How to write 500% more

I have more opportunities than I can keep up with.

For several years I’ve dreamt of establishing a writing career and create a location-independent income to allow me to migrate to warmer climates and see the world. And for most of that time, I was full of “good ideas” that never came to fruition.

Most of us fill up the time we have. We have our routines and commitments. We have bills to pay. People to see. Places to go. So when we try to move in a different direction, we have this inertia that is hard to change.

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), that if we want to change the results we’re getting, we must change our actions. Hard to do when your days are already full. But this year was different.

I attended a conference back in February that emphasized personal development. I hung out with friends who are smart and actively taking steps to change. I returned home with renewed determination to re-launch

From there it seemed every book I read, every podcast I listened to, every YouTube video began to speak to me about the changes I needed to make to finally take action on my dream. I gained new perspectives and developed a clear vision for what I wanted the website to be, and how I could progress with my writing. And finally, I got down to the work.

The month of September I published 28 articles. But to go from writing zero to 28 required many sleepless nights and many more short nights. By week 5 the wheels were falling off the car. My health has taken a turn for the worse and it’s harder and harder to focus on the important parts. Hustle is good- but it’s not the only ingredient to success.

If hustle was the key to success, every farmer in the world would be wealthy.

Besides, what good is the will to hustle when your body simply can’t keep up with the demands? I might stay in the front of the pack for a few laps, but if my engine blows up I’ll still lose the race. Or worse, end up with injuries.

So here’s the dilemma in a nutshell:

My work has provided me with opportunities. To say yes to these opportunities, I need to produce more work. In order to create more content, I need to find a way to do it faster because I have run out of hours in the day that I can physically maintain.

Then last night, something happened…

I was having one of those moments where writing ideas were coming at me fast. So like I always do, I pulled out my phone, opened up Evernote, and started to make some reminders of the potential articles. But this time was different. Because I was really flowing with ideas, I couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with my brain and I was afraid of forgetting some of the ideas. So I hit the voice-to-text button and blurted it out.

Before you know it, I had “written” 1,500 words in a matter of a couple of minutes.

I kept going. I “wrote” three blog articles in less than 20 minutes.

Compare this with my typical writing time of an hour to two hours for a first draft.

I recognized two strategies here that have the potential to increase my productive output by 5x.

1: Use dictation software to write first drafts.

It may not be completely accurate and sometimes you need to slow down and collect your thoughts while you’re typing. But a rough draft can be put out in minutes instead of hours if you just speak your mind and let the thoughts flow. You can return to fix the typos, enhance your thoughts, and refine the points that you’ve made later. But you will already have 1000 or 2000 words on the page after even a few minutes of speaking. This initial action not only gets your thoughts down on paper a lot faster but imagine how much more motivating it is to start writing an article when it’s 1500 words long already, instead of a blank page staring you in the face.

2: Never add an item to a to-do list if it can be done in 5 minutes or less. Use that moment to just complete the task right then and there.

I first read about this tactic in David Allen’s book Getting Things Done. But for some reason, it never really clicked with me until last night. My normal workflow is to keep random notes about potential blog posts in Evernote, then when I sit down to write, I look through those notes to decide how I will devote the next hours. But last night, instead of making notes about three potential articles, I dictated first drafts for each.

I have a tendency of trying to over-organize my ideas and intentions. I’ve gotten in the habit of setting many goals at once and then organizing them over and over and over again. I finally stopped setting so many goals for myself but I still tend to have way too many of what I consider “good ideas” to ever have enough time to act on all of them. I have to be able to say no to some of them. My way of dealing with this has been to add every idea I have to a list.

The problem with this is probably obvious to you. I get an ever-growing list of things to do. This can lead to overwhelm and a sense that I never get enough done. Even my most productive days can’t keep up with this flood of ideas staring me in the face.

If they’re not worth doing right now, why add them to a list? Do I somehow think that my time right now is more valuable than my time in the future? What typically happens is that those ideas end up in an abyss of endless notes that I have. Great ideas that I’ve collected over the years and will never have time to act on.

This article is a direct result of using these two tactics last night. It took me less than two minutes to dictate the first draft for this. Instead of ending up on a to-do list, it was saved as a rough draft.

This is incredibly impactful:

Instead of creating a task to be done, I ended up completing some work and having something to show for it.

Imagine how much more value you could create if you were able to act on more of the ideas that you have instead of just having those ideas set aside and either forgotten about or put on some list that will never be completed. If you can get more of yourself out in the world as a content creator, that’s more value for your audience and of course more value for you.

This is an increase in the total volume of writing practice.

I’m a writer. I want to be a better writer. The best way to be a better writer is to write better. And if I can’t write better, then I need to write more until I can write better. If picking up the phone and dictating an article every single time I have an idea for an article allows me to produce three or four or five times as much content, that is an opportunity for me to get four or five times better in the same amount of time that it would have taken me to get one or two times better.

So let me get this straight- by implementing these two small changes,

  • I avoided adding to my to-do list
  • I created more content – and sense of accomplishment
  • I created more value for my readers
  • I increased the volume and opportunity for practicing my skills to improve my writing
  • I created more opportunity for myself to earn a living doing what I love

Not bad for a few minutes worth of work.

Just for the record: I’ve spent the last 45-minutes taking this first draft from 900 words up to about 1400. That’s still half of the time I would have normally spent on an article this size. The other two articles will be much faster because they are about 90% complete with just the first draft.

If you’re a writer- I hope you’ll try this. Let me know if you do and how it goes for you.

If you’re not a writer, I hope you’ll take the concepts of these two life-hacks and apply them to the work you do.

Before you add something to your list- ask yourself if you can do more with it right now. If not, then is it really valuable enough to add the mental weight and sacrifice your future time? Maybe it is. Maybe some of those good ideas just aren’t good enough. Good ideas aren’t all that scarce. I’m going to work on letting some go.

I hope that helps! Let me know if you try it out.

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