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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. Rob says:

    Great post! This keeps me motivated to help my blog.

  2. Erica Stone says:

    As a fairly new blogger, and an even newer Twitter-er (? LOL) I was reading this post and the responses, absorbing info and stopped short at the comment by @needmoney.com. I also don’t fully understand hashtags. I’ve been doing some research to better understand them and maybe this will help someone – or at least pull some additional thoughts from other readers.

    Hashtags are a way to track information about a topic or subject. Think of them as tags you would use in a blog post. If you “follow” hashtags on Twitter, they will track any hashtags you use. You can then collect information about all tweets using that hashtag.

    The site itself gives a great example about how a hashtag was used to keep interested parties up to date on information regarding the evacuation efforts caused by the 2007 San Diego fires.

    Intuitively, I can see the value of hashtags – there’s so much information to sort through on Twitter that any method of lasering in on your key topics should be useful but that only works if the population fully adopts the concept, or at least the population with which you would want to interact. Applications like TweetBeep can help you do this without requiring a shift in user actions.

    I am also on Squidoo, and, yes, there are several Twitter modules available including a hashtag module useful in tracking a debate one might launch on Twitter. The module will capture and display all the resulting tweets with the hashtag you use for your debate. Reportedly, it takes a lot of work to promote these modules.

    Any other thoughts on how to use hashtags would be helpful.

    Great blog, by the way. I’ve read several posts and am learning a great deal from your material. Thanks!

  3. Great post-Discipline my dear Lads and Lasses Discipline!!!!

    I never said most of the things I said.
    Yogi Berra

  4. Tech Slice says:

    Schedules are easy to make, but hard to stick to. Time management is the key.

  5. Nick;
    Somewhere between that midnight and 7 am time slot, :) maybe you can fix the links to your websites. Tried to click on
    A Higher Calling Music and kept getting error page:
    http://www.highercallingmedia.com/report/?id=291339120252&s=default

    Sounds like an interesting site – hope you fix it!

  6. Nick,
    Great post… Its always so beneficial when topics that seem like they should be obvious disciplines are backed up with practical applications… Because sometimes they’re so obvious we forget to practice what we know. Thanks for the reminder. Its the attention to little disciplines that distinguishes the great from the good!

  7. Nick Thacker says:

    @Michelle – remember, most great products started out as a solution to someone’s personal problem… if your blog is a personal blog, what are your problems, and do you offer solutions? If so, you’re probably not unique (sorry!); if you can round up others who are looking for your solution as well–your blog just became a business!

    @Laura – Definitely try something broader to get started! Broader, in the sense of an “easier” goal, is a good way to start building a habit. Once you regularly meet your target of one productive day a week, you can add days as you see fit. As an avid eater, I found it easier to ween myself off of one thing at a time and introduce a healthier substitute. Once I got used to the substitute, I’d pick something else–until my entire diet consists of healthy stuff I actually WANT to eat. Treat your blog/business the same way; start slow and small with habits.

    @Erica – Thanks for insight–I wonder if there would ever be any benefit to starting/finding a resource that analyzes hashtag trends like Google Trends does… seems it would be a good way of seeing what Twitter is thinking about at different times of the year. May be an interesting aside for Google, or a cool website someone can build!

    @TechSlice – I keep seeing the theme of time management come up, and while I do recognize the importance of managing personal time “better,” I feel that much of what I do is based around what I can see as short term, attainable goals–I wouldn’t set out to conquer the world in one night, but I could feasibly annex my neighbor’s apartment if I set my mind to it. The takeaway here is time management is a skill that must be practiced, honed, and perfected, and is not a destination, but a journey. Instead of focusing on managing your time, focus on managing what you want to get done today. One thing. Period. And then do it. Chances are you’ll soak up the great feelings of productivity and strive to do one more thing. And then another. And so on.

    I actually wrote a post about that on my site, in response to something Havi Brooks wrote–it’s called “One Thing,” and it was a fun post–check it out.

    And thank you ALL for the outstanding comments–this is fun!

  8. sci-man says:

    Thank for useful information.

  9. More and more people are realizing that blog is a business model and not a “make-money-easy” model. Great information!

  10. Alex says:

    There is 5 ways as Nick posted .
    1# Post schedule
    2# Daily schedule
    3#Communication filtering
    4#Staying in the game
    5#Building habits

    well done .Save it .

  11. Girish says:

    Totally agree with you , even I had written about scheduling
    http://dotgiri.com/2009/06/15/how-to-publish-post-on-a-future-date-time-scheduling-post/

  12. PraShawn says:

    Great post. I think dedication is a very important word when growing a business. I think planning is a great way to keep you motivated. I have no problem with planning. I work 6 days a week on my blog for couple of hours a day. I think planning can systemize the workflow.

  13. Raoul says:

    Hi,

    as always, an insightful post. I agree totally and the principles fit quite nicely with all sports as well – planning a season, a year, or even a few years, to peak at specific periods requires you to be systematic so that you can experience small continuous improvements (the Japanese call it Kaizen).

    Thank you

    Raoul

  14. Insightful and timely post. I’ve been struggling with this myself lately – I have a general idea of what I’ll be writing during the week, but then the week’s obligations come at me and I get distracted. And then I get tired simply because it is a lot of work – rewarding, but a lot. But you’re absolutely right – it has to be viewed as a job of sorts, even if you’re not aiming to make money from it. I love the idea of setting up a strict calendar…that will be my project for the week! Thanks for this!

  15. To add to this post, read Getitng Things Done by David allen for more tips on systems like these.

  16. I think the most important thing is to just stay motivated to keep writing as much as possible.

  17. Good stuff Nick.

    Not sure about the the physical timetable but I like the simple, pragmatic and memorable steps.

    We (two of us) are just starting a blog for a new company. Any guidelines for that? We are making it clear which of us is speaking, and not attempting to change each others style. Anything else?

  18. Great post, Nick!

    In the last few weeks, I have begun systemizing my writing life so that I can be at my most productive when I need to be (since I have so many projects going on).

    I like your idea of creating a daily “schedule” to help keep you on task. I find when I have things scheduled out, I’m a lot less likely to spend 2 hours on Facebook when I should be writing the next chapter in my novel or coming up with an editorial calendar for next month.

    I’m going to try making a daily writing schedule for every day this week and see how it goes.

  19. BloggerDaily says:

    Yeah. I started to write seriously when I accept blogging as a business. And I agree we need a systematic way of blogging to ensure that we could optimize the profit from our blog.

    I’m a student and I only a little time for blogging. But I’d made a schedule for myself so I can maintain my blogs so it’ll be there for the readers.

    Thanks for the list! It inspires me =)

  20. Vikas says:

    Nice put….

    Have a posting schedule can also have adverse effects.
    1. if you post regularly on weekends and by chance you miss to post on some weekend it hurts your readers and keeps frustrated who have been waiting for you post.

    2. Regular schedule can put you pressure to post, even when not prepared and produce not good quality content.

    Its better to have posting at + or – days and keep you readers on toes and not give them any idea as when the next post will be published.

  21. Teresa says:

    Thank you for the tips. It makes sense of course. I’ve wanted to monetize my blog for sometime but need to revamp the design and my personal habits in getting to that point. I have a cooking blog and most of my time turns to research, cooking and testing, photographing and then writing. I will take your helpful hints and try to incorporate them. Thank you.

  22. ramaraobobby says:

    Guest Post by Nick Thacker is indeed a great post and I have to agree regarding Scheduling n all.
    There are quite a lot of similarities that makes me connect with Nick Thacker like working at nights where I can disturbance free and doing what I can do the best and outsourcing the rest etc.,

    Regards,
    ramaraobobby
    http://twitter.com/ramaraobobby
    http://facebook.com/ramaraobobby

  23. MJ Doyle says:

    I think for me, posting a schedule is critical. I get “lost” quite easily on the net and forget where I was headed. In other words, if I don’t have a daily schedule, my day isn’t very productive at all. I’m all for being organized, but also for leaving room for surprises. I guess that’s why I write an organization/personal development blog!

  24. Best new thing I learned: # Communication Filtering. What a great system! Thanks for all the tips.

    One more thing that’s been working for me is keep a wall of ideas–literally. I find ideas for blog posts come to me throughout my day. I jot them down on scraps of paper, then tape these to a wall in my office.

    As much as I love all of my electronic devices, pen+paper+view of everything at once works best for me. I can move things around, cluster ideas, take it all in at a glance. Putting my ideas away in an electronic file usually falls into “out of sight, out of mind”.

  25. Great tips! I’ve got the classic “shiny object” syndrome…I sit down to write and 5 seconds later I see something “shiny” and my focus is shot. As much as I hate to admit it, I need more structure in my schedule. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction! ;)

  26. Nick Thacker says:

    @deepack – IMO, “get rich quick” schemes are anything but that: they’re not going to make you rich, and they take awhile to implement (correctly) to even be able to make you some money. The closest thing I’ve found is a well-written, manicured blog that generates highly-targeted traffic.

    I’m actually working on a book/video package about this, called “WordPress Success – The Definitive Guide to Making Money Blogging,” and it will cover EVERYTHING needed to set up and run a “business” from a blog. Check it out if you are interested–I’ll keep it updated on my blog when it’s going to be released.

  27. Nick Thacker says:

    @Laura – sometimes emotions can play an important role in getting that “edge” in a blog! Use your day-to-day emotion-packed grind as fuel for your posts, and you’ll create great content. Naomi Dunford does this extremely well, as does Havi Brooks!

  28. Nick Thacker says:

    @Nick O’Doherty – Are you talking about the Bright Beehives site? I would recommend some sort of accountability between the two of you–when I first started my blog, my business partner and I both started simultaneously to keep “one-upping” each other. The friendly competition really helped keep us motivated, and I contribute much of my blog’s success to this aspect. Find some way to introduce the same concept: “Hey, man, I’m three posts up on you this week–let’s get to it!”

    Hope that helps!

    P.S. – I would recommend changing your first paragraph on your Beehives site to not say “Welcome to…” like every other page that shows up on a Google SERP. Basic SEO principle–I’d like to know what you guys are all about rather than seeing “Welcome to…” first!

  29. Nick Thacker says:

    Just a general tip (in response to some comments as well)–it really helps personal motivation and self-discipline to “build in” accountability throughout other projects. For example–I wrote a guest post here knowing that people would be visiting my site if it was published. So, in order to keep me in line, I used the guest post’s publish date (which was indefinite!) as a deadline to have EVERYTHING on my site in pristine, working order. I also wanted to offer some free downloads, so I had to make sure those were written and available (thanks to those who’ve downloaded them! I hope you enjoy ‘em!).

    So if you are juggling many different things, try to figure out how they’re connected and then tie them all together to ensure you’ll get what you need done!

    Also, thanks to the MANY comments here! Keep them coming!

  30. VerbalHaze says:

    It’s hard for me to imagine ever being able to think this way about my blog, I feel like the second it becomes a system that that’s when you cross the line of it no longer being as enjoyable as it may have been at one point, but that’s just me, of course.

    I have to say, I am really enjoying writing blogs now that I’ve gotten into it and I’m a pretty lazy person with certain things.

  31. Nick Thacker says:

    @Vikas – I respectfully disagree–the point of an editorial calendar or post schedule for me is not to necessarily post something on those days, but to write something on those days (if not every day!). Sticking to a schedule should be less important than creating solid content–if you need to miss a day because you just can’t think of something to write, skip a day. Who cares?

    The schedule is not for your readers, but for you. To write every day will build better writing skills–even if you don’t post what you’ve written because it sucks, you can save it as a draft (at least in WordPress, I don’t know about Blogspot…) and rework it later.

  32. Vikas says:

    @ Nick Thacker

    Having a Schedule for yourself is the best things, you won’t get lost. but having a posting schedule is something which i think.

    yes in blogspot you can save as draft.

  33. Ganesh says:

    A great post!!!

    but…

    I AM NOT ABLE TO GET – how by being active in social media would help being ahead in our niche.

    What becomes famous in social media sites are that which are popular and already well known to others.

    Won’t forums/books be a better option….

    however, was very informative. Thanks

  34. Nick Thacker says:

    @Ganesh – Being active in social media *can* drive more traffic to your site and *if* you are engaged in communication with people from your niche (especially easy with site like LinkedIn), you can more easily be “on top of your game.”

    Forums/books are a great way to maintain your understanding of your niche, but if your niche would benefit from brand new (and time-sensitive) information, nothing travels quicker than at the speed of social media.

  35. nudgeme says:

    Really useful tips for setting up a system for blogging. I’d just add that with your point 4 Staying in the Game – can be a good idea to schedule in your social networking, research, keeping up with trends work on a weekly or every other day basis rather than daily, which can in itself keep you from your posting schedule!

  36. Hicham says:

    This is interesting specially #4 regarding being in the game. Blogs need attention in order to keep them alive and kicking or else it will be ignored and all the time & effort implemented in will be simply wasted. Thanks Nick for this handy list.

  37. Very well said. It is indeed difficult to include blogging in your daily schedule esp if you have tons of other important things to do. But having a working system and adhereing to a strict work schedule helps me systemize my blogging.

  38. Midnight till 7am! That sounds terrible, worse than commuting.

  39. Edunetsys says:

    It all depends upon how you set your biological clock. But working late till wee hrs will take its toll in times to come. You better start working in day time. Or simple get married and take some responsibilities. This way you are ruining your health.

  40. Tim Smith says:

    What a great article! Darren, you are such an inspiration to beginning bloggers like me. I really enjoyed your article and I definitely have things to work on. Thanks again.

  41. Nick Thacker says:

    @nudgeme – I definitely need to schedule my Facebook time every now and then; I tend to forget I’ve got an account there!

    @Andy & Edunetsys – Yeah, it’s tough sometimes, but like I said–it works for me, and that’s what I have to go off of right now. It’ll inevitably change one day, but I have to take advantage my free time now!

  42. Best new thing I learned: # Communication Filtering. What a great system! Thanks for all the tips.

    One more thing that’s been working for me is keep a wall of ideas–literally. I find ideas for blog posts come to me throughout my day. I jot them down on scraps of paper, then tape these to a wall in my office.

  43. Nick,

    Any tips for generating fresh content on a timeline? I have no problem getting in the habit of writing everyday. However, I struggle to produce post worthy content whenever I sit down for a writing session.

    Thanks! Great Post.

  44. lataminoka says:

    I love the article. valuable advice.. thanks

  45. Leo says:

    Long time reader here but first time commenting on this wonderful resource site.

    I myself wrote on the subject of systematizing my time and efforts in writing on my own blog Road to Priesthood.

    While I can’t say they are all original ideas and have been touched upon on this and other blogging for blogger sites, my article is more of a case study in how effective the techniques given actually are. I know I’m impressed.

    You can find the link here to the first part of the series:
    http://roadtopriesthood.wordpress.com/2009/05/19/building-a-better-christian-blog-content-is-king/

  46. Nick Thacker says:

    @Luke – Try this (it’s part brainstorming, part productivity exercise): Go to Google’s AdWords Keyword Research tool, type in a long-tail keyword that sums up your blog (two to three words), and run down the list of results. This isn’t for finding proper titles (though it can be used for that), but for finding “spin-off” topics related to niche.

    Start writing immediately, without hesitation or tampering or editing, and try to at least a post about each of these keywords. You should start feeling opinionated enough about a few of these that you can immediately expand upon what you’ve already written and turn them into a full post. The other “unfinished” posts should stay in your drafts folder until you feel like you can finish them.

    Start putting “ideas” down left and right, and “starting” some articles/posts, and you’ll find that your non-worthy content can be much more easily reworked and adapted to fill out some posts.

    Having the “idea bucket” of unfinished drafts lets you start scheduling, as you can spend much less time researching your post when you’ve already got a topic and maybe a perspective.

    Hope that helps,
    Nick

  47. As of now, I am blogging as a hobby.