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How Do You Manage Your Blog? – Blog Administration

Over the past few weeks I’ve had a number of people asking me for information on how I manage my time as a blogger and as someone with a number of different aspects of business running side by side.

Here’s an example of one of the questions (from a reader who asked to be anonymous):

“Darren, I’ve been blogging for a year now and I’m starting to get swamped by the admin of it all. Between answering emails from readers, deleting spam, keeping track of the growing number of RSS feeds in my news aggregator and promoting my blog I’ve hardly got time to write any posts. How do you manage to keep your blogs running? What’s your secret? Do you have any tips or tools for me to try?”

This question is typical of the sort of thing I’m being asked more and more so I thought I’d have a go at putting together an answer.

Time – Firstly it’s worth saying that I work full time as a blogger. I’m able to put extended hours into it and as a result can manage a number of blogs at once and am able to be involved in a number of other related projects (a blog network and e-resource for example).

Constant Challenge - Even with the ability to work on my blogging full time I find the administration around blogging an ever increasing challenge. Like the questioner above has experienced – the longer you blog the more admin that seems to come along and the more blogs you have the more it multiplies. I’ll be honest enough to say that there are days I don’t keep up and have increasingly considered taking on an admin assistant or intern to take on some of the tasks that mount up.

Priorities – One of the things I’ve had to work on increasingly over the past few months is the setting of priorities. This has included ending blogs, cutting back the posting rhythm on blogs, changing the type of posts etc

Sharing the Load – I’ve already mentioned my temptation to take on an admin assistant but I have taken on others to help me on a couple of my blogs as bloggers. This has been really helpful to me (and I hope they’ve enjoyed it too). It’s definitely a challenge to find the right person but once you do it’s well worthwhile.

Tools – I rely heavily on some great tools in my blogging that help me manage the different aspects of what I do. I’ve mentioned them all numerous times on this blog so won’t go into them all and how I use them but among the most useful time savers are Akismet (for comment spam), Bloglines (for RSS feed management), Ecto (desktop publishing), Backpackit (I use it less and less – but it’s good for managing some of my data), Entourage (my email/calendar client) and Skype (for IM and VOIP communications with partners and readers). I don’t feel like I use the most ‘Web 2.0′ kind of applications to manage what I do but it seems to work reasonably well with just the basics.

Practice – With time and repetition at blogging I’ve gotten reasonably quick at blogging. I guess I’ve developed a rhythm of posting that works reasonably well for me. Standard ‘newsy’ type posts take me as little as a few minutes to put up and longer posts (like this one) have a workflow that has emerged over time (I talked about some of it here). I guess practice makes perfect (or at least speeds things up).

So ultimately I don’t have any ‘secrets’ to share. It’s a lot of hard work and is largely about time management and doing your best. There are days where things work really well and I feel on top of things – but then there are other days where it feels a little like I’m going backwards.

I’d really appreciate if others would share their experience of this. Perhaps you could help me improve what I do and help others who I know are asking similar questions to the one above.

How do you manage your blogging administration? What tools do you use? What lessons have you learned?

Update: As Michael suggests in comments below – another important tool in my blogging that is a massive help in keeping on top of things is tabbed browsing. I use Firefox and the ability to open new windows all in the one browser via tabs changed my life when I discovered it. Instead of having 20-30 windows open I now have one window with multiple tabs open. I keep things open as a reminder of things to do at times.

While I think of it – another thing that has changed my blogging in this way is to move away from using a 15 inch laptop as my primary blogging machine. 6 or so months back I moved to a desktop with a 23 inch LCD and also got a smaller 19 inch secondary monitor. I use the secondary monitor to run email and instant messaging and the larger screen for browsers and blogging aps. I find that this helps me to be much more orderly in my workflow.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Don’t forget the obvious: Tabbed browsing – a feature in Firefox and Safari – helps keep down the clutter when working with a large number of sources at once. I’ve had days where I have in excess of 30 tabs open while working on several things at once. I’m down to 7 right now, which means very little is going on.

    I can’t stand Bloglines; in fact, I’ve never really been able to get used to web-based feed readers. I use Liferea, because it has a nice “Unread” feature which mixes in all entries from all feeds in chronological order, something I haven’t seen from any other desktop feed reader (but web-based Gregarius does it).

    But the main thing absolutely is time management. You have to be able to stay on task, even when you have all sorts of distractions. And even without a wife and child at home, with the Internet at your fingertips, there are bound to be distractions.

  2. Khurrum says:

    oh cool :D Thanks for posting. I believe I was one of the people who asked this question.

  3. I’m one of the people who e-mailed this very question to you, though I was more concerned with juggling a large number of stories at once.

    Currently, I could only describe my work style as MESSY. I work on a 12″ Powebook. I perpetually have two browsers open, each with two or three windows filled with tabs. My ftp client is open. My text editor (BBedit) is open, and it has anywhere from ten to fifty in-progress entries. I’m serious. About half of these are saved; the other half are doomed if I have any sort of system crash. (These are rare, but do happen, even on OS X.) I don’t keep Photoshop open, but launch it as needed. I don’t open my RSS reader except on rare occasions. I don’t need it. I’ve got too much going on without looking to it for ideas.

    I wish I had some sort of project management software that would quickly and *easily* manage my in-progress entries. I have a “wishlist” of entries in a separate file. I open it every couple weeks to get ideas. I also have a designated inbox filled with reader suggestions. I get two or three reader suggestions everyday. I could basically just devote a weblog to those alone. But because I’m trying to keep Get Rich Slowly down to one or two entries every day (along with a links-post every night), there’s not room for everything. And I don’t know how to prioritize.

    Fortunately, I’m fairly good at staying on-task. I’ve been weblogging for five years now, which has been great preparation for actually having a successful topical blog in that regard. I just don’t know how to juggle all my content, though.

  4. Darren Rowse says:

    aaah yes Michael – tabbed browsing is very very important to my workflow – in fact I’ll update this post to include that.

    You’re welcome Khurrum.

  5. Addendum: I forgot to finish a thought above.

    I’m a fairly frugal guy. I don’t believe in constantly upgrading computers. Just the same, I am currently saving all my blog revenue to go toward the purchase of a 17″ MacBook Pro, not because I need the power, but because I need the wide screen. I believe that a bigger workspace will allow me to keep a web browser and text editor open side-by-side. This will help a great deal.

    Also, in theory, I’ll be able to set up the new computer for the express purpose of blogging. My file structure will reflect this purpose, as will the software I have on the machine. (In other words — no large iTunes libraries.)

    I’ve saved $1200 toward the $3100 purchase price. My goal is to have it by March.

  6. Darren says:

    A technique that I find useful is timeboxing:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_boxing
    http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2004/10/timeboxing/

    Basically, just plan out your day by allocating a certain amount of time to various tasks. One hour for research, one hour for writing new posts, half an hour for random surfing, one hour for answering email, etc. Stick to the time limits, and if anything isn’t finished just leave off where you are and pick it up again later.

    The underlying theory is that it’s better to make some progress in every area, than to spend all your time in one or two areas and completely ignore others.

    This can really help you to not get sucked into those endless rathole tasks. For example, you could lose days on “blog promotion”, surfing around related blogs, leaving comments, emailing people, setting up link swaps, participating in discussion forums, etc. If you set a hard limit on the time you’ll spend doing this, you’ll still get some benefit but you won’t neglect your other areas of focus. There’s no point promoting a blog that hasn’t had a fresh post for a month!

    Also, allocate some time to improving your processes. For example, if you’re finding that you never seem to get all your emails from readers answered in the time you allow, and many of the emails are fairly similar, set up a FAQ with detailed answers that you can point people to. Or get some macro expansion software like TypeItForMe (Mac), which lets you send canned responses in seconds. Or start sending shorter responses, but write a full answer as a blog post (which falls under a different timebox, and also fulfills your goal of adding new posts regularly).

    Spend some time each week looking at what you do and how you do it, see what can be made more efficient, and see if there are things you can do that fulfill multiple goals at once. Another example of this is to take all the comments you leave on other peoples’ blogs, and rewrite them slightly as posts on your own blog. Some might just need a little tweak, while others merely form the skeleton for a longer article. But it’s leveraging time spent in one area (blog promotion) to reduce work in another (blog posting). Contributing to blog carnivals (or Darren’s group writing projects!) achieves this as well.

    I find iCal really handy for timeboxing. It lets you easily add boxes, move them around, rearrange things if something unexpected comes up, and it just looks sexy. It can also pop up reminders so you know to start wrapping up what you’re doing when there’s only 5 minutes left.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Duncan says:

    I agree with Michael, tabbed browsing in FF is a must.

  8. As someone whose blog is hosted in blogger.com, I would also like to add the infamous greasemonky script that allows trackback pinging from blogger. for more details on this, please read my post on TrackBack in blogger

  9. jhay says:

    Ah yes, I love Firefox because of it. Tabbed browsing, a stroke of genius, plain and simple.

  10. Darren,

    I guess it sounds a little dissapointing that blogs end up taking so much work. You’d think it would be ‘free’ money once they get established. I guess nothing in life is “free”

    - Bryan
    http://www.BryanCFleming.com

  11. Lindalee says:

    Thanks for all the helpful tips. I am just starting out in the blogging world, and having so much fun. Working all day, and blogging at night, is challenging, and I can use all the tips I can get, with respect to time management!

  12. Jen says:

    I really have to jump up and down to agree with two points in particular — Tabbed Browsing… and Practice! When I started blogging about 18 months ago, I was lucky to crank out a couple of posts a day, agonizing over every word… It’s like any other kind of professional writing, I guess, in that you only “find your voice” by doing it regularly and doing a lot of it. And once you’ve put in a certain amount of “blood, sweat, and word” it does – thank heavens! – get easier and faster. But there’s no way I could function without Firefox.

  13. John Hood says:

    Being sensitive to the needs of ones readership is paramount, which is why I have incorporated both Full and Summary Feeds to my blogs! :-)

  14. There’s tabbed browsing in the I.E.v7 too don’t forget ..

    The timestamping / pre-posting of articles and entries in advance has helped me a lot in managing my own blogs and keeping up. It’s nice to be able to set a little time each day for productive blogging, but for those of us who do NOT work full time and / or are NOT earning enough to quit our day jobs .. it’s also nice to line up a series of posts that will post automatically when scheduled. On one of my blogs I have posts coming every 4-6 hours, most others are 1-2 per day and a couple 1-2 once or twice a week. Then if I do manage to make time and do extra ‘live’ blogging .. it seems like I’m doing more than I really am.

  15. Andy Merrett says:

    Much like Darren I started my blogging on a 15″ Powerbook, which was fine when I was only blogging a few hours a day, but it became a pain when I turned pro.

    I upgraded in stages – first I pinched an old 17″ CRT monitor and used it for extra screen ‘real estate’ on the PB, but I still found that the PB was being overworked being on for 10-12+ hours per day and doing intensive stuff, and I was getting bogged down.

    So last month I invested in a new 17″ iMac and a 19″ LCD monitor, so now I have 2880×900 screen resolution, more desk space (CRT took up SO much room), a much faster, quieter, cooler computer, and (generally) a much more efficient workflow.

    I have moved to Opera for doing a lot of my tabbed browsing – mainly because if ever the browser goes down or I close a tab or a whole window by accident, it will open up exactly as it was last left – this is a godsend and I wish Safari and the others did it (have you ever clicked the red close button on a Safari window when you meant to click the back arrow and lost a large number of tabs? It’s VERY annoying). I still use Safari for composing blog entries, and doing general surfing. I found Firefox became really unstable after a while and kept crashing for no reason – I couldn’t rely on it.

    I still use my PB if I want to work away from the office, need to commute, am doing any live blogging away from home, or just as an extra machine if I want even more screen and processing! My office now has 4 computers in it but only 2 get used regularly, the others are my wife’s PC which is v unreliable and is just a backup, and my very old G4 Mac that is used for backup.

    I must admit to sometimes using one of the screens to watch full-screen TV whilst I’m working – good if I’m on something that doesn’t need too much concentration and when there’s something I want to watch on TV :)

  16. Dave Starr says:

    As noted this idea that only FireFox has tabbed browsing is a bit of a mix up. If you need Internet Explorer for other reasons there are several very good tabbed extensions for version 6 or earlier (Google is your friend) and as Hart pointed out, Version 7 is readily available ,,, it’s software, not a religion, folks.

    Speaking of software, that’s the first thing that popped to mind when Darren launched this subject. A tremendous opportunity out there for those developers just wishing they could sink their teeth into something …. instead of “yet another WordPress theme/plug-in” what about a blog manager that (just one vision) takes a desktop blog publisher like Windows Live Writer (recommended), Ecto or any flavor you like and gives you continual statistics on posts published, posts “pre-published”, posts “in work”, posts needed, etc. Something to guide production towards an even work flow and to call attention to things that didn’t get completed.
    Sounds a worthy project to me…..

  17. Andrew says:

    Annoyingly, the blog network I currently write for, has just disabled the XML-RPC interface to movable type… meaning that I can’t use Ecto any more (which as been an integral part of my blogging workflow for the last two and a half years).

    They’re very firm in their choice to do so, and I’m equally firm in my habits, so we’re parting ways in about a month, which is irksome. Definitely a bit of a speedbump on my way to real pro-blogging.

    Anyone recommend a good network to look for work at? :)

  18. I’ve had the same problem as well blogging for part time and finishing my studies for full time. I believe that it should be prioritize and allocate each schedule accordingly. While i’m still relatively new to time management. Nice post :)!

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  1. [...] Darren Rowse gives us a look again into his personal life as a professional blogger.  Professional blogging is as much of a business as any other and it takes management and a business plan.  Darren provides the basics of his blogging management and lists some of the more important aspects; [...]