Yesterday was my first day back at blogging after a 10 day vacation with my family and on Twitter I commented that I was finding it a little hard to get my brain back into blogging mode. @Mikeachim responded by suggesting I write a post on the daily rituals that I use to get my mind into gear.
I thought I’d take his suggestion and jot down a few notes – both as a way of getting my head back into blogging but also because looking at the tweets I received this morning it’s a problem many bloggers face.
As my head is a little scattered today (as I readjust) I’m going to tackle this as a list post – here’s a few thoughts:
2 lattes with a sugar in each is a fairly essential part of my blogging routine.
More important than the fact that I get caffeine into my bloodstream each morning is the fact that I do it in one of 2-3 local cafes each day. I find getting out of the house (I usually walk to them so get a 10 minute walk in too) helps me to snap myself out of ‘home mode’ and into ‘working/blogging mode’. I also find that blogging in public is stimulating too – sitting in the middle of a cafe is noisy and some might find it distracting but for me I find it actually helps me generate ideas and takes me into a slightly more social space than sitting alone at home in my front room.
I’m a fairly impulsive guy and like to go with inspiration when it hits – but I also find it helpful to spend time thinking ahead and planning posts in advance so that I have some places to start when I have a tough day where inspiration is not coming. On my laptop’s desktop I have a number of text files which are full of topic ideas, titles of posts and even half written ideas that I pull out when I’m stuck for ideas.
4. Series of Posts
Similarly I like to have a series of posts on the go at any time so that I can always write a post that adds to something I’ve written previously. For example I’m currently working on a series of posts on Principles of Successful Blogging which I add to 1-2 times a week and will keep running over a number of months.
This post is an illustration of the power of having a network of people to help you generate ideas. I didn’t ask for ideas for posts but out of a conversation I was having on Twitter someone made a suggestion that helped generate an idea for a post. While Twitter can be a distraction – it can also be an idea goldmine if you use it well.
6. Face to Face
I won’t do this today as I’m manically trying to catch up on email as well as write new posts – but I do try to schedule in face time with other bloggers, twitterers and entrepreneurs ever week or two. This is partly just because I’m an introvert and could quite easily work alone for weeks on end (and need to force myself into some social interaction) but it’s also about putting yourself into places where your ideas connect with other people’s ideas – that’s often where the magic happens.
7. Capture Ideas
Another strategy that I use is to capture as many ideas as I come AS they come into my brain. I returned home from my vacation with a notes documents on my iphone that has 6-7 post ideas that came to me over the last 10 days. Some I may never use but there are a couple that will be great posts that I’d have forgotten if I didn’t immediately capture them in some way. I used to carry a notebook for this but my iPhone now does the job.
I mention that I walk to the main cafe that I work out of – in addition to that I try to walk each day for at least 15 minutes. I find that this gets the blood pumping and often gives me a burst of energy to help me through the afternoons.
This might seem like pure self promotion but I’ve found the ProBlogger community to be a goldmine of ideas and inspiration. I’m increasingly finding that I come away from the forums having seen what someone else is trying with inspiration to see how their approach will work on my blogs. Whether it’s the ProBlogger forums or another one – I think putting time aside to interact with and collaborate with other bloggers is something well worth doing.
10. Mind Mapping
I’ve outlined how I do this previously in the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog workbook but using mind mapping is something I do on a weekly basis to come up with post ideas.
11. Manage Distractions
I read many articles on this type of topic that tell you to eliminate distractions. They say to get offline completely, don’t check your email, turn off Twitter etc. I’ve written about doing this previously but am starting to wonder if completely eliminating these ‘distractions’ is always a good thing. For me it’s more about ‘managing’ the distractions and setting aside time to do them rather than just ending up with a confused jumble of tasks. Instead of flipping between writing a post, email, twitter and Facebook – give yourself set times for each task. For example – in the writing of this post I’ve stopped 2 times when I’ve begun to feel my energy for the post decreasing a little. The first time I jumped on Twitter for 5 minutes, the 2nd time I cleared a few emails. Each time I gave myself 5 minutes for the other thing and was disciplined about jumping back into writing for another 10-15 minutes. Perhaps this is just my impulsive nature Attention Deficit Disorder but sometimes I find eliminating distractions can actually make it harder to work as you’re wondering about the things you’re trying to ignore.
Related to the idea of managing distractions I recently have been rediscovering the power of letting myself ‘play’ a little each day. While many productivity experts talk about eliminating ‘playful’ activity I think it’s actually important to spend time each day doing activity that is a little mindless and fun. I can’t explain why – but often after a 10 minute burst of playing a tower defense game on my iPhone or reading a post but funny article on a humor blog I often come back to my ‘work’ feeling a little fresh and with good ideas for my blog. There’s something powerful about letting your brain relax every now and again – the key is to manage it and not let your whole day become one big playful experience.
13. Golden Hours are…. Gold!
My ‘golden hours’ are 9-11am. This is when I do my best creative work and as a result it’s when I do most of my writing. Admin tasks, Emails and other tasks can usually wait a couple of hours until I’ve cranked out a post or two!
A lot more could be said on this topic. In fact I asked my Twitter followers how they get their brains into gear after a holiday and they came up with some great suggestions too. You can read them here.
What would you add?
How do you get your brain into ‘blogging mode’ after some time away from blogging (or first thing in the morning)?