5 ways to save time with your content
Have you heard the idea that we’ll expand the time it takes us to finish a task to the container we give it?
There’s a more elegant way to say that, but the idea is this: Let’s say you plan five hours to write your weekly blog post and newsletter. That five hours includes coming up with the idea, writing the content, creating the graphics for the post and maybe even social media, and uploading the content to your website and your email provider.
Except it ends up really only taking you four hours. You’re still going to spend five hours on it. Maybe that means you’ll go back and edit your post a couple of times. Maybe you’ll switch out some graphics. Maybe you’ll sit there “thinking” for a good 45 minutes.
The problem is we want your content to take less time so you have more time to do other business owner-y type things. Like work with clients. Do some marketing. Go to a networking event.
So how do stop letting that content creation task expand and start saving some time? Well, these five ways are a pretty good start.
Okay, sorry, let me calm down and come across as slightly less aggressive…*taking deep breaths*
You’ve heard this idea before, yes? It’s not new. (Nothing is new, amirite?!?)
You basically do a bunch of the same task at once. Like if you took a ton of photos last weekend, you edit them all at once. Without multitasking or switching to another task halfway through because that shit wastes your time like crazy.
It’s committing to some focused work.
When it comes to writing your weekly blog post it might look a little something like this:
Writing all the blog post content
THEN, creating all the graphics
THEN, uploading all the posts to your site
Start writing one blog post
Go look for stock photos
Return to writing blog post
Write social media caption
Create post graphic
Create social media graphic
Continue writing blog post
Create another social media graphic
Finish writing blog post
Upload blog post to website
Look for more stock photos….
It’s a lot easier to stay in the zone when you’re not switching from one task to another. Yeah, sure, the overall “task” is creating your weekly blog post. But there’s so many other tasks wrapped up in it that steal your focus and get you off track.
I mean, I don’t know about you, but I can search through Unsplash for hours looking for the right picture. I can drop and redrop graphics in my Pinterest templates all day long until it’s *just so.* (I can also snack to avoid doing something…)
If I just set aside three hours to write, I’m going to get a lot more done than if I interrupt my writing time with post formatting and icon searching and staring blankly at the screen wondering what to do next.
Seriously – try it. I bet you’ll be able to write more than one post if you switch to batching.
Plan ahead of time – even just a month
I’m going to make a gross overstatement here, but bear with me.
There is nothing that sucks your time more than sitting in front of the computer not knowing what you’re going to write.
(I think we can all agree there’s plenty of other things that monumentally waste your time that are much, much worse. Like waiting in line for tickets that are sold out by the time you get to the front of the line. Okay, I kid, I just can’t turn it off sometimes…)
You’ve probably experienced this before. You sit your ass down in that chair, crack your knuckles and your shoulders and maybe your ankles, and open up a fresh blank document. Only to sit there and stare dumbfounded.
Sure, you had good intentions to write up a blog post. But you weren’t really prepared.
Instead of sitting down and forcing yourself to come up with an idea, it’s kinda smart to plan ahead of time. Even if it’s just a month.
That way, you know exactly what you’re going to write about when you fire up the ol’ MacBook. (Who are we kidding? It’s always fired up…)
Your plan doesn’t have to be detailed. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out. It doesn’t have to make sense to anyone else.
As long as you have a general idea of what you’re going to write about from week to week, it’s going to help save you time.
I mean, just imagine approaching the computer thinking, “Okay, this post is going to be about the big three macronutrients” vs. approaching the computer thinking, “Okay, I need to write a blog post.”
Having a general idea is better than having no idea. Every. Single. Time.
Make an outline
To quote the Foo Fighters, I have a confession to make: I don’t outline.
(They said that first part. Not the second one. Although now I wonder if I can dig up Dave Grohl chatting about songwriting outlines or something….)
Okay, I outline *sometimes.* When I’m working on a guest post and I need it to be focused and strategic and, well, a little more succinct than my normal ramblyness or when I’m working on something for a client, I’ll give in and be a little more organized.
And sometimes my outlines consist of the title of the post and the subheadings. That’s exactly how this post started out actually.
Outlines, despite taking time to put together, end up being a time saver because you not only have a general idea of what you're going to write about (see above) but also a bit more detail of what exactly you’ll include.
(Side note: Did you have to do outlines in school? I honestly can’t remember what we were outlining, but I remember doing sooo many outlines. Not sure how it was really helpful honestly and it clearly never took if it was something I was *supposed* to do…)
Not sure what to include in your outline? Here’s one I generally follow (you know, when I make ‘em):
Closing + call-to-action
It’s pretty basic, but the magic is when you start to fill in the outline. Once you’ve got the points figured out, you can add more to them until suddenly you know exactly what you’re going to write.
Follow the same formula
Look, if you’re trying to save time when creating content, there’s really no sense trying to recreate the Mona Lisa or the Sistine Chapel every time, is there?
Let’s say you’re sitting down to write that blog post that you’re supposed to publish this afternoon. (Cheers to procrastinating, friend!)
You could wrack your brain for an hour or two, trying to come up with something super inventive. Or…you could fall back on an old standby that’s going to help you whip out a perfectly imperfect post quickly and (relatively) painlessly.
In other words – you follow a formula.
Yes, you can absolutely have more than one formula. How many and what they look like is totally up to you.
Maybe you have a formula for a how-to post that goes something like:
Opening question about if your audience struggles with something
Talk about why they might struggle with that something
Tell them you’ve got something that’s going to help them stop struggling
Go through each step of that something
Wrap up with an appropriate call-to-action
Or maybe you’ve got a formula for a more personal blog post that looks a little something like this:
Catchy opening line
Some background on the story
Share the story
Why this matters to people/how it applies to them
Some sort of call-to-action
What you might have noticed is that – yes! – you can absolutely combine the power of an outline AND a formula. If you’re going to write a how-to, you pull up your how-to formula and outline how your content will fit into that formula. It’s kinda magical, no?
Work with an editor
Yes, I’m biased. No, I’m not BSing you.
Working with an editor is pretty much one of the best ways to save yourself some time when it comes to your content.
You see, an editor’s job really is to help you communicate your message the way you want. A lot of the time that means doing the heavy lifting so you get your ideas down without having to worry about grammar, self-editing, flow, structure…all those boring-to-you things that light us editors up.
So, instead of sitting down to write, getting frustrated that you’re not using your words well, walking away, coming back an hour later with renewed vigor, rewriting the copy, spending another hour analyzing it and reworking it and second guessing whether that last change you made was really necessary, brainstorming clever intros and headlines and then scrapping every last one, deciding you need to revise that second paragraph in the third section again…
You write something. Anything. You hand it off to your editor. Without worrying about any of the “hard” stuff.
And your editor sends you back tons of feedback and suggestions so you know exactly what to do to make your copy better.
It’s like leapfrogging all the doubting yourself and procrastinating.
Which is exactly why I created Copy Confidence: to help you feel less embarrassed and more confident about your copy in 48 hours or less. (Time savings, my friend.) Learn more here.