We are all busy people living in an increasingly distracting world. Your blog is something you usually start in your free time while having a full-time job and other life commitments. It’s good that many people see the opportunity to create websites and work on developing themselves, but it’s sad to see the same people using the excuse of being busy to let their sites die shortly after they’re launched.
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 writers have a job that takes some 9 hours, then you sleep some 7 hours and it leaves you with some 8 hours a day to do some housework, hang out with your friends and family, and work on your hobbies.
You have to learn to control those hours better. Following tips will help you become a better and more productive content creator.
“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
Your productivity – 80/20 principle
Do things that are worth doing and let go off things that are not. This is the Pareto principle. 80% of the value you get will be from 20% of the things you do. Harnessing the power of the 80/20 principle will trigger an explosion in your productive capacity and will bring you closer to achieving your goals. It will allow you to have time for your full-time job and for your family and other commitments.
The idea is for you to figure out which of your tasks are in the 20% and then spend most of your time doing those tasks while limiting the rest. Look at the big picture. Concentrate on the things that produce fantastic results and stop wasting time on unproductive things that are irrelevant to your success.
Knowing the best uses of your energy and time is much more important than trying harder, working longer or complaining about not having time. Less is more as the saying goes. My 20% tasks are creating content and marketing. It can be as simple as that.
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 time instead. You must focus your energy on the tasks that have the highest impact on your goals, the important tasks. This will help you identify the meaningful activities, it will bring some focus to you and will lead you to knowing what tasks and activities you should be focusing your time on. It will help you work smart and not hard.
There is a set of very important questions all bloggers should be asking themselves daily to identify the results of your efforts:
- How did I spend my day?
- Did I take any steps towards reaching my goals?
- Did I improve my chances today?
- Did I improve my site?
- Did I spread the word about it?
- Have I worked on increasing the readership and increasing the revenue?
It is clear that for a blogger to become successful good prioritization skills are a key. You need to have a talent to distinguish between what needs to be done and what doesn’t. You need to know the difference between make work and real work.
Remove the noise
Our brains hard-wire us to love Twitter, Facebook and the search for new information. It makes us curious, it makes us gather data, look up facts and click on links. We have such a deep desire for knowledge and new things. The sea of knowledge gets deeper as we go further into it. It makes us restless, easily bored, we don’t give attention to longer articles, as it drives us to discover the next tweet.
The anticipation of finding something new and unexpected is much more stimulating to our brain than actually finding it. So we keep clicking, chasing and consuming content without really meeting our real needs.
This need to be informed seems to have reduced my capacity to absorb and retain what I read. Instead of getting a deeper understanding of a subject, I seem to be using all the information as a shallow distraction and a waste of time.
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 of mindless online surfing.
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 and sending tweets. It is a skill being able to shut out the distractions and choose what, when and how to consume media.
To become productive I must pause the input as much as possible. I must get better at filtering the noise from the signal. Signal is the valuable part of the information, it’s the part I should listen to, the part I should note and learn from. Noise is just noise and there is too much of it online. More Twitter accounts I follow, more apps I install, more newsletters I subscribe to, more of this noise I get.
I must be more purposeful about the information I’m consuming online. I must curate my sources better. What is the intention with consuming a piece of content? What am I looking to get out of it? What helps me the most to achieve the goals I have set for myself? I have to learn to let go of my curiosity need. I don’t need to feed it all the time. I don’t need to be afraid that I will be missing out.
Reading, planning and learning is important, but only to a point. Many people spend too much time thinking, instead of taking action. ‘Just do it’ usually works. The more time you spend on planning, the more fears and doubts you start having, the less time you have to build something great. It is important to stop and carry out 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 creating new content can be deprioritized. 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 bloggers should always have time for is to produce new content.
Find your sweet spot, know what you want to achieve, get the minimum viable site live, start publishing content and get the message out there. Measure, learn and improve as you go along. Some spend months on research, on planning, on the design and other details. I do not find this a valuable way of spending so much important time on. These are weeks and months spent without writing, without creating content, without marketing, without connecting to your audience, building a name and testing things in the real world. Don’t fall into the analysis paralysis. This process can be much faster.
I need to focus on the output. Taking action produces the appetite for more action. I work on turning ideas into reality.
Limit the environment around you
As you see the main theme is: Was I a producer or was I a consumer today? Did I do something today to get closer and reach my dreams or did I just spend another day dreaming and reading about other people and the way they lead their lives. These “producing” activities will for most people be the 20% of activities that bring 80% of results.
Everyone is too busy these days, it is a very popular thing to tell everyone around you in any case. Nobody wants to say I’m not busy or I am bored or I have too much free time on my hands. That is uncool. But if you really look deeper into how you actually spend your “busy” day you will certainly be able to find some free gaps of time where you are either doing some unproductive activities that you can stop at anytime or where you actually have free time to focus on more important tasks.
Many “busy” people spend their other 8 hours doing “important” tasks like watching, listening, reading about and discussing events that are not too relevant with their own lives or their own goals. Some things to consider letting go of:
- Checking the stats non-stop. One very useless habit is to continuously keep checking your site analytics. Once a day or even less frequently is more than enough. Checking more often won’t really change much. Instead you should be doing things that can actually affect the number of visitors your content can get.
- Spending half of your day in social media. Social media can be a useful tool to connect to a new audience and to spread the word about your site. At the same time social media can be a big waste of your time. There’s always a new tweet, there’s always more messages on Facebook. It never stops and if you are not careful you will end up spending most of your day mindlessly browsing around without getting much done. Be focused when working in social media. Use it for ideas, use it to attract a wider audience, use it to connect to influencers. Don’t just use it to consume other people’s content.
- Following news, politics, or sports can be largely irrelevant to my daily life. Consuming it wastes a lot of time, and thinking about it makes me lose focus from important tasks and then I need to spend time refocusing after consuming news. By not consuming it at all I won’t be missing anything relevant in my life and will be freeing a lot of time and energy. If it is such an important news story one way or another the information will get to me.
- Throw away your television and your games. Most of the people who 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.
- Cancel meetings, turn off the phone and don’t check emails If you are regularly stressing yourself checking your visitor stats, your social follower stats, your earning, 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 a day. Restrict 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.
- Delaying the creation of new content. Your site relies on your ability to produce content that connects to your audience, drives visitors and views. Your main task is to be spending time on thinking and creating new concepts and new content ideas. If you look at what bloggers can do to make big progress creating great, interesting content that build an audience always tops that list. Never forget that.
- Being a victim of analysis paralysis. It is easy to keep planning, keep researching and endlessly refining your idea. This can be quite unhelpful. It can waste a lot of time. Most plans often have to change when they enter the real world. You should get your ideas live as soon as possible. You should get that valuable feedback from a real audience.
- Working without a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline your tasks may end up expanding to fill the time available for their completion. This will prolong the process and waste unnecessary time. Make sure to set a time limit for your tasks. This makes you focused and you can finish tasks quicker than when working without a deadline.
- Working with an impossible deadline. 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 bigger impact than writing one average post daily.
- Being inconsistent. Part of the appeal of visiting a site is knowing that when you get there, it will offer something new to make it worth your while. Publishing a great post today and then not having any new material for next three months does not help. Don’t let your site go stale, stagnant or die. Keep it nourished by keeping a regular content schedule. There is no written rule on how often you should publish, but you should try to be consistent and avoid having long periods of inactivity.
- Working too hard. Working hard is not the same as working smart. Your site is probably only your side project. You are busy with your job and other commitments. Optimize the time you have to get the best out of your efforts. Establish a clear goal for your site to help you focus. When you don’t have a goal you are seeing any task as equally important. You may be avoiding tasks that have biggest impact potential. If you align your tasks with your goals you will magically become more productive and you will have enough time.
- Not wanting to automate or delegate. Some bloggers think that they can do it all. This is fine especially early on in your blogging career or on those days where you have all the time to focus. Eventually you may hit a point where it makes sense to automate some things or even outsource some tasks in order for you to stay productive and achieve all the goals that you have. It is important to realize this and not allow your blog to suffer by you refusing to automate or outsource.
Write quickly and automatically
If you simply write quickly, your mind does not have the opportunity to wander. The ideas just flow and you get them down quickly. Don’t worry about the spelling and grammar errors – just write and allow your mind to flow. Do edits after you have finished writing. I open an empty document, or a draft post of ideas I have and begin writing without thinking too much.
The best way to begin writing a post is to write something. It doesn’t necessary have to follow a structure either, I can write the end first or just a bunch of steps I recommend people take towards achieving a goal. As I write I think about how to organize the idea. Will it be a top list post? Or a how-to guide? I have a good headline in mind as well. Be aware of types of posts that you can publish on your site. In few good minutes of writing you will find yourself with some 300 words which is more than enough to base a post on.
The reason this process is so effective relates to the way your brain operates. All of your decisions are generated sub-consciously. In the 1920s an economics professor by the name of George Wallas, created a four-part theory of subconscious decision-making, and problem solving that has since become the cornerstone of all research in this particular field.
- In the first stage you focus on the problem at hand. In terms of a post you start to write about your core subject using the thoughts and feelings you have in your mind.
- In the second stage you let go all of all conscious effort. This means leaving your piece of work to mature whilst you go about your everyday duties. Wallas maintains that it is during this period that your brain will be working on the first stage sub-consciously.
- In the third stage it’s a case of Eureka! Your answers seemingly arrive in your conscious thought like a fully formed Rubik Cube. You think it is a miracle but it is the hard work of your sub-conscious. You can now adapt your work and fine-tune it to get a much more thorough and professional piece of work.
- Finally, your conscious thought mode analyses the output to make sure the sub-conscious has done its job properly. You are scanning for errors or indifference – editing if you will.
Find what works for you
For some it is best to write early in the morning, for others it is late at night. Some prefer to write to music, some prefer silence. Find what works for you. Music has an effect our brains. It has the capacity to get us in different moods, to relax us, gets us thinking, emotional, imagining things and unlocks to door to the creativity.
I prefer to play the same 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, trying to figure out the lyrics, check out the history of the band and the general procrastination. Spotify and all the different playlists are perfect for this. Find one of the “in the work zone” playlists and get going.
Some writers prefer to do their writing in silence. If you can find the right place, the right room and atmosphere, the silence can be golden and can speak the loudest to your writing. Silence allows you to be quiet, focus, think and 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. Pick what works best for you.
De-clutter your workspace and maximize your health
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.
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.
A usually start my day with bit of push-ups and sit-ups that get me going as nothing else can. 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.
Let go of perfectionism
Don’t wait for a masterpiece before you publish something. Some people have a phobia of clicking on the “Publish” button. They always seem to have something to add, something to change, something to polish, some more research to do… thinking like this usually never stops and you drag the process on and on. Spit first, shine later.
There are so many fears you can have as a writer. What your peers will say, about being ridiculed, about not being perfect, having no readers, not having enough talent, fears about your reputation. Learn to silence these fears and don’t let them paralyze you. Free yourself to just write. Face the fears and write, write, write. Write fast, constantly, anywhere at anytime.
Inner critic is a very useful tool for your editing phase. Look at your work with a critical mindset to make it as perfect as you can. This will help you edit and improve the initial draft and get you to end up with the final copy. Edit it, shorten it, don’t be afraid of cutting things out, finesse it, add to it, make it better.
When you are happy with the final copy, close your eyes and click on the publish button. Best way to get better is to practice. When you do click on that button and your first post is online for the world to see, you realize how silly it was to have any fears and how you should have published that post a long time ago. Your first post may suck but you will become better. By practicing in public you get feedback and that improves your work. Write something, get feedback, write something more, get more feedback and round and round it goes.
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 maneuvers. – Kafka
Let your procrastination be the natural filter
Sometimes you just might not have anything to say. Sometimes you may not be in the mood for writing. Don’t force yourself in those situations. Let your procrastination be the natural filter and allow yourself to get back the inspiration to produce content that will make a difference for your goals.
Procrastination is seen as a bad thing. It is frowned upon. We try and find ways to stop the procrastination from happening. We follow tips and advice on being productive. In some way though procrastination is a good thing.
Writing is difficult when it is forced which many writers discover after a while of running a site. It is not always easy to write 500 words every couple of days, sometimes it is not possible to follow the rigid schedule. These situations can be considered as a writers block, sometimes they are look at as being unproductive, sometimes they are a procrastination.
Write when you are inspired and when you feel like writing. Procrastination defends you from your becoming a robotic, soulless writer who writes on command and without too much thought or inspiration.
I have definitely seen this happen to many bloggers and freelance writers where they end up seeing their post writing as a task that has to be ticked off their long list of things to do. 500 words on this topic by this day, 700 words on this topic by this deadline and so on…
It ends up being too much after some time, it becomes a chore, you lose the will to do it, you lose the creativity and the love that made you start writing in the first place. Your writing and your output become worse and it is felt in the feedback you get and the stats you see in social media and on your analytics. You may be getting money from doing it but all the fun is gone.
Procrastination stops this from happenings and lets it all take place more naturally. You write only when you feel like it and you only write about topics that interest you and that you have something to say about. You only write when you have the inspiration and the drive to do it.
Recharge your batteries to get inspired again
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.
So what to do in case you feel like procrastinating? Just let it be. Kind of like the concept of Wu Wei where you just don’t take any action and you don’t do. Instead relax, recharge, do something else, get inspired. One of the things that can be done to get recharged and inspired to get back to the writing is to disconnect from your day to day activities.
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.
Get away from your Internet connection and from your computer, do something different today instead of spending majority of the day staring at the screen without getting much important work done.