I regularly hear statements like “I just don’t have time to write today”, “I am too busy to go promote my content” plus many other excuses. What these people really mean is “I prioritize something else”. Even though time is a limited resource we still have 24 hours in a day and that is plenty of time. Productivity is a matter of reevaluating our priorities. Most bloggers and writers have a job that takes some 9 hours daily, then you sleep some 7 hours and it leaves you with some 8 hours daily to do some housework, hang out with your friends and family or work on your hobbies. You have to learn to control your time better, optimize it and manage it wisely. These tips will help you become a better and more productive writer.
“Time is free, but it’s priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.” – Harvey MacKay
Stop reading, take action
Reading and learning is important, but only to a point. It is important to stop and implement some of the things you have read about. If you don’t take your time to use what you have learned, nothing will change and you will stand still. Be a producer of content, not a consumer of content. Everything that does not directly involve making art and creating new content can be deprioritized. Write posts. Create infographics. Shoot videos. Record podcasts. Produce whatever it is that you are producing. The lifeline of a site is the content and new content must keep rolling in regularly to keep the interest of the audience and to attract a new audience. This is why one of the main tasks writers should always have time for is to create and produce new content.
Restrict meetings, don’t answer your phone and stop checking stats and emails
If you are regularly stressing yourself checking your visitor stats, your social follower stats, your earning stats, your emails… stop. Checking them will not help, but actively working on things that will improve those stats will. Try not to check your email every ten minutes, and limit your stats checking to no more than once daily. Restrict your meetings and put your phone on silent so it doesn’t distract you either. Don’t let other people force their goals onto your schedule.
Focus on the tasks that have the highest impact
Figure out what tasks are necessary and what tasks are not. Forget about urgent tasks and stop being in a reactionary work flow. Be proactive with your energy instead. You must focus your energy on the tasks that have the highest impact on your goals. You must focus on the important tasks. For bloggers, the goal usually is to increase the readership, and the task that will bring you closer to that goal is creating remarkable content and pulling your target audience to your content. Kill all the time wasters.
Don’t get distracted
Recent research shows that our brains hard-wire us to love Twitter, Facebook, Google and the search for new information. It makes us curious, it makes us gather data, look up facts and constantly click on different links. This behavior makes us restless, this makes us easily bored, we don’t give attention to longer articles, and it just drives us to discover and explore the next tweet and the next post. Possibility and the anticipation of finding something new and unexpected is much more stimulating to our brain than actually finding it. So we keep clicking, keep chasing and keep consuming content without really meeting our real needs.
Do you recognize this situation? You sit down at your computer just to quickly check your email, but then you check the comments on your site, then your Twitter stream, there you find a link or two, and then you realize that your “quick” email check has wasted you an hour or two of mindless online surfing. In the age of the Internet it is quite common and very easy to get interrupted and distracted. Your mind begins to wander and you waste several hours reading your feeds, checking Facebook, sending tweets or reading Steve Pavlina’s articles (it happens to me every once in a while as Steve’s content is so good). Find a spot that fits you best, make it your own and shut out the distractions!
If you simply write quickly, your mind does not have the opportunity nor the time to wander. The ideas just flow and you get them down on paper quickly. Don’t worry about the spelling and grammar errors – just write and allow your mind to flow. You can do any necessary edits after you have finished writing.
Listen or don’t listen to music
Music has an affect our brains. It has the capacity to get us in different moods, to relax us, it gets us thinking, emotional, imagining things and unlocks to door to the creativity. I prefer to play the same music, the music that I am very familiar to, the songs that I have heard many times. This way the music disappears, it fades away into the background, it is part of the atmosphere in the room. If I listen to some new music it can take my attention away from the writing as I concentrate on the music, trying to figure out what lyrics it has, sing to it like I’m in the concert myself, check out the history of the band and the general procrastination.
Some writers prefer to do their writing in silence. If you can find the right place and the right room and the right atmosphere, the silence can be golden and can speak the loudest to your writing. Silence allows you to be quiet, to focus, to think and to have no distractions. I’ve also heard from bloggers that like to write in silence but edit and rewrite their original article with music on.
Write early in the morning or late at night
For some it is best to write early in the morning, for others it is late at night. Again find what works for you.
Throw away your television and your games
Most of the people that say that they are too busy to be able to work on their sites regularly, still seem to have enough time to watch hours of television every day. TV watching might be entertaining, but it is not going to bring you closer to your goals. Same with games and apps. Give all your games away, remove all the apps and gain back the hours they suck from your life.
Forget your strict schedule
Did you set yourself on a very strict schedule of having to produce regular posts? Forget about it. Your site will not become extinct if you miss a day or two. The tight schedule just might strain you so much that you give up the project. Writing one great post per week will have a much bigger impact than writing one average post daily.
De-clutter your workspace
A messy workspace does not (always) help your productivity. Clean up by removing distracting items. Keep the area clean and neat. Same works for your computer desktop and your browser.
Maximize your health
Eat healthy, eat well and do skip meals. Do some exercise. Get enough sleep. Leading a healthy lifestyle will definitely make you more energetic, fresh and will improve your productivity and will win you time. No matter how busy you are your health has to be your priority. Without a healthy body and mind you will never be able to become a successful blogger. Make sure to eat real food, make sure to drink liquids, make sure to get some sleep, make sure to stretch and move your body regularly, make sure to take breaks to rest your eyes and mind.
Your passion motivates you
We always hear about the passion and it really is true. If your topic is something you really love, it is going to be so much easier to motivate yourself to work on it. You will not be able to fall asleep because you would want to create content, you would wake up very early energetic to get out of the bed and do even more. Inspiration is important for keeping the motivation and for improving and reinventing yourself. Be curious and open-minded about the world around you. Read books, magazine and other websites. Listen to radio, listen to podcasts and actually listen to people you are speaking to. The world is full of inspiration so get inspired.
A day in the life of a blogger
One of the things I am very curious about when speaking to another blogger or a writer is about their writing routine. Everyone has a writing routine they believe in or a productivity tip they use to get themselves to work or a creative tip that unblocks your imagination and gets you writing again. How does a work day look like? What’s it really like to work as a blogger? Take a peek inside of my day:
- 8.00am: Wake up. On most days I wake up early (if you consider 7-8ish early) without an alarm clock. It’s all the excitement for the upcoming day that drives me on. Drink a glass of water which I laid next to the bed the night before. Quick skim through the emails on the phone I keep next to the bed. I am trying to get away from the habit of keeping a phone nearby actually.
- 8.05am: A bit of push-ups and sit-ups gets me going as nothing else can, and I need to do it at the start of the day, as otherwise I will pretend that I am too “busy” or too lazy in other words.
- 8.15am: Shower. Dress up (as little clothes as possible in the summer days). Breakfast. For breakfast usually some oats or yogurt with fruit, nuts and honey. Some days it’s more about eggs.
- 9.00am: Open my faithful Macbook Air. I am in the Chrome Browser for most of my work day. See here a list of tools I use regularly. I keep a folder of important bookmarks and open “All Bookmarks In New Window” to start with. I go through Google Analytics, Twitter via Tweetdeck (see other useful Twitter apps), comments area, Feedly and my other social media profiles. Some days I am a horizontal blogger and you can find me writing on my Mac in the bed or on a couch. Most days I prefer to sit up straight when working. I like light and brightness so the curtain is generally open with preferably lots of sunlight coming in.
- 9.30am: Now it’s time for the real work and for me that is mostly about producing interesting content and social media presence with the aim of driving traffic. In general I try not to keep too many deadlines and things to-do on my list. I have targets like 2 posts per week but keep my time as flexible as possible. Me being flexible with time doesn’t mean that I wait around for an idea to occur to me to start writing though. I proactively work to find the idea when I want to write. In general I will keep the browser tabs open of the important things I am working on and will use any inspiring moments throughout the day to return to those.
- 1.00pm: Lunch. A sandwich or something like a Greek salad. Preferably a look at a newspaper like Financial Times or a magazine like Wired to keep me informed and hopefully get inspired with some new ideas. Or reading through few pages in the book I am currently reading. I never really stop thinking about my projects so I always find myself working or taking notes throughout the day.
- 2.00pm: The work continues. A note on writing. I definitely don’t get to write every day. Sometimes I have intense bursts of activity, where in several days I can produce a lot of content and schedule 15 posts, and then I may go for few days or a week with limited writing as I feel too fatigued from my day job, or I focus on something else or just prefer to mindlessly waste my time. I’m often tempted to check my email or my Twitter feed. It is difficult to keep the concentration for long periods of time and doing something else helps me take a mental break. The issue is that the next thing I know is that I have lost an hour of my day. I take regular breaks to make some cups of green tea (leaf not bags). I add a squeeze of lemon juice to it. It has caffeine so keeps me awake and alert.
- 7.30pm: Time to cook dinner. Pasta with a spicy tomato base and vegetables is a regular. I am a vegetarian so my diet is based on fruit and vegetables. A glass of red wine preferably.
- 9.00pm: Time for some pleasure reading on my Kindle. Mostly non-fiction, biographies of dead men and such. I am too curious and have a keen interest in too many things. Sometimes I watch a movie or some series (currently The Mentalist) to relax and clear my head. I don’t own a TV so no time is spent watching that. Interesting fact is that because of me not owning a TV I find myself indulging in watching TV once in awhile in hotel rooms; BBC, CNBC, Bloomberg, CNN… whatever I can find in any language that I understand. I get to sleep somewhere around midnight.
This is how my optimal working day looks like, not all days can be like this but I try. I find inspiration in these words of Kafka: “Time is short, my strength is limited, the office is a horror, the apartment is noisy, and if a pleasant, straightforward life is not possible then one must try to wriggle through by subtle manoeuvres.”
Too many apps, too much hassle, so I stick to two organizational apps that I have on my iPad, which serve two different purposes. abcNotes is an app that I use instead of a calendar for a better overview of the upcoming week in blogging. It lets me create my own weekly schedule and I create one for each site. I then write which post is going up which day and it’s so easy to move these around and add notes to them. It’s a fun and effective app.
iScrumboard is the second app that I use and it’s perfect for multi-tasking and working on several projects at the same time. Like I said, I write two sites full time, I guest post on a regular basis and I am in the process of starting a third one. I have made a project for all of these blogs and I fill in the ”To do”, ”Work in progress” and ”Done”. The most fulfilling feeling is when you are able to move a post-it to ”Done”! This app gives you the perfect overview over your projects and is more long-term than the abcNotes app.
Majority of the “busy” writers are spending more time surfing the internet and watching TV than working on their projects and at the end of another day they have nothing to show for. You must be disciplined and shift your focus from passive viewing into active working on your writing targets and dreams. No one else but you can do it. Productivity is within your reach. Goals might be too much of a theoretical talk for some people but without goals you do not have an aim. This means that you do work without much of a focus and to really become a productive blogger you need to work focused. Always set goals for your site. The goals will help you focus your time on the tasks that lead you towards achieving them.
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