3 Constraints That Help You Write Faster

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How long does it take you to write an article?

When I first started writing online it’d take me two weeks to finish an article. That’s 14 days to go from an idea to an outline to hitting “Publish”.

And I’m not talking about 5,000 word essays either.

It would take me that long just to write a simple 800-1000 word article.

That was before I learned about writing constraints

Writing constraints are just self-imposed limitations on your writing.

They’re guardrails that speed up the writing process by creating structure and boundaries to your articles.

Adding constraints to my writing process helped me go from writing one article every two weeks to being able to publish several articles every week.

There are three constraints that have helped me the most.

1: Time Constraint

A time constraint is just a deadline.

It’s where you say, “I’m only devoting this much time to this article, then I’m moving on.”

As simple as a deadline is, it’s a powerful way to ensure you get your article done on time. Why do deadlines work so well?

Have You Ever Heard Of Parkinson’s Law?

It’s a concept from economics that says, “work expands to fill the time allotted to it.”

Basically, whatever time you have available to complete a task, it’ll take you that long to finish it.

So if you give yourself an hour to write an article, you’ll have it finished in an hour.

Give yourself a week to finish it, it’ll take the whole week.

And if you give yourself an entire month to write that same article, you’ll still be writing on the last day of the month.

That’s Why Every Journalist Works Under A Deadline

In traditional media, articles don’t get published when they’re polished, perfect and ready to go.

They get published when the deadline arrives.

That’s because publishers know the only way to get a writer to actually finish an article is by issuing a hard deadline. And sticking to it.

If professional writers use a deadline, maybe you should too

Use a timer. Give yourself 3 hours to finish your article. And when the timer runs out, hit publish.

Or commit to a publishing schedule. Every Monday, come hell or high water, you publish a new article.

The specifics of the deadline don’t matter.

Just the fact that you have one (and commit to it) will help you write faster.

2: Outline Constraint

Have you ever started outlining an article and you keep coming up with more points you want to include?

One idea leads to another which leads to another and before you know it your outline is three pages long.

I call that outline bloat. And when your outline starts to bloat, you’re in trouble.

Staring at a outline that has an introduction, 20 different points, a few examples, stories, a conclusion and a call to action is overwhelming.

With a mountain that big in front of you, it’s hard to gather the energy to start, let alone finish the article.

This Is Where Having An Outline Constraint Comes In

I’m sure you have a ton of great points you want to make.

But the reality is, you can’t include them all.

You need a boundary, a limit to what you’re going to put in that article, and what you’re going to leave out.

If not, your article will bloat out of control.

That’s why, no matter how many things I come up with during the outlining stage, I usually limit my articles to just three main points.

This Article, For Example, Is About Three Constraints

I can think of a dozen constraints off the top of my head. But I limited this article to three.

I picked the three I thought were most important and just started writing.

If I didn’t have that constraint, I’d still be outlining an article titled, “50+ Writing Constraints That’ll Help You Write Articles Faster”.

Don’t Let Your Outlines Bloat

Set a limit on the number of points you’re going to make in your article.

It doesn’t have to be three, choose whatever number makes sense for you.

Just make sure to set an outline constraint before your article bloats to the point where you don’t even want to start writing it.

3: Word Constraint

The same way you can get carried away with outlining, it’s really easy for the length of your article to get out of control too.

This happens when you know a lot about a topic, and you want to explain everything in perfect detail.

So you keep adding depth and context to every point you’re trying to make.

And as you explain more, your article gets longer and longer and longer…

Before your Article Turns Into An entire Book, Set A Word Constraint

Set a cap on how many words your article is going to be.

For example, most of my articles are around 1,000 words.

That gives me enough room to say what I want to say, but not so much leeway that I ramble aimlessly.

And 1,000 words isn’t set in stone. Sometimes I write more, sometimes less.

But it’s a good landmark for me.

I know if I find myself going too far past 1,000 words, my article is probably starting to get off track.

Pick A Word Count That Works For You

If you like writing long, in-depth articles, maybe your word constraint is 3,000 words.

If you’re going for brevity, try 500 words.

Just like with time and outline constraints, the specifics don’t matter.

The important thing is that you pick a word constraint that fits your writing style and stick to it.

Use Constraints To Help you Write Faster

Before you start writing your next article, set some constraints.

Establish a deadline to finish it by. Limit your outline to a few main points. And stick a reasonable word count.

Having a few constraints in place will make writing that article so much easier, faster and less overwhelming.