“How will I ever find the time to blog?!”
Sure, there are people who are professional bloggers, who lock themselves away all day and do nothing but write and promote their latest posts. But if you have a hard time relating to those bloggers – if you have a day job? – you’re not alone.
Most of us have precious few hours each week to devote to blogging – and the overwhelming majority of emails I receive from my readers say it’s a big cause for frustration. How can you keep up with your blog, but not neglect the rest of your life?
Here are a dozen “best practices” I enacted in 2012 that have made a world of difference for me and my blog.
When you have specific goals in mind as you approach your blog each day or week, you’ll be able to cut out unnecessary things that won’t help you achieve your goals.
So – if your goal is to increase your blog’s reach on Pinterest, you’d try to spend less time getting sucked in to the latest happenings on Twitter and try to focus your attention on either developing skills that will improve the images on your blog (like how to use Photoshop Elements to spiff up those photos!) or actually creating the types of posts for your blog that do well on Pinterest.
Either way, you can judge what you’re currently doing by whether it helps you achieve your goals, and quit wasting time on things that don’t.
So just do it: Write out 5 goals for your blog this year and post them nearby where you write. Refer to them often.
Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
I don’t sit down and have official brainstorming sessions. My best ideas come to me while driving to the grocery store or doing the dishes. For me, it’s enough to have a notepad handy and keep that running list of post ideas going so that when it’s time to sit down and write, there’s never a moment without actual post writing happening. If I only have 30 minutes to write each day (or each week!), I’d better make it count.
(By the way – have you seen this post on how to take notes in the shower? Brilliant!)
I read a life-changing blog post a few months ago about not checking email in the evenings or on weekends. And honey, this one hit home.
I’m a proud mom to three preschool age children who works nearly full-time as a blog designer. If the kids are otherwise occupied with outside play, naps, Legos, or are in bed at night, I’m on the computer. I get design inquiries, fan mail, hate mail, Facebook notifications, Twitter notifications, Google Calendar reminders, communication from clients, order confirmations from Amazon, and a host of other email that adds up to about 80 email messages every day. Add in my undiagnosed ADD issues and you’ve got a big, distracted mess.
After reading Tim Ferriss’s article, I’ve been able to successfully turn things around and make the most of my blogging time. Naturally, there are about 20 life priorities for me that come in ahead of blogging, but when it’s time for me to blog, I’ve learned to shut off ALL distractions – especially email! – and just write.
It’s not just good for developing your blogging voice; writing with your ideal reader in mind helps keep your writing sessions on track. Once you’re not fishing around for “how you should write” anymore, you’ll be saving time by approaching each blog post with purpose and focus, and you won’t waste valuable time by second guessing your writing style when the most important thing is creating your post.
I don’t know about you, but the hardest thing about writing my blog posts is getting started. Crafting that opening paragraph – that “engage them or lose them” introduction part – is tough.
A tip I picked up from Rachel Meeks’s popular e-book Simple Blogging is to write your first draft without hitting the Delete key. Just keep forging ahead in your blog post, knowing that you’ll be revisiting it to clean things up and make things sound great later. This way, all your writing time is productive time, and you won’t experience writer’s block when you’re just getting warmed up.
This can mean different things for different people. If you’re a small- to mid-sized blogger without lots of pressure from blog sponsors or needy readers, you have the luxury of writing on your terms.
For beginning bloggers, I recommend writing for 30 minutes per day. That’s it. Just sit down (without checking your email!), open up a new post or a saved draft, and write until 30 minutes is up. If you feel really excited about what you’re writing and want to keep going, then do! But if the inspiration just isn’t there, then go grab a snack and get on with the rest of your day. The important thing is to write as a discipline and to develop your style, while not driving relentlessly toward a certain number of posts per week. People burn out on blogging that way.
If you’re focused on “three-posts-per-week-or-else,” not only will the quality of your blog posts suffer; your blog will start to interfere with your real life. Ask me how I know.
Not everyone takes the relaxed approach to blogging that I do. If the goals you’ve set for your blog include a certain number of readers in a certain amount of time, it does make sense to churn out 3-4 posts per week. After all, statistically speaking, the more frequently you post, the faster your readership will grow…to a point. Just make sure your quality isn’t suffering as you crank out all that new material!
In this type of situation, an editorial calendar does makes sense. Take that list of post ideas you had and commit it to a calendar. Write down which blog posts you plan to publish – and when – and this will help keep you on target with your writing.
Tip: Some people use online services like Evernote to organize their notes. Me? I’m a pen-and-paper gal. But I do make good use of Pinterest – not only to promote other people’s great content – but also to keep track of other people’s blog posts that start my wheels turning. Pinterest’s new private boards are an awesome way to file away great articles that will be an inspiration for your writing when you need it.
Promoting your blog posts can be a virtual black hole that sucks up all your time. Automate the basic promotional things like posting your new posts to Facebook or scheduling your tweets for your new posts (check out Networked Blogs, HootSuite, or HubSpot). But definitely don’t feel like you have to go crazy with social media!
If you have to choose between engaging people on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Whateverelse and writing for your blog, choose the blog. The reach of your own social promotion is limited – in fact, the best, most effective type of social networking happens when other people promote your content for you! So focus on creating quality content that others will want to share. You’ll end up with something that’s far more lasting: great blog posts that can engage new readers over and over again.
And if you’re using blog commenting as a strategy for getting new readers, choose 10 (or so) blogs where you feel this is working effectively for you and stick with them. Become an active member of those communities and take the time to leave insightful, helpful or engaging comments. It’s fine to read some blogs “just for fun,” but don’t mix this in with your blog’s readership building time. Keep business and personal reading time separate so you can manage your time well.
There are reasons to check on how many – and how – people are interacting with your blog…but not every day, or even every week. It’s especially hard for new bloggers not to get their self worth tied up in how many people are reading their posts. But not only is this unhealthy; it’s a waste of time.
Set a date for once a month to peruse your stats and find out which posts from the past 30 days have been the most popular, and where your readers are coming from. Just one time each month will give you enough information to help direct your next blogging steps; more than that can interfere with your blogging life…not to mention your real life!
If there are elements of blogging that are eating away at your life, then quit wasting time! Just as everyone isn’t a plumber or a brain surgeon, not everyone as skills in blog design, technical troubleshooting, or copy editing. We live in a culture that glorifies the “self-made man” or the “renaissance woman” who seems to do it all. But if you can afford to outsource the things that cause you stress or that simply lie outside your skill set, then do! You’re not only supporting an individual (or a family) who can provide a valuable service – you’re saving time for yourself that can be applied to doing things you’re good at – or just to taking a much-needed break!
There will always be people who want your money, your time, or your energies to help promote their own projects. Offers of guest blogging that can initially be very flattering can wind up taking all your time and eating into other (more important!) areas of your life. I recently turned down an opportunity to speak at a popular blogging conference about using Pinterest to grow your blog. Sure, I initially got all starry-eyed at the invitation, but after some serious thought, I realized it would mean not just a weekend away from my family, but hours and hours of preparation for the event that I – frankly – don’t have.
But “no” doesn’t have to be that dramatic, even. If you really only have time for one post each week, then so be it! There’s no firing squad ready to assassinate bloggers who don’t live up to impossible-for-them standards.
Saying “No” now doesn’t mean never. It just acknowledges that there are different seasons to life, and perhaps opportunities that aren’t possible now will be realistic ones…later.
Listen, there’s only so much content that one person can churn out – week after week, month after month. If you have even a few hundred followers, you probably have folks who would love to share their best ideas with your readers. So put out the A.P.B. and ask for proposals or submissions for a regular feature on your blog. You’ll gain the freedom to focus on making your own work better while exchanging blog traffic (and hopefully growing your readership!) at the same time.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but any time you devote to promoting other people’s blogs is time well spent.
Blogging is a wonderful world of participating, discussing, promoting, teaching, learning, and sharing. If you spend all your time on your own blog, you’re missing out on being part of a community of bloggers who support each other. There is a lot of reciprocity to blogging, and when you become known as a person who promotes others, others will be attracted to you, to your platform (your blog!), and to your community.
Make sure that when working out a strategy to maintain or grow your blog, you budget some regular time for extending a hand to other bloggers as well.
As we set out on the first day of the rest of our blogging careers, let’s try to blog intentionally, generously, and wisely to make the most of the time we’re given.
If you have new resolutions for your blog – or for your time! – I’d love to hear about them. And if you have any tips I didn’t mention, I’d love to learn from you. Just leave a comment and let’s connect.
- Simple Blogging – A thorough treatment of time management issues specifically for bloggers by Rachel Meeks. Highly recommended.
- One Bite at a Time – A bite-sized approach to organizing and simplifying your home and your life: one project per week. I read this in January 2012 and it was a game changer in a stressful season in my life.
- Simplify – A teeny, tiny e-book that will convince you to downsize other areas in your life. A truly motivational read.
- Tell Your Time – A super quick read for time management beginners: setting goals, determining steps, and developing a schedule. Easy to implement.