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Haiku Blogging

haiku blogging
In this post Leo Babauta from Zen Habits explores the art of minimalistic blogging.

I don’t think there’s a blogger among us — from full-time Pro Bloggers like Darren to the part-time, trying-to-squeeze-in-blogging-around-my-full-time-job-and-my-family bloggers like the rest of us — who have unlimited time for blogging.

And yet, if we want to increase our readership, we have to find time not only for creating amazing content, but for responding to emails and comments, IMing with other bloggers, checking our stats, writing an ebook, monitoring our posts on the social media, trying to monetize our sites, writing guest posts, leaving comments on other sites, keeping up with our dozens of RSS feeds … you get the idea.

Blogging can be 10 full-time jobs, if we let it.

And yet, we should not let it take up all our time. Sure, if we’re passionate about blogging, we want to do it as much as possible … but who among us doesn’t have a life outside blogging? Who among us doesn’t have other things to do, loved ones to spend time with, other commitments?

We can’t let blogging take up all of our time. We have to set limits.

Amazingly, by setting limits, we become more effective and more powerful, not less.

It’s the effect of setting limits: given a finite amount of time or tasks, we are forced to make choices, and choose only the essential. We are forced to eliminate the non-essential, and only do those things that are most effective.

I often write about productivity on my blog, Zen Habits, and I applied this principle in my post on Haiku Productivity: limit your tasks and projects and emails and so forth in order to be more effective, more productive, and do more in less time.

It works for me, tremendously: I’m able to limit what I do, and still get the essential stuff done. As a result, I not only have time for a full-time job, but I run a pretty popular blog, I do freelance writing on the side, I do a lot of guest posts, I exercise, and I have a wife and six kids. All as a result of setting limits.

Today, we’ll look at how to apply these principles to blogging: Haiku Blogging.

What is Haiku Blogging?

Think about the haiku — the Japanese form of poetry of three lines and 14 syllables. It’s an extremely limited form of poetry, and yet it can be among the most powerful. That’s because the haiku poet is forced to choose only the most essential words to the concept or image he’s trying to convey. Only those words that will do the most for his purpose. The essential words.

Sure, any poet could do that in other types of poetry … but the power of the haiku is that its form is extremely limited … forcing the poet to make choices. In other poetry forms, the poet can make those choices if he wants … or can decide to ramble on for pages and pages.

So let’s apply that concept to blogging: limit what you do, to force yourself to make choices, and to choose only the essential. Set limits for everything you do.

This will force you to think about what actions you take that have the most impact. I have some suggestions below.

How Haiku Blogging Works

How you apply the concept of Haiku Blogging will depend on you, your blog, what your goals are, the rest of your life, etc. But here are some suggestions of how to apply the concept of Haiku Blogging to your blogging:

  1. Limit your blogging hours. Probably the most important on this list. What limits you set on yourself depend on your personal situation, but you should set a limit on the hours per day or per week that you blog. You might even limit the number of days you blog. And don’t just limit your writing time, but the time you spend on any blogging task. Effect: This will force you to choose the most important tasks and eliminate the chaff.
  2. Limit communication. If we allow them, email and IM and the phone and Twitter and other forms of communication will take up our entire day. Don’t allow them to do so. Set a number of times you’ll do email (I suggest twice a day), and a specific time when you’ll do IM and phone calls (say, an hour a day?). Effect: this will force you to communicate effectively, and give you distraction-free work time the rest of the day.
  3. Limit promotional activities. This includes commenting on other blogs, promoting your site on social bookmarking sites like Digg, emailing other bloggers, writing guest posts, etc. I suggest you limit yourself to 3 things per day (or fewer). Effect: This will force you to consider what activities will do the most to promote your blog … which will give you the most bang for your time.
  4. Limit stat checking. To a certain time of day. Perhaps once in the morning, for 10 minutes. No more than that! If you want to make it twice a day, fine … but checking your stats (and ad earnings) all day long is not productive, and is a waste of time. I’m guilt of it, just like any of us, but truthfully I know that it doesn’t help at all. Effect: eliminate a lot of useless time, freeing you up to actually write great content.

There are probably more things you can think of, but you get the idea.

The most essential blogging tasks

So this discussion of limiting yourself to the essential brings up the question: so what are the most essential blogging tasks?

There’s no one right answer to this question, as it will vary from blogger to blogger and depending on the blog and your goals. However, I’d like to submit my top 5 essential blogging tasks (in order):

1. Writing great, useful content
Writing content for your blog should always be the top priority. All the rest is extra compared to this. You need to create a reason for people to come to your site — well-written, concise, useful posts.

2. Interacting with readers
I never consider responding to comments or emails a waste of my time. Why? Because by interacting with readers, I am building a relationship with them, one that will last for a long time and keep them coming back. And to be honest, I enjoy this interaction and my relationship with readers very much. It keeps it fun.

3. Writing guest posts
Aside from great, useful content on your own site, having great useful content as a guest post on another blog is the best way to promote your blog and attract new readers. By far. Give away your best stuff to other bloggers, and you’ll see an increase in readership.

4. Networking with bloggers
I’ve developed some friendships with fellow bloggers that are among the most rewarding in my life. Bloggers are amazing people, in general. And your relationship with other bloggers can pay off, in the long run, with some collaborative efforts that can help both your blogs. Get away from thinking of other bloggers as competitors … helping out another blogger only helps you out in the long run.

5. Social bookmarking
Let’s face it … it’s a thrill to have one of your posts make it big on any social bookmarking site (Digg, delicious, StumbleUpon, reddit, Netscape, etc.) … and while there’s a very limited amount we can do to help our posts out, if there is anything we can do, it might be worth the effort. Best thing you can do: start out with a great post with a great headline.

Are there other important blogging tasks? Of course there are. But by identifying the most essential (and they may be different for you), you help ensure that you’re spending your blogging time in the most effective way possible.

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. John Motson says:

    Thanks Leo for a great post. I have bookmarked it for future reference.

    I did not know I was Haiku blogging :), but I have been practicing some of the things you mentioned.

    I only do stat checking, email checking and promotion at certain times of day.

    When I first started, if I let myself go, I would waste a whole day in a vicious circle, emailing, commenting, checking stats, promoting and back again.

    John

  2. Hafiz says:

    Limit time for blogging.. I don’t even have enough time to do what I am supposed to do – blogging, socializing, marketing, etc..

    What would work best for me is to plan my daily routines Instead of limiting the time spent. This would keep me on track everyday. Unfortunately I have yet to plan out a routine.. I’m great at procrastinating!

  3. Live Crunch says:

    I tend not to look at my blog stats for a week, and I like it that way because I am always surprised by traffic, keywords and everything else that comes with blogging stream.

    ~ Viva La LiveCrunch ~

  4. Bontb says:

    Leo,

    Great post and thanks for the interview!

  5. SpicePuppy says:

    If you chase two rabbits, both will escape. It’s funny how limiting what we try to accomplish actually lets us accomplish more, but it’s so true.

    I’d say that for most bloggers, checking stats once a week is plenty. Staring at your stats causes them to drop!

  6. fc says:

    Great stuff Leo,
    Have always loved what you say on zenhabits and this toes the same line…

    I used to dab in a bit of haiku poetry myself a few years back, and know how hard it is… especially when trying to express a genuine feeling in 3 words..

    Now to see it seamlessly integrated to blogging is absolutely amazing.. you have given me more than a lesson on haiku-ing today ..

    Alright 7 bucks off on your Ebook for me ..for this. :p

  7. Lucy Lastic says:

    A quality post
    Sage advice, deserving of
    A Haiku comment.

    :)

  8. Gyutae Park says:

    This is a great post and goes along with the Pareto principle where 20% of your work accounts for 80% of your results. By focusing on the most productive activities we are able to spend more time “having a life” and doing other things than just blogging. I wrote up a post on this 80-20 rule so make sure you read more about it: http://www.winningtheweb.com/80-20-rule-productivity.php

  9. Shawn Farner says:

    Great post, the title threw me off a little bit ;-). I thought we would be actually writing haikus. I wrote something in return.

  10. I agree with most of what you said in that it’s very important to focus on being really productive with the time you have. However, in your “Most essential blogging tasks” section I almost believe that promoting your blog is a tie with writing great content.

    Besides, writing great content when nobody is reading can be pretty discouraging. It’s important to make sure your hard work isn’t going on without reward. And if you don’t have anyone reading your blog it doesn’t really matter how great the content is.

  11. jsanderz says:

    What great advice, you hit the nail on the head, I find the longer I blog the more work to there seems to be to do.

    But I really enjoy it, and find mindmaps help me a great deal.
    With the help of the above advice this will make life just that bit easier.
    Regards.

  12. Sangesh says:

    Very helpful article indeed for a start-up blogger like me. I would definitely would try to implement all those tips that you have suggested in the article.

    Cheers.

  13. Entrecard says:

    I agree. It is too easy to get swept up into the world of blogging and spend way too much time doing it. We must limit ourselves.

  14. Great Post. Love the minimalists, they work the best. I have always been a minimalists. I started being one in school just getting by with enough effort in each class. Doing it at my blog at http://justhuntingtips.blogspot.com/ .

  15. Matt Wolfe says:

    What a great post. I completely agree and find myself constantly getting caught up in all that comes along with blogging. One thing that I am really trying to get through my head is that I need to focus a little more on guest posting. I have a hard time sending my best stuff off. I’m too selfish with it. When I ever I write something that I think is quality, I want it for my blog. When you really think about it though, my blog isn’t where the most people are going to get their eyes on it. The really good stuff has much more potential to draw visitors to my blog if it’s posted somewhere that is much more popular than my blog.

  16. Max Powers says:

    I was waiting for the Haiku poem but it never arrived. Great post, great advice.

  17. K says:

    Great post.

    I thought it would be about my bizarre way of blogging
    (lots of white space)
    but this is even better.

  18. K says:

    Great post.

    I thought it would be about my bizarre way of blogging
    (lots of white space)
    but this is even better.

  19. DrSteve says:

    Let’s take this powerful idea even further. What about condensing the content radically, a la haiku? I’ve been experimenting with this. Now and then (I’m thinking of making it a regular once-a-week post) I submit a piece that is ONLY TITLE AND PHOTO. In other words, the large font of the title contains an aphorism which is illustrated by the photo; or, if you like, its a kind of cartoon – picture plus caption. (I see it takes longer to explain than to experience!)

  20. Mary Jaksch says:

    This is a very useful post. I will need to change some habits, for example looking at stats only once a week. A newbie blogger like myself rushes to look at the stats first thing each morning :-)

    I’m in awe of bloggers like you, Leo, as well as Skellie and Darren. You all produce such a quantity of consistently high-quality posts–AND have a life!

    I’d be interested to know, Leo, how much time you use to write and publish a single post. Do you set yourself a time-limit?

  21. Moxie says:

    17 syllables, not 14
    5
    7
    5
    :)
    I write food haiku to remember recipes

  22. jhay says:

    I remember my Haiku poems back in highschool. Never was really good at it, still the principles behind it were a real producitvity boost when I joined the school paper as an editor. Words not needed, deleted.

  23. Royston says:

    This post was great timing. I have been spending a great deal of time just getting my new site up, playing around with themes and plugins, ads, just to get the right feel. I feel like I need to step back.

  24. Leo says:

    Thanks for the nice comments everyone!

    @Mary Jaksch: I don’t have a time limit for writing a post, but it generally takes me an hour or less, depending on the length required by the subject of the post. Sometimes more if it takes a lot of research.

  25. Pua says:

    thanks leo for this great post and darren for publishing it. otherwise, i might have never ‘run’ into leo’s great blog.

    love the haiku blogging recommendations. yes, less is better because it keeps our motivation and creativity alive without draining our energy.

    leo, i like your open thread ‘ask me anything you want’. this is a splendid idea to keep a lively conversation going with our blog visitors. takes a lot of commitment though.

    i might just come back to your blog and ask you a question. aloha, pua

  26. Steven Snell says:

    This is a really excellent post. Setting boundaries is hard to do sometimes, but it is necessary.

  27. This is a good point. I especially like the point of “stat checking”. Because I know I am guilty of this. I catch myself all to frequently see how my blog is doing throughout the day even though I know this doesn’t make too much of a difference. But as a newer blogger I’m always excited to see my blog picking up momentum.

    I am going to take these points to heart and really concentrate on simplifying my blogging life.

  28. You make me feel guilty. :-) I waste a lot of time by checking traffics stats and chitika and adsense earnings. But you are right, the discipline also include limiting the time for these activities, specially if they are not very productive.

  29. Gisele B. says:

    I agree with everything Leo said, but the problem is that by the time you get throw the list … that’s almost an entire day.

    I admire Leo’s ability to have been able to grow so fast in such a short period of time and I wish my subscribers base had grown to 17,000+ in 6-7 months.

    Another thing that was not included in the post was research. Some niches involve a lot (a LOT) of research.

    I’ve added podcasting to my list of activities and that’s a full time job (or it seems) in it self by the time you contact the guest, record, edit, edit and edit again and then it’s time to do it all over again.

    That said, I do intend on applying the Haiku philosophy by adding an extra member to our team.

    I hope that with time, I’ll be more able to balance out all blogging related activities. That said, everyday I do ask myself the question: is this a priority and does it makes a difference in expanding my reach. This usually helps me eliminate acitivities that aren’t worth it.

    Thanks Darren & Leo for another great post!

    Gisele
    http://www.mybeautymatch.com

  30. Kelvin Kao says:

    When I first read the title, I thought someone was actually writing blogs in Haikus… but that would be a cool idea. Who knows, I might try it out.

  31. The irony is that the more popular a blog becomes, the more pressure an owner has to produce a constant supply of new content.

    It is sad when it becomes a chore due to competitive pressures.

  32. Jirel says:

    This is great post.
    I from now will try to limit time for blogging.

    Yes, Moxie is right. Haiku contains 17 syllables. In short, it is called 5/7/5.

  33. I am so bad with number 4. Not so much when it comes to checking Google Analytics or Amazon (they only update once a day), but when it comes to checking Adsense and other affiliates I am just terrible.

    If I really concentrate on destroying the bad stat checking habit, I’ll bet I’d free up at least an hour a day.

    Note to self: GET RIGHT ON THIS!!!

  34. Excellent post to read first thing in the morning before the start of a whirlwind of holidays! Now and then it’s good to interject a bit of Asian wisdom and philosophy in our lives, and blogging should be no different.

    Thanks for turning me on to your blog!

    Susan Payton
    Egg Marketing & Public Relations
    The Marketing Eggspert

  35. Mandy says:

    Wow that’s a lot of balls you have to keep in the air everyday I will never be able to moan about how busy my life is again.!

    You fit all that in and manage it successfully. I will definitely take this post to heart and think about how I use my time, and make some strategic changes…

    Thanks

  36. I need this one, because my problem about blogging, make it blogging nice and not suck..so you are the best darren. Zen is powerful ways to live

    thanks you
    http://www.book4buy.com

  37. @DrSteve: I do something (somewhat) similar to what you suggest – I limit all my posts to ten sentences or less (as you could probably guess from the URL). Really forces me to distill what I want to say down to the essential – and keeps me from wandering off into the weeds time-wise.

  38. anna says:

    It would be an interesting post to see which external networking (social networks, digg, etc) are the most useful for Pro Blogger readers as it pertain to their niche.. A good guide for newbies.

    Leo, I agree with you about the rambling in your posts. It is hard not to do it. Perhaps setting a word limit for yourself might help. I am so guilty of this. Also if you research for your posts it takes a lot of time. Any suggestions?

    PS how long did it take you to write this post from start to finish? Happy Thanksgiving to everyone who is celebrating it!

  39. Oh ya the site is related about zen here http://www.inthesphereofsilence.com/ by vijay eswaran

  40. Ian says:

    There are websites specifically for Haiku blogging, they’re called Twitter and Jaiku.

  41. Thanks so much for the advice. I do find myself unconsciously checking my stats in between nearly every activity of the day. I know it’s not productive but it sure is fun.

    http://www.haikuninja.com

  42. Niamh says:

    I will give it a go and let you know.

  43. Thomas Flight says:

    Wow! That is a great post Leo! I really needed to hear that. The amount of time I spend blogging has been a struggle for me.

    I think blogging should never eat into things like family, friends and so on. I recently stopped posting on one of my blog because of this.

  44. Kelly DuMar says:

    I read your blog,
    and a new idea,
    like a butterfly flew to my blog.

  45. Ryan says:

    Yeah that makes real sense… get more readers by writing less.

    maybe I’ll get a raise from my boss by working less.

    or maybe I’ll live longer by breathing less.

  46. MaxBro says:

    Going with Number One from above, a problem I see is that bloggers will often write whatever comes to mind regardless of whether it’s worthy or not, just for the sake of making an update. I’ve been guilty of this myself plenty of times.

    I suppose this happens because bloggers are afraid if they don’t post all the time people will stop visiting their site. But it seems that it’s just infinitely better to concentrate on making a great article rather than make mini contrived updates.

  47. words stream from fingers
    sharing ideas with the World
    Bloggo Ergo Sum

  48. SaVvmari says:

    Insightful and informative. Thank you.

    http://savvmari.com

  49. Yarijik says:

    Great post and great advices…
    I must admit that I have to get rid of the time-wasting habits myself, like endless mail and earning checking… It does take a lot of time and completely useless…
    So I take this challenge: All the checking to be done twice a day – afternoon and evening only!!!
    Wish me luck! :)

  50. Ming says:

    It’s 1.39 am. The best use of my blogging time, will be to get some shut eye.

    The trick after all, is to know when to stop:)