5 ways to Write Faster

Italiano: Autore: Francesco Cirillo rilasciata...

Image via Wikipedia

If you’re like most business writers, you enjoy writing. You probably don’t enjoy feeling rushed or under pressure to finish a project. The thought that you missed the opportunity to create a stellar project, just because you needed a few more hours to work on it, can be disheartening.

Writing faster at work is a huge advantage. Some people naturally write faster than others, but we can all take a few steps to improve.  Here are a few strategies for writing faster:

  1.  Create an outline: You may think that you don’t have the time to create an outline, but that’s often a big mistake. Take 5-10 minutes to outline each of the project’s sections and information. In the long run, this saves lots of time because you know exactly what you’re writing and what you’re leading up to.
  2. Cut down on the distractions: It’s almost impossible to write quickly while multi-tasking. Take the time to clear your desk of clutter, send a message to your colleagues that you want to focus on a project, close your browser and email notifications. This helps you concentrate and really dig into the task at hand.
  3. Set a timer for writing: Carve out a few blocks of time to focus solely on writing. Don’t spend any time editing or reviewing your work – just write until your time’s up. I like using the pomodoro technique of working for 25 minutes straight on one task, then taking a 5-minute break.
  4. Don’t rack your brain: When you get stuck, don’t spend time searching for the perfect word or sentence. Instead, note what is missing and come back to it later. For instance, add [insert transition sentence] or [insert title]. Write until the timer goes off, then return and fill in the blanks now that your brain is clearer. Not only does this method usually take less time, it also prevents writer’s block.
  5. Take a break before editing: The slowest way to write is to stare at the screen without direction or ideas for improvements. If you find yourself loosing momentum, take a short break. Once you’ve finished the project, take a longer break – ideally one full day – and edit it with fresh eyes.

How about you? Do you have any strategies for writing faster?

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Workbook for Organizing Writing Projects

Extensive business writing projects require careful planning and organization. When you take the time to plan, you’ll save time writing and produce a better final product. However, organizing them can be very challenging if you don’t know where to start. I spend lots of time and effort creating detailed plans for presentations, manuals and other larger communications — and have found a system that works well for me.

Fill out the form below to receive a free copy of my Workbook for Organizing Writing Projects!

Free Productivity Tool

Quote

The rules are simple. Take the work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.
-Chuck Jones

Becoming a productive business writer is a difficult feat. Writing can be tedious, time-consuming and challenging, and writers often work on multiple projects at once. Many business writers struggle with finding the balance between productivity and quality. More often than not, one dominates to the detriment of the other.

I’m always looking for something to improve this balancing act with my many writing projects, organize my projects and day. In pursuing the “perfect” tool, I’ve tried dozens of productivity charts, calendars, apps and to-do lists. Along the way, I’ve developed my own worksheet that may prove useful for you in your business writing and other tasks.

Download free tool: Productivity Handout

You can customize this Word document to fit your specific business writing and productivity needs. I like to print out one handout every morning and fill out each section to plan my day. When I have an idea about a project at any time throughout the day, I jot it down in the bubble at the top left. I hope you find this handout as helpful as I do!

How to make PowerPoint Better

Microsoft PowerPoint

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PowerPoint is a much-hated and much-used tool. Business writers rely heavily on PowerPoint for presentations, training materials, recruiting, reports and more.

You can blame the program; it’s all too easy to produce cluttered and dated- looking slides, it’s cumbersome and time-consuming. But blaming the program and it’s limitations will only get you so far. Right now, business writers need to make the best of this tool to produce clear, powerful and persuasive slides.

Writing for PowerPoint is much different than any other type of writing. Instead of complete sentences, you write in bullet points and brief statements. Instead of using writing to educate and persuade, you rely on a balance of written words, images and your speaking.

How can you make your next PowerPoint presentation better?

1. Don’t underestimate the amount of time required to research, outline, write and prepare your presentation. It takes time to create a successful presentation, sometimes up to thirty hours to create a thirty minute presentation. Make sure you give yourself enough time.

2. Watch verb agreement. When writing in bullet points or short fragments, it’s easy to forget about verb tenses. Use active verbs as often as possible and make sure all the tenses agree. For example:

XYZ Division needs to:

  • Keeping costs down
  • Eliminate overproduction  (These verbs don’t agree.)

3. Edit extensively. Delete any text that isn’t absolutely necessary. Keep slides clean and streamlined by including only one or two central points. Many people prefer including extensive details in the “speaker’s notes” section with explanations, sources and prompts for discussion.

4. Create a word limit for each slide – and stick to it. Your word limit will depend on the topic, number of slides and amount of detail.

5. Keep the entire presentation consistent. Streamline the presentation by using the same font and color scheme throughout. Use a consistent tone to unite all slides into one cohesive presentation or narrative.

Do you struggle with PowerPoint? Do you have any tricks for writing PowerPoint presentations? How do you make yours appealing and engaging?

Organizing Large Writing Projects like J.K. Rowling

J.K. Rowling's Organization

With large writing projects where there’s lots of information, organizing the details and dividing the topics can be more challenging than the actual writing. Whether you are crafting a report, white paper, manual or novel, you need to map out the information that you’ll include.

If the information is difficult to juggle, how can you begin organizing? What’s the best way to start?

When faced with a project that has multiple categories, sub-categories, themes and topics, all of which need to be distilled and grouped intuitively, there are several methods to first tackle organization.

I’m impressed by J.K. Rowling’s method for organizing chapters. This simple, hand-drawn chart breaks down chapters from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. The chapter’s month, title, central plot and sub-plots are all mapped out with this simple grid. This seems like a great way to organize information; it’s highly structured, easy to read and allows for layers of detail. J.K. Rowling must have used additional methods for organizing each specific chapter or plot line, but this grid is a great way to start.

For business writers, this method can be used to outline each topic of a report or letter, chapters of a manual or sections of a power point presentation or speech. This method could easily be transferred to an excel spreadsheet after being written out by hand. This way, you can collaborate with others, share your outline and make quick updates easily.

What’s your first step for organizing a large writing project? Have you ever used a method similar to J.K. Rowling’s? Do you have another method for mapping out detailed information?