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14 Proven Ways to Simplify Your Blogging and Get More Done

This guest post is by Nick Thacker of Livehacked.com.

We’ve all had that feeling of impending doom: “My readers are expecting me to post tomorrow, but I haven’t even answered my emails, check my Analytics stats, or responded to the Twitter shout-outs. There’s just no way I can get it all done…”

Or something like that.

If you’ve ever felt like the pressures of maintaining a blog—not to mention the rest of your business—are becoming too much, it could be time to simplify what you’re doing.

Here are 14 proven methods for getting more blogging done in less time. And what’s best: these methods will allow you to write better posts than you ever thought possible, while exerting less overall effort.

  1. Write things down: Not just blog posts, either. Keep a journal close at hand, and try to just write down your thoughts as they come to you. I’ve been trying this at work and at home—I have a Moleskine notebook that I keep nearby, and I’ll write down ideas, thoughts, and action items throughout my day. The result? I’m able to think clearly and concisely when it’s time to write a 2,000-word blog post, or send a newsletter to my subscribers. Writing things down (physically, on paper) keeps you from having to remember everything, too. If it’s on paper, it doesn’t need to be in your head.
  2. Set a schedule: Keep a strict schedule if you can, using whatever tools help you stay on task and focused. Don’t let minor distractions keep you from working, and if at all possible, write it down. Writing down your schedule helps, again, to keep it out of your head so you don’t have to spend energy memorizing it. It also lets you visually see your time—allowing you to know where you are throughout your day and week. Make sure to give yourself personal time first, and stick to it. Schedule your own downtime, and don’t spend it checking email, talking on the phone, or browsing through your competitors’ blogs. Use it to hang out with friends or family, or just stop and think for 15-20 minutes. It’s liberating.
  3. Use systems: Blogging, done well, is a business. There are routine—sometimes mundane—tasks, and there are those that invigorate us and make us want to spend all our energy on them. At every point, try to create and leverage systems in your blogging. I wrote this post a long time ago, but it’s still relevant to systemizing our blogging processes.
  4. “Front-load” your time: “Front-load” your time in the week, and every day. Plan the larger, more thought-intensive or labor-intensive tasks for earlier in the week, and first thing in the morning. Tackle the harder stuff first, and as the week moves toward the weekend, you’ll feel much more productive, energized, and motivated knowing that you’ve already taken care of the big stuff.
  5. Keep a “headline bucket:” I have an Evernote notebook called Blog Post Ideas that’s simply an ongoing, unorganized list of possible blog post topics. Since I have Evernote on my phone, I can add a blog post idea to it anywhere I am, no matter what. Keeping a “bucket” of ideas prevents you from needing to scramble for ideas when you’re ready to write. Plus, I often find that the best ideas somehow “drift” to the top of my bucket—meaning I can work on them in my head for awhile before I need them. When it’s time to write, the words are already there—it’s just a matter of writing them down fast enough!
  6. Switch your blog with your newsletter: If you have a newsletter that has different content than your blog (and I believe you should, or what’s the point?), consider using an old newsletter article on your blog, and a blog post lost in the archives for your newsletter. Don’t just republish as-is, though—make the newsletter article seem more “bloggy” (or in whatever style your blog is written), and vice versa. This tactic is one I use regularly—it helps me keep my messaging focused and on-target, and it certainly helps strengthen my readership on both fronts.
  7. Steal an idea: Good artists borrow, but the best artists steal. Obviously you can’t blatantly rip-off someone else’s hard work. Don’t steal word-for-word, but take a popular idea you like, read everything you can about it, and then write a post about it, in your own words. Even though it might seem like you’re ripping someone off, there’s a good chance that you’ve subconsciously put your own stylistic spin on it. When I’m pressed for time, I’ll visit some of my favorite sites to see what headlines and topics are working well, and write my own ideas on the subject.
  8. Leverage your readership: I talk a lot about leverage on my own site and over at Lifehacks.org, and there’s a reason: the best creators out there don’t do every last thing themselves—they ask for help. Even though they’re the ones creating the content, art, or business, they will eventually need help vetting emails, maintaining their website, or keeping the books. Most of us already have a powerful tool at our disposal: our readers. Ask them for help. Maybe you can invite a young kid to help you go through your emails every other day, forwarding the “to respond” ones to you, and following through with the rest (if Darren had asked me to do this five years ago when I was getting started, I would have jumped at the opportunity!). Be careful to not insult them, though—don’t send the message that you expect something more from them—after all, they did sign up for your list, right?
  9. Ask for guest posts: Part of leveraging your readership can be asking for guest posting submissions. One of the things I hear a lot of bloggers ranting about is the lack of quality and depth of guest posts, and therefore they won’t consider “opening their blog to submissions.” This doesn’t make sense to me. Instead, ask for submissions and give clear guidelines as to what you expect from them. Then, if the submissions are terrible, just say “no thanks.” Worst-case scenario? You don’t have any publishable posts from guests. Best case? You have a bunch of posts you can use when you’re feeling behind or burnt-out.
  10. Reuse an old post: Don’t just recycle old content in lieu of writing new stuff—take an old post, make it relevant to today’s world if need be, and then add a few new ideas to it. Spend the time on it that you might spend writing a brand new post, and make it seem bigger and better than it was before. Give it a new headline, or write an updated intro or conclusion. Then, work in a great call to action that promotes a new product line or asks readers for input, and add a few new pictures to it.
  11. “Talk” your posts: This is a strategy I’ve been trying more often, as I’m currently writing my second fiction thriller novel. Dragon Naturally Speaking software has a cool app that lets you speak your words into the computer. Jon Morrow of BoostBlogTraffic.com does this, and he’s an awesome writer. Admittedly, it takes a little while to get set up and dictating properly, but once I got it into working order, I was able to write a few posts per night in one sitting. If this isn’t “leveraging our time and energy,” I don’t know what is!
  12. Make a random connection to find an idea: There are plenty of great posts on writing great headlines, and even more on finding ideas, but I wanted to include this little gem of wisdom that Danny Iny pointed out to me a while back: Take two unrelated things, and make them work together. For example, “What The Swamp Monster Can Teach You About Blogging” or “Why Juicyfruit Gum Is Like Car Maintenance.” I just made those up, and already I’m fighting my creative brain’s desire to come up with reasons why a random monster would be a great blogger. See how awesome that is?
  13. Forget about blogging: One of the things I noticed when I started to blog regularly was that I was thinking of everything in terms of, “ooh, what a great blog post idea!” At the movies? Why not post about how the protagonist would make a great headline-writer with all of those quirky one-liners? It can get overwhelming thinking like this, and it’s healthy and helpful to take a moment and forget about your blog. Try to meditate, or rest, or just “hang out,” and let the blog post ideas come to you, not the other way around.
  14. Take a break: Lastly, I wanted to mention the one thing that we all need to do, at least somewhat regularly: take a break. You don’t have to quit, or give up, or even take a vacation, but take a short break from your blog. It’s your job, right? Think of it this way: you’ll eventually need a break from anything that’s worth doing, at least to get your mind refocused and ready for the next steps. Plan this “break” into your week or month (or year, if you have to wait that long) and then make it worthwhile.

Blogging is an enticing business model—it can lead to increased income, freedom, and happiness, but it can also lead to burnout and epic failure. Make sure you’re going about it in a smart way by putting some of these tactics in place.

You don’t have to live a minimalistic lifestyle, or employ hundreds of drone-like workers to create great systems and get the most out of leverage. Just practice some tactics that will allow you to “simplify” your blogging efforts a bit more. Try these 14 I’ve written about, and leave a comment with some more ideas!

Nick Thacker is a writer, author, and blogger who helps people build profitable blogs and write better. He blogs at LiveHacked.com and has recently finished a book on blogging for profit.

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Comments

  1. Bruno Nunes says:

    With no doubt that the first two and the last two are imperative if we want to make things well done. I’m still starting my own blog and some of my ideas vanish just because I haven’t got were to write it down…Is it that important that we need to write on paper? It’s because I’m using tools live evernote to it, and by now it is working just fine.

    About the last two, you got me. Have to release my head some times and just let it flow.

    Thanks a lot for the good post,
    Bruno

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Hey Bruno–

      Remember: “blogging” is just a means to something more important–the public sharing of ideas. A blog is just one way to do it, so if it takes writing it in Evernote, a journal, or a text editor first, go for it.

      Focus too much on the hype of “blogging as a business,” however, and it can hurt creativity and stifle passion.

      Actually, I have a book coming out about that very thing in the next few days–stay tuned!

  2. Howie Nguyen says:

    Writing things down is something that has helped me tremendously since I started doing it. It not only helps me to remember ideas or what I need to do it also keeps me accountable.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Absolutely–that’s why websites like 750words.com and others help so much with writing–they keep you publicly accountable, and that’s a powerful motivator!

  3. Guy Hogan says:

    My formula is routine, routine, routine, passion and a little more routine. Add knowledge about your subject matter and then have some fun. It has to be fun. Or to make a long story short: you’re right!

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Haha, well said, Guy!

      Absolute must for me: gotta be having fun. My first 1,000 blogs (at least it SEEMS like that many) suffered from a “no fun, no passion” syndrome, but now it’s a blast!

      …And that seems to be the secret!

  4. mary says:

    How often should we break? Say like union guys? 15 minutes every 2 hours or does taking a break just mean relaxing a little at the keys? I sometimes get lost and forget what time it is……….

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Honestly, I’m no expert on that–there are some great psychology blogs out there though that have some research to back it up.

      Here’s what I do, that seems to work pretty well: write for 25 minutes, take a 5-minute break, then repeat. After four of these “sets,” take a longer 15-minute break. (That’s basically the “Pomodoro Technique” in a nutshell–Google for more info!)

      And no, it’s not “taking a break at the keys.” I try to get as far away from my office as possible during those short and long breaks–walk the dogs, read a book, or sit and do absolutely nothing.

      Hope this helps!
      Nick

  5. Glynis Jolly says:

    I use the headline bucket list extensively. I have a file within my admin file for my blog on my hard drive labeled ‘ideas’. I just jot down possible headlines with just a sentence or two to go with in on Notepad and stuff it in there. I use this method when I read other’s posts. I find good ideas that I can put my own slant to so I run with it.

    Organizing my days so that I have adequate break time without getting carried away is still a struggle for me but I keep on working with it.

    I need to use my old posts. I just keep on forgetting to consider them.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Good stuff, Glynis.

      Evernote is great for the “headline bucket” as well.

      Also, more and more bloggers are using their old posts and reworking them into short books–done well, this can be a great source of new income, as well as a way to rehash those “oldie but goodie” posts!

      Thanks for the comment!
      Nick

  6. Margaux Parker says:

    I think you’ve forgotten the 15th tips – Make sure you talk about what interest you or what you love. This is the primary objective of blogging i think. This is what we do in Social Gratitude (www.socialgratitude.com).

  7. Tina Powers says:

    I have recently started accepting guest posts on my blog and I must say, it has been very helpful to get a break. Also, it has really helped my connect with other people in my industry.

    Great tips!

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Same here, Tina–there are so many great writers and bloggers out there, and accepting them into our circles really benefits both sides!

      Good point, and now I’m off to go publish some guest posts people have sent in!

  8. Felicia says:

    So many good and helpful suggestions! I have a small pocket sized recorder that I like to use whenever I think of something I want to remember.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      That’s a great way to do it–if I didn’t hate the sound of my own voice, I’d probably do that more often.

      I used to have a really long commute to and from work, and I often used a handheld recorder for “speaking” my blog posts and ideas, and then DragonDictate software to go through and turn it into words. It was a pretty cool way of getting stuff done on the road, and it saved a lot of time later on!

      Great tip!
      Nick

  9. Larry Ehl says:

    I keep two folders in Evernote: “Timely” for stories I need/want to write within a few days to a week because there is a window of readership for some reason, and “Anytime” for stories less time sensitive that I can write whenever. I don’t always write the stories, but it keeps me organized and prioritized.

  10. I’m loving seeing tip #11 (“talk” your posts) show up here!

    Dictation never crossed my mind until I was introduced it by a guest blogger (hello, tip #9). He’s a novelist who found he could use it to “write” 5000 words in a couple of hours, which I find amazing.

    Check out his post I’m a Story Teller, Not a Story Typer for more about his dictation experience — interesting stuff!

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Very cool link–thanks for sharing!

      Yeah, I commented above that I’d run into the same problem–I think and talk much faster than I type.

      Awesome stuff!
      Nick

  11. Santel says:

    That’s one thing I have the difficulty right now is to find time to write. Maybe it is an excuse I always told myself because after reading this I think I spend most of my time in reading others.

    I think I should focus on my own thing and write as little as I have then sit for an hour or haft to finish it. I think it will work better this way.

    Let’s me try evernote, I install/uninstall it many times. Never find a good way to use it. but heard a lot of people make the benefit from it, will do another retry.

    Thanks

    • Nick Thacker says:

      I think a possible drawback of Evernote is that it really is open to using it however you want–so it can be scary/overwhelming/confusing to some people when they pop it open and think, “now what?”

      Like I’ve mentioned in comments above–I use it extensively, mainly for “collecting” my thoughts in one place.

      Give it a shot–and stick with it for a few weeks and see what you think!
      Nick

  12. Chris @ NPI says:

    Hi Nick, great tips. I may add only one tip for your list – fight with distractions!
    Distractions like emails, phone calls and even social media may destroy your plan or system.

    BR, Chris

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Very good point–it’s gotten so I actually “plan” for distractions and have a specific set of actions to take when one arises:

      Email, for example: Since I’m a stickler for checking email WAY too much, I’ve come to grips with it and now will check it whenever I hear the infamous “ding.” I check it immediately, but I DON’T respond until later. I either mark it for later, file it away, or delete it.

      It’s not perfect, but it’s what I got.

      Haha–thanks for the comment!

  13. david says:

    I especially liked what you said about tackling the harder tasks first. I’ve found that It can be daunting to put off the harder stuff. The sense of dread grows over time.

    Therefore, I agree with you, doing the harder stuff first is very important.

    I’ve found that if I don’t do that, as the day goes on, I have less and less energy. (Because I don’t want to do the ‘harder’ task) Then as the day progresses you find more and more excuses for the harder to do item. And then, it gets pushed to the next day!

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Yeah, it’s Getting Things Done 101–chunking larger projects, splitting tasks into digestible segments, and generally putting the tough stuff first.

      It’s a good way to go, but it can be hard to implement those first two weeks–once it’s habit, though, MAN it works well!

  14. Ayaz says:

    Certainly taking some rest and using old post from time to time can be a very good strategy but using it can be very crucial when to use old post on your blog.

  15. Marc Ensign says:

    I started out blogging every single day. After about 2 months it was just too tough to try and come up with really good content everyday and I was starting to burn out so I switched to twice a week starting this week and it has been a great change. My posts are better (all two of them this week) and I am more focused. I also have more time now to respond to comments and Tweets and just continue to get the word out.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Same here–I had burnout after a few days, though, and eventually the site went under. Now, I take Glen Alsop’s approach (from Viper Chill): blog when you have something to say.

      Although I TRY to get 2-3 posts per week, it’s sometimes difficult and I therefore will forgo “posting for postings’ sake.”

  16. Erin says:

    Really great tips! I use a notebook, WP Editorial Calendar, and a set of whiteboards to stay organized. It helps so much!

  17. Aditi Datta says:

    Hey!!
    These fourteen tips are really very helpful. I think these tips would definitely help in blog creation. Very useful resource I must say. I specially like the eleventh post which signifies of “talking ” to your post. That is cool I feel. This Dragon Naturally Speaking Software is really awesome and it lets you talk to the computer in words. I think we also must try this procedure to become a good writer as done by Jon Morrow. Thanks for the share and I really like reading this post.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Yup, Jon’s a perfect example of someone blogging (VERY) well using speech-to-text software. He has a fascinating story, and I highly recommend his teachings/blog!

  18. Great tips that I can definitely use. I have one question about reusing old posts: If you change the title of the page (and the url) do you lose all the links you’ve built to that page so far? Do the old links (before the update) just show up as 404 pages?

    • Nick Thacker says:

      In a word: yes. You’ll need to set up a redirect (Google “WordPress 301 redirect” or something), or there’s a “Redirection” plugin that’s supposed to help with this.

      However, in my case, I’ve often just used old posts that were so old they were never really “linked to” anyway.

      The old pages, again, should be set up as redirects, and Google Webmaster Tools can help you find them.

  19. Nick!

    This is one of the best posts I’ve read in a while. Between ProBlogger and the 3 or 4 other blogging/social media blogs I keep up with…I often feel that that ‘to do’ list is more like a ‘things I won’t get done’ list. One of the most important things I HAVE learned about my blog, is that I cannot do it 24/7 – nor should I. It would affect my marriage, my health…my sanity. Unfortunately, I had to experience some serious burnout to come to this realization. I think it’s great that you have essentially given bloggers ‘permission’ to take a break by pointing out that it is as much a part of the business as all the other aspects we’ll never catch up on.

    Lots of other good stuff in the post too. Thx for the reminders.

    Amy Parmenter
    The ParmFarm.com

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Thanks Amy!

      That’s right–we can’t do it 24/7, nor should we try. Instead, focus on the few things that actually make a huge difference (writing more, connecting better, etc.) and do those when you only have a small amount of time.

      That way you’ll constantly be building forward motion, and you’ll (hopefully) stay sane!

      Thanks for the comment, and glad you enjoyed it!
      Nick

  20. Vi says:

    If you have any new idea, just create draft with that topic. this way you almost all the time will have what to write about as usually there are more topics in your mind then you can write post about at that moment.

  21. Justin Mazza says:

    Great tips Nick. Keeping your blog in order with various systems and programs will definitely help to keep one’s sanity.

  22. Fantastic suggestions and I use them all. Finding guest posting was difficult for me, because I would get lots of submissions for PR people. I finally used Reporter Connection to ask for regular contributors and received a lot of interest. I’m pretty excited. I also use My Blog Guest with some success.

    Thanks for the suggestions – I’m going to go back through your list to take note of how I can fine tune my own system.

    Kimberly

    • Nick Thacker says:

      That’s an interesting idea–I haven’t tried it yet. Definitely better to find great, non-commercial contributors (at least directly) for guest post submissions, so you can keep everything helpful and non-spammy!

  23. Chris Neiger says:

    I’ve found that doing my blogging in the morning helps as well. If I wait until the evening then I’m too tired or too distracted. If I deviate from the schedule then I write much less.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      That’s a good point–finding the time of day that lets you get the best work done isn’t just helpful, it’s crucial.

      My book (coming out in a few days) is going to have an entire section devoted to that–check it out!
      Nick

  24. Barbara says:

    I just used “talk to text” for a post last night. I doesn’t work so well on the iPhone because Siri doesn’t seem to know how to punctuate. The thoughts flow better though.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Haha, well I have an Android, so I haven’t had the chance to try Siri out just yet. I normally would record into a standard .wav recorder, then import that into Dragon’s software.

      That’s a great idea though–using the technology you have on hand! Thanks for the tip!

  25. Kevin says:

    Great post. I especially liked the part where you told people to take a break. Made me feel less guilty for taking a break to indulge in some reading.

    Evernote has turned into the most useful part of my life. I have notebooks in there for everything. If I have a thought, into Evernote it goes. Since I have it on my phone, I use it as my “moleskin notebook” as well. There have also been a few times where I have “stolen” ideas. Imitation is flattery, though, and I always make sure I credit the source.

  26. I too have been accepting guest post at my site and they do help to fill up any “voids” which I have especially when the kids and I go on vacations. Recycling old post sounds ingenious. I haven’t tried that as yet but will certainly try it out soon.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Yes, guest posts are GREAT ways to “keep it going” while you’re indisposed, or otherwise working on something else.

      A hard thing for me to learn, though, was the difference between a “good” guest post and one that’s just a well-masked promo…

  27. I love these tips! While I work hard and am passionate, my greatest weakness is organization. Your very first paragraph in this post is exactly the way my life goes most days. I like the idea of a schedule but it’s very hard for me to do it because this isn’t the only thing I do. I do like the idea of a notebook as well because it would help me organize. I think of things all the time but try to manage it all in my head. I do it OK but again the lack of organization and schedule means things never move off my list. I really need to work on this.

  28. Sandipan says:

    Thank you for suggesting ‘Dragon Naturally Speaking’. It is indeed a very effective tool and simplifies blogging a great deal.

  29. Hari Narayan says:

    With no doubt that the first two and the last two are imperative if we want to make things well done. I’m still starting my own blog and some of my ideas vanish just because I haven’t got were to write it down…Is it that important that we need to write on paper? It’s because I’m using tools live evernote to it, and by now it is working just fine.

    About the last two, you got me. Have to release my head some times and just let it flow.

    Thanks a lot for the good post,

    • Nick Thacker says:

      You know, I’m only a stickler about the “pencil and paper” thing because I think I’ve been too caught up in the digital technology world. Definitely important to do what feels right, but give it a shot if you haven’t! It could be a cool productivity booster for you!

      Nick

  30. pudio says:

    Great Tips, is these tips related to increase the seo?thanks

  31. Hi Nick, This is a wonderful article in interesting topic. I agree with the most unhappy people on the planet are those who don’t listen to and don’t pursue what matters to them most.

    Thanks for the article anyway.

  32. I’ve been focusing a lot on the last two points, as I find them the most enjoyable. That’s not helping my blog any though. Your advice to keep a journal is spot on. Occasionally I’ll carry a notebook and actually use it, but I always get too lazy to keep it up for more than a day or two. It definitely helps generate ideas though.

  33. vijay says:

    Hi I just made a new blog on my website with wordpress but can anybody tell me how to put a tracking code like alexa on it.

  34. Very nice post! Thank you for these ideas.

    Sometimes, I have to admit, that I resort to the serendipitous approach. I walk through the new books section of my local library (and fortunately I should add the librarians have been adding more and more social media, marketing and technology titles) and a good percentage of the time I run across a book I didn’t know existed. The book spurs an idea, an inspiration –and voila, a new post is in the making.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Hey Debbie!

      That’s actually a GREAT idea–I’ve never thought of that, but I’ll go try it next time I’m in a library!

      Thanks!
      Nick

  35. When it comes to writing blog posts, some days you are just “on” and others you can’t seem to get more than a few sentences together. Take advantage of your “on” moments and write more than one post. Schedule your posts ahead of time so that you are scheduled at least a few weeks in advance. That way, if there comes a day that you really can’t write, it’s not a big deal.

  36. Fabulous tips! My blog is still small but growing and I intend to take it further.

    I’m struggling with Dragon. It does not like my accent or the speed I speak at! The only way to get reasonable accuracy is to slooooooow riiiiiiiiight down. Okay, not quite that slow, and it’s my fault because my computer will only run an older version, but right now I can still type faster than I can talk it into Dragon. My poor wrists! Thanks for the reminder though- I need to keep working with it. I’d given up for a while.

    One thing I’ve found helps enormously with idea generation is getting in the habit of doing morning pages every day. My blog posts are often edited versions of what I write there. I started off with 750words.com , as you mentionexd to an previous commenter, because I needed both the accountability and the external validation. After six weeks it became a habit I could keep going by myself (plus I had no internet access at the time I could easily write).

    Since morning pages my blog has become more personal, less writing focused. But that’s not a bad thing. I plan to take it even further in that direction.

    • Nick Thacker says:

      Hi Autumn!

      Glad to year you’re gaining some traction! It does get easier to keep up, believe me!

      Yeah, Dragon needs to be extensively “trained” before it really starts working well, and it helps to get a nice microphone as well.

      Thanks for the kind words and the comment!
      Nick

  37. abshk says:

    thnx for sharing such important blogging tips

  38. Meka says:

    i like the headline bucket tip
    i use an idea bucket (plus headlines) whenever i get an idea for a new post i add it to the idea bucket and when i run out of ideas i grab one from the bucket