Every content marketer wishes there was an easy way to become a better writer. Of course, there is no shortcut; you have to read and write constantly if you want to improve your skills. But there are a few hacks and strategies that can help you improve a bit faster or change the paths you can use to improve.
Take, for example, using a timer. It’s a simple strategy that you can use in several distinct applications to improve your writing faster or in different ways. All you’ll need is an automatic time tracking tool of your choice, and a few simple exercises to get started.
Work Time vs. Break Time
The first thing you can try is keeping tabs on your work time and your break time. Breaks are an important part of remaining productive; they allow your mind to decompress, and help you manage stress throughout the day. However, there are many “bad” ways to take breaks. You could take breaks indiscriminately, interfering with your total productive time, you could outright refuse to take breaks, which can be just as harmful in the long run, or anything in between.
Utilizing a timer helps you take appropriate breaks, and at regular intervals. One study found that the average person’s “ideal” break schedule includes 52 minutes of productive work, followed by 17 minutes of breaks. Obviously, this is a composite average, which means this exact breakdown may not work for you, but try to follow something like it if you want to maximize your productivity. Setting a timer will prevent you from working through your break time, and will ensure that your breaks don’t become excessive.
One of the biggest limiting factors for writers developing their skills is a reluctance to get words on paper. Like any skill, writing is best developed through practice; no matter how much you daydream about being a better writer, you’ll only be actively improving if you manage to write. The trouble is, we’re all our own worst critic, and many novice writers spend too much time staring at a screen, criticizing themselves instead of allowing themselves to write new drafts.
Timers can help you overcome this tendency. If you find yourself freezing up at the sight of a blank screen, or if you find yourself unable to get your idea on paper, set a timer to force yourself to write for a given interval. If you’re just getting started with this strategy, you can set the timer for five minutes. During those five minutes, don’t allow yourself to get distracted, don’t think too much about what you’re writing, and don’t stop until those five minutes are up. Just write. It’s okay if you make errors or if you end up not liking what you write—the point is to get your material on paper. You can always edit later or start again from scratch. Even bad or low-quality writing will help you improve more than not writing anything.
As you get better acquainted with this strategy, and more confident in your writing, you can increase the time intervals you use. Eventually, you’ll work up to longer, more intensive sprints, and you’ll be able to complete entire first drafts in a single, uninterrupted run.
Analyzing Your Time Usage
You can also use an automatic time tracker to keep tabs on how you’re spending your time. Throughout the day, keep track of how much time you spend on everything, including your writing, your research, your administrative tasks, your other tasks, and even your breaks and distractions. Over the course of a few days, you’ll gather enough data to make a sensible analysis of how you’re spending your time—and how that time can be improved.
For example, if you notice you’re spending four hours researching for every one hour you spend writing, it could be a sign of imbalance—and one that could be corrected with better researching habits. If you notice you’re wasting a lot of time on distractions, you may need to adopt better time management strategies overall. It can be hard to make these observations on your own, especially if you aren’t sure how you can improve, so make sure you experiment to see how different habits and strategies impact your bottom-line performance.
There is no easy way to become a better writer; you have to think carefully about what you’re writing, write frequently, and be okay with making mistakes. If you want to improve your writing speed and unlock those next tiers of content progression faster, try using a timer to keep yourself on track and gather enough information to act on. Good time management can make a better writer out of anyone.