This guest post is by Nick Thacker of Livehacked.com.
We’ve all had that feeling of impending doom: “My readers are expecting me to post tomorrow, but I haven’t even answered my emails, check my Analytics stats, or responded to the Twitter shout-outs. There’s just no way I can get it all done…”
Or something like that.
If you’ve ever felt like the pressures of maintaining a blog—not to mention the rest of your business—are becoming too much, it could be time to simplify what you’re doing.
Here are 14 proven methods for getting more blogging done in less time. And what’s best: these methods will allow you to write better posts than you ever thought possible, while exerting less overall effort.
- Write things down: Not just blog posts, either. Keep a journal close at hand, and try to just write down your thoughts as they come to you. I’ve been trying this at work and at home—I have a Moleskine notebook that I keep nearby, and I’ll write down ideas, thoughts, and action items throughout my day. The result? I’m able to think clearly and concisely when it’s time to write a 2,000-word blog post, or send a newsletter to my subscribers. Writing things down (physically, on paper) keeps you from having to remember everything, too. If it’s on paper, it doesn’t need to be in your head.
- Set a schedule: Keep a strict schedule if you can, using whatever tools help you stay on task and focused. Don’t let minor distractions keep you from working, and if at all possible, write it down. Writing down your schedule helps, again, to keep it out of your head so you don’t have to spend energy memorizing it. It also lets you visually see your time—allowing you to know where you are throughout your day and week. Make sure to give yourself personal time first, and stick to it. Schedule your own downtime, and don’t spend it checking email, talking on the phone, or browsing through your competitors’ blogs. Use it to hang out with friends or family, or just stop and think for 15-20 minutes. It’s liberating.
- Use systems: Blogging, done well, is a business. There are routine—sometimes mundane—tasks, and there are those that invigorate us and make us want to spend all our energy on them. At every point, try to create and leverage systems in your blogging. I wrote this post a long time ago, but it’s still relevant to systemizing our blogging processes.
- “Front-load” your time: “Front-load” your time in the week, and every day. Plan the larger, more thought-intensive or labor-intensive tasks for earlier in the week, and first thing in the morning. Tackle the harder stuff first, and as the week moves toward the weekend, you’ll feel much more productive, energized, and motivated knowing that you’ve already taken care of the big stuff.
- Keep a “headline bucket:” I have an Evernote notebook called Blog Post Ideas that’s simply an ongoing, unorganized list of possible blog post topics. Since I have Evernote on my phone, I can add a blog post idea to it anywhere I am, no matter what. Keeping a “bucket” of ideas prevents you from needing to scramble for ideas when you’re ready to write. Plus, I often find that the best ideas somehow “drift” to the top of my bucket—meaning I can work on them in my head for awhile before I need them. When it’s time to write, the words are already there—it’s just a matter of writing them down fast enough!
- Switch your blog with your newsletter: If you have a newsletter that has different content than your blog (and I believe you should, or what’s the point?), consider using an old newsletter article on your blog, and a blog post lost in the archives for your newsletter. Don’t just republish as-is, though—make the newsletter article seem more “bloggy” (or in whatever style your blog is written), and vice versa. This tactic is one I use regularly—it helps me keep my messaging focused and on-target, and it certainly helps strengthen my readership on both fronts.
- Steal an idea: Good artists borrow, but the best artists steal. Obviously you can’t blatantly rip-off someone else’s hard work. Don’t steal word-for-word, but take a popular idea you like, read everything you can about it, and then write a post about it, in your own words. Even though it might seem like you’re ripping someone off, there’s a good chance that you’ve subconsciously put your own stylistic spin on it. When I’m pressed for time, I’ll visit some of my favorite sites to see what headlines and topics are working well, and write my own ideas on the subject.
- Leverage your readership: I talk a lot about leverage on my own site and over at Lifehacks.org, and there’s a reason: the best creators out there don’t do every last thing themselves—they ask for help. Even though they’re the ones creating the content, art, or business, they will eventually need help vetting emails, maintaining their website, or keeping the books. Most of us already have a powerful tool at our disposal: our readers. Ask them for help. Maybe you can invite a young kid to help you go through your emails every other day, forwarding the “to respond” ones to you, and following through with the rest (if Darren had asked me to do this five years ago when I was getting started, I would have jumped at the opportunity!). Be careful to not insult them, though—don’t send the message that you expect something more from them—after all, they did sign up for your list, right?
- Ask for guest posts: Part of leveraging your readership can be asking for guest posting submissions. One of the things I hear a lot of bloggers ranting about is the lack of quality and depth of guest posts, and therefore they won’t consider “opening their blog to submissions.” This doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, ask for submissions and give clear guidelines as to what you expect from them. Then, if the submissions are terrible, just say “no thanks.” Worst-case scenario? You don’t have any publishable posts from guests. Best case? You have a bunch of posts you can use when you’re feeling behind or burnt-out.
- Reuse an old post: Don’t just recycle old content in lieu of writing new stuff—take an old post, make it relevant to today’s world if need be, and then add a few new ideas to it. Spend the time on it that you might spend writing a brand new post, and make it seem bigger and better than it was before. Give it a new headline, or write an updated intro or conclusion. Then, work in a great call to action that promotes a new product line or asks readers for input, and add a few new pictures to it.
- “Talk” your posts: This is a strategy I’ve been trying more often, as I’m currently writing my second fiction thriller novel. Dragon Naturally Speaking software has a cool app that lets you speak your words into the computer. Jon Morrow of BoostBlogTraffic.com does this, and he’s an awesome writer. Admittedly, it takes a little while to get set up and dictating properly, but once I got it into working order, I was able to write a few posts per night in one sitting. If this isn’t “leveraging our time and energy,” I don’t know what is!
- Make a random connection to find an idea: There are plenty of great posts on writing great headlines, and even more on finding ideas, but I wanted to include this little gem of wisdom that Danny Iny pointed out to me a while back: Take two unrelated things, and make them work together. For example, “What The Swamp Monster Can Teach You About Blogging” or “Why Juicyfruit Gum Is Like Car Maintenance.” I just made those up, and already I’m fighting my creative brain’s desire to come up with reasons why a random monster would be a great blogger. See how awesome that is?
- Forget about blogging: One of the things I noticed when I started to blog regularly was that I was thinking of everything in terms of, “ooh, what a great blog post idea!” At the movies? Why not post about how the protagonist would make a great headline-writer with all of those quirky one-liners? It can get overwhelming thinking like this, and it’s healthy and helpful to take a moment and forget about your blog. Try to meditate, or rest, or just “hang out,” and let the blog post ideas come to you, not the other way around.
- Take a break: Lastly, I wanted to mention the one thing that we all need to do, at least somewhat regularly: take a break. You don’t have to quit, or give up, or even take a vacation, but take a short break from your blog. It’s your job, right? Think of it this way: you’ll eventually need a break from anything that’s worth doing, at least to get your mind refocused and ready for the next steps. Plan this “break” into your week or month (or year, if you have to wait that long) and then make it worthwhile.
Blogging is an enticing business model—it can lead to increased income, freedom, and happiness, but it can also lead to burnout and epic failure. Make sure you’re going about it in a smart way by putting some of these tactics in place.
You don’t have to live a minimalistic lifestyle, or employ hundreds of drone-like workers to create great systems and get the most out of leverage. Just practice some tactics that will allow you to “simplify” your blogging efforts a bit more. Try these 14 I’ve written about, and leave a comment with some more ideas!