10 Tips to Finally WRITE + CREATE all those Projects You’ve Been Procrastinating On
by Cheryl Binnie

10 Tips to Finally WRITE + CREATE all those Projects You've Been Procrastinating On

Most entrepreneurs I know started their business because they were EXCITED about it.

They’d found work that they loved doing or knowledge they possessed, or a passion they’d learned about… and were thrilled by the idea that someone might pay them for it.

But once they got started on the whole Build-The-Business part, there were a few surprises…

Things like…

  • “Wait, I have to learn how to sell? Won’t people just buy on their own?”
  • “Ummm… how does this affect my taxes now?”
  • “Whyyyyyy do I have to learn so many new tech thingies and widgets and apps??”

And then there’s the BIG one… the one that ends up requiring SO. MUCH. MORE. TIME. than you expected…

WRITING.

Seriously. Who knew there’d be so much writing involved with running a business?

  • Website copy
  • Email newsletters and blog articles
  • Promotional emails
  • Social media posts
  • Scripts for videos and webinars
  • Opt-in pages for webinars
  • Free Gifts to grow your email list
  • Opt-in pages and Thank You pages for those Free Gifts
  • Super-long sales pages
  • Physical, printed flyers and postcards

…and it just. keeps. going.

I can’t tell you how many times a business owner has said something along the lines of…

“Yeah, I’d love to launch that program / re-do my website / create that freebie / add a nurture sequence to my email list / etc… but I just can’t get myself to sit down and WRITE it.”

This is why I firmly believe that learning how to write copy well and efficiently is a CRUCIAL skill set for any business owner.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about today…

10 Tips to Finally WRITE + CREATE all those Projects You've Been Procrastinating On

10 Tips to Finally WRITE + CREATE all those Projects You’ve Been Procrastinating On

Tip #1: Work in time blocks.

You may have heard this called “time blocking,” “time chunking,” or “batching your work.”

The idea is to do a bunch of similar work all in one big chunk, rather than trying to switch tasks again and again throughout the day.

For example, if you’re a coach who does private calls with clients, you would try to do all of your client calls on the same day (or 2-3 days if you have a bunch), rather than spreading them throughout your week. (I also prefer to do all my client calls back-to-back, with 15-minute breaks in between. I’d rather get them all in within a few hours, than having a stop-go rhythm to my day.)

For writing, this would look like blocking out a big, 3-hour chunk to work on writing the content for your new course (as opposed to scheduling random smaller sessions throughout the week).

And blocking out a separate 3-hour chunk to write your next 2-3 blog articles (unless you write massive articles like I do!).

And maybe a 2-hour chunk to draft up a bunch of social media posts for the coming month.

There are a couple reasons for working in these big chunks of time:

  • Research has shown that when you switch tasks, it takes time for your brain to get up to speed. So you might schedule in a half hour to work on your blog article, but it takes your brain 15 minutes to transition fully, so you effectively waste half your time. Then, just when your brain is getting into the swing of things, your half hour is up and you switch to replying to emails – which again requires transitioning time.
  • Writing copy for your business usually takes way longer than you think it will. If you’re going to create a new Free Gift for your email optin, don’t expect to whip out a perfect, final draft in 30 minutes. If you’re reworking the copy on your website, don’t think you’ll be able to do it in a single hour. You’re just setting yourself up for disappointment and lots of unfinished projects. Instead, set aside a big, 2- or 3-hour chunk for each project.

Tip #2: Create a ritual to transition into “writing mode.”

Using the same steps to transition into writing becomes a trigger for your brain: “Oh, when we start doing XYZ, that means it’s time to write!”

For me, this means setting up my environment for writing.

First, I clear off my desk of anything that I don’t need, so there’s no clutter pulling at my attention or stuff getting in the way physically. That might be different for you, but experiment to see if having a cleaner surface area helps.

Then, set up the things you’ll need + things that will help keep your brain in the right mode.

I recommend…

  • A specific smell (a candle or essential oil – a smell that you ONLY use during writing time).
  • Whatever you need around you to make it feel like a fun, inspiring space: crystals, an inspiring quote, fuzzy socks, etc. (It can be whatever you want! I know a writer who has little Hello Kitty figurines on her desk because they help her enjoy being at her desk.)
  • Things that you would otherwise feel an immediate and urgent compulsion to go get (like a full glass of water, hot tea, a snack, etc.).
  • Music! Try finding a specific “transition” song that you listen to first, every time you start to write, followed by a music playlist you enjoy working to.

I keep a lot of those items inside my desk drawer, so it takes all of 20 seconds to set up.

I even have two different setups for when I’m writing for Copy Luv versus when I’m writing fiction.

For Copy Luv work, I have…

  • a frankincense and jasmine essential oil.
  • fun music – like a Taylor Swift playlist – to convince myself that “THIS IS FUN! I WANT TO BE HERE!” (though if I really need to focus, I have a “work” playlist with Glen Velez’s Rhythms of the Chakras and other non-lyrics songs).

For writing fiction, I use…

  • a sandalwood essential oil.
  • music from movie trailers and soundtracks. These super-dramatic songs help me visualize the scene I’m working on. Sometimes I’ll have one song on repeat as I work through a scene.
  • (I also have a bunch of different playlists for when I’m working on, say, an action scene versus a slow, sad scene. But my default “transition into writing fiction” playlist always starts with the same song.)

Some of this might seem silly and overkill. And maybe it is for you!

But it makes it fun for me, and the smell + song ritual really has become a trigger for me to start writing.

(Credit where it’s due: I started incorporating the scent + fun items thanks to Sarra Cannon’s videos and articles to help authors.)

Tip #3: Use an interval timer.

Seriously. This makes a huuuuuuuge difference!

An interval timer is different from a normal timer in that you set up multiple rounds of: “writing sprint!” and “take a break!”

A lot of athletes use these types of timers for their interval / HIIT / Tabata trainings.

The key is that the timer keeps going. As soon as your first writing sprint ends, it immediately starts counting down your break. As soon as the break is over, it starts timing your next sprint.

Which means you don’t have to depend on yourself to reset the timer. (Trust me: if you’re counting on yourself to restart your sprint timer as soon as your 5-minute break is over, you’re setting yourself up for failure.)

Nope. The interval timer keeps going.

You can get an app on your phone (my Android app is simply called Interval Timer), or here’s an online timer you can use on a web browser: Boxing Timer Pro

How long should your sprints and breaks be?

Experiment with what timing works for you!

When writing for Copy Luv, I like doing longer sprints:

  • 50-minute sprint
  • 5-minute break
  • 50-minute sprint
  • 30- to 60-minute break

When working on fiction, I do short sprints (you might have seen this called the Pomodoro Method:

  • 25-minute sprint
  • 5-minute break
  • 25-minute sprint
  • 5-minute break
  • 25-minute sprint
  • 30- to 60-minute break

How to use your breaks:

During those 5-minute breaks, try to step away from your computer and avoid looking at your phone.

These short breaks are about standing up, moving your body, taking a bio break, refilling your water, etc. Y’know, all those healthy “don’t sit still for too long” things we all know we should be doing.

But I’m usually still thinking about the project I’m working on. So by the time I sit back down for my next sprint, I’m already bubbling over with ideas that I just have to get down.

The longer 30- to 60-minute break at the end of a 2-hour stretch is flexible. I might go for a walk, or do some yoga, or make + eat lunch. Just depends on what time of day it is, and what kind of break my body needs at the time.

Tip #4: Turn your perfectionism into your secret weapon!

I hear from a lot of entrepreneurs that they struggle with writing because they’re perfectionists. They want the first draft to be amazing, so they get hung up on editing every single line they write, as they write it, and it takes for.ev.er.

I get that. I’m a perfectionist, too.

But I’ve figured out a way to turn my perfectionism into an advantage: I use it to trick myself into getting started.

See, my biggest challenge is that I’m a bad starter.

Some people are great at starting projects, but not so great at the follow-through. I’m a great researcher, but drag my feet when it comes time to actually start, and then I do “just okay” on the follow-through.

But my perfectionism makes it hard for me to look at something that’s messy or not written well and leave it alone.

I get annoyed when I read something and it’s not how I want it. Even if I’m resisting writing, if I start reading something, it’ll trick me into cleaning it up.

So when I know it’s time to get started on a new project, I make myself do a super-messy braindump/outline. Since I know no one will ever see this (because it’s just a bulleted outline), I’m able to skip over the tweak-it-until-it’s-perfect part.

But when it’s time to turn that messy outline into a draft, that’s where I start experiencing all sorts of resistance.

But!

I’ve found that if I can just get myself to open the document, I’ll start working on it.

I tell myself, “You don’t have to work on this yet. We’re just opening up the braindump file, so it’s there when you are ready for it.”

…but then, once that document is open, I can’t help but glance through it…

…and then my perfectionist starts itching to clean things up:

  • That’s not the right order for those steps.
  • No, you can’t share that tip without first explaining this tip.
  • Wait, here’s a better example for that section.

Now, I’m still trying to trick myself at this point: “No, you’re not writing a full draft right now. You’re just cleaning up your thoughts and moving things around.” Inevitably, though, I end up writing a bunch of prose to go along with it.

Sometimes I end up writing an entire draft when I was really just planning on reviewing my old ideas.

Other times, I simply flesh out the ideas more. In this case, I still tell myself that this document is the secret outline that no one else will ever see, so I can still allow it to be messy-ish.

But again – the next time I open this document “just to review my thoughts,” my perfectionist jumps in and starts cleaning it up, and writing more, and adding new tips until it does become a full draft.

If I know I need to write something tomorrow, I open that messy doc on my computer in the evening, so it’s the first thing I’ll see in the morning. (If I don’t already have a messy doc started, I’ll jot down a few half-baked ideas, just so it’s not a totally blank page.)

For example, for this very article, I worked on it in three separate sessions:

  1. The initial outline/braindump. (I do these braindumps whenever I get an idea for an article, so whenever I need to write a new article, I have a bunch of ideas to choose from.)
  2. A couple weeks later, to flesh out the ideas – which ended up in a 4,000-word rough draft!
  3. A day later, to clean up that messy draft and turn it into a final version.

Here’s how to try this out for yourself…

  • Schedule a messy braindump / outline / rough draft session, where you KNOW it’s not “writing”; it’s just getting ideas out. It’s supposed to be messy, and you don’t even need to write in complete sentences.
  • Do that session and resist any and every urge to edit as you go.
  • Then schedule a session where you clean it up. Whatever day you schedule that session for, make sure you open that messy document on your computer the evening before, so it’s sitting there staring at you when it’s time.

No, this is not a comprehensive tip for overcoming perfectionism (though giving yourself specific “messy outline” sessions is helpful). But it does help if you have trouble getting yourself to start new projects.

Want some help finding the right words for you’re cleaning up your messy draft?
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Tip #5: Figure out your rhythm. Your chronorhythm, that is.

By that I mean figure out your best time of day to write.

Personally, I’m NOT a morning person. I’ve known this my entire adult life.

I also resisted it for a significant portion of my adult life.

Because every book or article on productivity or “secrets of successful people” talked about how you have to be a morning person. “Do your biggest, scariest, most important task first thing in the morning!”

So I would try to force myself to work in the mornings. And it. was. awful.

Mainly because I would resist and procrastinate and find any number of other, non-important things to do all morning long until I actually felt like working. (And I never felt like working until embarrassingly late in the day.)

Eventually, I told myself, “You know what? You’re just not a morning person. Stop resisting it, and give yourself long, slow mornings. Your mornings are your breaks.”

Which should have taken care of it, right? Except I still felt guilty about my long, slow mornings. Even when I let myself read a book for an hour or so, I still felt like I should have been working. So I never actually enjoyed my mornings.

So by the time I did start my work, I’d already had an entire morning full of resistance and guilt. Which means I never came to my work fresh and rejuvenated.

Finally, two things happened right around the same time:

  1. My business mentor asked me, “Well, time do you feel like working?” Totally embarrassed, I said, “I never really feel that ‘I wanna do some work!’ urge until about 2pm… sometimes 4pm.” With zero judgment, she said, “Okay, then build your day around that.”
  2. I read Daniel Pink’s book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Based on buckets of research from psychology, biology, and economics, Pink found that different people have different chronotypes – “a personal pattern of circadian rhythms that influences our physiology and psychology.”

That second one was pretty huge for me.

We all go through 3 phases each day:

  • Peak – Your brain is firing on all four cylinders. This is a great time for decision-making and analytical tasks!
  • Trough – Your brain is mush, your mood is at its worst, and you really just want to take a nap.
  • Recovery – You’re more open to creative and collaborative tasks.

Most of the human population falls on the “morning person” or “lark” side of the spectrum.

A morning person “peaks” in the morning, then experiences a “trough” in the afternoon (the “afternoon slump”), and then recovers in the late afternoon and evening.

And then there are night owls who sleep in late and have a totally opposite rhythm of: recovery, trough, peak.

And then there are people in the middle of all this sliding chronotype spectrum!

It’s about finding where YOU land on the spectrum, and then designing your daily tasks around the times where you’ll do best at those tasks.

(When has an entire section for how to figure out your actual rhythms – plus, the rest of the book is fantastic, too. I highly recommend it.)

Now, I had already been tracking my writing metrics for my novel for months. I had an entire spreadsheet where I tracked: date, time of day, location, what I worked on, what my word count was, and notes about that session.

When I looked back over these metrics, a very clear pattern emerged:

Anytime I tried to write in the morning, my word count was around 600 words per hour (which felt really small, considering I’m used to writing 1,500-word emails and articles in less than an hour).

And my notes for morning sessions were not happy notes:

“Couldn’t make sense of this scene.”
“Don’t know how to make this work.”
“????”

But my afternoon and early evening sessions were the total opposite! I was back to averaging about 1,500 words per hour, and I was enjoying the work:

“Figured out that magic system question.”
“Really loving the midpoint scene!”
“!!! What if she did XYZ? Ahhh! So perfect!”

I’d already figured this out for my fiction writing. (I could tell because there were fewer and fewer morning sessions on that spreadsheet as time went on. I’d naturally shifted my writing sessions to later in the day.)

So why, oh why was I still trying to force myself to write for my business in the mornings?

No longer, dear friend!

These days, I take my long, slow mornings… and I enjoy them. Because that’s my trough time.

And then, when I am ready to start work, I often start with simple admin tasks, like replying to emails. (I know, that’s the exact opposite of what productivity blogs tell you to start with! But again, I use these easy tasks to trick my brain into transitioning into work mode, and it works better for me than diving directly into my most difficult tasks.)

Tip #6: Go on a writing retreat.

Okay, this one is not always feasible. (Especially during all this COVID-19 weirdness, but I’m writing this article to be evergreen and I’m looking forward with optimism!)

But I’ve found that when I can get away from my home environment for 2-3 days, I can get a TON of writing done.

Being a New Yorker, I’ll rent an AirBnB somewhere along the Hudson River, so I can just hop on a train, arrive there in 2-3 hours, and then get to writing.

Since the only reason I’m paying for the AirBnB is to write, I’m much more likely to use that time effectively.

Some tips for your own writing retreat:

  • Decide your goal before you go. What projects do you want to work on / finish? 4 blog articles, 3 video scripts, social media posts for the next month, rewriting your website – whatever you know you can realistically get done.
  • Bring everything you need. I bring a ridiculous suitcase with my ergonomic keyboard, my laptop stand, my ergonomic mouse, my essential oil diffuser, healthy snacks, comfy clothes, fuzzy socks, and so on.
  • Try to get your workspace set up as soon as you arrive, and start writing! Don’t take an hour to settle in or go for a walk. Remember: you are here to write.
  • Use your interval timer to do writing sprints all. day. long. Not only does this help keep you on task – it also ensures you actually take those breaks!

My writing retreat schedule is often:

  • Day 1: Travel in the morning (write on the train!). Arrive in the afternoon. Write the rest of the afternoon and evening!
  • Day 2: Write all day!
  • Day 3: Write all day!
  • Day 4: Check out in the morning. Write on the train back to NYC!

I try to do two or three writing retreats per year, but I love them so much, I’d like to get up to at least one per quarter. It’s a GREAT way to get ahead on all your upcoming projects in one fell swoop. 🙂

Since travel is a little not-doable right now, consider doing an at-home writing retreat.

Make sure your family or roommates know what you’re up to and have agreed: this is your sacred writing time, and you must not be disturbed. In return, you will have much more time and bandwidth to be fully present with them the following week.

(Again, I originally got this format from author Sarra Cannon. This article is written for authors, but I’ve shared it with other entrepreneurs who have used it and loved it, too!)

******************

Okay, I just gave a few pretty in-depth tips that you might not be able to implement right away.

So I’m gonna wrap up with a bunch of smaller, easier, yet still surprisingly-effective tips.

And they all fall under the same category:

Never start with a blank page.

The blank page isn’t exactly daunting to me.

But I do know that the longer I look at a blank page, the more I start to think, “I don’t know where to start!” (Nevermind the fact that I’ve already written hundreds – possibly thousands – of emails exactly like the one I’m supposed to write now. I suddenly don’t know what I’m dooooing!)

So as soon as I open a fresh Google doc, I try to put words on it immediately.

They don’t have to be good words. They don’t even have to be part of the actual draft.

Here are a few tips for how to get your own pages started ASAP…

Tip #7: Always have ideas ready at your fingertips.

Every so often, do a brainstorm for blog post ideas, and keep that list handy. When it’s time to write a new article, just go grab something from your brainstorm.

Want some help coming up with ideas? I have two online courses that might be up your alley: Article Magic for help writing articles and coming up with content ideas, and How to Uncover 36 Inspiring Story Ideas in Just 1 Hour for help with coming up with ideas for stories to use in your business.

Tip #8: Have a swipe file handy.

This one is super helpful for the moments where you think, “I don’t know how to do this!”

A swipe file is a collection of things other people have written that you liked. So when you sit down to write something similar, you can look at how they did it.

I use Evernote to create my swipe files, and I organize them by type of writing:

  • Sales Pages
  • Promo Emails
  • Blog Articles
  • Thank You Pages
  • Webinar Opt-In Pages
  • Email Nurture Sequences
  • And more.

So anytime I need to write a webinar opt-in page and get stuck, I can go look at what other people have done.

(Note: This is not about copying or plagiarizing someone else. It’s about looking at what they did to spark ideas or remind yourself, “Oh, yeah, that’s a cool headline formula I could use.”)

At this point, I also tend to look at swipe files of stuff that I’ve written myself, either for Copy Luv or for other people’s businesses. So keep a swipe file of your own writing as you create new works of art!

But for now, just start saving things from other people that you like. 🙂

Tip #9: Use templates and proven structures.

A simple copywriting formula you can use over and over again is:

  • Problem – Identify the problem your target audience is struggling with, that you’re about to help them with.
  • Transition – Give them a bit of reassurance. Tell them it’s not their fault, or you get it, or they’re not alone. That’s why you’re excited to share with them 3 Steps to XYZ…
  • Solution – Share your solution!

You can literally copy that bullet list and paste it into every blank document you open.

Psst… Want a bunch of my article templates?

Check out…

Article Magic

7 article templates that make writing your newsletters & blog posts as easy as filling in the blanks

This online course even has an entire section on how to generate endless ideas for content!

And right now, in an effort to help folks out during all this COVID-19 wildness, you can get it for $120 off. That’s almost 60% off. Which I’ve basically never done.)

Tip #10: If you don’t have templates, at least start your page by filling in the easy stuff.

Okay, this is gonna seem silly. But I find it helpful in getting started.

Remember how I said I’m bad at starting new projects? Well, if I start by filling in the easy stuff, that’s another way to trick myself into getting into writing mode.

For example, for writing an series of emails, the first thing I put in my blank Google doc is:

Email #1 – Webinar Announcement
Date:
Send to:

Subject Line:
Other Subject Ideas:

Hey NAME!

Problem:

Transition:

Solution

xoxo,
Cheryl

That’s it. If I’m doing a single doc full of an entire email campaign, I’ll copy and paste this skeleton template over and over again for every single email.

That way, I’m never starting from absolute zero.

And, like I said, by the time I’ve done this, my brain has usually transitioned further into “Okay, it’s time to write.”

**********************

Okay!

So that was probably way more than you thought you were bargaining for with this article!

Not all of these tips will work for every person.

And not everyone’s life circumstances will allow them to follow their natural rhythms so easily.

But as someone who struggled against her rhythm for so long (and experienced a lot of unnecessary guilt, shame, and trying to brute-force her way through her days and then wondering why the heck she was so tired when she’d procrastinated half the day away), I feel strongly about this stuff.

And hopefully you can start to make little shifts that make your workdays and writing sessions a bit easier.

I recommend choosing one or two tips above that seem fun and easy for you and trying to incorporate them into how you write.

And then stack other tips on top of those once you’ve figured out what works for you!

In the meantime, happy writing and get out there and share your work with the world!

xoxo,
Cheryl

Want some guidance around writing your copy?

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…plus ask me as many questions as you need!

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