On Finding Time for Blogging

Slide from Darren Rowse's keynote at Problogger Event 2013

I've been reading a lot of the blog posts written by people who went to the Problogger Training Event on the Gold Coast this past weekend.

They're all great. I left the conference feeling very inspired and reading all the different perspectives and takeaways has given me even more inspiration. And it's great to see so many other bloggers feeling the same way.

After the conference I wrote this tweet:

 

tweet

During Darren's keynote he talked about the hurdles that bloggers face. One of those hurdles is a lack of time.

Slide from Darren Rowse's keynote at Problogger Event 2013
Slide from Darren Rowse's keynote at Problogger Event 2013

I've struggled a lot with this over the last 7 or so years that I've been blogging.

One of the reasons I've struggled is that I'm not a naturally productive person (aka lazy). I'm easily distracted, I can spend hours just doing “stuff” on the computer, I have trouble getting back up off the couch to do anything else if I sit down in front of the TV for a few minutes.

Another reason is that my life has changed quite a lot over those 7 years that I've been a blogger. I've had 4-5 different jobs in that time, all in different parts of the city and with different demands on my time. We've gone from no kids, to one kid, to two kids. Those kids have needed different levels of time and attention as they've grown.

All in all it has made it a challenge to get anything done without developing some systems and habits along the way.

Before I shared those with you I just want to say that these are things that I've found to work for me. I'm not going to get all preachy about how you spend your down time. Everyone has different commitments in life, different ways of getting things done, different strengths and weaknesses.

So even if these tips don't work for you, perhaps they'll help you to explore other ways you can find more time to pursue your own blogging goals.

Here we go.

Do a Time Audit

This is an exercise I go through every now and then to remind myself how much time I have (or don't have) for blogging.

Here is my most recent time audit. You can do this any way you like but my approach is to use a spreadsheet and color code the cells to represent sleep (grey), work/family time (red), exercise (blue – I'm fortunate I commute by bike so I save some time there), and green (what's left – basically the time between the kids going to sleep and me going to bed).

time-audit

 

That green time adds up to about 19 hours per week.

A typical breakdown of that 19 hours might look like:

  • 4 hours writing blog posts
  • 1 hour writing newsletter
  • 4 hours of product creation
  • 1 hour of responding to comments
  • 2 hours of active social media/forums participation
  • 3 hours of reading (for fun/leisure)
  • 2 hours of after hours work for my day job
  • 2 hours of television (eg a Friday night movie – I don't watch much TV but everyone needs some down time)

That might look like a ton of time to run a blog, and honestly if every week ran that well I would have nothing to complain about.

But we live in the real world where things don't always go to plan. Time gets taken away when there is a sick child, extra work needed for my day job, or an extra few hours of television (the two worst times of year for me are when a new season of Game of Thrones is running and when the NBA finals are on). Sometimes the blog posts take longer, sometimes I get sucked into social media for longer.

So over the years I've built some habits that give me the best chance of maximising my productivity each week.

Don't Sit Down Without a Plan

The first mistake I used to make was sitting down at my computer in the evening with no specific goal in mind.

When you've got nothing to do it's easy to find something else to entertain you that is a complete waste of time.

To create this habit I would actually write down on a piece of paper 2-3 specific tasks that I wanted to do that evening, before I sat down. As the habit began to stick I was able to just mentally prepare that list instead, for example while standing in the kitchen making a cup of coffee.

As a backup to this, if you catch yourself idly passing the time at your computer you should immediately get up, walk around the room for a few minutes thinking of a specific task to do, and only sit back down when you've got at least one in mind.

Minimise Distractions

The second mistake I used to make was sitting down at my computer and immediately opening a bunch of distractions – Twitter, Skype, email, set up my iPad with a movie running, RSS feeds… you name it.

I still mess this up quite regularly, but as often as possible I will sit down and resist the urge to open all those things until I have finished my main goals for that evening.

15 Minute Rule

This is one I haven't used for a while and I've decided to bring it back because I need it quite badly at the moment.

When I'm working on ebooks I have a habit of staring at the page for ages and not actually writing anything.

My 15 minute rule is simply this – when it's time to write I turn on some music, open the minimum number of apps or web pages I need for writing and research, and I have to write something (even complete garbage, that's what editing exists to fix) for 15 minutes without stopping.

Usually by the end of that 15 minutes the garbage has stopped and some decent material is starting to flow, and I've built up enough momentum to keep me going for the rest of the evening.

Lightning Round

I've covered the main things that help me to be productive. Here's a bunch of other little tips and habits that also help me make the most of my time each week.

  • Don't write and edit at the same time (it's faster to write, write, write now and edit later with fresh eyes).
  • Write when you've got at least an hour to focus. Any less and the momentum doesn't kick in.
  • Edit in 15-30 minutes blocks. Any more and I start to skim read and miss the mistakes.
  • Unsubscribe from everything except your two most important newsletters (seriously, especially ditch newsletters that are just summaries of what is on the blog. You can get that via RSS or the best will rise up on social media anyway).
  • Set up email filters and rules to keep your inbox clear of low priority stuff.
  • In particular, send your blog comment notifications to a folder and batch process them once or twice a day (if you want to be more real-time in that first hour after a new blog post that's cool).
  • Stop checking your Google Analytics every day. Set up Intelligence alerts for your goals (eg reaching a new daily visitors level). Set aside a specific block of time to do deeper analysis.
  • Set one night a week aside to be your “tech night” where you attack your list of things you'd like to improve about your blog design, tweak your autoresponder, add internal links between relevant posts, or deep dive into your analytics.
  • Use OneNote (or Evernote) to maintain that list of “tech night” stuff. When you notice something add it to the list quickly and get back to your real work.
  • Learn how to process your RSS feeds quickly. Discard articles that don't look interesting, save the good ones to your “read later” list.
  • Use Pocket as a “read later” list for your RSS feeds and social streams. Read in those little slices of time when you're standing on the train or waiting for your coffee.
  • Pack your lunch so you can eat at your desk.
  • Use your lunch break to edit your latest draft post or ebook chapter.
  • If you've got two computers (like a laptop and a PC) remove all the distractions from one of them (uninstall Twitter apps, log out of Facebook) and strip it down to just the things you need to be productive.
  • If that laptop is nice and portable take it with you to work so you can get away from your desk to a quiet place during lunch.
  • Sleep more. You'll be more productive tomorrow night if you get a good night's sleep tonight.
  • Try switching to being a morning person. I find this easier in the warmer months of the year and tend to switch back to working at night during winter.
  • Print the transcripts from the training course you bought so you can read them faster than listening to the audio.
  • Stop buying new training courses and business books until you finish the ones you have or actively decided to discard them.
  • Work on one product at a time. As much as we'd all like to pursue our 4 ebook ideas all at once it is much better to finish the first one, launch it and make some money, and build up from there.
  • Have one blog. Okay maybe have a personal/hobby blog on the side as well. But one blog should be your main focus that always takes priority.
  • Take mini-holidays from blogging. Once in a while just have a long weekend or a week off. Schedule some posts in advance if it makes you feel better.
  • Take a real holiday every year. I stop for nearly a month at Christmas since all my readers are on holidays then anyway. Your devoted fans can always follow your holiday photos on Instagram.
  • Have a long term goal and regularly remind yourself why you are doing this.
  • Say no to anything that doesn't align with that goal.

That's it for now.

If you've got any tips of your own to share in the comments below I'd love to read them.

By Paul Cunningham

Paul is a writer and entrepreneur living in Brisbane, Australia. He enjoys spending time with his family and running in the mountains. Paul was the founder of Practical 365, a former Microsoft MVP, and Pluralsight trainer. Paul is also on Twitter and Instagram.

10 comments

  1. I really needed these tips right now as I contemplate how I’m going to do everything. I like your time audit idea. I’m very guilty of not always having a goal when I sit down at the computer. This is something I’m going to change immediately! Thank you.

  2. Great tips 🙂 I struggle as I can be on call for work at any given time. I use a focus boost timer when I’m on the laptop and break tasks up into 30 minutes. I switch off every social media alert too. I use my 15 mins in the morning to journal and another 15 minutes to plan what lies ahead for the day.

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