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3 Quick Tips to Get Your Next Post Out On Time

This guest post is by Tor Constantino of Thedailyretort.com.

The old cliché, “time is money” is particularly true for any professional writer—especially when you’re on deadline. The consequences of missing deadlines are lost money, work, and credibility.

As a former journalist (a.k.a hourly deadline writer) for more than a decade, I know that deadline writing is a skill that can be enhanced. Here are three unconventional tips I learned from the newsroom, which might just help you meet your next post deadline.

1. Treat every writing assignment as a project

Most of my journalism career was as a radio news anchor and TV reporter in Rochester, NY—the home city of five different Fortune 500 companies.

Most of the news in that market had a business focus, and I enrolled in business courses to help sharpen those skills. The course that most improved my ability to write to deadline was not a writing course at all—it was a Project Management class.

Every writing assignment should be viewed as a project with actionable tasks, milestones, resource needs, time management requirements, and a final deadline.

While each writing project plan will vary based on its specific needs, they all have some common steps to help organize your writing.

Steps such as developing timelines, identifying content experts, listing story dependencies, and task prioritization dramatically helped me become a more disciplined and deadline-driven writer.

2. Create an interview log

Eventually, every writer talks to another person or expert to gain information regarding a writing project. A digital recorder is a very useful time-saving tool in this regard.

The time-saving trick occurs when you jot down the time code, listed on the device’s display, each time your expert gives a great answer. That written interview log will save tons of time as you select quotes for the writing project.

Another tip is that, since every state has different wiretapping and recording laws, it’s useful to have your expert acknowledge the fact they’re being recorded on the actual recording itself before you start asking questions.

Also, when you’re up against a deadline, it’s useful to capture your own thoughts on the recorder since the average person can talk nearly three times as fast as they can type. Dictation while driving or standing in line helps transform “dead time” into “deadline-driven” time. You can then transcribe your recorded thoughts later, and create that post much more quickly.

3. Enhance your ability to focus

Your ability to focus is the single most important aspect of writing to deadline.

Every newsroom I’ve every worked in has a large bank of Bearcat-type scanners monitoring hundreds of specialized frequencies for police, fire, ambulance and rescue activity to track breaking-news emergencies. On top of that is the auditory barrage from the block of elevated TV screens to keep an eye on competing news outlets. Plus, there’s the obligatory newsroom noise from 20-30 reporters, editors and producers clattering on keyboards or chattering on phones working toward their respective deadlines.

The ability to focus and write meaningful content in that cacophony was a necessary skill for deadline writing that extends beyond the newsroom.

Even if you never set foot in a newsroom, you can practice your ability to focus.

Start by turning up the volume on your television to a distracting decibel, as well as a nearby radio, while someone is simultaneously vacuuming the living room. Do it, really.

Then give yourself 30 minutes or so—in the midst of that noise—to write a blog post that you fully intend to use, or some other writing project you’re working on.

If you do this focus-challenging exercise once a week your ability to focus, think, and write under extreme circumstances will improve—as will your ability to write to deadline.

Bottom-line: deadline

These deadline-driven tactics can result in real time-saving benefits for virtually any writing project or writing ability.

If you practice them, they could be the difference between making or missing your next deadline‚ and when it comes to blogging deadlines, the time and money you save is most often your own.

Tor Constantino is a former journalist, bestselling author and current PR guy from Washington, DC with 23+ years experience as a professional writer. He writes regularly at his blog, http://www.thedailyretort.com. You can connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook

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Comments

  1. You’re spot on with the last point. Deadlines are what make things happen. I had a lot of troubles lately keeping up with my work and my blogging assignments along with the projects that I usually build up over time. Then, I read some productivity e-book ( I don’t really remember the name) and it advised to set time for every task and then improvising each time. I found that to be a pretty good approach. Great article, nevertheless. :)

    • Thanks Abdul, I agree that time management is an important element of writing. I can say that writing to deadline over the years has improved my ability to get to the heart of what I want to write about and deliver that core message clearly!

  2. Samuel says:

    Writing can take a lot of time, but with more time and better focus like you said, it can be accomplished.

    It was nice to read how each writing task was broken up into multiple smaller tasks to accomplish it more efficiently. That is a smart thing to do and many of us need to do that.

    Nice article Tor!

  3. Graham Lutz says:

    For me, It’s a time limit that makes me get down to it. I’ve found that if I give myself 1 hour per day, timed with a timer, I get so much more done. When that timer goes off, I’m done for the day, where ever I happen to be.

    • That’s a great idea Graham, I have a friend who swears by the egg timer writing method – she also makes a kickin’ soft boiled egg ;-)

    • Graham, great suggestion! That type of approach takes a lot of discipline for some people to stick with; however, it’s very similar to the discipline required to never answer emails until the end of the day to enable yourself maximum productivity during work hours. Thanks for the tip!

  4. Linda Adams says:

    Also, pay attention to word counts. I see people complaining about how hard it is to get posts out, and the existing post is a thousand words. The more words, the more time it will take to write.

    • Great point Linda! In the newsroom you HAVE to write to a specific length and duration – if you can’t hit those constraints, editors will cut and cram it to fit.

    • …also, it’s good practice to set a word count for each story and then try to hit it (forgot to mention that before I posted the other reply :-)

  5. Lokesh Chauhan says:

    Hello Tor!
    as you have said above to take a post as a project. I think you have said right because if we take it as i project we would have a confidence in our heart that we have to focus on this.
    but i don’t like you point of having a dead line in mind because if he have a deadline in our mind we will have a tension and i think that in tension we can’t write a good article.
    but you have explained very well.
    Thank you Tor.

    • Lokesh, thanks for your thoughtful comment – I really appreciate it. You’re correct that deadlines can be stressful, but I think that depends on our particular perspective. For me, deadlines are invigorating and spur creativity. I understand that might not work for others. However, I do know that deadline writing is a skill that can definitely be improved upon – I’m living proof of that! Thanks again!

  6. Robert says:

    And the more words, the lower the percentage of people who will read it to the end (and therefore won’t see the CTA or share options). I noticed that blog posts between 500 and 1,000 words do better than short ones or very long ones (i.e. more than 1,000 words)

    But anyway, I like the deadline-driven tactic. Only problem is that quality might drop since bloggers start focussing on dates in stead of their actual writing…

  7. here we go says:

    every piece of writing is art!
    often less is more

  8. Justin Mazza says:

    Great actionable advice here Tor. I never considered myself much of a writer until I started my blog. Now I know how much work, time and effort goes into writing a good piece of content.

    • I appreciate it Justin – I’ve found that writing is very much like a muscle that gets stronger the more you use it. And remember, as long as you’re writing – you’re officially a writer! Don’t ever let anyone tell you differently!!!

  9. Everyone should plan out their blog and what they will be doing with it before going live. I didn’t do this which means I’ve had to start doing so whilst my blog is still live, which is a bad time to start making a blog plan because I have to actually run my blog at the same time: adding new posts, getting backlinks, getting followers etc.

    If you create you plan before you actually go live you have as much time as you want to create a plan and write posts because you aren’t burdened with the fact you have to keep adding blogs and getting traffic to an already live blog.

  10. Great post, Tor. I love the part about focus. I definitely think its something we can learn to do. Like exercise or eating well. But it is hard.

    • Thanks Jeremy, few people realize that focus is a skill that can definitely be sharpened and honed. Additionally, it can be transferred to other areas of life. Case in point, I know you’re a surgeon and your profession requires an expert-level of focus – I’ve seen that focus and commitment prominently exhibited in your writing as well!

    • Jeremy, thanks for the supportive post. Focus is indeed a challenging skill to develop, but like anything else it can definitely be sharpened and honed. Your examples of exercise or proper nutrition have marked similarities with focus. The other point, is that focus can get dull overtime – so it’s something we have to be vigilante and mindful of.

  11. Paul Evans says:

    Tor! I am with you. Deadlines are essential. In fact, I find I can hardly get anything done without the fuel of a final buzzer.

    • Paul, I know deadlines aren’t for everyone but not only do they help me get things done – the quality of my final output always seems to be better as well. Also, I love your turn of phrase “…fuel of a final buzzer…” – I may have to steal that from you ;-)

    • Absolutely Paul! While deadlines may be challenging to some, I agree that they are actually invigorating drivers to complete a project. Further, I find that deadlines help me generate the best content. That may be counter-intuitive but when all of your creative energy is harnessed with a laser-like focus – the outcomes can only be exceptional!

  12. Kevin says:

    I like the idea of making every assignment a project. The more organized you are when you are writing the better the end result will be. I also couldn’t imagine working in a newsroom like you describe. I suppose you adapt to your environment. The less noise I have the better when I am working.

    • You nailed it Kevin, the reality is “…you adapt to your environment…” In college, I needed stone-cold silence to write my research papers. When I left the news business and started working in corporate PR, I had to smuggle my portable police scanner with me (no lie) and have it on in my office while I wrote the first few months on the job to help me concentrate. I’d encourage you to practice the focus drill I outlined, you may surprise yourself!

  13. Phil Jensen says:

    Very important post.

    Focus is something that most people lack and it’s extremely difficult now a days to get any real work done (especially writing online content) without solid discipline and action.

    Great tips…thanks for the post.

    Phil

  14. mario monk says:

    Oh, thanls for advice on practicin writing in front of distractions. Will try to seek no more for quiet corner or moment, but will try working while our kids are awake and active.

  15. You had me at “project management”…As a writer with a day job as a project manager, I agree that the two are closely intertwined!

    Another “technology tip” for interviewing: I use a Livescribe digital pen…it links the audio recording to the written notes. I’ve developed a shorthand symbol to tag the great quotes, and then I can just click on each tag. If you can write fast/legibly, you can also install software to convert your notes to text.

  16. Carol Lynn says:

    I think the next generation of cars needs to come with an “auto record”. Much like we can speak directions and phone numbers now, we should be able to hit a button and record our brilliant thoughts while driving! Recording is a great tip because so many good ideas come when you don’t expect them, in the silences between here and there and when you’re not “on task” and have a minute to think again.

    Deadlines are probably the single most important thing. Without one, it’s anyone’s guess when you’ll “find time” or “be inspired”.

    For me I also find that being in writing mode all the time helps. If you are constantly on the lookout for ideas, they will present themselves. Pay attention to what people say and do, collect quotes and snippets of conversations. You can turn those quickly into a very focused post and it’s usually easier (and faster) to write.

    • Carol, that is a great comment – chock full of all kinds of writing goodness! Writing to deadline and focus are complementary disciplines that can definitely be improved upon.

      I also love you point about being constantly on the lookout for new ideas. That’s one of the “20 Newsroom Writing Secrets” I’m offering as part of a free special report over on my site.

  17. I’ve been following this paradigm for many years, and it works.
    Each post, isn’t only a post, but a project.
    Unless your posts are only news or simple thoughts, you should threat them as projects and plan a deadline being S.M.A.R.T.

  18. Jim says:

    Tor, this is a great post. I must admit that I’m a little afraid to attempt the vacuum cleaner trick and turn in a post in 30 minutes. I am afraid the results would be terrible. But I’m sure I would learn and grow quite a bit from the process.

  19. Great points, Tor. I have been using my phone’s voice recorder for a while to keep “notes.” It is invaluable when you’re jammed in a bus and can’t really take written notes. I need to try those focus exercises.

  20. Sanjeev says:

    I am focused on time limit that makes me get down to it. Thanks for such great tips i will try to follow.