If you’re producing content daily, an arsenal of tools and resources can make the difference in the amount of time you spend creating it. Trying to edit your content for readability and comprehension? There’s an app for that. Have a question about grammar? There’s a website Harvard recommends.
Whatever your writing struggle, there are content creation tools and resources that are free or available for a minimal cost that can assist you. Read on to discover the top ten resources that can help you in meeting your daily content quota faster while maintaining premium quality.
1. Try Cold Turkey to Minimize Distractions
Sometimes I sit down at the computer to write and I think of the appointment I need to cancel next Friday, the promotional email I received from my favorite clothing retailer that morning and what I need to pick up from the store for dinner. Basically, I think of anything but writing and inevitability instead of staying on task, I find myself looking up the doctor’s phone number, browsing sweaters, or adding ingredients for a soup I saw on Instagram to a digital shopping cart.
Even if you’re more disciplined, it can be hard to ignore a social media notification or the ding of another email coming through. It’s not uncommon for distractions to creep in and suck up all our productive time. Thankfully, there are ways to combat some of those distractions.
Cold Turkey was created to minimize time spent on distractions. A blocking tool, it can temporarily block sites and give you timers to help you be more productive. They offer a free basic version or you can get more bells and whistles for a reasonable one-time payment.
2. Use TED Talks for Inspiration
Maybe distractions aren’t your downfall, but you struggle to get your creative juices flowing instead. Carlton Cuse, screenwriter and producer, has a playlist of TED Talks to help you out with your content creation process. In his words, “These talks have inspired me to create, in my writing or in my life.” Ranging from 4 to 23 minutes, these talks take a small time investment which could reap big dividends in helping you with your next writing campaign.
As stated on their website, TED’s “agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation.” With talks on writing, creating and more, you’re sure to find a talk or two or five to help you start thinking and putting to paper your next content piece.
3. Try Trello to Stay Organized
Sometimes motivation can simply come from being ready. And Trello can help you get ready. It’s a free tool (with advanced subscription options charging a fee) you can use to manage different projects and assignments. With apps for the web as well as iPhone and Android devices, Trello is easy to access and popular with users. As highlighted in many reviews, Trello is the kind of tool that employees bring to work and then convince their colleagues and friends to use too.
4. The Library of Congress is a Great Source of Credible Research
While not necessary for every type of writing, research plays a key role in many a content piece. Googling might be everyone’s go to for finding a piece of data or an obscure fact. But don’t forget about the library. A good place to start is the Library of Congress.
With many of their resources accessible on their website, it can provide curated, reliable answers to your research questions. With everything from ballroom dance instruction manuals to baseball cards, the library’s digital collections are vast and informative.
The website also has other useful features such as the “free to use and reuse” section. This section features digital items (typically images) that are free to use and reuse. With themes like bridges, bicycles, holidays and more, you might find an image that’s perfect to accompany a writing piece on a blog or newsletter.
5. Use Timers to Stay Focused
You’ve minimized your distractions and have the inspiration you need. Now it’s time to write. To keep yourself on task, use a timer like the Marinara Timer. This online timer website has a few different options, one of the most popular being a Pomodoro timer.
The Pomodoro technique, established by Francesco Cirillo a few decades ago, is a time management method that allows for timed work intervals separated by breaks. For more about the technique and how it can apply to your writing check out testimonials and more on Cirillo’s site here.
Whatever time management technique you use, a timer can help keep you on track for periods of time and remind you that you’re on the clock.
6. Harvard Keeps You Smart
You’ve started writing, but a question about language usage or grammar stops you for a moment. Need an expert to answer your question? Try Mignon Fogarty. If you visit the Harvard College Writing Center webpage, you’ll find a list of writing resources produced to help students succeed. They also list two useful writing resources outside Harvard. One of those is Grammar Girl.
Created by Fogarty, Grammar Girl is housed within Quick and Dirty Tips, a network created to help people with everything from time and money management to performance improvement in the workplace.
Grammar Girl offers advice via hundreds of podcast episodes and thousands of articles. If you find yourself with some downtime on your commute or need some background noise in the office, Grammar Girl can arm you with the grammatical and usage knowledge we often forget.
7. Read Grammar Girl Tips for Help
If podcasts or online articles aren’t your thing, you can pick up a copy of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. A New York Times bestseller, the book offers tips in an easy to read and entertaining format. Littered with examples and sprinkled with amusing drawings the book can answer questions about word usage, punctuation and more.
8. Keep a Real Dictionary Close at Hand
In addition to language and grammar help, no writer should be without a quality dictionary and a thesaurus. If you’re book-friendly, I suggest getting a set of books and storing them within arm’s length. Merriam-Webster offers an Everyday Language Reference Set, which includes a dictionary, thesaurus and a vocabulary builder volume.
If you’re pressed for space or simply prefer the speed of the internet over hardbacks and paperbacks, then you can simply bookmark dictionary.com and thesaurus.com. Easy to use, these websites can help you find the exact word you need.
9. Use Color-Coded Editing
After crafting your content, Hemingway is an easy to use app that makes revisions a breeze. You can create content in the “write” mode. When you’re ready to revise, simply switch over to “edit”. Using color codes, the app highlights areas that might need improvement. From run-on sentences to word choice, this app can make your editing life easier. It also conveniently gives you a readability score and a word count.
Version 3 of the desktop app was recently released and if you’re writing daily, skipping a few coffees to shell out the one-time cost of $19.99 is well worth it.
10. Write or Die
Sometimes a little prodding can help. Write or Die is another productivity app (available on the web or for Apple devices, with an Android version coming soon) that can help you stay on task.
Probably better suited for longer pieces of content writing, the app allows you to input goals and then depending on the mode you select will gently remind to keep writing if you stop. In a harsher mode, it starts erasing words.
Version 2 is currently up and running, but feel free to try version 3, currently in beta mode.