How I finish a blog post in 3 hours
Whether you’re building a personal brand or trying to drive traffic to your site through organic SEO, blogging is the number one way to get exposure online.
But here’s the catch:
It takes patience, research, planning, a great workflow, and a whole lot of time.
I’ve been blogging for 5 years, writing on everything from collectible model cars and translation services to productivity software and UX design. Throughout those years, I’ve had a lot of time to read up on the best blogging methods, sharpen my research skills, get more productive, and hone my words-per-minute.
But don’t get me wrong. Writing a blog post isn’t about typing quickly, and it isn’t about rushing. It’s about preparation.
In this post, I’m going to explain my methods for writing a blog post in under three hours. It includes how I write a post structure, how I organize my research and resources, and how I manage my time.
- Generating content ideas and keeping a list of titles to draw from
- Researching your idea, and finding relevant resources
- Collating data, ideas, and quotes from the resources
- Formulating the data, ideas, and quotes into a structure
- Finding the best time to write
- Fleshing out the structure to write the post
- Recommended tools
Generating content ideas and keeping a list of titles to draw from
We use a Trello board to manage our blog posts, and there’s a list in there called ‘ideas’. To fill it up, we work as a team to add cards to that list if and when we come up with them. To make it even easier, we have a channel in Slack called #post-ideas that is integrated with that Trello list.
Every message in the channel is added as a card automatically by the integration.
Alternatively, to generate ideas more proactively, we have a list of problems our readers want to solve. We always make sure that 80% of our output is directly addressing one element of those problems, which we expanded with a few mindmaps.
When the ideas are already there, you can cut huge chunks of time out of the blog writing process.
Researching your idea, and finding relevant resources
The great thing about preparing and researching, first of all, is that it makes blog posts seem easier. Sitting down at a blank page can be daunting, so framing it as a research session and settling in to do some Googling is much easier to get to grips with.
My first step is to Google the topic, and just open every result in a new tab. Then, I go and read every resource I’ve got open, and paste the URLs of the best posts into a text file. You can use Quip, Evernote, Trello, Word, Google Docs, or anything you’re comfortable with.
You might find your initial idea for the Google search term wasn’t quite right, and reading the resources could give you a more specific idea. As you go through the research process, narrowing down your resources to 3-4 key sources, you’ll get a better idea of what you’re going to include in the post, what language your readers use to describe the topic, and even which SEO keyword you should target.
Collating data, ideas, and quotes from the resources
Now I have a set of resources to draw from, I scour each for useful quotes, data, and related reading. For example, to help write a title or introduction that proves the usefulness of the post, I’ll be looking for a piece of data that will persuade the reader to keep reading.
Example: Since 2009, the popularity of customer success has increased 800%
To back up a particular point, I’ll look for a resource written by an expert in the topic with a quote that proves what I’m trying to explain. This makes your post more diverse. It’s not just your voice any more, it’s also the voice of a credible expert backing you up.
Example: “There are good checklists and bad, Boorman explained. Bad checklists are vague and imprecise. They are too long; they are hard to use; they are impractical. They are made by desk jockeys with no awareness of the situations in which they are to be deployed.” — The Checklist Manifesto
You can do this by simply pasting all of your data and quotes into the same document as your list of URLs.
Next up: using that material to formulate a post.
Formulating the data, ideas, and quotes into a structure
Your list of quotes and data should be enough now to inform the structure of your post. Often, I roughly structure my posts like this:
- What is [topic]?
- Why should you care about [topic]?
- What are the [topic] methods the reader can use to their benefit?
Often, the second section (‘why’) is the place where I reference a lot of data. I use quotes in the third section to back up why I’m advising the reader to do what I’m saying, because — unless I’m writing about how I specifically do something — I’ll be collating other people’s proven ideas.
Fleshing out your structure to write the post
The great thing about this method is that you already have quotes, points, and subheadings written down. Essentially, after that point, the post writes itself. The one thing that I do to keep myself writing as I fill out the blanks between the sub-heads is to make sure I’m weaving a cohesive narrative. I ask myself “how does this point relate to the last one?”, and so on.
That way, you’re not only guiding your readers through the post, you’re guiding yourself through the process of writing it.
Recommended tools for efficient writing
Many tools are just shiny objects that get in the way of efficient writing, but there are a few I’d recommend because they fit right into the process I’ve explained in this post.
One helpful tool is Liner. It’s a Chrome extension that lets you store highlighted portions of articles you read. When you’re writing an article, you can just enable highlighting, select the quotes you want, and then have them organized into a clean list that syncs to both desktop and mobile.
The second tool I use to turn informal writing habits into systems is Process Street. Process Street is a simple online process management tool built for team collaboration, but by far the thing I use it most for is a pre-publish checklist.
The checklist has every step you should follow to make sure that the post you’re about to let loose into the world has everything it needs. It covers SEO, proofing, design, copywriting, and all of those vital elements you need to check.
And, checklists in Process Street aren’t just passive documents either. They’re interactive. For example, you can run an editing checklist every time you write a post. Work through the steps, and keep track of what you’re doing. (You can even automate steps with Zapier!)
That way, you can finish the blog post faster because you’ve got a step-by-step plan in front of you. While it’s a lot more difficult and vague to try and systemize the writing process, you can definitely systemize optimization and polishing.
I hope this article has helped you get on the path to speeding up your writing and given you some useful suggestions along the way.
By Benjamin Brandall
Benjamin Brandall is a content marketer at Process Street where he writes on productivity, workflows, and SaaS.