We have all seen it before. A friend tells you to check out his new blog. He is talking about big dreams for the future, about all the plans and the goals of making money. Couple of weeks later you see the same friend, ask him how the new project is doing, and you hear that same old excuse of not having had enough time to work on it. There are some harsh truths that your friend needs to know and the method that will empower him to become a productive blogger.
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 bloggers 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 have a job that takes some 9 hours daily, 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 your time better, optimize it and manage it wisely. These tips will help you become a better and more productive blogger.
“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
Some weeks I cannot stand looking at my calendar and seeing that there is content that needs to be produced. In weeks like these it is all about putting my head down and grinding away. Some weeks I have my productive spells and cannot seem to stop riding the inspirational wave. I am thinking weeks in advance and think of bigger thoughts and ideas on where to take my projects in the future.
Writing can feel a lot like hard work. It really isn’t that easy to create a good post in one sitting and keep up with the flow of regular quality content for your visitors. Being able to be productive and just write is a great habit. This habits makes me have less of the weeks where I fear looking at the calendar and more weeks where I focus on the future and improvements of my projects. This is how:
Stop planning and start taking action
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 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 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.
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.
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 time instead. You must focus your energy on the tasks that have the highest impact on your goals, 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. Every day prepare a prioritized list of 3-5 things to-do and don’t stop until those tasks all have been completed.
Don’t get distracted
Recent research shows that 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. 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.
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.
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 of time 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 in reality 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 affect 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.
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.
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.
Do not fear
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.
You should learn from other writers. You should allow yourself to get inspired and get influenced by them. But don’t let their ability make you feel insecure about your own talents. You are a writer.
Inner critic is a very useful tool for your editing phase. Look at your work with a critical mindset in order 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.
As a blogger you put your thoughts, your advice, your life out there for the whole world to see. The nature and openness of blogging attracts interaction and engagement and with the comment form straight under individual articles you are open for anyone to comment on your work. There are even sites like GOMI (Get Off My Internets) that are only there for people to post bad comments and slam big bloggers. You have to learn to stay confident in yourself and what you believe in, despite being doubted by others.
By publishing your work you share your ideas and you get feedback from people in the real world. You will learn if people engage with your work, if there are readers interested in your work. This feedback will help you improve, learn, and refine your work and give you ideas for projects you didn’t even think about.
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 apps and tools that I use), 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.”