Recently, I sent out a request to my email list. I asked them to share their opinions on their favorite topics as well as their biggest struggles with their blogs. (Thanks to all who responded! Your feedback has been invaluable!)
Many, many of you struggle with finding time to blog consistently.
Life often gets “in the way” of blogging.
You’re also working a 9-to-5 job to pay the bills. Or going to college. Or chasing your adorable rascals around the house.
So, your blog often gets shoved into the background as you live your life.
But you’re still passionate and determined to grow your blog. So, how can you find time to blog?
Feeling your pain
I faced a similar problem when I started this design company. It was hard to find the time to follow my passion for web design.
When I was first learning to code, I was working full time (plus overtime most weeks!). I was also pregnant with our first child.
My son was less than a year old when I decided I was going to start my own design shop. While still working and caring for an infant, I was also designing and coding themes during every spare minute I could find.
By the time I opened shop, I had a 2-year-old, an infant and was still working part-time.
When my daughter (our second child) was 18-months, I was finally able to quit my day job and focus on the business. But I was still running around after two toddlers and “trying” to keep the house clean, and cook and all that stuff. (I will be the first to admit, I am not very domestic. Thank the stars I have a partner who is willing to pitch in around the house. Bless his mother for raising this boy right!).
In between all this chaos, I designed and coded more than 2 dozen themes for Blogger and WordPress. I managed shops on 5 different platforms! I launched and re-designed our website 3 times (so far!). I did lots of custom work and blog setups. All this while providing support for thousands of customers and growing our blog to over 2000 followers.
Whew, guys, I am tired just thinking about it!
Scrambling to Find Time
The first few years of my business and blog, I scrambled to find every minute of free time to work on coding and blog posts.
I stayed up way too late at night and went without sleep to follow my passion. I may have worked on my business while at my day job.
When my kids were still napping (sadly baby boy gave up naps at 3 and baby girl at 2!), I would run to my computer and work as they slept.
I got stuff done, but man, was I tired. And, eventually, I got burnt out by this process. Because I didn’t have priorities and I was multi-tasking like a lunatic.
But I LOVE doing what I do. I LOVE the flexibility it gives my family. I LOVE being my own boss and calling the shots. And I was so, so happy to finally quit my day job and take this show “full time”. (Full disclosure: I get 3 days per week while my kids are at pre-school to dedicate to the biz. I still fit a lot of work into my evenings.)
To avoid total burnout and keep building my business, I had to learn some hacks to make the best use of my time.
When you’re trying to find time to blog, one of the biggest changes you can make is to really use the time you have. When you learn to make the time you have to be your most productive, you’ll be able to accomplish amazing things.
So, I really want to share the productivity hack I’ve learned with you so that you can make the best use of your time as well. Because finding enough time to follow your passion can be SO hard. But you can make the most of the time you have with a few adjustments to your blogging habits!
#1 – Batch Tasks (aka, STOP Multi-tasking)
This is my #1, all-time productivity hack.
When I started batching tasks together, I started getting so much more done.
My mind is always running 1000 miles per minute. I need to schedule more social media posts. Oh, and work on next week’s blog post. And I must work on that blog design. And respond to those emails…
By nature, I multitask. But multitasking is the WORST thing you can do for your productivity and getting stuff done.
Psychologists have done research into the costs of multitasking and it’s huge. Every time you switch tasks, it can take up to 30 minutes or more for your brain to switch gears. Switching tasks often can cost as much as 40% of your productive time!
Guys, that’s huge! You could be wasting almost 50% of your time by multi-tasking.
So, just stop.
Here’s What to Do Instead
Batching like tasks to keep your brain “in the zone” is one way to boost your productivity.
For example, I have one day that I dedicate entirely to writing content and blog posts. I will write 2 – 6 posts in one day. When I’m in “writing mode”, my brain is in that mindset and I can pound out posts in about ½ the time it used to take me when I was constantly multi-tasking.
I also batch my support and emailing. I check our support desk and respond to tickets in the morning and in the evening. This means my customers get a response within less than 12 hours but I’m not wasting time checking it every hour. Same with emails. I try to save them for morning and evenings as well.
Some tasks can be batched on a weekly or even monthly basis while others require daily attention. But by focusing on a single type of task for a period of time, your brain can stay in the same “zone” and get a lot more done.
A great way to break down blogging tasks into batches can look like this:
- Brainstorm blog post topics (1 – 3 hours, once per month)
- Create a monthly editorial calendar (1 hour, once per month)
- Writing blog content (2 – 8 hours, 1 – 2 times per week)
- Blog photography (2 – 4 hours, 1 time per week)
- Scheduling social media posts (1 – 3 hours, 1 time per week)
- Responding to comments (30 minutes, 3 times per week)
- Commenting on other blogs (30 minutes, 2 times per week)
One great outcome of writing your content in batches is that you’ll be able to pre-schedule posts. This is so freeing. Just think about having 6 posts schedule in advance. No more pressure to get your next post out because you are On. Top. Of. It.
#2 – Focus, Focus, Focus
If you’re like me, when you’re working on your computer writing blog posts, you also have your email program open and your computer dings every time you get a new email.
And Facebook and some other social sites now do this notification thing that automatically pops up on my screen when someone posts in one of my Groups or likes my page. (WTF is that? Gotta figure out how to turn THAT off!).
And don’t get me started on the million other distractions like those piles of laundry in the kids’ rooms or the dishes in the sink (I really hate it when there are dirty dishes in the sink).
When working at home, it’s so hard sometimes to focus on getting stuff done for your blog. That why making yourself focus is so important.
One Task at a Time
First, if you have chores you really feel you need to get done, absolutely do them first. Get them done so they’re not bugging you.
Next, turn off your email program and any other notifications. Close any extra windows. Turn off your computer’s wi-fi. I mean it. Just disconnect while you write.
I write in a word processing program and in fullscreen mode so I can just write. Getting offline allows me to focus on the task of writing. I even silence my phone some times.
If you’re scheduling social media posts or replying to emails, focus on that task. Close any other web tabs. Do not multitask!
I can’t even emphasize enough how bad multi-tasking or task switching is for your productivity.
So, focus on one task at a time and Get. It. Done.
Location, Location, Location
If there are too many distractions at home, head to your local coffee shop, bookstore or library. Most have free wi-fi nowadays if you need to work online.
But if you’re writing posts, I encourage you to go offline and just focus on your writing. You will be amazed at how much you’ll be able to get done when you focus on a single task at a time.
Tips to Keep Focused:
- Finish chores and other distracting tasks first so you can focusing
- Close extra browser tabs and programs
- Write offline and in fullscreen mode
- Work on one task at a time
- Relocate if you can’t focus at home
#3 – Prioritize
This is one of my biggest problems (in conjunction with multi-tasking).
Ideas, Ideas, Ideas
I do not suffer from a shortage of idea. I literally have projects lined up that could keep me busy for the next 5 years. I do not exaggerate.
And that is an awesome thing. But…it’s awful at the same time because since my brain is always spinning new ideas, it’s hard to make myself finish my current project sometimes.
So, if you’re like me, make sure you keep a list of all your ideas.
I love Asana for keeping track of all my projects.
When you come up with a new idea, do a brain dump into a dedicated file or notebook that you keep for this purpose. There is nothing worse than losing track of your brilliant ideas because you didn’t take the time to keep track of them.
Then, once per month, I sit down and assess where I am with my projects and prioritize all the tasks and projects I have going on. I add new ideas to the list where they make the most sense in light of current obligations.
I force myself to work on projects and tasks in the order of priority that I’ve assigned them. It’s not my favorite thing but the self-discipline helps me actually complete my projects.
If I don’t have priorities, I will not get sh#! done. I just won’t. I’ll have a dozen half done projects that never go anywhere.
As I’m prioritizing, I also evaluate how much work is required to complete a project.
Sometimes, I will prioritize quick projects over longer ones even if that big project is “more important” to me. Completing those fast tasks helps me feel a sense of accomplishment that keeps me going. Then I can focus on that BIG task and Get. It. Done.
Set your priorities and stick to them. Some tasks will need to be a weekly priority. Some will be a one-time task that you need to get done. But instead of making everything a top priority, ordering your tasks will help you accomplish more.
How to Prioritize Blogging Tasks:
- Keep track of all of your ideas, even ones that you “can’t get to right now”
- Set a monthly meeting with yourself to make and update a list of your priorities
- FOLLOW your list of priorities and carry through and complete projects
- Sometimes quick tasks will take priority over “more important” ones because just getting stuff done is important too.
What Your Blog Priorities Might Look Like
This will be solely individual depending on your blog goals but here’s an example of what your prioritized projects might look like:
1. Write weekly blog posts
2. Schedule weekly social media shares
3. Brainstorm new post topics
4. Add new posts to editorial calendar
5. Write guest post
6. Research and apply for new affiliate networks
7. Add new affiliate networks to posts and sidebar
8. Create new ebook to sell to readers
9. Launch ebook
10. Re-brand and redesign blog
Prioritizing tasks and projects by importance, how quickly you can complete them, and how valuable they are to your growth can help you get more done.
#4 – Break Down Tasks and Projects Into Bite-Sized Pieces
I’ll be honest. When I started my business, I had no clue what I was doing. I just went out and did. For some reason, it worked. Just a little over 2 years later, I have a multi six-figure business.
But this lack of planning has definitely caught up with me. I didn’t plan to grow and my business had no direction.
So, I have learned the value of setting business goals and using Goal Tracking to break each goal and project down into bite-sized pieces so I can make my dreams and goals happen.
And Your Blog is a Business…
Setting goals for your blog and breaking them down into doable steps will help you accomplish so much more.
If you haven’t set goals for your blog, I wrote a post about goal setting which includes some handy worksheets, check it out here: How to Set Goals for Your Blog [+Worksheet].
Once you’ve set your goals and priorities, take those projects and break them down into smaller bite-sized pieces. Check out the handy Goal Tracker from the post above to keep you on track!
Checking each step off will help you keep moving forward. Knowing you’ve gotten something done will help keep you motivated.
I even like to break my post writing process down into steps. It looks something like this:
- Brainstorm post topics (1 time per month)
- Write blog post content
- Create Post graphics
- Proofread post
- Schedule post
- Schedule email to list and social media sharing
By breaking each task and project down into steps I keep myself motivated by checking things off my list plus I make sure I don’t miss a step. Win, win!
#5 – Automate It!
Automation is a real lifesaver. I don’t know where I’d be without some of my business and blogging tools!
Well, I’m sure I’d have a million paper lists for everything and be pulling my hair out trying to get everything done.
Automation is so helpful in getting things done in batches, too! Without my automation tools, I would not be able to schedule all my social media posts in one sitting. I also wouldn’t be able to schedule my posts ahead of time and in batches. I would be one sad and stressed panda.
Automation is something I’m going to come back to in some upcoming posts, but I want to suggest a few tools to get you started.
My Favorite Automation Tools
1. Pre-Scheduling Posts
Both WordPress and Blogger allow you to schedule posts ahead of time. If you aren’t using this features, you should.
For WordPress bloggers, check out this WordPress tutorial from iThemes that covers how to pre-schedule your posts: https://ithemes.com/tutorials/scheduling-wordpress-posts/
For Blogger bloggers, check out this quick WikiHow post on how to schedule your posts: http://www.wikihow.com/Schedule-a-Post-on-Blogger
2. Schedule your Social Media posts
Nothing can be a time drain quite like managing your social media.
First off, I want to say, prioritize your social media efforts. Look at which network is doing the most for your blog (the most interaction by way of comments, blog visits, etc.) and focus on that network.
I see a lot of bloggers spreading their social media efforts across 6 – 10 different networks. It exhausts me thinking about all that effort. I was surprised to find Twitter doing more for my blog than Facebook and Pinterest. So, I’ve spent some time focusing on Twitter and doubled my following in a matter of weeks.
Find the network or a couple of networks that work best for your niche and focus on those. For most bloggers, those networks will be Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook. But some of these may not work for you. If something is working better, run with it.
Second, schedule your social media posts in batches. Here are some of my favorite tools:
- Buffer –
- I. Love. Buffer. It’s easy to use and it works. It has a free plan.
- I use the paid plan because I have multiple projects but that’s only $10 per month.
- It also integrates with Feedly which I use to discover and share outside content (you do know you should be sharing other people’s content as well, right?).
- I use Buffer mainly for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- It also works with Pinterest but I have a few other platforms that I prefer for Pinterest.
- Here’s a great article on how to use Buffer: http://www.razorsocial.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-bufferapp/
- BoardBooster –
- If you haven’t heard about BoardBooster yet, you will want to check it out. It is worth it for the Looping and Scheduling features alone.
- I love that pre-scheduling my pins is as easy as using Pinterest as I normally would.
- Whenever I have an extra 10 minutes, I pop onto my phone and schedule a whole batch of pins and BoardBooster takes care of the rest.
- Check out this epic BoardBooster tutorial from Living Well Mom: http://livingwellmom.com/2015/05/board-booster-pinterest/
- TailWind –
- TailWind can be used to pre-schedule for both Pinterest and Instagram (I like Buffer better for Instagram).
- Here’s a guide for getting started: http://everythingbuttheposts.com/getting-started-with-tailwind-a-beginners-guide/
- TailWind and BoardBooster are a bit redundant. Many bloggers have strong opinions on which Pinterest tool the prefer. And some use both. I fall into the latter category.
- One reason I use both is because of TailWind Tribes. Tribes for TailWind are kind of like Group Boards for Pinterest. It’s a bit hard to explain but it’s a great way to grow your Pinterest.
- Here are a couple posts that dig into using TailWind Tribes: https://www.goodenufmommy.com/2016/04/tailwind-tribes-quickstart-guide.html and https://www.learning2bloom.com/tailwind-tribes/
3. Content Planning
OK, this is less automation and more planning, planning, planning. But there is one tool I love for planning:
- Asana is free to start and I love it for making lists, scheduling content and more!
- Asana has a great tutorial that will help you create editorial calendars: https://asana.com/guide/examples/marketing/editorial-calendar.
- And Elle and Company are masters at Asana and share their tips here: http://www.elleandcompanydesign.com/blog/asana and http://www.elleandcompanydesign.com/blog/asana-boards
These tools will help get you started automating some of your most time consuming blogging tasks.
Sum It Up
It can be so, so hard to find time to blog and keep up with everything that goes into building a successful blog.
I hope these 5 tips will help you find time to blog!