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Are You Too Busy to Write? Seven Ways to Blog More Productively

Office Work #jpg365 Is finding time to blog something you struggle with? A number of people have asked me how they can find time to blog on top of everything else that I have going on.

Writing content is vitally important for your blog. It is your source of direct visitors, plus the meat of what you share in social media, the combination of which is essentially all the marketing many of us do. Your content attracts and maintains a relationship with your subscribers, and it is also what prompts readers to take action, even if that action is simply a blog comment.

Without regularly added, fresh, original, useful content … well, your blog becomes the web equivalent of the Pacific Junk Patch.

One thing you might have noticed though is that I don’t stick to a rigid writing schedule. This helps me find time to work on my blog around other commitments, but is only possible for me because of a few factors:

  1. I already have a reasonably sized, engaged audience. You might say I have some “credit in the bank”.
  2. “Traffic” is not something I rely on for my income. Providing I help enough people work towards their own goals then I will attract “few but enough” customers to pay my bills.
  3. My philosophy is that you are only as good as your last post. Given the choice between “phoning it in” to keep up an arbitrary schedule and waiting to post something I am happy with … well, you guessed right, I wait.

You might not have these luxuries so need to balance your schedule a little more in favour of keeping in touch with subscribers more often but without making it too taxing a job for you.

My approach is to offer my loyal audience content you will want to bookmark, give you actionable tips via the benefit of my experience. If I succeed then I get more subscribers and clients, and really, unlike many bloggers my subscribers and customers are the only people I need to worry about where my blog is concerned.

I have no advertisers to keep sweet, and I don’t intend ever selling my blog, so I have no need to inflate my page views. Providing I do well with keeping my readers happy then my peer group and potential partners will also be happy.

If however you make money from impressions or ad clicks then you will need to get your traffic up and maintain that high level. That makes having a more rigorous publishing schedule a priority.

At the same time you can’t let your quality suffer because you are pushing quantity, making your productivity even more important.

Most of my readers are individuals, professionals or small businesses, so it might be well within your reach to shift your online business model to be more about authority than page views and clicks. If that is the case for you then focus on one solid article a week rather that try to achieve an unrealistic schedule – that might be all the solution you need. If you do want to eek out a few more hours in your week though, read on for some more tips!

How can you find time to not just write but create great content?

  1. Set time aside – preferably quiet, focused time with zero distractions. I recommend actually putting this time in your diary and sticking to it. If you try to “catch 10 minutes” then you are going to either keep pushing the task back or you are going to find that time just vanishes altogether. Also setting a specific time allows your subconscious to prepare.
  2. Write in Batches, and if possible schedule your posts in advance – Most blogging software such as WordPress allows you to write articles in advance and set the date and time when they should go “live”, visible on your blog. Publishing in advance allows you to write in quieter times and have the articles visible at busy times. While I no longer do this on chrisg.com I have always done this when writing for clients (when you have a contract for a certain number of posts per month it is not a good idea to write them just before they are meant to be sent out to subscribers!). Writing in batches allows you to get into a flow and you will find the writing process far more fluid than trying to task switch between your main job and being a writer. Darren often has cafe days where he will sit and batch write a whole raft of posts, and he ran away to a hotel to complete his work on the Problogger book!
  3. Jot down ideas as they come to you – When you relax your brain or think about something else is when some of your best ideas will come to you, so make sure you store those ideas on a notepad, in your phone, or on some scrap of paper! A really cool aspect of the WordPress is you can use multiple tools, even email, to send a draft of a post to your blog for later use. I have a whole bunch of draft posts that are just headlines and some bullets waiting for me to complete them.
  4. Repurpose content – “Repurposing” is taking your content and using it in a different location, in a different way, or re-packaging it. So I might take a series of posts and create an ebook, or I might expand an article into a presentation. Someone might request they republish my article in their newsletter. It can work the other way though, and it can be a great way to fill your blog. Take points from your presentations and write them up as blog posts. Maybe you have a transcript that you can copy and paste as a starting point? Have you got a section of a report or ebook tat you can use? Emails to customers? Existing content is an asset to be reused if you are creative!
  5. Answer questions – Taking the last point further, my customer, coaching client and audience questions are my best source of content. This post came from a question I get asked a lot and was asked in interviews twice last week. When you answer a question in email, on a forum, in a chat, blog comment, or in an interview with a transcript, then you can copy, paste and edit to create a post. The best part? You KNOW it is on-topic and relevant.
  6. Have a system – My coaching clients know that I have a writing system that allowed me to write for at one point twelve different blogs at once. This has meant I have written thousands of articles, and to be honest was probably too many because people were telling me I was getting over exposed! In brief, use headline formulas, write an outline, create without stopping, turn off the internal editor until you have a first draft. People try to write the whole thing at once and get stuck switching from creating to editing and back again. Don’t do that – split the creative part from the editing part and you will work with your brain rather than against it!
  7. Failing all that – outsource! If you still struggle then get guest writers, pay writers, or what I think is a really smart move, get an editor to take your thoughts and ideas and polish them into finished articles.

These might not be silver bullets but they do work. While my family is watching TV I can sit with them with my laptop tapping out outlines, drafts, or editing. Some times it will take three or even four days for a post to get to the point where I am happy to hit publish but I have also had articles written in under half an hour that have been big hits in social media and in terms of traffic.

The big difference though is when you make time.

How do you find time to blog? Do any of my tips work (or not) for you? Please share your thoughts, experiences and tips in the comments …

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Comments

  1. Regarding repurposing, I’ve been doing some of that lately – taking a thought that someone explored in superficial or moderate way on a related blog, and “going deeper” with it – explaining how to do it, step by step, adding my experience and insights, or combining it with some of the best practices I’ve come across.

    I even change the medium, creating a simple PowerPoint that refers to the original posts, illustrates my points and the “how-to” aspects of it. I then use Camtasia to create a narrated video from it. It isn’t hard to do, and you end up with a very engaging piece of content!

    • One of the techniques I use is to mark portions of articles I read and use a Posterous plugin to write a mini blog. I have this linked to my WordPress account. I can later edit the blog with some of my own comments or just send it out as LinkLog.

      I am trying variations of this theme (for example creating notes in my Google reader using a Chrome plug-in, tagging it as blogging material).

  2. Thanks for the tips, struggling to get into a proper routine with my blog so might give the ‘Batching’ idea a go!

  3. This is great advice Chris. #3 is essential. Some of my most popular articles began as a quick note I jotted down. The lesson: Don’t dismiss fleeting thoughts or ideas; write them down and mull over them to see what happens.

    I’d like to add a tip I learned from you, using an “editorial calendar.” Setting up calendar pages months in advance that include upcoming articles, content ideas, and timely trends (e.g., holiday info, seasonal events), helps me to keep pace with the necessary writing. Because I know what is on deck, I stay focused on perfecting those particular articles.

    While at first, using an editorial calendar may seem a bit broad, it eventually streamlines the entire process. Once you get into the rhythm of using the calendar to plan your content, the writing process follows along. This helps save time, supports new content creation, and offers a thorough overview [of what's been published] to avoid repetition.

    • Editorial calendars have saved me quite a few times. One of the key advantages is not being taken by surprise by seasonal topics that you have to write about well in advance!

  4. Hey Chris

    Interesting post. One of the things I think bloggers need to cultivate is a professional mindset. This term is used by Steven Pressfield in The War of Art by the way.

    Basically Pressfield says that if you’re a writer (and it applies equally to non fiction writers) then you apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair and you write.

    My favourite writing quote was by an American author called Peter DeVries – he was asked if he only wrote when he was inspired. He said something like: I do only write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired every morning at 9.00AM when I sit down at my desk to write.

    That’s the professional mindset. If you can adopt it then finding the time to write is not the problem – the problem becomes finding something to write about!

    That’s for another post another day though….hope it’s not too cold for ya….it’s nice and mild in the UK, though they had snow in your old stomping grounds this week.

    Paul

  5. Many new bloggers are reluctant to outsource but eventually it will become an important choice to make as you need to free up more time for creating products and such.

    • There is definitely a mental leap that has to be made from doing everything solo to trusting others, and that is before you get into the mental adjustment of paying someone to do work :)

  6. Thank you Chris. All of these are excellent!

    I have been trying to work on point #2 Batching. I am just starting a blog and the beginning posts I feel, need to be connected – they need to tell a story.

    This, at least in my head, is working for me because then I can work your point #4 Repurposing. That is, grouping my initial category posts together on one page, to have one spot I can direct visitors to.

    Thanks again – Theresa

    PS: Because of Darren I have a folder with “ideas for future posts” – 100+ and growing everyday. I’m going to be very busy. :)

  7. Thanks Chris, this is a good one. I found it really helpful and motivating as a new blogger trying to write one post at a time. I’m excited now to take a “cafe day” or something of the sort and write a batch of posts.

    I also realise the value of taking a “cafe day” and not a “room day” or an “office day”, as putting myself in a different environment for such a one-off intensive task usually ends up being a lot more productive for me.

  8. There are many creative ways to write. I believe the hardest part of blogging is being self disciplined enough to make it a habit and set time aside every day. Batching is an excellent technique! Thanks for sharing Chris.

  9. I will do exactly that…wonderfully titled, timed and presented post! Whatever you are doing man, keep doing it!

    Don’t you think we usually over-do the ‘self discipline’ bit and forget that all it takes to start something is just ‘starting it’…

    Thanks again.

  10. Writing ahead of time is key for me. If I set aside a day with no distractions and write, then I don’t have to worry about making those hard choices on a day-to-day basis!

  11. Okay, you seemed kinda cool before. But 12 blogs? TWELVE?

    You’re a machine!

    And my hero… *sigh*

  12. Thanks so much for these tips, Chris!

    This is a great post for those of us new to blogging. I’ve been starting to write in batches, and have found that to be very successful. If I know that I’ve got a full day (or half a day) dedicated to writing, I am much more relaxed and focused and can just write, knowing I will have time to polish later.

    My newly created idea file is beginning to fill up, too, and I love that I don’t have to just stare at a blank page hoping for inspiration!

  13. I think it’s a fine balance managing a blog and a business. Creating remarkable content is a full time job. I personally write my best stuff when I have taken time out to disconnect.

    In fact since I’m always traveling I find Dragon Dictation or my iPhone voice recorder is a great way to capture my thoughts and then use SpeakWrite to have them transcribed for very little as a blog post.

    Great points from your expert self Chris

    Thank you!

    Natalie

  14. I agree with writing batches of posts, at least that way you can do it on one sitting and really be able to concentrate on doing it. It’s also good to carry a pen and paper with you around, or your cellphone will do because you can also write notes there, so that you can be able to take note o any idea that you might think of anytime, anywhere.

  15. One of my clients noted that she was having a hard time finding time to write. Her issue was sort of the opposite of your batching advise; if she couldn’t block out a huge chunk of time to write, she didn’t feel she could accomplish anything so many times she didn’t even start.

    My advice to her applies to blogging too. If your struggle is seeing the project as a huge thing to tackle, break it into small chunks that you can feel you can actually manage. Maybe all you have time to do is come up with one paragraph or a short list of titles. Great, do just that little bit! Every step moves you closer to done.

  16. You’re right, people are busy and sometimes can’t find the time to blog. However, blogging is really important. These are great tips for writing content. It’s important to always make time to keep up with your blog. You don’t want to ditch all of your loyal readers.

  17. I post once a week on Tuesday and I try to have three to five articles written ahead. I use a variety of article types. Some are original pieces by me, some are guest articles by someone I invite, and others are exchange posts. When I learn of someone who has an interesting story I will telephone the person and ask for a telephone appointment to record an interview. Sometimes the interview becomes an original piece by me and sometimes it carries the storyteller’s byline. I’m always on the lookout for story ideas from my friends, relatives, church members, associates at my local writers’ club, and other bloggers.

  18. As the father of a young baby and working away with clients most of the week, time is becoming increasingly precious and after writing over 300 articles, it can become a bit jading. So, sometimes anything is better than writing.

    Last year I found the more times I posted the more traffic I got, but I realised that by putting much more effort into a blog post and trying to be more useful, the traffic increases thanks to RT’s and Facebook shares.

    Less, is sometimes more….

  19. Great post Chris! Having a very demanding day job, my blogging activity requires me to find the time when I can (early in the morning, late at night, etc.). By the way, your #1 Set time aside is a great tip; it’s what I call “make time” rather than “find time” and, yes, as others commented above, we need to be focused and disciplined. Creative process (as art making) is not merely the product of a sudden moment of inspiration, but requires thoughtful action and discipline.

  20. The cafe days are a good idea and I am sad to say that I need more of them! The point is getting away and working in a different environment even if it’s just the park bench down the road. Being in a different environment can work wonders and these days with more places offering free wi-fi, it’s easier than ever to find a spot to hide out in whenever a person wants to.

  21. schedule posts in advance is great way to overcome the busy periods of our life (may be two week vocation or the time for the project presentation ) where we cannot find enough time for blogging. Some times I do this and try to maintain the publishing frequency.

  22. Thanks. Nice post. It was funny for me to read your post as I guess i TRY to do all of those things. Too bad I fail my self most of the times but the effort is there :)

  23. Interesting thoughts. My problem is that I can only go to long without sleep! I’m on trips and they have me going from morning to late night. I get up at 6:00 am to do my blog each day, but by the third or fourth day, I can’t keep up physically anymore. Then, I also have to deal with inconsistent (or expensive) internet.

    I’d be curious to get some opinions… Is it better to blog everyday for as long as I can, then often skip a day/day and a half, or should I just aim to blog every other day while I’m traveling to go for the consistency?

    Marcia

  24. I chuckled when I got to the end of this article where you mentioned that you can work on your blogs as your family is watching TV…it’s like you had a video camera in my living room 20 minutes ago. I was just thinking to myself, isn’t it nice that I can sit here working while my husband is watching a movie? Pretty funny timing.

    Anyway, I think this is a GREAT article for folks to read before they diving into blogging. I use many of these techniques & I’m going to work on doing a better job adopting your tip on re-purposing content. Love this list and I look forward to passing it along!

  25. I arrived here via another post, and having read the whole article, I still maintain that having a pen and pad beside the bed for those ‘nearly asleep’ brilliant moments of inspiration is essential. It is important too to go back over your own posts to see how things have changed, this includes your POV. Don’t just Blog either, share your efforts, content without an audience is just pictures and words. Sometimes it is hard to find time, plus if you post too much people think you’ve got nothing better to do, not ideal for a practicing marketing professional. To me the crux of the matter is to love what you do and be passionate about it, that’ll come through in the writing and separates the wheat from the chaff. Good tips, thank you.

  26. Hi!
    I really enjoyed this article. Can I translate it into portuguese and post it in my BLOG SLIDEA? Of course I will mention and give the credit to your BLOG!
    Thanks
    Milene

  27. Great article, Chris. I especially find #3 essential: jotting down ideas as they come to you. I cannot tell you how many times I get a good idea while drifting off to sleep at night or while driving in my car! I have learned to keep a pad and pencil handy whenever inspiration strikes. Keep up the good work.

  28. I think all points are good but I personally find numbers 3 and 4 help good. If you are motivated about your blog then you should be looking for ideas and they are best to come naturally, so note then down as you are going about day-to-day activities rather than trying to think of ideas on the spare of the moment, also number 4 is good as often content written for one purpose can easily be repurposes into for a number of channels. Keep up the good blogging!!

  29. Very good post ! I’m gonna try those ways you gave. I hope it will help me. :(

  30. Well, I prefer writing posts in two halfs. In the first half I finish almost 70% of the post. In the second half I focus on formatting & interlinking.

  31. Thanks for you tips! I’m excited to try the cafe idea! I think it could really help me be more proactive with my blogging schedule.

    Matt

  32. Thanks for this very helpful guide. It helps me a lot. :)

  33. Very interesting. I agree on jotting down notes. It’s very important that we are able to keep that spark of excitement and enthusiasm on our readers making them look forward to what we have to publish the next time around.