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2014 Reboot: Finally Finding Time to Blog

We are mining ProBlogger content this week for super-useful information to kick-start your blogging year with gusto. Today we tackle a common topic – time. Who has it and how can we get it? Darren shows us seven ways to finally carve it out.

This post “7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog” first appeared in April 2013.

Last week I tweeted a question asking my Problogger followers to share the biggest challenge that they face as a blogger.

Around 50 replies came back and a couple of themes emerged – the biggest one centred around ‘Time’.

Time to blog

Finding time to blog is something that all bloggers struggle with. Whether you are just starting out and blogging as a hobby, blogging as a part time job while juggling work, home, and a social life or even blogging as a full time business amidst other demands such as up-keeping of social media accounts, responding to comments and emails etc. - finding time to write is a consistent challenge.

This issue is so prevalent, we actually published an eBook on the topic last year - BlogWise: How to Do More with Less (featuring 9 busy but productive bloggers such as Leo Babauta, Gretchen Rubin, Brian Clark, Heather Armstrong and more).

7 Tips for Busy Bloggers on Finding Time to Blog

I’m someone who periodically struggles with the challenges of being productive in limited timeframes. Over the last 10 years of blogging, I guess I’ve settled into something of a workflow and routine. What follows is a collection of reflections on what I’m learning.

I hope something in it connects with where you’re at!

1. It Starts with Life Priorities

I feel a bit like a parent saying this but the truth is, time management is a lot to do with priorities. 

It’s important to take time out to identify what is truly important to you, as this is a starting point for working out how you should spend your time.

If blogging is important to you, the first step in finding time to do it is to name it as a priority.

Of course ‘naming’ it as important is only half the battle. For many people there is a HUGE gap between what they say is important and how they actually spend their time.

One of the most confronting exercises I’ve ever done, when it comes to time management, was when (as a young adult) I was challenged write a list of my priorities. I then had to track how I used each 15 minute block of time over a week.

At the end of the week I tallied up the different activities and was amazed to discover how much time I was spending on things that did not feature in my priorities list, and how little I spent on the things I’d named as my priorities.

My list of priorities included things like studying, career, relationships etc.

My actual use of time was dominated by TV, computer games, time in the pub etc.

Of course, at the time I was young and reckless… but I suspect if I did the exercise again today there would probably be a bit of a disconnect between my priorities and how I spent my time. The activities I ‘waste’ time on and my priorities today might be different but the pattern would probably remain.

One of the keys to finding time to blog is working out whether blogging is actually important to you and arranging your life so that time is allocated for it!

I know it’s sounds obvious but it is easier said than done… and needs to be said.

2. Name Your Blogging Priorities

In the section above I talk about ‘life priorities’ but now I want to hone in on your blogging priorities.

The challenge many bloggers face is that they feel overwhelmed and often distracted by the many elements of blogging that they feel they need to do to have success.

Writing blog posts, reading and commenting on others blogs, responding to readers comments, guest posting on others blogs, being active on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn, Pinterest (and more), working on your blog design, writing an eBook, finding advertisers, creating a media kit…. the list goes on and on.

I’ve had periods in my own blogging where this list overwhelmed me – to the point it almost paralysed me.

When I felt overwhelmed, I tried to strip my blogging back to the core tasks I knew I needed to do to keep my blog moving forward. Again it was really about priorities.

What do you need to do to grow your blog and make it sustainable?

For me, I strip my focus back to these areas:

  • Writing Content
  • Finding Readers
  • Building Community
  • Monetizing

These are the non-essential priorities I have with my blogging. Simply by naming them simplifies things a little for me so I’m not looking at a long, crazy list of little things that I need to do.

With this list in mind I’m can set myself some achievable goals in each area.

For example, when it comes to ‘Writing Content’ I’m set myself some goals with how many posts per week or month. Then I start to think about the types of posts I want each week.

So here on ProBlogger, my current goal is 5 posts per week as a minimum with 3-4 of those posts written by me and at least one of them to be a longer form piece of content (like my recent Guide to the Amazon Affiliate Program).

Within each of these areas I would normally have at least a couple of goals/priorities at any one time.

Simply having this list of things I want to achieve suddenly gives me direction on how to spend my time, which makes me much more effective when I do blog. Instead of sitting down at the computer to blog and then working out what to do, I have a list of things I need to get done – and I find myself just knocking them off.

3. Batch Process Your Main Tasks

I won’t go into great detail on this as I’ve written about it before but a number of years ago I changed the way that I do my weekly tasks and it significantly boosted my productivity levels.

Before making this switch, I would sit down to blog and find myself going through a whole day flitting from one thing to another…. but not really getting much done. I’d write an intro to a blog post, then jump onto Twitter, then talk to another blogger about a collaboration, then go back to the blog post, then moderate some comments, then jump on Facebook and then…. well you get the picture.

So I began to carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’.

For example, one of my weekly rhythms is to use Monday and Wednesday mornings to write. On those mornings, I will often set myself up in a cafe and work offline for 2-3 hours. This enables me to write as much content as possible for the days and week ahead. It is not unusual for me to write 4-5 blog posts that I’m then able to schedule onto the blog for the coming days.

By silo’ing off time to do the most important tasks, and removing other distractions, I found I churn through a lot more work than I had previously been able to do.

I now ‘batch’ process many tasks. I’ll often set aside half an hour to do social media for example (instead of popping into Twitter 20 times a day, I might spend a longer period once a day). Email is similarly something I try to do in batches, similarly I tend to read other blogs via RSS in batches etc.

Read more about ‘batch processing in my post ‘How Batch Processing Made Me 10 Times More Productive‘.

Mental Blogging

In the early days of my blogging I had very very limited times to blog. I was working 3-4 part time jobs at any one time while also studying in the evenings. As a result I often would only have half and hour here or there during a lunch break, late at night or early in the morning to write content.

In order to be more effective at those times, I began to do what I now call ‘mental blogging’.

So while I was working in one of my jobs in a warehouse packing parcels, I would begin to write my blog posts in my mind. I would come up with a topic, decide upon a title and then begin to map out my main points – all in my head.

I sometimes would use a small notebook to jot a few words down to remind me what I wanted to write but after a shift in the warehouse, I would often be ready to sit down and quickly write out a pretty decent blog post (sometimes more than one) because I’d effectively written it already in my head.

Since that time I’ve come across countless other bloggers who do a similar thing during their own daily activities.

Later on I did a similar thing by jotting down my notes on my iPhone or even speaking blog posts into an audio recording app on my iPhone while I was out on a walk.

4. Idea Generation and Editorial Calendars

In my early days of blogging one of my biggest time sucks was coming up with ideas. I would sit, staring at my computer screen for hours on end, trying to work out what to write about on my blog that day.

I discovered that a much more effective strategy is to put aside batches of time specifically to come up with post ideas.

Instead of deciding what to write about each day, I began to create times to brainstorm and mind map blog ideas. I would then developed a file for each post topic so that on any given day I could sit down and within seconds I’d have something to write about

Mind Mapping is my favourite technique for generating potentially hundreds of ideas (read Discover Hundreds of Post Ideas for Your Blog with Mind Mapping).

Just having the ideas ready to go when you need them will save you a lot of time. You can take this a step further and consider creating an Editorial Calendar where you actually slot the ideas into a calendar over the coming week, month (or longer) and map out where you’ll be going with the blog in that period of time.

Editorial calendars may not suit everyone but I know of numerous bloggers who plan their blogs content well over a month in advance. This not only gives them an idea of where their blog is headed but they also find it useful to monetize their blogs as they’re able to share their calendar with advertisers who may wish to sponsor a relevant series of posts that might be coming up.

5. Break Down Big Jobs into Small Bites

Late last year, I recorded a free webinar where I shared 10 things I wish I’d known about blogging when I started 10 years before. In that webinar I shared the story of creating the first eBook that I developed over at Digital Photography School.

The idea of creating an eBook was something that I’d been meaning to do for at least a year or two but I’d always put off doing it because I didn’t have the time for such a big project. I’d never done something like that before and I felt overwhelmed by it.

In the end, to get the eBook created and launched, I decided that the only way I’d find the time to write it was to get up 15 minutes earlier every morning to work on the project.

15 minutes a day isn’t much (although we had a newborn at the time so 15 minutes sleep was precious) but I was amazed how much I could get done in that short period of time, on a daily basis. Over the coming 2-3 months I completed writing the eBook, had had it designed, had worked out how to market it, had researched how to sell it (shopping carts etc) and was ready to launch.

I effectively broke down a big job into little bite sized chunks until it was complete. That eBook went on to sell thousands of copies and became the template for 19 other eBooks that I’ve now launched (the main source of income to my blogs today).

I often wonder what would have happened if I’d never found that extra 15 minutes per day!

6. Slow Blogging is OK

“I have to post something today!”

Sometimes, as bloggers, I think we create monsters for ourselves for no good reason when it comes to posting deadlines and frequency.

I’m very guilty of this and it’s been something of a relief to realise that I can slow down my blogging a little and not see it ‘hurt’ my blog.

Here on ProBlogger you may have noticed a bit of a change lately. I’ve gone from posting 7-10 posts per week to posting 5-6 times a week.

For many years here at ProBlogger I felt the need to publish daily posts and at times, even aimed for 2-3 posts per day. While there were some benefits of doing so (more posts can mean more traffic) there were also costs in terms of the quality but also personally (it’s hard to sustain that kind of publishing for years on end).

Since slowing down, I’ve been fascinated to see that our traffic has remained steady (in fact some days it has been higher). The other impact has been a rise in comment levels, in positive feedback but also in my own energy and passion levels.

While deadlines and targets for posting frequency can be motivating - there may be periods of time when slowing down has some big benefits.

7. Make Space for Preparation, Creating and Rest

I recently came across this great video from Aussie blogger Kemi Nekvapil.

What I particularly loved about it was at around the 1.30 minute mark, Kemi talks about the structure of her week and how she has 3 different types of days during her week. They are ‘preparation days’, ‘success days’ and ‘inspiration days’.

Note: I think this originally comes from Jack Canfield who talks about creating days for ‘preparation’, ‘success’ and ‘rest’.

So for Kemi, her Mondays are preparation days when she is getting ready to have a creative ‘success’ day, Tuesdays are successful days, Wednesdays are preparation days and Thursdays are successful days. Fridays are her inspiration days where she gets to do whatever she wants to do for herself.

By giving herself days with a different focus, Kemi says she’s able to keep her creativity up and to sustain herself.

It makes sense really – if every day is a day where you have to produce something and you never have time to prepare or to have a break the quality of what you produce will suffer (as will your energy levels).

I love this idea and almost intuitively have done something a little similar of late. My wife (V) works on a Wednesday, so on those days I’ve had a bit more to do with the kids (drop offs, pick ups and a shorter working day). I’ve decided to go with it not being quite as a productive day and make Wednesdays a little less hands on with work, giving me a little more space to just ‘be’.

I’ve been doing a little work but also am trying to put time aside on Wednesdays to read, walk and have a siesta. It might sound a little like a lazy day on some levels but I’m noticing that having a quieter day in the middle of my week certainly makes me more productive on the following days.

What Are Your Tips for Finding Time to Blog?

What I’ve written above just scratches the surface. I am by no means an expert on this and am keen to learn from your experience.

Update: Check out this post where I ask a number of other bloggers about their tips and blogging routines.

 

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Comments

  1. Really time is something that no one can easily find and for bloggers that’s certainly one of the most rare commodities. However some times publishing less posts doesn’t really means less traffic, it could easily mean more traffic if you blog less but write more in-depth articles and that’s what I would suggest to bloggers who most important problem is time management!

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Ah yes – slow blogging definitely has its benefits!

  2. Greg says:

    Batching!

    Here’s my 2 cents: Blogging is 24/7/365. Even when you’re sleeping (mental blogging) and obviously when you’re awake. It’s important to always be able to answer a comment, create an idea, or draw on an older idea.

    On time – the bloggers who seem to always have time on their side are expert planners. They anticipate trends three months from now and sort of gamble on what will work. Do it enough and you become a pretty smart gambler.

    Just my 2 cents :)

    Greg

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Very insightful two cents! I think you’re right – blogging never sleeps. Those of us who have been doing it for a while have just had to create strategies to maximise our time but not overdoing it. Still quite a juggle!

  3. Christy says:

    Hi Stacy,

    Great blog post. I also agree that using an editorial calendar is one of the best things you can do! (it is super helpful). Naming your blogging priorities can be confusing at time because everything can seem so even. But life priorities is definitely a great start!

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Ah yes, an editorial calendar (even a loose one) can work wonders.

  4. I have found that it is extremely difficult to write five posts a week especially when you blog on a parttime basis. I guess it all boils down to disciplining yourself and making sure that you meet your priorities. I wish there was an easy way to make it in internet marketing but unfortunately it is not. We all have to come out of our comfort zone and have to approach people for guest blogging opportunities, write some quality articles, some blog commenting etc.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I think you’re on the right track, Samuel. It is difficult, but you’ve got good ideas to get ahead!

  5. waqar says:

    That was a very nice post , Managing time is my Biggest Issue. Here is how my life is mess.

    1. I am a Medical Student so I have to go university for 8 hours except one sunday.

    2. I am Blogging on 3 different Blogs (I actually don’t blog at all of them simultaneoulsy, I just post something after one week or so) DOn’t know how this will work?

    3. I have a big community of students whom I need to help (Though there are plenty of people doing it with me )

    4. I am supposed to do freelancing work for my new up coming Business

    5. I need to find new freelancing jobs as I might lose the old ones, anytime.

    6. I need to think a strateigy about new Business that is hovering in my mind all the time .

    7. I need to read your Blog every week for sometime , because you inspire me.

    8. And when there is a test or exam I desperately need to study to get passed.

    9. I need to prepare for USMLE to get certified as a USA Doctor, or at least AMC for certified by Australia it will boost my reputation as a doctor when I get my degree.

    10. Lastly I need to manage my social media and give time to friends and help some of them if I can..

    So that is how my life is a mess, No time for anything and everyday I end up doing nothing.

    I ended up writing a Blog Post in your comment box , I was thinking to delete it from here and publish on my Blog but I wrote it here so it better stays here

    Regards

    Muhammad

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Gosh, you are busy! It can be difficult to get things done when you feel so overwhelmed you don’t know where to start.

  6. Great post! :) I find that I tend to take up some of my time with video games. I am no hardcore gamer but I like Candy Crush on my iPhone and Farmville-2 on Zynga, hahaha. However, I think I need to disconnect from the social games and maybe focus that saved time on social media optimization for my blogs. Thanks for the great post and Happy New Year, ProBlogger folks!

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      Haha video games have their place! Just not all the time, I guess…

  7. I just want to wish you happy new year.
    I hope you all will get success in blogging.

  8. Carl says:

    I’ve spent last 2 weeks of 2013 planning my blogging and marketing strategy for 2014. I have to admit that 2013, wasn’t very successful for me, as I was a bit disorganized, because I set goals that were not easy to achieve. Working on 1st of January and I think this is a good sign for success.

  9. Ryley Kade says:

    The way I go about finding time for my blog is I have set a schedule for it. I know that doesn’t work for everyone, but I have been able to stick to my schedule well enough that if I don’t work on my blog during my set schedule I feel odd and out of place. Another way I have made more time for my blog is having a list of only the most important things that I need to work on for my blog. That way I spend less time doing the less important things and overall less time that I need to manage.

  10. we all have the same time of 24 hours in a day just like SR and even other bloggers who has made it in the blogsphere , i personally believe – it is how we manage the time and dedicated to post an article or do the product creation for launching and so on.

    don’t mean to critic the no time respond but we always can make time to make it happen. if SR and DR took years to build a community as such, i believe with the same determination and dedication – we all too can make it happen. it is just the matter of time and perseverance

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I think you’re right. If you want it bad enough, you will find the time ;-)

  11. Ray Gibbons says:

    Thanks for the tips, its great tips for us to have a reboot as well! Happy New Year!

  12. Sameer says:

    Blogger who steal content from another blogs they need only 1 hrs for 10 – 20 posts but If we want to provide good content to readers we must invest our time. I remember on quote, Give your time to someone its a best gift. We as a blogger must give our time as good blog post.

  13. Matt YLBody says:

    My biggest challenge is time an I’ve accepted the fact that there’s no way I’ll do five posts a week. I do a lot of mental blogging. It’s the best way to go to sitting down and pumping out a post.

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I think that’s a realisation a lot of us come to eventually. But often it’s best to just do what suits you, rather than what you think you should be doing.

  14. Samuel says:

    If it weren’t for time management written on paper, I don’t know what I would do!

    Every person has a unique lifestyle and to say everyone is procrastinating is just foolish.

    Very task you have to do or job, I would always write it down on paper. Then arrange them with the most important first.

    Resting has its place too. I need to work on that since my mind can become overloaded and I have a hard time thinking clearly for work.

    I hope everyone has a successful 2014 and have the time to do everything they want to in the new year.

    Thank you!

    - Samuel

    • Stacey Roberts says:

      I think I could do with a bit less procrastinating! But I do think blogging is a creative thing and if you’re not feeling it, then it’s hard to do it. I do have to schedule in time, and I find it works mostly well for me.

      Have a great 2014!

  15. I tend to make time. Like you said, it’s all about priorities. I’ve also started using this to help me stay focused: http://lorrainemariereguly.wordpress.com/2014/01/03/posting-planning-publishing-productivity-and-a-pdf-planner-for-free-for-you/

  16. Hello Stacey,

    You write the most awesome content I have read in many weeks and you say you aren’t an expert in your field? I disagree! From setting priorities, to practical advice and finally to your own experience, I can relate with every written word from your pen!

    I’m pretty sure this entry will last long in the memories of bloggers: both professionals and newbies!

    Always,
    Terungwa

  17. Thanks for the great post, Darren. I really like the idea of having different type of days in the week. I tend to write longer posts for my blog, so it takes me a good two days to create a title, write, find images, SEO, let it sit, revise and edit, and then publish. After all that, I need a success day! The day after I publish, I don’t even think about writing – I usually just do a bit of sharing on social networks, responding to comments, and monitoring how the post is doing. I might read a few other blogs too. The day after that, maybe I’ll do a little work on the nuts and bolts of the blog itself, monetization, etc. Maybe I’ll think a little about my next post as well. Then it’s back to the two day writing process again. So, my goal is to post once every 5 days. It gives both myself and my readers time to enjoy the fruits of my labour.

  18. Maria Bybel says:

    Great tips on how to find time and motivation to keep going, I always find the difficult if I dont see immediate results. 2014 I will be following this tips!

  19. Nick Hughes says:

    Stacey, thanks for your post. I never used to blog very much at all until I started setting a weekly list of priorities, scheduling time and planning ahead, so I agree with what you are saying here. Being more organised makes dedicating time much easier. I also carry a small notepad with to write down ideas about articles, so I do not forget them. Regards, Nick

  20. Anirudh says:

    I’m gonna allocate certain time only to take rest and not to think or do any other work which would please my mind :) Should try doing this soon. Cheers ^_^

  21. The “Mental Blogging” exercise is a great thing to do, I’m always doing that. I’m rehearsing constantly in my mind to crystallize the main points. Coming up with quotes, word play and entire passages usually results from this internal dialouge I have with myself. Listening to lots of podcasts helps too because good information and presentation styles rub off on me.

  22. Ben Troy says:

    Scheduling enough time for creating original content, promoting it, answering comments, reading and leaving comments on other blogs is not an easy feat. Few bloggers I know are able to blog full time. They have active offline lives to live so they want to make the best possible use of the time they spend online.

  23. Shinise Muse says:

    I am very new to the blogging scene with my first post just being a few days ago. With the pressure of building a platform, learning as much as possible, writing a book, working full-time, managing and enjoying family etc…it quickly became overwhelming. I like the idea you shared about blocking time and setting and committing to priorities. I will certainly heed your advice.

  24. Selcuk says:

    Everytime I start a new blog,I try to publish at least an article a day, for the first couple of months. It might be hard at first, but once you see the positive results (a major increase in traffic + sales), you will be more motivated to write.

  25. Nathan Brook says:

    It’s very nice and your tips are great and yes correct Title is most important part of the blog so create always eye catching title and create always unique content for your blog.

  26. These are all awesome points.

    I guess once you have a lot of love for blogging then you will want to find time no matter what. But I think it is always best to create a blogging schedule. Can’t go wrong when you do this.

    Thanks for the points mentioned above.