This guest post was written by Leo Babauta of Zen Habits.
In recent months, I’ve reduced the time I spend writing posts for my blog to about half a day’s work, and I spend about an hour or so more every day of the week responding to comments and emails.
That’s probably 20% of the time I used to spend blogging just a few months ago, and yet with this form of minimalist blogging, I’ve actually increased readership (to well over 1 million page views a month) and made it into the Technorati Top 100.
How is that possible, to work less and accomplish more? By focusing on the essentials, and nothing else.
I’m a minimalist at heart — ask my readers. One of the most popular posts on my site is a Guide to Creating a Minimalist Home, but this minimalist philosophy pervades just about everything else I do. I have not completely achieved minimalism in every aspect of my life, but it’s my guiding light.
And when I take a look at something from a minimalist perspective, I always ask myself: what are the bare essentials here? What is the core of this? It’s what I do when I declutter a room, or clear my desk, or declutter my blog’s sidebar, or decide what I carry in my pockets (only 2 things).
And so I asked myself: what is essential about my blog? And the answer: very useful posts that are quick reads. It’s not the ads, it’s not MyBlogLog, it’s not affiliate marketing. It’s the posts, the content.
And while many people have said before that “content is king”, they don’t always take that idea to its logical conclusion: not much else matters.
Does nothing else matter? No. I’m not saying that at all. Yes, you have to work hard (especially in the beginning) to find readership. Yes, you have to comment on other blogs, and promote yourself on social bookmarking, and respond to readers, and write guest posts on other blogs. Those things are all important, especially when you’re trying to make a name for yourself.
But when you want to boil a blog down to its essentials, in my eyes, the two most important things are (in this order):
- good, useful content; and
- being responsive to readers
So those are the things I focus on almost exclusively now. Here’s what I did, and what the results have been:
- Cut my posting down to 5 a week (weekdays only). At first, I was doing multiple posts a day, a mixture of long and short posts. Then I cut it to 7 a week, with a longer feature-type post each day. Then, after asking my readers if it would make a difference to them if I cut my posts down to 5 a week, I made the decision not to post on weekends. Not many readers read my site on weekends anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal to most people. And it drastically reduced the pressure on me. Now, I am free to post on the weekends, or do a short second post on weekdays, but I am committed to only 5 a week.
- Write all my posts on one day. This is a recent experiment of mine, but it seems to be working well. I’ve designed one day a week (Thursdays) for writing my 5 posts. The night before, I come up with the post topics for those 5 posts (I have a running ideas list that I choose from). Then, in the morning on Thursday, I first get all the images for the posts, do formatting, do research, and generally get everything all set up. Takes about 30 minutes. Then I focus on writing each post, one at a time, trying to write the best content I possibly can. I block everything else out. Takes about half my work day. Possibly longer, if I feel lazy and take long breaks. Either way, I’m done before the end of Thursday, with time left over for reading ProBlogger.
- Invited guest bloggers. I can’t accept many offers for guest writing on my blog, as I want to keep guest posts to once a week, but I try to invite some of the best bloggers to write a guest post for me from time to time. This allows my blog to have fresh content from some great writers, while reducing the time I spend writing each week — it reduces my posts per week from 5 to 4, on the weeks I have a guest writer.
- Decluttered my design. I try to extend my minimalist philosophy to my design as well. I’m actually going through a redesign right now, but in the meantime, I’ve eliminated a lot of elements from my blog’s design. It’s not as minimalist as I’d like it, but I try to reduce it to the essentials. This also means less maintenance for me. Here’s a better article on this topic.
- Reduced ads. I’ve tried probably 6 different ad services, but have cut them to the top 3 earners. Could I earn more with more ad services? Sure, but that’s more clutter for my readers, and with little return for me. I focus on just the most important ones, and the readers appreciate that. It also means less time spent checking ad earnings (I usually only do it once a week now).
- One hour of reader comments and emails, plus feed reading, a day. Email and comments and feed reading used to take up most of my day. Really, these things can fill up as much time as you give them. Instead, I’ve given myself about an hour. Some days it’s a little more, but I try to keep it down. I respond to everything at once, trying to clear my inbox if possible. I also cut my feeds down to 10, and only read the best 6 posts each day from those 10 feeds. It’s been a huge reduction in time, but I still respond to everyone if I can, and it hasn’t hurt my blog.
- Cut out the rest as much as possible. I used to check stats, Technorati, ad earnings, etc. all day long. It was counterproductive, and in truth, it didn’t do much except feed my addiction. I decided it’s not worth it. I still check those things most days, but it’s much less than before. The fact is, these things don’t help your readers at all, and they’re not essential.
- The results of this minimalist blogging? My readership has continued to increase. Perhaps not at the rate it did in the first few months, but in the last three months I’ve gained 8,000 subscribers.
- An even better result? My focus on content has reminded me what’s important, and allowed me to write some of my best posts. Perhaps not every single post I write is stellar, but I think some of my favorite posts I’ve every written have come in the last month or so. That’s because I’ve focused on the essential, and let the other stuff be minimized.