Day 20 of the A-Z challenge.
T is for Finding Time To Blog
If there’s one thing that unites book bloggers – whether they’re seasoned operators or newbies – it’s the feeling that there’s never enough time.
Not enough time to write content. Not enough time to respond to comments or join in social media conversations. And never enough time to devote to reading and commenting on other blogs.
You get into a pattern where you promise yourself that you will get your head down and write a post today. Only to find it’s bedtime and you still don’t have it done. Maybe you never even started.
It’s not easy keeping up to date with blogging. Especially if you are doing it while also holding down a demanding job or caring full time for a family. I can sympathise. There were some occasions before I retired when I wouldn’t have the energy or the time to do more than the very minimum on this blog.
Even now, it’s a challenge to find the time in between exercise classes, walking groups, and volunteering. Every day my backlog of reviews gets longer and blogging tasks are left undone.
In Search of Solutions
How do other bloggers deal with this challenge? Good organisation seems to be the key.
In my recent article How To Be An Organised Blogger, Linda from Linda’s Book Bag and Shelleyrae from Book’dOut explained how they use calendars and spreadsheets to stay on top of review commitments. The solution used by Karen from Kaggsy’sBookishRamblings is to write multiple posts in one day.
What about some of the super bloggers whose output is vastly superior to mine. Could I learn anything from them about finding more time to blog or speeding up the time it takes me?
Most of what I found was a lot of “blah blah” that could have come straight out of a self-improvement manual on time management. The advice was essentially: identify your priorities, allocate the majority of your time to those priorities and stop or reduce activities that are not priority.
Nothing to disagree with there. But nothing that was hugely helpful either.
Only a few tips really stood out from the dross.
1. Batch Process Your Main Tasks
This was the advice from Darren Rowse of ProBlogger . He describes “batch processing” as a fundamental change he adopted several years ago in a quest to become more productive.
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.
I definitely did “get the picture” because the behaviour he describes mirrored my own.
I began to carve out longer chunks of time to do the most important tasks in ‘batches’. 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.
2. Keep A Note Of Content Ideas
I really like this suggestion from a technology site in Hong Kong. It’s a challenge sometimes to think of ideas and topics for blog posts that go beyond book reviews
Having a list of ideas to hand can avoid those awful times when you know you should write a new post, but you’re staring at a blank page hoping inspiration will strike.
Your list of ideas doesn’t have to be fancy. It can be anything that comes to mind when you’re in the shower, or when you’re out walking or driving. Don’t worry about fleshing out the idea initially – just capture it on your phone, in a notebook. Probably best to avoid the back of an envelope or a receipt though (I always lose those bits of paper).
3. Remove Distractions
From Jon Morrow of SmartBlogger.com comes advice to turn off your mobile phone when you’re writing. In fact you can go even further and turn off anything that could be a distraction: television, email and social networks. Removing distractions means you concentrate 100% on writing that post.
4. Use A Timer Or Set A Deadline
Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Here’s one that a former manager of mine used with her daughters when they agonised over their homework assignment.
It’s perfect for procrastinators and people (like me) who can take hours to write one post. All you need is a kitchen timer.
Say you think it will take you two hours to write your post. Set that as your deadline. Make a commitment to have it finished by that time.
Turn the timer on for one hour and 45 minutes and get writing. When the timer rings, you know you have 15 minutes to wrap everything up. The key here is discipline.
If you don’t happen to have a kitchen timer, there are plenty of stopwatch apps you can get for your phone or device.
Do These Tips Work?
I’ve been trying out a few of these ideas in recent weeks.
The batch process technique used by Darren Rowse clearly works well for him. But he’s a professional blogger. I wasn’t sure whether it would work equally well for non-professional bloggers – people like you and me.
It’s definitely worked well for one of my key daily activities: reading and commenting on other blogs.
I used to fire up Feedly (this is the news reader I described in my recent post on How To Keep On Top Of Book News ) multiple times a day. I’d hop around, commenting just on one or two posts before recalling I was meant to be doing something more pressing. Now I look at my feed just once or twice a day. The total amount of time I spend on blog reading/commenting is about the same, but I seem to be able to read more and comment more.
“Batch tasking” didn’t work as well with Twitter however, probably because it’s such a fast moving platform. When I changed my habits so that I checked Twitter only once or twice a day, I missed a lot of interesting material. So I’m still checking it several times a day – hence no time saved.
How about the most time-consuming element of blogging: writing content?
As much as I’d like to write more than one post in a day, I don’t see that happening any time soon. But I now have a notebook with blogging ideas and as soon as this A2Zbookblogging challenge is over, I’ll be delving into those. I’m also pushing myself to set realistic deadlines for completing a post.
I’m not claiming victory yet, it’s far to early to do that. But I’m reasonably happy with the small improvements I’ve already noticed. I’ll come back in a few months and let you know whether I’ve been able to stick to these good intentions.
What Do YOU Think?
What time saving activities have you implemented? Share your tips here. I’d love to hear if you have any other suggestions on how to shave time off blogging activities.