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Book Review: Marketing In the Round

Not long ago we published the post 5 Ways Blogging Supports a Multichannel Marketing Strategy by Geoff Livingston. Geoff’s one of the authors of Marketing in the Round, How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era.

Written with Gini Dietrich, Marketing in the Round is a marketing strategy book, designed primarily for large organisations that have multiple roles within the marketing and communications functions.

So as I began reading, I wondered: what would this book offer to solo or small-team bloggers like us?

Structure and contents

The book’s set out in three parts:

  • Understand the marketing round and develop your strategy
  • Four marketing round approaches
  • Measurement, refinement, and improvement.
  • Each chapter in part two is laced with examples of integrated strategies used by real organisations, online and off, all with mulitmillion-dollar turnovers. Presenting actual case information to exemplify the points that have been made in the first section of the book, and to really show how integrated marketing works, and what impacts it in the real world, is an excellent way to get readers’ heads around the information.

    Each chapter of the book finishes with an “Exercises” section that gives the reader practical starting points to act on the advice that’s presented in that chapter. The exercises can, at times, seem a bit simplistic but they are an excellent way to help readers take the high-level conceptual advice from each chapter and make it truly workable.

    The book does assume some knowledge, too—that readers have some understanding of pure marketing concepts, but also that they have some idea of how marketing teams function in large organizations, and the different disciplines represented by team members can work together. If you lack this understanding, Marketing in the Round may be a bit bewildering at first.

    That said, the case examples in the second part of the book should still prove useful and informative regardless of your level of experience with in the field.

    What’s in it for you?

    Despite the book’s targeting, bloggers can get a lot out of this title—if they’re prepared to read, digest, and consider.

    The book shows us:

    • what integrated marketing is in concept and practice
    • how it can be used to build a brand
    • what elements can impact on the strategy’s success
    • how to create an integrated marketing strategy
    • how to execute, measure, and refine that strategy.

    The benefit of the book’s focus on multidisciplinary teams is, I think, something of an advantage for solopreneur readers.

    Firstly, it addresses the issues of integration that arise when different people do different tasks. As a solo or small team blogger, you have to wear multiple hats on any given day—or indeed in any given moment.

    Stepping back and considering those roles (within the marketing and promotions effort) individually can help you to get perspective on what it is you’re doing. If you can understand how a team might use the marketing round to create an integrated campaign, you’ll be in a strong position to successfuly be your own marketing round.

    Secondly, the challenges of creating integrated campaigns using multiple tactics, executions, media and people over an extended period is probably the trickiest scenario in which to create an integrated campaign. At least if, as a blogger, you need to do everything (or most things) yourself, you’ll have a good feel for where the different components of your integrated marketing effort are at.

    I tend to think that learning from the most-difficult-case archetype is a good way to get your head around detailed technical concepts. If you can master the most difficult case, you’ll be one (or more) steps ahead when it comes to easier ones. Also, a book that discussed integrated marketing for bloggers would most certainly not cover the depth or breadth of information that this book presents.

    Yes, you’ll have to think about the material and discern what might or might not work for you—what’s applicable and what’s not. But the fact that it’s all there means you get to make those calls based on your skills, blog, audience, market, and personality. You’re not relying on the author to make those choices for you, and hope that their selection matches your needs.

    Finally, by understanding the biggest possible integrated marketing picture, you’ll be fully informed when it comes to critically assessing the work of those in your niche, whether they’re big brands or small, and to formulating your own integrated strategy for your brand.

    If you want to get smarter about your marketing, and think strategically about how you can get more out of the tactics you’re using, Marketing in the Round is a great place to start. For more information on the book, visit marketingintheround.com.

Titles That Work on ProBlogger—And Why

Darren recently highlighted some of the posts that attract clicks at Digital Photography School. Many readers were interested to see the kinds of titles that do well here at ProBlogger, so today I thought I’d show you the posts that garnered a lot of traffic here in April.

The top titles

Here are the top seven, in order of their traffic levels:

  1. Win 1 of 10 Trips to the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, Australia #QLDBLOG
  2. 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog
  3. 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans
  4. 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It
  5. And the Winners Are… #QLDBLOG
  6. Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using SlideShare
  7. A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts

Why they work

Looking at this list, a few features immediately jump out at me—I wonder if you found that, too?

  • Titles that quantify the post’s benefits work well: Facebook tactics that’ll triple your fans? 100,000 pageviews in one month? 19 Essential plugins? Win one of ten trips? Quantification of benefits is a theme among these titles. I know people say “list posts do well,” but I think the issue—at click—isn’t the list so much as the perceived payoff. And all of these post titles promise a big payoff, up-front. Of course, to be shared, the posts need to deliver on that payoff, and these ones obviously do.
  • Natural language speaks volumes: The title 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It quantifies a benefit, but it also speaks in natural language. It’s a slight exaggeration—you’re probably not getting zero repeat visits to your blog—but it’s one that we’d use in conversation with our blogging friends: “Man, no one comes back to my blog!” The same goes for “tactics that’ll triple your fans.” Bloggers seem reticent to use contractions in titles, but they can work really well—especially in keeping the rhythm of the title swinging along. They also suggest that the post will be written in language that’s approachable and on the level.
  • Titles that speak to “you” have cut-through: Three of these titles refer directly to the reader: your blog, your fans. While you’ll want to mix your titles up a bit, bringing the message and the benefits home to your audience by speaking to them directly is a good way to pique readers’ interest. Using “you” and “your” can give titles personal relevance.
  • Unique ideas grab attention: We see titles about Facebook marketing and WordPress plugins all the time, and they’re basically essential reading. But some of the other titles in this list communicate unusual ideas, and get attention for that very reason. Get 100,000 pageviewss a month … using SlideShare? That’s going to make a few people stop and sit up. Similarly, systemizing writing is a bit of a foreign concept for many: just how do you systemize what’s seen as an unruly, unpredictable creative task? So topics are important to the success of these posts, too.

How we tweaked them

Finally, I wanted to show you how we’d altered these titles, so you can try similar tweaks on your own post titles.

  1. Win 1 of 10 Trips to the Great Barrier Reef in QLD, Australia #QLDBLOG: This post was originally called “Queensland Competition” but Darren updated it before publication! Smart move.
  2. 19 Essential WordPress Plugins for Your Blog: The only change I made here was to the ending. The post’s original title was “19 Essential WordPress Plugins for 2012″ but I thought the content would have more longevity without the time-limitation. I also like to use “your” in titles where I can, because I think it gives some titles more cut-through: “Essential plugins for my blog? Really? Alright, I’ll take a look.”
  3. 9 Facebook Marketing Tactics That’ll Triple Your Fans: This post was submitted with the title “9 Facebook Marketing Strategies to Triple Your Fans”. I changed “strategies” because, well, they weren’t strategies. I also wanted a stronger sense of causality between the tactics and the results, so I used “that’ll.” Altogether, these changes alliterated well and gave the title a strong natural rhythm, too.
  4. 3 Reasons No One Comes Back to Your Blog—And How to Fix It: This post was originally titled, “3 reasons no one comes back even after a huge spike in traffic”. The problem was length, and context. Comes back to where? When I see titles in my Twitter feed or RSS feed reader, keywords jump out. I wanted to get “blog” into this one. Also, since Alex had included “The fix?” headings for each of the reasons he’d identified in the post, the “—and how to fix it” part of the title basically wrote itself.
  5. And the Winners Are… #QLDBLOG: Again, Darren wrote this one and, within the context of the blog, there was no need to change it.
  6. Attract 100,000 Pageviews in 1 Month Using SlideShare: This one was submitted with the title, “How to get 100,000 views in 1 month using Slideshare” but I wanted to get that big number closer to the start of the title. Also, we have a lot of “how to” posts on ProBlogger, so I try to vary them a bit so the blog doesn’t come across as one big how-to post. Finally, the full word “pageviews” seemed a bit more Google-responsive than “views.”
  7. A Systematic Approach to Writing Successful Blog Posts: This post was submitted with the title “How to write a successful blog post,” but on reading it I saw that it presented a system for writing, and I’d just scheduled another post on systematized blogging. I thought this post would be a nice follow-up, so I scheduled it for the same day and gave it a title that tied it to the theme of systematized blogging. As I mentioned above, this title was a bit more of a head-turner, since the whole problem with creative tasks like writing is that they seem so slippery and difficult to manage.

How do you go about creating good titles for posts on your blog? Share your secrets with us in the comments.

Four Reader Myths You Can Safely Ignore

In blogging, we often talk about the reader or the visitor, and what our audiences like (or don’t!). A lot of blanket statements are made around the ways we approach and connect with our audiences. But many of these ideas are little more than myth.

Let’s look at four of the most common myths—and why you can safely ignore them.

Myth #1. Readers don’t like to read

This is one of the most common reader myths. It’s true that readers may have limited time and attention spans, and may feel a lot of pressure or be juggling distractions when they’re online. They may arrive at your content wanting to simply get answers and get out. But next time you’re on a train or bus, look around and count how many people are reading on their smartphones or tablets. (Some may even be reading printed material!)

Internet users read all day, every day. But different audiences—which really means people with a specific need that relates to your blog—read differently.

Take imaginary web user Todd. Todd’s main passions include cooking and hiking. When he’s looking for a recipe online, he scans images and ingredients lists before deciding whether to read the recipe right through.

If he likes the sound of the ingredients, and the image is good, then he’ll speed-read your catchy introductory paragraph and all of the procedural instructions you’ve included in the recipe. His main goal at this point is: get the meal on the table, so he skips from scanning to speed-reading, and may only read in detail as he’s preparing the food itself, using the recipe. That said, if your writing style speaks to him on some level, he may bookmark your site for future reference.

On the other hand, reading other peoples’ hiking adventures is something Todd does in his spare time, for pleasure. He’s a fan of a few blogs on the topic, as well as some special-interest sites, and he’ll easily read three or four 1500-word-plus articles on different hike locations and trails, hiking stories, and hiking gear each week.

Todd reads, but he reads differently for different purposes—and differently on different sites. Working out how your readers read on your site is a crucial first step in understanding your audience and producing content to suit them. And on that point, check out James Chartrand’s post, which explains how to produce paragraphs that readers will stay glued to … all the way through.

Myth #2. Reader’s won’t scroll

This is a hangover myth from the early days of the web. While it’s true that if readers don’t see a thing that captures their attention above the “fold” (in the first content view that appears on their screens) they may not bother scrolling, it’s erroneous to assume that readers don’t scroll.

Again, look at those smartphone users on your commuter service. If they didn’t scroll, their smartphones would be useless. Perhaps it’s the prevalence of smartphones that’s encouraged readers to “rediscover” scrolling; perhaps not.

Whatever the case, we can rest assured that readers do scroll—provided the content interests them, and they can see that it does. That comes down to things like headlines and subheads, intros, images and, of course, titles—the easily scannable components of the content. And, as we saw above, when Todd was in recipe-searching mode, scrolling is necessary for readers to see and assess those elements.

The tone and rapport your establish through those components will also influence some readers, so the more your images, image captions, subheadings and so on can be made to resonate with readers, the better.

Myth #3. Readers need to be hooked with a story

Sometimes, readers just want answers. They don’t want a lengthy story that gives context—they have their own context, understand their problem, and just want a solution.

Todd’s just finished reading a great, story-style post about a hike he’s planning with some friends in the Spring. He looks up from the screen, dreaming of the sensational view from a lookout they’ll reach on the journey. Then, he spots the clock: it’s nearly five. His sister and her partner are coming over for dinner at seven, and he bought a duck to roast. The only problem is he’s never roasted a duck before! He jumps onto a search engine and looks around for a decent-sounding duck recipe.

As you can imagine, he doesn’t want to wade through a lengthy story about the time you cooked this very special recipe to mark an anniversary with a loved one, or as a bracing salute to the end of duck season, or even that time you’d shot the thing yourself.

What he wants to know is:

  • what it’s meant to look like
  • what he needs to make it
  • how long it’ll take.

In this case, Todd doesn’t need a story. He needs answers, and he needs them now.

Myth #4. Readers don’t want to be sold to

Readers may not want a sleazy sales pitch, but if you’re expecting them to part with their money, you can expect that they’ll want to know what they’re buying. And while, yes, that does mean they want to know the product’s benefits, sometimes it also means features.

Todd’s found a cool-sounding croissant-making workshop that he’s thinking of attending. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to bake his own, professional-standard croissants? Yes it would!

He’s reading that sales material, and he’s considering each of the benefits of the course. It’ll give him skills that’ll wow his friends and family! It’ll give him a good reason to get up every morning! He’ll earn a croissant qualification from the International Institute of Croissanteurs! Great!

But he has questions related to the course features. Will he be able to transfer the skills he learns to other types of bread- and pastry-making? Does he need any existing skills or experience? How big will the class be and will he need to bring his own equipment? Is there a gluten-free option (this is particularly important because he’s dating a coeliac, and we all know that the way to a new love’s heart is through his or her stomach!)?

Many sites answer these feature-related questions in an FAQ page or something similar, but far too many leave these questions entirely unanswered, on the basis that the benefits—in this case, bakery prowess—are all that matter. Your readers need to understand why your offering is different from or better than your competitors’, and that depends on how it meets their specific needs.

Todd wants to buy your course, so long as it meets his specific needs. If you don’t sell it to him—if you try to ride on the cachet of the IIC and the incredible promise of a shower of accolades from breakfast-eating friends, you’ll likely lose him.

Write for your readers, and their needs

Every site has a different reader set, and those readers have different needs. Don’t simply accept the common mythology around reader behaviour. As we’ve seen here, each individual has varying information and entertainment needs, so if you take the common readership rules of thumb as gospel truths, you may be selling yourself, your blog, and your readers short.

Do your readers read? Scan? Scroll? Want to be sold to? Tell us what you’ve learned about your audience in the comments. And don’t forget to check out James’s post on perfect paragraphs!

Better Buttons Part 2: Buttons as Brand Engagement Tools

Earlier today, the Ninja made an important point about buttons on your blog: he said that users have an expectation about the kind of response they get when they interact with a button.

In a world where engagement is the blogger’s ultimate goal, we can take this one step further. We can see buttons as the mechanisms by which users effect their engagement—whether they’re clicking Subscribe or Comment or Share or Download or Buy, users enact engagement on your blog using buttons.

This is, primarily, why it’s important to use the correct—honest—words on your button: as the Ninja says, verbage sets an expectation that your conversion process must fulfil.

Another consideration is usability. The poor average reading levels of many web users, coupled with the distractions and limitations we all face as we use the web, suggests that we should keep button text as straightforward as possible. There are also standard web conventions for many interactions, and it makes good practice to consider those, too.

But there’s another element of engagement that we should consider when we look at button text, and that’s your brand.

If buttons are the ultimate point of engagement with your blog, they may well be the ultimate point of engagement with your brand, too. So your button text needs to be honest, clear and brand-appropriate.

Does your button text reflect your brand?

For most bloggers, honesty and clarity are brand values, so a button that invites users to sign up for an email newsletter with the words “Subscribe now” is probably pretty brand-appropriate.

But, depending on your brand and your audience, there may be other options, including:

  • Sign up now
  • Sign me up!
  • Subscribe me
  • Let’s do it
  • Bombs away!

That last example is a real-world example: it’s from the subscription form on Ashley Ambirge’s The Middle Finger Project.

As the Ninja alluded in his post, the button text you choose will always be seen in context, so you can shape it according to the surrounding calls to action. That said, it’s true that readers’ eyes may be drawn to buttons before they’ve read any surrounding text, so there’s a very strong argument that your button text should make sense independently of that text as well as within it.

Of course, “making sense” is relative to your audience: what makes sense to you may baffle me. So while some may argue that a text input box followed by a button that reads “Bombs away!” is not prescriptive enough—not a strong enough call to action—Ashley may reply that her readers get it, well and truly.

Moreover, we can imagine that those who do get it also get a kick out of clicking a button that reads “Bombs away!” rather than boring old “Subscribe.” Maybe “bombs away” is within their own personal vocabulary; maybe it simply resonates with them—tickles their fancy, or gives them a chuckle.

I wonder how many people are smiling as they’re clicking Subscribe buttons on websites right now? If your blog’s users are having a positive physical response to your brand as they’re interacting with your blog, that may well dictate something about the emotional depth of that engagement, and its potential to evolve into lasting loyalty.

A tall order?

This isn’t to say that your button text should always make people smile. Obviously that’s not appropriate for all brands or contexts. But words do solicit feeling, so a consideration of users’ feelings—which will, after all, affect their eagerness to undertake the interaction your button is inviting—is important.

Would you rather:

  • Get started, or
  • Proceed?
  • Buy now, or
  • Purchase?
  • Become a member, or
  • Join us, or
  • Create an account?

Your answer probably depends on the site’s purpose and brand. And what about your blog? Is the text on your buttons consistent with your blog’s brand? I’d love to hear in the comments whether you’ve considered buttons as a branding element.

Blog Wise Tip 7: Use the Right Tools

You might think that, with blogging being a digital pursuit, the bloggers we interviewed for Blog Wise would be right up with the latest and greatest productivity gadgets, philosophies, and software.

They’re not.

Physical tools

Interestingly, almost every one of the bloggers we spoke with relies on physical productivity tools to some degree—pen and paper, wall calendars, and whiteboards.

“I actually have to have something visual to look at deadlines on a calendar,” says Amy Porterfield. “So what I have is on my wall in my office I actually have a yearly calendar, but it’s month by month, and I’ll put my deadlines in there.”

It seems that for many of us, there’s a sort of psychological benefit in having our to do list, for example, at our elbows, and separate from the computer in front of us.

Software

In terms of digital tools, these bloggers stuck with the mainstream software options: Google Apps like Calendars and Docs, Basecamp, and Evernote.

“I write whenever ideas come to mind,” Jeff Goins comments. “I use Evernote a lot, whether it’s on my phone or on my laptop, and I’ll just write some ideas down or a quote or whatever, and a lot of that turns into articles later.”

Many bloggers simply used the apps that came with their computers—iCal, Notepad, or Word, for example.

“I use a lot of text documents,” Darren problogger.net reveals. “I have about ten open on my computer at the moment. They’re just plain text documents, and that’s where I put my to-do lists and half-written posts and that kind of thing.”

Email, clearly, plays a massive role in productive communications between bloggers and their teams; Skype does too, but to a lesser degree.

Hardware

Though it wasn’t talked about in detail, the interviews conveyed the impression that smartphones have been a boon for most pro bloggers’ productivity.

As a storeplace for diary and appointment information, email access tool, alarm, and cache of contact details, the smartphone’s invaluable. It also makes working on the go achievable even in locations that don’t have wifi—and at times when you’re nowhere near your computer (or, for that matter, a notepad).

In particular, bloggers with families relied heavily on their phones. Heather Armstrong uses Google calendars on her phone. “I can make a change, my husband can make a change, and it immediately updates on my phone so that I know what to be prepared for the rest of the day.”

In his interview, Darren revealed, “My wife, she’s out for a walk at the moment—I texted her and said, “Please don’t let the boys in my room. I’m doing an interview now.’” Communication, he says, is critical to his productivity.

The other piece of hardware that got the thumbs-up? The tablet PC. “If anything pops into my head I have a tablet next to me [where] I just write it down so that I can forget about it in that moment and stay focused,” Amy explained.

What’s your favorite productivity tool? Let us know in the comments. And if you’ve downloaded your copy of Blog Wise and you’d like to share your thoughts on it, we’d love to hear them, too!

Blog Wise Tip 6: Build a Productive Team

“Have you ever merged together four different companies with four different partners, and employees from one company and another company?” asks Brian Clark of Copyblogger.net. “Oh my goodness, it was quite stressful.”

But, he adds, now that the transition’s complete, “It’s amazing to me, what we can do.”

All of the bloggers we spoke to as we researched Blog Wise extolled the virtues of team work—even when the team is your readership, as in the case of solo blogger Leo Babauta’s collaborative writing project, The Effortless Life.

But all of them emphasize the importance of clear communications within the team.

Brian explains that before his group’s merger, “I had all these smart people that were partners, and they were in separate companies and they weren’t allowed to talk to each other, if you will, because there was no profit motivation.

“I saw that the only way I was going to get to where I saw as a possible future vision, was to put all these smart people together so that they all had a stake in each others’ future.”

Our bloggers point out, though, that a philosophy of team collaboration needs to be underpinned by the right tools.

Like many, Darren finds digital collaboration tools helpful. “Every ebook [we produce] has its own folder in Basecamp, and I can tap into that and get pretty much any document I want along the way,” he explains.

Bloggers like Abby Larson of stylemepretty.com and Heather Armstrong of Dooce, whose spouses also work on their blogs, use tools like Google Calendar, and clear, close communication, to ensure that their husband-business partners know what’s going on at all times.

When you add shared responsibilities like children to the shared responsibility of a blog, communication is critical. As Abby says, “because the site is so dependent on both of us … we realize that we both need to commit equally to our family.”

Do you work with others on your blog? What approaches do you use to make your team as productive as possible?

Tomorrow: bloggers’ favorite productivity tools and systems.

Blog Wise Tip 5: Manage Distractions

Given their productivity levels, you might think that A-list bloggers don’t get distracted. The truth, as the interviews in Blog Wise show, is that they’ve learned to deal with distractions so that they don’t rule the day.

Distraction #1: Social media

Is social media sucking up your time? Give yourself permission to spend a few minutes there, says Amy Porterfield.

“I give myself permission, I get in there, I do it, there’s no guilt associated with it, there’s no hurry to it, and then I go on with my work,” she says, adding that for her, less stress means greater productivity.

Distraction #2: Family

For work-from-home bloggers, family can be very distracting. For this reason, Darren has agreed with his wife on certain times when he’s unavailable—“work time”—so that work and home responsibilities can stay fairly separate.

He adds that his family is understanding. “Having a business is a very high priority for me as well, and so we, as a family … acknowledge that I need to work long hours, and put aside time for that and plan for that as well.”

Distraction #3: Work

Darren and Jeff both handle work-related distractions by asking themselves whether the distraction is taking them closer to their goals.

Jeff, too, reminds himself that his purpose is to create, not react, which can help him avoid dedicating time to less productive tasks.

“If I have a choice, and often I do, between reacting or responding to what somebody else has said, and creating something new, I want to create something new,” he says. “So in terms of getting things done, that’s … a question that really helps me guide a lot of decisions.”

Top tip for killing distractions

Some of the bloggers we interviewed commented that they way they handled distractions was to physically remove themselves from the distraction itself.

Matt Kepnes, whose distractions are also his blog topic, shuts himself away from the world when he needs to catch up on work and really focus. For this reason, he finds air travel time to be really productive.

Gretchen Rubin also changes her physical location depending on the work she’s doing. This helps her feel that the time she has for any given task is finite, and helps her to stay focused as she tackles each of the tasks she needs to do.

Among Gretchen’s catalog of working locations, besides her office, are cafes and the library. The walk to get to those places is a bonus.

“I get outside I get a little breath of fresh air, a little hit of sunlight in my face (which is good for alertness and energy, I know from my research), and then I work there,” she says. “And then when I feel I can’t take that anymore … I move someplace else.”

How do you handle blogging distractions? Share your tips in the comments.

Tomorrow: Building a productive blogging team.

Blog Wise Tip 4: Choose a Structure that Works for You

All the bloggers we spoke to as we researched Blog Wise had an opinion on structure.

Even those, like Matt Kepnes of NomadicMatt.com, who doesn’t blog to regular schedules, noted that they had particular times that were good for certain work tasks, and particular times that tended to be less productive.

Matt, in balancing his desires to work and to experience the destinations he travels to, puts time limits on his daily blogging tasks. “The Internet, blogging, it’ll take as much time as you can give it,” he says.

“I force myself into boxes to work … to limit the amount of time I’m working.” He finds this the easiest way to stay productive.

Jeff Goins, of Goinswriter.com, takes the concept a step further: he’ll create a good “context” for that time, to make the work more enjoyable. He explains his rationale like this: “I have to do something I don’t want to do, so I’m going to create the most enjoyable context possible. I’m going to listen to music, I’m gonna drink coffee, and I’m gonna sit down and I’m gonna do it, and I’m gonna set aside this much time to do it.”

For Jeff, it’s not necessarily about hitting a milestone or goal within that time; it’s just about doing the work itself—about getting something done.

For the full-time bloggers, chunking time as part of the daily schedule was important. “That way I know how I’m going to spend my day,” Amy says.

She explains that this helps her prioritise tasks, and know if she has time to step away to do something a bit more inspirational or extraordinary.

While Leo’s a full-time blogger, he also practices a No Goals philosophy. What does that mean for the structure of his day? “When it’s unstructured, [the day is] really a huge, open container that you can do anything you want with,” he says. “I mean, you can fill it with anything.”

As he explains how that works to boost his productivity, he warns against the pitfalls of being too wedded to structure.

“When you’re structured, it just ends up being frustrating,” he says, “because you don’t always meet the structure that you set… if you had a structure that you had planned, and it doesn’t go according to that plan, then you’re messed up.”

Does a loose structure work for you? Or do you prefer something more prescriptive? Share your secrets for structuring your blogging workday below.

Tomorrow: managing distractions.

Blog Wise Tip 3: Plan for Productivity

Given all the tasks that can crop up on a blogger’s to do list, it’s no surprise that many of us struggle with task planning and control. Even the big-name bloggers we interviewed for Blog Wise grappled with these issues.

Having realized the negative impacts of stress on her productivity, Amy Porterfield has adopted a range of tools—from physical calendars to Google Docs—that help smooth her daily workload, and make sure she gets everything done.

Importantly, she actually uses these tools: she told us that she discards any that don’t really work well for her. In this way, her task and time management tactics are constantly evolving to suit her personal preferences and her changing workload and goals.

Gretchen Rubin has found that having a clear desk, and an uncluttered workspace, helps her to feel calm and in control. “Outer order contributes to inner calm,” she said. “And I used to think, ‘well, it doesn’t really matter if my desk is messy, because I can find everything.’ But now I’ve really keyed into the fact that I feel calmer, my mind feels more orderly, when my stuff is more orderly.”

Bloggers who work at home with families obviously face a particular set of planning challenges. Both Heather and Darren explained the value of sitting down at the start of the week—perhaps even on a Sunday—and looking at the work-life schedule to see what’s on that week.

Darren also takes the opportunity to speak with his wife about the family’s plans, so that he can schedule in the things he needs to do as a dad, as well as a blogger.

Heather says Google Calendars have been a “life-changer” for her. “We’ve hooked up all of our calendars onto Gmail,” she says. “And so my assistant has a calendar, my husband has a calendar, there’s a home calendar, there’s a me-work calendar, there’s a me-exercise calendar, and all of those are synced together on my phone so that I can look at my day.

“And I can make a change, my husband can make a change, and it immediately updates on my phone so that I know what to be prepared for the rest of the day.” Heather adds that while things don’t always go to plan, “It’s having all the other days go smoothly that makes that one or two days off the rails doable.”

Finally Leo, who blogs without either goals or plans, also feels that “I definitely am more in control of my life now than I ever was before.

“Blogging made that possible,” he adds.

How much do you plan your blogging—and how much do you leave up to chance? We’d love to hear your take on planning in the comments.

Tomorrow: how structure helps productivity.