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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.