friday. We write. That means we’ve had to say no to a lot of stuff, which is scary (but quite liberating). It’s given us the time to do what we need to do.

More than that, we decided we had to make the writing a pleasurable thing. The idea was that if we write somewhere nice, somewhere we look forward to going we’ll be more likely to make this a habit that we stick to. So we write at the gym (yes, Sharon actually joined one – and now she’s turning into a veritable lycra clad gym bunny). We write in the gym café, ‘treat’ ourselves to elevenses on the rowing machine, and a swim at lunchtime. In the interim hours we focus on writing and nothing else.  The upshot is that we’re really enjoying the book writing experience this time around and it’s making for much better content (we’re getting fit too).

Treat yourself on writing days

An added bonus is that we’re both finding it easier to focus on our other work, knowing that we’ll be writing the book on Friday. When you carry around a huge burden of ‘I should be doing that instead’ thoughts it’s hard to do anything well. Committing to writing, and protecting the time to do it, is helping us to concentrate better – and you might find the same too.

So that’s our solution. You’ll need to find your own way but here are some ideas to play with.

  • Recognise the importance of your content. Write down WHY you are doing this and what it will achieve – for you, for the business. Being clear on the goal and the benefit helps you make the time for it.
  • Understand the value of writing. Creating valuable content is one of the very best ways you have of winning the kind of business you want from your ideal clients and customers. And writing about your area of expertise will make you better at what you do. It’s not just a nice to have – it’s essential work.
  • Change your mindset. Think of it as marketing / professional development / networking. If you think of it like this you’ll be more likely to consider it as time really well spent and easily as important for the long term success of your business or your career as today’s client work.
  • Ring fence the time. We’re not suggesting you carve out a day a week necessarily. If you ring fenced half a day a fortnight we’d bet you achieve a lot. Block it out in your diary, put a ‘do not disturb’ sign on your door, switch the distractions off and get down to it. Protect that time as carefully as you would if it was a key client meeting or your child’s birthday party.
  • Build it into your routine. We’re all creatures of habit. It takes time to establish a new routine, so plan to spend a couple of hours a week on writing for the next three months and you’ll give yourself a better chance of making the habit stick.
  • Set deadlines. Deadlines that other people are relying on are best, because you can’t let them slip. (Somehow we always find the time to write our newsletter on the last day of the month!)
  • Make writing a treat. Gym, park, your favourite café, home – wherever works best for you. It’s easier to find the time for things you’re looking forward to.
  • Don’t wait for the muse. She doesn’t exist. Writing is a skill that only gets better with practice. If you get to your allotted writing hour and the ideas aren’t coming, just keep at it. Write notes, write a stream of consciousness babble, just write yourself into a writing frame of mind.
  • Take a timer. Seriously useful tool for writers, particularly the procrastinators amongst us. Plan your content then just write – for 15-30 minutes – resist the urge to edit and just get the words down. (Check out the Pomodoro technique if you like the timer idea and are looking for focus.)
  • Start thinking like a writer. Collect ideas. Always be thinking of the next thing you’ll write. Jot down notes of the questions that a client or prospect asks you. It won’t take you more than a couple of minutes, but developing a habit of always looking for content will make the time you do have to write more productive. Writing clearly is strongly linked to thinking clearly, so spending more time thinking about the content you want to create for your clients will help you write it.

Do any of these ideas strike a chord with you? Let us know. And if you’re good at fitting it all in please share your secret. How do you find the time to write valuable content?

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* A big thank you to our chairman and coach Chris Thurling for prompting us to make this decision. It’s making a huge difference.

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5 Comments

  1. I love the suggestion to go somewhere lovely to write and to allocate the time to doing it. I’ve tried allocating time before now but haven’t kept up the habit. Going somewhere lovely to do it will make it easily sustainable. Thank you both!

    Reply
  2. What an inspired idea, Sonja. I thought you were going to recommend getting up at the crack of dawn each day! Friday is my yoga day, so extending my gym visit by a couple of hours should be easy, and would result in 4 extra blogposts a month.

    Reply
  3. Oh wow – thanks Helen and Annette! So glad the idea is useful to you too. It’s certainly paying off for us. Would love to hear where you pick Helen. Annette – writing following a yoga session sounds like the perfect time. Good luck to you both.

    Reply
  4. Great tips as usual guys. As you know I don’t work at Ovation on a Wednesday and dedicate that day to writing (in my case, fiction). I find it important to have a routine, so I read from when kids leave for school until around 9.30, usually back over last week’s output. Then it’s dog walk, then writing from 11-12.30.

    After a break for lunch and a quick shut eye (If Winston Churchill could call it a power nap then so can I) then writing again from 2.30- 5.00. I’ve tried being more loose, but actually it’s the time approaching 5pm (when I take my son to piano lesson) that I get most work done. It seems a deadline is helpful after all.

    There is an expression a client used many years ago. He said it takes ‘fresh mental energy’ to write creatively. Like your day at the gym, I think this means setting time aside – and sticking to it.

    Reply
  5. Sharon Tanton

    Thanks Chris. Really interesting to hear how other people manage their writing. How’s the second novel going?
    I like the sound of your writing days. Writing has to a be a habit if you need to turn out a regular word count, and it’s good to build thinking time and space into the routine. Dog walking is perfect for that! And as you said on Twitter, you have to genuinely want to do it. If you’re half-hearted about it then it won’t happen. There are so many things to do on our things-to-do list that it’s easy to drop the ones we’re not really bothered about.

    Reply

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