How I Write an Average of 100,000 Words Per Week
My tips for a more productive writing routine
Photo courtesy of the author
Every week, Grammarly sends me a nice little update to encourage me to sign up for their premium service. The updates share some interesting analytics about how many words I’ve written, word choice uniqueness, tone, and more.
After seeing these updates week in and week out, I realized something kind of crazy. I am now consistently writing around 100,000 words per week and have nearly hit 3 million since May 2019. Three. Million.
Photo courtesy of the author
Over the last year, I’ve gone from writing a couple of shorter articles per day for a few clients through Content Cucumber to writing full-time with my agency, managing my own blog, contributing to Medium, and writing for individual clients.
Yeah, it’s a lot of writing, and sometimes it gets overwhelming. But, I have deadlines to meet and content to create.
As my workload and demand has increased, I’ve had to adjust to writing a lot more than I ever thought I would. Luckily, I’ve learned some sound strategies for productive writing along the way.
To-Do Lists Actually Work
Remember assignment notebooks from school? You know, the ones where you had to write out your daily assignments and get a parent to initial that you’re doing your homework. I finally admit that those were valid.
To-do lists are not a waste of time, they will actually help you prepare for a hefty writing schedule. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that incomplete tasks are distracting for us, but planning to get them done can alleviate anxiety. I can personally attest to this.
To prepare for the day ahead, I look through my due dates and plan what I need to get done.
Before shutting off my work for the night, I review what I did that day and write down what I need to get done the following day.
My to-do lists include article submissions, client emails, and the pieces I want to write. I make a point to stick to the mandatory tasks so that I don’t overwhelm myself with too many things to get done.
I will sometimes add an “optional” section of a few pieces I can work on if I have extra time but that I do not have to.
I have found it’s a lot more difficult and stressful to complete a piece the same day that it’s due. Of course, those quick turnovers do happen and are sometimes out of your control.
Sometimes I have to complete a short piece for a client that day, but in general, I try to avoid this at all costs.
Many times, I can see the articles in my queue well ahead of time. I head to that client's page and schedule new articles as soon as they come in. This way, I can see what they have due over several days or even weeks.
My end goal with planning out due dates is to come up with an outline for what needs to be turned in each week and each day for all clients, and therefore what should go on my to-do list when.
Getting ahead has helped me to write more each day. Instead of rushing to write articles the day they are due, I try to stay at least one day ahead of schedule.
Right away Monday morning, I’m able to submit what’s due and then get to work writing for Tuesday and beyond.
Build Work Habits Through Consistency
Being a remote writer comes with incredible perks, one of which is flexibility. However, you must be careful not to sacrifice consistency for the sake of flexibility.
It’s great to be able to adjust your schedule based on other events or to pick the hours that work for you, but you will want to create a general schedule and routine to follow. After all, consistency helps with efficiency.
One study that analyzed part-time retail workers found that “more stable scheduling increased sales and labor productivity.” Routines create habits, which influence our behavior immensely.
By centering your writing around habits, you will be able to start writing without needing to elicit immense motivation, and you will also reduce the need for decisions.
Research on decision fatigue suggests that this may not be the best approach, but for me, it is really helpful to start the day with some small tasks.
Starting my writing day with a long-form, research-heavy assignment just doesn't work. I’ll drag my feet and put it off while just getting more stressed out.
Instead, I like to start with a few small tasks. I always start by checking my email for messages from clients, and then I move on to submitting and recording the articles that are due that day.
Once I’ve taken care of a few small non-writing tasks, I’ll move on to starting with a couple of easy writing pieces.
I’ll tackle a piece I know a lot about, one that I’m excited for, or one that is really short. After one or two easier articles, I have my “writing muscles” warmed up, and I feel more ready to address something more difficult.
One key to making this strategy work and to avoiding fatigue later in the day is to limit the “small tasks” I start with.
Yeah, if I wrote 10 short posts before trying to attack a more challenging piece the day might be half over and my mind might be tired. I stick with just a couple of smaller tasks and then get into some of the meaty work before finishing off with some other easier pieces.
Skip the Intro
If I am really struggling with a piece and just cannot find my footing, I’ll skip the intro. Usually, the intro is where you get caught up.
Did I catch their attention? Is it powerful enough? Does the thesis summarize the article? The intro has a lot of considerations that make it finicky to write. Stop spending so much time on it.
Most of the time, I do like starting with my introduction, and I find it pretty simple to write.
For some pieces, it just doesn't go that way. In those cases, I head for the main points first. After researching and writing the main points, I often have a bit more insight that helps me craft a more compelling intro.
Take (a Lot of) Breaks
In my experience, writing is not something that you can do for eight hours straight. Our brains can’t effectively do anything for that long.
A study by the Draugiem Group analyzed the time people spent on different tasks and their associated productivity levels. According to their findings, the ideal work-to-break ratio is 52 minutes of work to 17 minutes of rest.
Writing is mentally demanding and every person is different, so your ideal ratio could also vary. The key point is that you will not maintain productivity if you work for too long at once.
Take enough breaks throughout the day, and plan something active during that time. A quick stretch, neighborhood stroll, or some hardcore speed-cleaning can clear your mind and prepare you for your next chunk of work.
Additionally, make sure to take breaks, like, in general. I got into a really bad habit of working every single day.
While trying to do some of the other writing tips I mentioned above (like getting ahead), I would write every single day including weekends. I would write during my allotted time during the day, and then a little bit late at night.
While I didn’t work for a full day every day, I was still writing a few thousand words on my “off day.”
That’s a recipe for burnout. Overworking is a great way to shoot your productivity in its metaphorical foot and end up writing fewer words per week overall!
Trick Yourself to Write
Staring at a blank page with the time ticking away is intimidating, especially if it’s for a piece you aren’t exactly thrilled to write.
Many times, starting really is the hardest part, it’s what prompts us to procrastinate in every way possible.
You need to just start. Just start writing something.
Easier said than done. Well, here’s how I do it. I lie to myself. I know that I’m lying to myself, and it still works. I tell myself “just write one paragraph and you can be done with this article for today,” or, “research the main points and make an outline, then you can write it tomorrow.”
To be honest, I did that today. I told myself I would just write out the points for this post and then expand tomorrow, yet here I am.
If I do that “starting thing” and I just can’t muster anymore effort after that, then I really will stop writing. So far, that’s never happened.
There’s something about just getting starting that serves as a catalyst for your writing process. Once you’ve started, it’s so much easier to just keep going.
By that time, you have your mind engaged and you’re in the middle of the process. Getting started is the biggest hurdle to productive writing, and sometimes you have to trick yourself into getting over it.
I still mess up on my daily writing routine. I’m not as consistent as I want to be, and I’m always learning more as I take on new clients and new projects. Even one year ago, I would have told you I would absolutely never be writing around 100,000 words every week.
According to good old Grammarly, I am and the strategies above are the main reason why. Over the last year, I have been able to create a solid writing routine that facilitates my productivity and speeds up my writing process.
Professional athlete, content writer, and content marketer. Sharing my raw, unfiltered experiences. https://medium.com/@rashidabeal79