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Note from Lisa: I’m excited to publish this guest post from Annie Beth Donahue. She’s another busy mom blogger, and she loves helping people improve their writing. If you’re looking for some help, be sure to check out her site. I asked her if she’d share some tips for streamlining the actual writing process. If you feel like blogging is consuming all of your time, you’ll find tips to help.
Take it away Annie Beth…
No one I know wants to increase their work efficiency more than a busy mom. If you are managing a blogging business from home, most likely your dream is to contribute financially and model industriousness and creativity while still being available as “mom” 24/7. That’s why streamlining your writing process should be a priority.
When you streamline your writing process, you can do more work in less time. You’re also able to complete tasks with less stress. Our brains are already going in a thousand directions, just from the day-to-day responsibilities of parenting. Creating systems and processes helps avoid analysis paralysis and decision fatigue.
As a homeschooling mom of four kids, all with various special medical needs, one thing I don’t have is time (or brain cells) to waste. Here are a few of the systems I’ve put in place to make writing a faster, more productive, more pleasant experience.
My number one time saver is batching. According to ProBlogger, “Batching refers to the process of using blocks of time for specific repetitive tasks where there is sole focus and distractions are minimised.”
If you’ve been a consistent reader of Lisa’s blog, you’ll know that even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time. She addressed batching in her article, 10 Work Life Balance Tips for Busy Moms. Lisa is an expert at applying batching not only to her work but also to her homelife.
But what makes batching so effective? Psychologists have run tests to determine how the brain works when we do a task. There are two types of switches that occur when you move one thing to the other. The first type is where you adjust your mindset and focus and the second type involves switching your brain to the “rules” of the new task.
They found that having extra down time between tasks helped cut back on the time needed for mindset adjustment (you’ve pre-prepared for it mentally) you can’t significantly cut back on the time it takes your brain to get in the groove of using the new tasks “rules.” David Meyer, Ph.D concluded, “even brief mental blocks created by shifting between tasks can cost as much as 40 percent of someone’s productive time.”
So what does that look like in relation to your writing tasks? If you are doing social media management for yourself or several clients, instead of working on each client from start to finish, block out time to work on all the similar tasks together. During one work session write the blogs. During another, find all your motivational quotes to post. For another, brainstorm or create photos and graphics for your Instagram. This will cut back on how many tabs you have open on your computer and in your brain.
Templates are my second favorite time hack. Templates keep me from having to reinvent the wheel every time I do a similar task. I use templates for my writing, for my graphics, for my social media, and for my billing.
One of my first blogging clients introduced me to the concept of templates by requiring all blog posts to be submitted with a template at the top. The blog template included a space for the title, a place to paste a link to the graphic, a place for the focus keyword, a box for writing the meta description, and a place to put an alternate Google SEO title.
If you are writing for a client, or even for yourself, it’s helpful to have all of this information in one document. All of your editing and adjusting can be done within that one page. And once it’s time to finally plug the blog into WordPress (or whatever you use) there’s no more thinking involved.
If you love trying to improve your SEO, you can make a blog template that includes all of those fields, and more. If you’re not quite there yet, you may still want to make some kind of basic template outline that includes generic placeholders like title, intro, subhead 1, subhead 2, subhead 3, conclusion, just to help you stay on track while writing your next piece.
When creating graphics, I used to just batch by doing all graphics for the month at the same time. Eventually, I decided to also spring for the “pro” version of Canva for the ability to “make a copy” of and “resize” graphics I’d already done. This allowed me to turn everything I’d already created into a potential template.
Now, when making the weekly inspirational quote graphic for my husband’s business, I’m able to just make a copy of the one from the previous week and change the words. Lots of clicking and drag-and-drop time saved.
Since I manage my own social media as well as other clients’, I’ve created a weekly social media template. At the beginning of each month, I create a folder that is labeled with the month and year. (ex. May ‘18) I then go to my weekly template and make a copy for each week in that month. Then I retitle each one with the date and topic or keyword for the week. (ex. 4/16 Blogging)
The templates have an outline of everything I need to create for that week’s social media. For example, it may say:
Monday- weekly update
Tuesday- inspirational quote graphic
6:00- article link
And so on. Then I can work with the template by writing the text for my posts, including links, and setting it up so that all I have to do to schedule my posts is to copy and paste from the template into a scheduler. This also helps with batching because I can go into the folder and pull up all of the weeks for this month and work on similar types of posts.
For billing, I typically use PayPal, but some clients want me to send a PDF document invoice. Either way, billing doesn’t take much time to do because I’ve saved a basic template in both PayPal and Google Docs. Once a project is completed, I just adjust the description and amount requested, change a P.O. number if necessary, and send the request on its way.
As a busy mom, one thing that’s really hard to do is to be present and focused on whatever task we have at hand. No matter what you are doing, it seems that something (or someone) else is always vying for your attention.
Mental overload, lack of sleep, and constant multitasking can eat away at your ability to concentrate. Living in a world of smartphones, electronic games, and 30-second video clips has eroded our ability to keep our minds on one task for any significant amount of time. But cultivating the ability to concentrate will streamline your writing process.
Lisa gave a great list of warning signs of mental overload in her post, How to Prevent Mental Burnout as a Mompreneur. Mental burnout is detrimental to your ability to be productive. She also gave a lot of great tips on how to actively avoid mental overload. This relates to concentration because when you are mentally overloaded, you are not able to completely focus on any one task.
For me, the biggest thief of concentration is lack of sleep. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine says, “sleep enhances your cognitive abilities. It helps you focus and think more creatively. It also helps you solve problems and remember important information. For students, sleep can be a secret to success in the classroom.”
For busy moms that are trying to work smarter, not harder, that means that doing your work with a well-rested mind. Sleep helps you recover from distractions faster, make better decisions, make fewer mistakes, and improves your memory. Sleep.org estimates that “Sleep deprivation costs American companies $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity.” That’s a lot of wasted time and money.
Finally, reducing how much you multi-task will improve your ability to concentrate. Assuming that you decide to implement the time-saving technique of batching, you still have to be able to resist the temptation to multi-task during that block of time.
One article by Forbes discusses why habitually multi-tasking makes it more difficult to concentrate even when you have the opportunity to devote significant time to a single project. Constantly checking emails or notifications, taking breaks to watch videos or look at the latest tweets activates the reward center of our brain, which triggers the creation of dopamine. The article said, “Game developers use these [dopamine] triggers to create addictive games. Unfortunately, email pretty much works the same way.”
Use These Tips to Streamline Your Writing Process
You may be surprised how much faster your writing process goes once you’ve implemented batching, created some templates, rested up and trained your brain to concentrate on the single task at hand.
Annie Beth Donahue
Annie Beth Donahue is a Content Creator and Consultant. She offers writing services and business content strategy in Healthcare and Agriculture. She is also a journalist, children’s book author, teacher, and nonprofit founder. Annie Beth lives with her husband Brad and their four children, near Charlotte, North Carolina. You can find her at www.anniebethdonahue.com or actively tweeting @anniebdonahue.