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5 Ways to ‘Systemize’ your Blogging

Guest Post by Nick Thacker

If you’re anything like me, you struggle with self-discipline every now and then—especially when it comes to your business. I run two businesses, and am trying to build a successful blog. My businesses, luckily, are getting to be more and more self-sustaining every day, though they constantly need work and updating to maintain their “edge.” My blog, on the other hand, has been a terrible headache for me to grow and manage.

Until I realized it, too, was a business.

I never planned to sell anything on my blog, and may never want to. I knew that other popular businesspeople, “gurus,” and professionals had started blogging, some for pleasure and some for money. For a long time, I was under the impression that these people only found their success through hard work, determination, and a bunch of luck. I assumed that starting my own blog was going to need that luck as well.

When I began writing and blogging, however, I quickly realized that the workload and planning that my blog needed resembled the time commitment my companies required in their infant stages. Recently, I began thinking of my blog as a business, and that has made all the difference.

If you are starting a blog for any reason, it will greatly benefit you to begin viewing it not just as your own personal journal, but a living, growing business. Businesses need nurture, dedication, and planning, and one of the best ways to grow a business and “make your own luck,” is to look for ways to “systemize” it. Here are five great ways to begin systemizing your own blog to take advantage of processes, time management, and growth control:

1. Post schedule

There are already numerous articles on ProBlogger.net that discuss ways to schedule your posting frequency, but understand the importance a set schedule can have, psychologically. By writing out a physical schedule, I’ve been able to maintain a steady stream of fresh content for my own blog, and having the schedule on my desk has provided a great deal of “accountability” for me—if I miss a post day, my calendar will be there to remind me! A post calendar or schedule is also a great place to manage post topics and ideas, as is the Post Ideas WordPress widget.

2. Daily schedule

Going hand-in-hand with the first tip, planning out the time you spend in front of your computer can pay huge dividends in the long run. Before I had a plan, I would sporadically check email, write a bit, browse the web, read favorite blogs, and a plethora of other things. Now, I sit down around midnight every day (I’m a night owl) and spend 15-20 minutes checking emails. I spend about half an hour checking my RSS reader and commenting on insightful posts, and then work for about two hours on client work. For a break, I write—sometimes a blog post, sometimes just a rant. I finish up any client work, and then I spend about 1-2 hours researching and writing a post for my blog. This schedule is not perfect, but it keeps me active and ensures that whenever I’m working, I’m in “the zone” and not bouncing back and forth between numerous tasks.

3. Communication filtering

Part of promoting a blog, as you know, is reaching out to fellow bloggers and authors and becoming an active part of their communities. Commenting, posting on forums, and emailing are great ways to do this, but you can get carried away “following up” in so many different capacities that you forget to “follow through.” I used to comment on blogs and forums so often that I wouldn’t remember where I’d commented, and my efforts would go to waste. Eventually, I decided to set up a “system” for my communications to keep me in line. For example: whenever I comment on a blog or forum topic, I immediately drag the page to a bookmarks folder called “Threads.” At the beginning of my workday (night), I click “Open all in tabs” to see what changes, if any, have taken place on the sites. In addition, I always subscribe to “comment updates,” if available, to ensure that I’m contacted immediately after someone else has left a comment or post.

4. Staying in the game

I mentioned earlier the importance for my businesses to maintain their “edge,” and now my blog (about entrepreneurship in college) needs to be on top of current events and trending topics in my arena of business. Being a professional in your own industry may be enough for you to stay aware of what’s going on in your community, but if you want a little extra support, consider using services like Google Alerts and Twitter “hashtags.” Another great way to stay ahead of the curve is to become active in popular social media communities (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.). While being able to drive referral traffic to your blog, being a Web 2.0 socialite has the added benefit of letting you build these social systems into your blogging schedule (dedicate a specific amount of time to developing relationships, communities, and followers every day).

5. Building habits

My schedule is not ideal for many people, but remember—I’m not married, not (currently) taking classes, and don’t have a day job. I maintain a midnight-7am schedule for blogging because that’s when I’m able to focus without being distracted—no matter what. I may be able to work undisturbed during the day every once in a while, but by choosing a time to work that is consistent has led to my building a habit around this time. My body now knows at midnight that it’s time to focus, crack down, and produce. Habits are a great “system” to have in place because they can help force efficiency and effectiveness in everything. Get in the habit of writing at least once a day, and start building good habits around your blogging “business” as soon as possible.

The ultimate goal of systematization is not necessarily automation—though when executed deliberately and correctly, automation can be a welcome hand in your business’ operation. By systemizing your blog, you are able to begin working “on” your blog, not “in” your blog—to borrow from a popular business expression. Sure, you need to provide great, original content, but understand that there’s more to blogging than what you type (unless, of course, the blog is for your eyes only!)

Systemize whatever processes you can that will free your mind and time for “business building” tasks, and you’ll find that your writing quality will actually improve rather than suffer!

I hope I’ve started the ball rolling for you to begin examining your current habits and systems, and I hope you’ll consider working out your own “systems” for maximizing your effectiveness blogging. If you have any thoughts or advice I’ve left out—please comment to let us all know!

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. Dan Miranda says:

    Awesome post! I’ll be sure to use these tips and strategies when applying to my own blog, Command Your Time.

    Now the most useful tip – for me – is one I’m going to highlight right now:

    Have a daily schedule. Once I have that daily schedule I can often get down to business and actually start working.

    I suggest all of you to have that daily schedule as well!

  2. Creating a habit and planning out ahead is good, when I started out, it seems the habit was not in me, so I always feel I had left out something, but not long ago I started to write what I need to accomplished today, and it did really force me to do.

    I believe in planing ahead and writing down what’s need to accomplished as a habit to move forward to my goal everyday.

    But there is one more element that’s very important, which I learn from the late Gary Halbert’s newsletter and that is “always be pro- activity”

  3. Rahul Jadhav says:

    As of now, I am blogging as a hobby. When my blog grows I will think of organising it.

  4. lair360 says:

    That is one heck of a good article. Great write-up!
    However, controlling two blog is very difficult and it can frustrate you.
    So, my recommendation is to hire somebody as a staff to control your other blog.

    Lair360 – Globalnews Administrator

  5. This is such a fantastic blog post, i have always thought of my blogs as ‘businesses’ and even have a schedule, but your advice about communication filtering is a very good piece of advice, and one which i will definitely utilize in helping me run my two biggest sites, and hopefully help me promote and succeed in opening up new sites in the future.

    Thanks a lot Nick!!!

    Andy MacDonald
    http://www.mileycyrus-online.co.uk
    http://www.cherylanncole.co.uk

  6. I have the weekly schedule (different topics each day) for The Casual Observer at the top of the right column. It is intended to inform my readers, but it also serves to keep me on topic :)

  7. Salman says:

    Hi Darren
    Really awesome post.I am developing my blog with your tips and tricks.

    Thanks
    Regards
    Salman
    http://www.tips4blogging.co.cc

  8. Jason says:

    Awesome Post! Just the motivation I needed to set my blog on autopilot and keep the content running!

  9. agentmango says:

    I got plenty of time to blog. But I ain’t got the bucks to stay on blogging so I went on free hosted blog.

    I’m gonna transfer this maybe If I can buy my own domain and hosting.

  10. Alex says:

    I’m also not married, no kids, and love to work at night, I do like the last point since it is really about building the habit that will help systemize a lot of your work.

    Bests,
    Alex (GuruOfSales)

  11. Andrew Wong says:

    Brilliant post, very useful because I am about to start my own blog.

    Question: Do you think my new blog should have something to do with the current trend, which is social media and web 2.0. Just by looking at Mashable, it really motivates me to start something similar like that. Would the competition be fierce if I choose this field? (you are welcome to recommend any other blogging themes as you see fit) I wonder if there is any services online via which I could do qualitative and quantitative research about certain blog topics in terms of competition, profitability, popularity, etc.

    Let me know. I have been following your threads and believe it’s definitely a useful resource for everybody. I would recommend it to everyone that I come across who needs help with blogging.

  12. Trevor C says:

    It’s funny, I have systemised my main business for many years, it seemed the obvious way to move it forward.

    I did not view my blogging activity (which has nothing to do with my main business) as something that needed to be systemised or even structured, BIG mistake.

    Your post has some great ideas and has made me realise that if I am to succeed with my blog, I need to get some structure and a healthy dose of discipline into the way way I current work.

  13. Saad Kamal says:

    Great post. well managing that ‘extra’ time is often a big issue for me. Especially for people who have a full time day job.

  14. Ugo onah says:

    It all boils down to discipline and self organistion. There’s no way you could achieve keeping a ‘schedule’, ‘habit’, and its siblings without ‘them two’. I think i need some training there.

    My blog is presently parked – in the “limbo”. Am redesigning, purchasing a domain and putting all logistics in place. That’s where am begining to take my blog as a business. Nice one nick!

  15. mike says:

    Treating it like a business is a great way to get motivated.

  16. Wow! what a perfect timing for this awesome post! I am just planning to start my own full time blog. Thank you very much!

  17. Peter Shine says:

    It’s good to see some practical examples of yours for ‘systemizing’ blogging. I may start developing mine from imitating what’s you’ve done, since I am also un-married, un-employed too. Thank you.

  18. Jennifer says:

    I have done a decent job with systemizing the blog itself (have a great editorial calendar), but not so much with systemizing my life. I am a touch easily distracted and find it hard to keep to a routine.

    I’d love to hear more about ways to make blogging more routine. How can you trigger the mental shift into ‘blog time’? I seem to get it done, but its from a mix of batch blogging, blogging while at my day job and late-night-get-it-done work.

  19. Ferry Prima says:

    I dunno if i can do it or not. But i must do it aniways :) Thanks for your advice

  20. Insightful stuff Nick.That’s a very good way to run a blog that will auto publish articles on a given schedule too. Another positive thing to note is on going on vacation, the “publish later” button helps to set the post to be published on the date that you might be away, hence still sticking to the post schedule.

  21. Wow, you work from midnight to 7am? When do you sleep? From 7am or before midnight?

  22. Jackie Chia says:

    THE POST IS REALLY VALUABLE FOR ME.
    THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR THIS.

    JACKIE CHIA

  23. Great post Nick! To add on #3, I subscribe to the comments, then set up an automatic filter which filters all comment replies to a folder for comments. This is so that I don’t get flooded with comment replies in my inbox. Every now and then, I just check by the comments folder so I can follow-up on all the replies in one go. I just wrote a post on how to 9 easy tips to manage emails effectively, which readers can check out here if they are interested: http://embraceliving.net/blog/2009/06/9-easy-steps-to-effective-email-management/

  24. DK says:

    aaah! Bingo! Step 1 and Step 2 are so so true! My mind wanders like a wind!

    Its simply hard for me to do one thing at a time and not 100 other things – Well it all comes down to self discipline. I am a food blogger, so naturally, its not that hard for me to think of content per se – but to do the scheduling and planning and setting aside it on a day to day basis, – that;s what puts me in the backlog!

    It all comes down to planning and setting aside time for every small activity and I hope to be able to do that:)

  25. Julie B. says:

    Writing regular blog entries is much like fitness. If you practice regularly, it becomes easier to write. Ideas pop into your mind while you’re in shower or mowing the grass. Exercising without regularly scheduled routines usually results in dropping out, not reaching your fitness goals, and maybe even being worse off than when you started! Your blog has to have regular “fitness” too. Get your blog in shape!

  26. Gina says:

    Coming from the other side–I am married, with three kids and plenty of other responsibilities besides blogging–keeping a system is essential. I actually don’t mind a little automation here and there to get me through the busy “real life” weeks. I wish I had more time to write, but right now I do try to squeeze in all the tasks you mention–reading, commenting, email, etc.–but it’s hard.

  27. Dave Doolin says:

    If I have a problem, it’s that I could write 8-12 hours a day, several days a week.

    This interferes with stuff like eating, paying bills, etc.

    Currently, I use blocks of time where I work continuously for several days (5-10), then take some time completely off. The scheduling feature of WordPress is stupendously useful.

    I’ve never in 30 years mastered a daily schedule. And I’ve tried, very, very hard. Even weekly schedules are hard. I like to work when I feel like working, no matter what day it is.

    So now I play to my strengths.

    Does anyone else have trouble with daily schedules?

    DK: I don’t attempt to do one thing at a time anymore either. I am much more productive having several threads working. I see it as “productively managing distraction.”

  28. Hunter says:

    Planning and actually executing is the biggest problem with my writing. Great article and tips though. It’s great to get motivated every once and a while.

  29. jan says:

    There’s merit in having a daily schedule, but coming up with this can have a spotty effect on the direction of your blog.

    A more coherent approach in my view is to develop an editorial calendar as opposed to just slotting or scheduling posts for certain days. An editorial calendar can give your blog momentum it badly needs if you want it to grow. This means you’re building upon the previous ideas you have written before. Can be a series of articles. Can be pillar posts.

    How do you come up with an editorial calendar that covers a month long schedule? Use mind mapping. That will be a great help.

    Of course, I have an insight on this kind of approach because – aha, I have completed Darren’s 31 Days BBB. How about that. lols.

    Now, if I can only tie myself up before my desktop and really, really work on my own editorial calendar, I’d be an uber blogger. At least in two years time. Ahahaha.

    But the rest of your points are great, Nick. I would love to adopt them into my blogging routine. This is great stuff. Well done.

  30. I’m trying to explain to a client that they need to organize their blog and not just use it as a dumping ground when they decide that they have something to say. Think I might send this to them…:) Thanks!

  31. I have found that consistency is major when it comes to all of my blogs. Sadly though, when I can’t seem to write any more I just kind of turn the blog static and make all of the relevant old posts easily available on the front page and just let the site sit there.

  32. Nick Thacker says:

    @The Bad Blogger: I like your addition of ‘always be pro-activity’ – great quote, thanks!

    @lair360: True, controlling two (or more) blogs can be difficult, and if you have the funding available, hiring out some staff writers can be the way to go. If you’re strapped for cash, consider finding an ‘intern’ of sorts who might be interested in working as a blogger in exchange for your expertise in your field.

  33. Nick Thacker says:

    @Jason – I am an addict of automation (at one point I almost talked my business partner into hiring overseas ‘help’ to write posts), but be careful–automate enough to build habits, but there’s no great way to automate ‘genuine’ posts–for some reason, the “best” posts seem to have taken the longest for me to write!

    @agentmango – what’s your niche? I’m setting up a blogging network soon focusing on college entrepreneurship and closely related fields…

  34. Nick Thacker says:

    @AndrewWong – Thanks for the kind words; to answer your question: the “Web 2.0″ niche is becoming less of a “niche” and more of a way of life–pretty soon every website will be included in that description and the trend, by definition, will be replaced by the de facto style of the internet. I know there are plenty of blogs already focusing on the social media aspect (DoshDosh, this blog, and Mashable come to mind), so I know there is competition, but if you have an interest in the subject and would be able to sustain a posting frequency, I think you could certainly build a successful blog based around these ideas.

    I know this sounds like a shameless sales pitch, but I wrote two ebooks that might help you out. They’re completely free on my website, and both are written around your question. Check it out and let me know if you have any more questions!

  35. Lou says:

    This is a great article, and definitely a must-do if you seriously blog and wish to maintain readers and income.

    Unfortunately, not all of us are so lucky with our time. I have a full-time day job, and I’m married. Scheduling out time seems to be the hardest thing to do for any of my non-day job endeavors, as you never know what mood the missus will be in.

    For me, it seems that a productive blogging schedule and photography schedule has been completely failboated at this point, so I’m still just doing what I can when I can. But hey, these things happen.

  36. Nick Thacker says:

    @Jennifer – Motivation is always easiest for me at the outset, when the sky’s the limit. Keeping myself motivated throughout the long haul is unbelievably difficult sometimes. Try bringing your blog with you wherever you go: Think about ways to incorporate your everyday life into something you can blog about that makes sense in your niche. There are ways to do this without forfeiting your personal life–for example: my blog is about business (specifically entrepreneurship as a college student) so whenever I’m out, I make mental notes (and sometimes not-so-mental notes!) about the businesses I patron; what they’re doing right, and what they’re doing wrong. I can bring these things back to my readers as evidence to build a post around.

    The point is that I start thinking about a certain thing a business does, and I am eager to write about it as soon as I get back–I’m not much of a writer, so this helps me STAY motivated! Try it out and let me know!

    @WeFlySpitfires – Haha, seriously! I usually try to schedule business meetings and such after noon, so I can sleep til then… I wouldn’t recommend my particular schedule to anyone who has a responsible 9-5 job, obviously, but it’s all about making do with what you have. I chose to get my work done when I normally would be destroying noObs in Halo 3… but I pay the price for it every Sunday morning at church!

    @DaveDoolin – I understand completely. To extent though, you must realize that working for a time and taking some time off IS your schedule–especially since it works for you! I would get too used to not working to start up again, so I try to push myself to do something productive every day no matter what. Like you said though–realize what works for you (as a schedule) individually and stick to it!

    @jan – Thank you for your tip–when I got started, I just needed something SUPER easy to keep me in the direction of producing content. I had no idea where I wanted to go with the blog, but I knew I wanted to talk about business. Now I think I should crack down and take it to the next level with an editorial calendar. My readership is looking up, and hopefully by offering “deeper” content streams (by following an editorial calendar), it will jump up even more.

    BTW (to everyone), Darren’s 31DBBB stuff is great–I got the daily email tips and can vouch for their sincerity and merit… Check it out if you haven’t yet.

  37. Jim Gaudet says:

    Staying organized is, for me, the most important aspect of my life. I am currently running too many projects to count and trying to be “social” can suck away all of my time.

    So I create my schedule and haven’t looked back..

    Good article Nick, too many people overlook this, and not just for blogs.

  38. Nick Thacker says:

    @Jim – If I had to follow this post up with something, it would be called “Oh, yeah, and those tips aren’t just for blogs…” I’ve got the blogging thing down, now I just need to apply the scheduling and habit-building tips to all the other areas of my life!

    You hit the nail on the head–thanks, Jim!

  39. Kayla says:

    My biggest problem is my daily schedule. “I would sporadically check email, write a bit, browse the web, read favorite blogs, and a plethora of other things.” – Sounds just like me.

    Thanks for this post, I’m going to take all these tips in!

  40. Rohit says:

    This post has a lot of depth in it and it re-iterated the need of planning ahead in me which, I think I am very bad at.

  41. Michelle says:

    To echo everyone else, this is a great post! I’ve been blogging since 2000 but until now, it has always been a personal journal for me. This post really is helping me wrap my mind around treating my blog as a business, a concept I have been having trouble with. Thanks!

  42. Thanks for what really are obvious tips. Blogging is just another business requiring the same disciplines as your other pursuits.

    It’s good to be reminded of the basics.

  43. José says:

    Hi,

    Planning your blogging tasks and time spent is important not only because of the blog itself, but also (even probably more) to avoid that your blogging activity may get in the way of your other daily ones.
    We all have read about how blogging can prevent us from doing our daily tasks and even worse, important ones.
    Also blogging cannot interfere in a negative way upon quality time spent with family and friends.
    Blog wisely and you won’t need to spend hours to get a quality blog.

    Have a nice week,

    José

  44. I still don’t get the twitter hashtags.

  45. Nick Thacker says:

    @needmoney – hashtags are a way to mark your “tweets” with a keyword that will be indexed by sites and APIs that follow Twitter. I believe (though I haven’t looked into it much) that Seth Godin and the guys over at Squidoo have built on this concept with “saveable” Twitter searches or something to that effect.

    If anyone has any more information regarding hashtags, let us know!

  46. Diana says:

    Point 4 is one I’m particularly bad about – it hadn’t even occurred to me to track with simple bookmarks. Great tip, thank you!

  47. Nick Thacker says:

    @Jennifer – Motivation is always easiest for me at the outset, when the sky’s the limit. Keeping myself motivated throughout the long haul is unbelievably difficult sometimes. Try bringing your blog with you wherever you go: Think about ways to incorporate your everyday life into something you can blog about that makes sense in your niche. There are ways to do this without forfeiting your personal life–for example: my blog is about business (specifically entrepreneurship as a college student) so whenever I’m out, I make mental notes (and sometimes not-so-mental notes!) about the businesses I patron; what they’re doing right, and what they’re doing wrong. I can bring these things back to my readers as evidence to build a post around.

    The point is that I start thinking about a certain thing a business does, and I am eager to write about it as soon as I get back–I’m not much of a writer, so this helps me STAY motivated! Try it out and let me know!

    @WeFlySpitfires – Haha, seriously! I usually try to schedule business meetings and such after noon, so I can sleep til then… I wouldn’t recommend my particular schedule to anyone who has a responsible 9-5 job, obviously, but it’s all about making do with what you have. I chose to get my work done when I normally would be destroying noObs in Halo 3… but I pay the price for it every Sunday morning at church!

  48. Nick Thacker says:

    @DaveDoolin – I understand completely. To extent though, you must realize that working for a time and taking some time off IS your schedule–especially since it works for you! I would get too used to not working to start up again, so I try to push myself to do something productive every day no matter what. Like you said though–realize what works for you (as a schedule) individually and stick to it!

    @jan – Thank you for your tip–when I got started, I just needed something SUPER easy to keep me in the direction of producing content. I had no idea where I wanted to go with the blog, but I knew I wanted to talk about business. Now I think I should crack down and take it to the next level with an editorial calendar. My readership is looking up, and hopefully by offering “deeper” content streams (by following an editorial calendar), it will jump up even more.

    BTW (to everyone), Darren’s 31DBBB stuff is great–I got the daily email tips and can vouch for their sincerity and merit… Check it out if you haven’t yet.

  49. Josh says:

    I always find systems helpful, and I love the idea of thinking of your blog itself as a mini business. What a great idea!

    I wrote something similar on finding a blogging schedule and sticking to it here: http://bit.ly/i9Snx Interesting we should be thinking along the same lines on the same day!

  50. Laura Corby says:

    Excellent post. I need to not only follow this advice for my blog, which has been allowed to go by the wayside for far too long now, but also for my podcast, which is in the same shape!

    @Dave Doolin I have never mastered a schedule of any kind, no matter how hard I try. It’s not possible for me to only have one thing going on at a time! Just ask my frazzled administrative assistant, who by the way, saves my life on a daily basis!

    I do think if I could find at least a way to pick a broader goal such as a specific day, not necessarily a time slot, but at least a day, and do a weekly podcast and blog, I would be in great shape.

    Who knows! Perhaps if I got good enough at sticking to that broad schedule, I would be able to whittle away at narrowing the parameters! Let’s not hold our breath though!