This guide will help you remove distractions, eliminate redundant tasks, and outsource certain tasks to help you find time to blog. Here’s how to be a productive writer and blogger.
How to be productive blogger: The simple principles
Do you wonder how big blog owners keep publishing new content all the time? How come their publishing machine is so well oiled? Where do they get the time and the ideas?
Are they online all the time every day? Do they have assistants working for them creating and publishing their content?
These questions can be answered in three simple steps:
- Eliminate the redundant steps and tasks
- Use technology and tools to schedule as many of the remaining tasks as possible
- Delegate and outsource non-essential tasks to virtual assistants and free your time for essentials
Productivity is a matter of re-evaluating your priorities
Time is a limited resource, but you still have 24 hours in every day. You have a job that takes some 9 hours, you probably sleep 7 hours which leaves you with 8 hours a day for housework, friends and family, and hobbies.
That is plenty of time. Being too busy is just a bad excuse. It’s all a matter of re-evaluating your priorities and being better at time management.
You have to figure out what’s important to you, learn to control your hours better and put some smart systems in place.
Work smarter, not harder: The 80/20 principle
Knowing the best uses of your time is much more valuable than trying harder, working longer or complaining about not having enough time.
Excellent prioritization skills are critical for any content creator. You need to distinguish between what needs to be done and what doesn’t, and you need to know the difference between make work and real work.
Do things that are worth doing and let go off things that are not. 80% of your best content will come from 20% of the things you do. This is the Pareto principle.
Figure out which of your chores are those 20% tasks that have the highest impact on your goals.
Then spend most of your time doing those meaningful activities, and stop wasting time on unproductive tasks that you’re not good at or that are irrelevant to your success.
These non-essential tasks can be done using tools and delegated to virtual assistants in order to free your time to create more content and do other meaningful activities in which you cannot be easily replaced.
Outsource and delegate these 4 non-essential tasks to free your time
A blog is normally a company of one employee. You are the jack of all trades. You do everything from creating content, improving the design and doing the marketing.
You have the complete knowledge of everything about your blog, you do not need to communicate to anyone else and you make all the decisions yourself.
But as your audience grows you might run into challenges by doing everything yourself. A single person project cannot scale, especially if you want to achieve big things.
You might need to get some help to grow and scale further. This means relinquishing control and delegating and outsourcing some of your work to virtual assistants.
Many struggle to make this leap and grow beyond the one-man show. Trying to outsource the core activity of creating useful content is a huge mistake as it cannot be done well easily.
Outsource other building tasks that would give you more time to spend creating content instead. The hard part is knowing what tasks to outsource. So, here’s 4 building tasks I recommend giving to your virtual assistant:
1. Post research
The best way to get value from a virtual assistant is to have them help you with research. Say you’re writing a post about the top 10 screencasting applications on the Mac.
You’d ask your assistant to create a document featuring all the software he can find in this category.
Next to each piece of software, you’d ask him to list the name, price, and blog address – as well as the main features of the software.
Or, let’s say you’re planning to write a post about how to barbecue a trout. You might ask your assistant to find other articles about barbecuing trout that you could read before you start writing.
You’d ask him to find somebody. A YouTube user who’s posted a video of themselves cooking trout on a barbecue – and set up an email interview with them so that you have some quotes to put in your article.
You want to get to the point where when you sit down to write a post, you’re basically walking into the kitchen and finding all your ingredients washed, chopped, and laid out.
All you have to do is assemble the parts and serve up the result.
2. Finding posts to comment on
Another great job for your virtual assistant for is finding posts to comment on.
When you know your topic reasonably well, the hard part about commenting isn’t cranking out the comments – it’s actually keeping up-to-date with other people’s posts.
So, ask your virtual assistant to create a list of blogs in your niche that you want to monitor. Then, have your assistant look at them two or three times a week and send you a daily or bi-weekly email with a digest of what’s been posted.
Then you can quickly dash off your comments, and your assistant can post them on your behalf – under your name, with a link back to you.
One problem you have as a content creator is finding fresh content to post. Interviewing other authors is a brilliant way to get expert content quickly.
You can ask your virtual assistant to spend one or two days a week finding other influencers in your niche to interview.
Usually, fellow authors are happy to be interviewed – and they’ll often share the resulting post with their audience too.
If you give your assistant this task one or two days a week, then pretty soon you’ll have a steady flow of autopilot interview content.
4. Reviewing other blogs
One tactic that I’ve tried with one of my blogs was reviewing other blogs in my niche. It works really well – it was great content and it won me a lot of respect and gratitude from fellow creators in my industry.
Here’s what you do. Ask your virtual assistant to go out and find other blogs like yours and write out a quick 40 to 50 word summary of what’s on the blog.
When she has 10 of 12 of these, you can combine them into a list post that can sit on your blog as a great piece of cornerstone content. Make sure you link to all the blogs featured of course.
It’s a good SEO practice to link to other pages in your corner of the Internet, and it also encourages others to reciprocate and link back to you – which never hurts.
Remove the noise, pause the input
There is too much noise everywhere around us. Our brains are hard-wired for social media.
We’re curious about the new and unexpected, we constantly refresh news feeds, review notifications and mindlessly click on links. We’re easily interrupted and distracted which makes us restless and easily bored.
It reduces our capacity to absorb and retain information. Information gathering becomes a shallow distraction and a waste of time.
It’s a skill to be able to shut out the distractions and choose what, when and how to consume information.
- To pause the input and filter the noise from the signal.
- To be more purposeful about your habits and the way you spend your time online.
- To let go of that curiosity need and to not feed it all the time.
Don’t do FOMO. Curate your sources better by giving attention to those that respect your time.
Limit the time you spend following political scandals, breaking news, celebrity gossip, sports and the time spent TV-watching and game-playing.
Block websites that waste your time, cancel meetings, turn on the airplane mode. Don’t let others force their goals onto your schedule and gain back the hours these suck from your life. Stop being a consumer of media, be a producer instead.
Stop planning and take action
Planning is essential, but only to a point. The more time you devote to planning, the more fears and doubts you start having. Many spend too much time thinking about it, instead of taking action.
Don’t fall into this analysis paralysis. Focus on the output. “Just do it” usually works. Taking action produces an appetite for more action.
Turn your ideas and dreams into reality. Set up your working routine with tight but realistic deadlines. Break the unreasonable big goals and dreams into smaller and more manageable tasks.
Have a brief and prioritized to-do list every day. Use the Pomodoro technique to block off your time and do intense sprints of uninterrupted work.
Having limited time makes you more focused and productive. Without constraints, tasks may end up expanding to fill the unlimited time available for their completion.
Set reminders. Stop trying to multitask and get into the habit of ticking items off that to-do list. Send that email, reach out to that person, finish recording that YouTube blog video and publish that post.
Show up every day. To become great at something you need to have the fire within you, the internal drive and determination.
It helps you show initiative, drives you to do more, keeps you committed to putting in the effort and the hours needed to succeed.
Dedicate your every moment to creating the best work that you can. Have the discipline to always keep going at it, work consistently, never lose the focus and never give up on your dreams.
You don’t need anyone else to push you to do this. The motivation, desire, and work ethic come from within yourself.
Don’t be led by perfectionism and other fears
People have a phobia of the “publish” button. There’s always something to add, change, polish, more research to do.
It never stops, and you drag the process on and on. Fear leads a lot of people.
Fear of being ridiculed, fear that you’re not good enough, fear of what others might say, fear of having no readers, lacking talent, fear that others have a better way of doing things.
All the uncertainty is unsettling. You should accept and learn to live with things that are beyond your control.
Overcome your fears, don’t wait for a masterpiece, be positive and free yourself to just write, write, write.
Write fast, constantly, anywhere at any time. Don’t allow your mind to have the opportunity to wander, let your thoughts flow, get the ideas down quickly, and don’t worry about spelling and grammar errors. Spit first, shine later.
Ultimately, you have to ask your own questions, try out things and find the best way for yourself. Close your eyes and click on the “publish” button. Your post is now online for the world to see.
You’ll realize how silly it was to have any fears and how you should have published that article a long time ago. Your first post may suck, but you will become better. The best way to get better is to practice.
By practicing in public, you get feedback, and that improves your work. Measure, learn and improve as you go along.
Write something, get feedback, write something more, get more feedback and round and round it goes.
Optimize your health for maximum energy
Your passion is what drives you. You do your work out of love. If you love what you do, you won’t be able to fall asleep because you would want to do more of it.
You’ll wake up very early and energetic to get out of the bed to do even more.
But it’s important to take care of your body too. Your health has to be your priority. Help your mind be focused, and your body have the energy to go through all the tasks in your list.
- Eat real food, don’t skip meals, make sure you are hydrated throughout the day. The right diet gives you physical stamina, patience, focus, and a positive attitude.
- Always have water next to you no matter where you are and what you are doing.
- Take frequent micro-breaks to rest your eyes and mind.
- Stretch and move your body regularly. Do some push-ups and sit-ups. Exercise harder, sleep longer.
- A good night of sleep helps you recover from the long day, improves your body and gives you energy for another important day.
Disconnect from your day-to-day sometimes
Following the principles in this post, you will work more productive when you’re in the zone working on the essential tasks. But you cannot be in the zone all the time.
It’s a very good idea to take a break to travel or just to relax and get new inspiration. We all need a break once in a while.
Some people get addicted to being online and continuously staring at the screen. Disconnect from your day-to-day activities frequently and get away from the computer and the smartphone screen to do something else.
Read books and magazines, listen to the people you are speaking to, relax and recharge.
Be curious and open-minded about the world around you. It’s full of inspiration. It’s in those “not so busy” moments that you have time to think, reflect and that inspire your new adventures.
Take the best ideas from these different experiences and apply them to your work. Don’t accept that there’s only one way of doing things. Cherish and respect your time, then get back to work.
Living an interesting life improves your energy levels, gives you clarity and reduces your stress. Both your mind and body will appreciate it.
It will put you in control of your life, work and dreams. You’ll be fresh and focused. It will improve your productivity and will win you quality time. Suddenly there will be enough time in a day for you to achieve your goals.
How to keep your blog active while you’re disconnected
Going offline doesn’t mean you need to let your blog die while you’re away. With a bit of planning and scheduling, you can still keep your blog and social media live and active.
Regular visitors should not be able to see much or any difference from a week when you’re concentrating on the blog full-time to the week when you’re out getting inspired.
Here are the steps and tasks you can work on.
1. Get your mobile setup ready
If you’re going away on a vacation you should get your traveling setup ready. These days I normally take a mobile phone when I’m on my travels.
I use it for everything from checking emails, managing social media and doing updates when necessary. WordPress has nice apps for both iOS and Android. Most of the other big blog platforms would have an app or a mobile version too.
The app syncs with the web instantly so you can start a post on your mobile, save it as a draft to continue editing in your computer browser. You can edit articles, you can respond to comments and so much more.
The success of all the different people starting travel blogs shows that it is possible to do. See for example how to become a fashion blogger for more inspiration on blogging on the go.
I’m not too comfortable with creating new content on a phone, the smaller screen just feels too slow to write on. It’s more suited for consuming content, communication, marketing or slight edits.
My discomfort with creating content on small screens is why steps below are key to have a relaxing vacation but keeping my blog active at the same time.
2. Prepare your content in advance
You know how long you will be away for. You know if you will have an internet connection while on vacation. You know if you plan to have time to get some writing done while you are away. Think about these factors and plan ahead.
If you won’t be able to get online or if you’ll be busy with other activities, you should create the needed amount of content in advance.
Edit them, style them and get them ready to be published according to your normal schedule.
If you want a real break you could source some guest posts to be published during your time off. This will save you from being too stressed and needing to create a large amount of content in the weeks up to your trip.
You can either ask people you are connected with to submit something for your blog, or you can announce on your blog or in social media that you are taking guest post submissions.
A lot of creators are very active guest posters as there are many benefits of doing it.
This means that as long as you have a blog with decent popularity you should be able to get some quality posts sourced.
3. Schedule posts to be published in the future
WordPress has this great built-in feature that allows you to schedule your posts to be published in the future. So does all the other big platforms. Look for instance at my guide on using Blogspot vs WordPress for details.
You can write your post today and set it to be published at any time you wish. It’s called WordPress TimeStamp.
- Write your post as you would normally. All the same process. The only difference is that instead of publishing right away when your post is ready, you schedule it to be published at a future date and time.
- To schedule do take a look at the “Publish” section in the right-hand side of your post writing screen. Where it says “Publish immediately” click on edit.
- Now you will have the option to select a date and time in the future that you want your post to be published.
- Select the date and time and click OK. When you have confirmed the future date and time you want your post to be published on, the “Publish” button will become “Schedule” button.
- You will also have a “Scheduled for” date and time there for you to see. If you click on the “Schedule” button your post will be published at the chosen date and time.
4. Set Akismet to moderate the comments
Comment sections are the lifeline of many blogs. This is also one of the tasks that consume the most time for the majority.
Some people prefer to manually approve comments, but that might be impossible to manage when you’re going away.
As you don’t want the discussion to die out while you’re away, you should set the Akismet WordPress plugin to do all the work for you.
In WordPress settings in “Discussion”, some usually have “Comment author must have a previously approved comment” checked. By removing this you let Akismet approve comments.
There is a tiny risk that one or two spam comments might go through the filter but I find Akismet generally does a great job. Get comfortable about letting Akismet control and moderate the comments section for you.
5. Automate social media marketing
Having a large established audience is a great promotional tool for your content. As you’re set to publish several articles while you are away your audience will help you spread the word as they normally would.
Help your visitors do the promotion for you by including social media sharing buttons in your articles.
Sometimes I use my mobile phone to go through my after publishing marketing routine on social media when on holidays.
This would take me some 10-15 minutes a day, but there is an even better solution. If you prefer you can also schedule your social media activity.
You can write your posts in advance and schedule Twitter and Facebook to send out messages announcing your new articles.
It results in clicks to your blog from your followers and helps the promotion as people do retweet, like and share interesting articles.
You can schedule your posts directly on your Facebook page and use a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to schedule on Twitter.
If you prefer to be completely hands off, you can get all your new posts to be posted on social media without needing to do any work.
One great service for posting social media posts is IFTTT (If This Then That).
It connects you to more than 100 different platforms and allows you to set “recipes” like: IF I publish a new post, THEN post the link to my Facebook page.
These are the most relevant recipes for keeping your social media profiles updated:
- Post on my Facebook page
- Post on Facebook with an image
- Post to my Twitter profile
- Post to Twitter with an image
- Post to my LinkedIn profile
- Post on my Google+ page
- Publish on my Tumblr
- Submit to Reddit
- Post to Blogger
Outsourcing is not the same as auto blogging
A word of warning: You should schedule tasks you can but you should still remain engaged with your blog. The goals of scheduling, outsourcing and delegation are not to remove your work completely.
Outsourcing is here to help you delegate some tasks to allow you more time to focus on the tasks that only you can do.
The goal is rather to help you do your work more efficiently, saving you time and letting you use your time more wisely.
You should avoid all the salesmen selling courses, software and tools to “help” people get rich quick. That dream sounds great except that it doesn’t work and doesn’t do any good to your readers or to your blog.
Don’t use any auto software (these tools normally create posts based on RSS feeds from other blogs). If it’s not obvious why you shouldn’t be doing “auto blogging”, this is why:
- It’s not great content. If you want to be successful in content marketing, you need to create unique content that people love to consume and share with their friends.
- Google hates spam and all these blogs are just copying the content, and they give no value to the user.
- Your host will eventually shut down your blog because of copyright infringement.
Following these simple steps can assure you that you work more efficiently, that you spend your time more wisely, and that your blog is not inactive even while you are away on holiday or disconnected.
Your visitors will always get fresh content, comments will be moderated, traffic will be coming in and your momentum will keep on going.