Monday, February 23, 2009

How to Be a More Efficient Blogger

How to Be a More Efficient BloggerOne of the things people will often ask me about blogging is how I find the time to do it at all. And while it's true that my children are old enough to be in school, giving me four or five hours of uninterrupted blogging each day, I've learned over the last four years that there are certain tricks for stretching the time I spend to make it more productive.

So what's my secret? My biggest trick is to have a blogging schedule--both for my day and my week. That's it. Having a schedule helps me know where I should be then gives me the time to get there and ever since I've started following it I've not only found myself to be more productive but less moody about the ups and downs of blogging.

Here's my schedule, take it for what it's worth and maybe it might be worth something to you.

Daily Duties
Every day I spend an hour from 6-7 am looking through emails and again when I get back from taking my children to school (about 8:15 am) I check my emails to see if there's anything that needs to be dealt with immediately. Sometimes I'll answer a few comments that need a word right then or I'll jump into the comments on the day's post myself but I try not to get too involved at that time--just a peak and a glance.

After that I jump into my Google Feed Reader to check my RSS feeds. I keep up with over 300 blogs and news sites broken down into "News," "Blogging," "Craft Blogs," "Food Blogs," and "Mom Blogs" and I crank through them, reading to see what's going on. If I come across something that I just HAVE to comment on or that I really like I'll right-click on it and open it in a new tab (Firefox is great that way) but I won't look at it until I've gone through all my feeds.

Once I get through all the feeds I then look at the tabs I opened. If a comment is warranted I'll say something but if it's just a post that I really like it gets some special treatment. First, I give it the "thumbs up" in Stumbleupon. Often in the morning I'm the first to give it a stumble in which case I get to submit it but whatever the case is I make sure I give it a thumbs up.

After that if it's really good then I'll tag it in Del.icio.us to save for later--which might be a link in a future post at Scribbit or maybe just for future reference for myself. But then after that, if it's really really really good then I'll take it to the next step and give it a Tweet.

At this point in the day I open up Twitter and I look in to see what people are saying. I might join in a conversation or two if it's interesting but then when I find that I've run out of things to say (and usually I'm not too chatty on Twitter) I'll mention two or three--four tops--of the good links I found in my feeds, making sure to mention what the link is about or where it came from if space permits.

I do this each weekday morning and not only does it keep me up to date with my enormous feed pile but it keeps me active in social media. However, after an hour of this reading, sorting and tweeting I cut it off and leave. Twitter is one of those things that can suck your soul dry if you allow it to so I'm solid on my limits--one hour and one hour only. Anything beyond that and I'm grounded for the weekend so I'm careful not to go past my time limit. There are times when I'll jump back in for a moment or two later in the day but I try to keep that to no more than a couple minutes and to have a specific purpose in mind when I do it.

Each evening I go back through my emails, check them a final time and prepare the last details for the next day's post. But between the consistency of my mornings and evenings my schedule changes according to the day of the week.

Monday Is Blog Housekeeping Day
This means I do everything required for keeping my blog organized and up-to-date. I spend an hour or two backing up my previous week's posts in Word docs, saving my blog's xml file as a backup, updating my blog indexes, updating my "Site of the Week" feature, finding and notifying the weekend's giveaway winner, weeding out the expired contests listed at the Scribbit Message Board and sending out renewal notices for any ads that might be expiring.

Monday morning is also the day I meet with my business partner via Skype for one hour about our latest project we're working on. The great thing about this day's schedule is that it keeps me on track with my housekeeping issues so that it never becomes an insurmountable task.

Tuesday and Wednesday Are Writing Days
While my mornings for these days are the same as Monday, once I've turned off Twitter I immediately turn my efforts to writing 3-4 posts. Sometimes I write posts of the same kind--say four recipes for the coming month or 4 of my Wednesday crafts--and sometimes I write three consecutive days' posts for variety but I don't labor over each post, I try to write as quickly and effortlessly as possible and I refrain from worrying about sticking in photos or links.

If I'm not in the mood to write I'll start by re-reading some of my favorite posts to get me in the mood but I don't usually have to struggle with what to write because I keep a schedule of the month's posts. I've already got the topics assigned so all I have to do is get the words out of me.

Thursday Is R&D Day
After my regular morning routine on Thursdays I go shopping for our week's groceries (life can't be all blogging now can it?) which takes up most of my morning and the afternoon is taken up with children, homework, piano lessons, fixing dinner and other normal stuff but in the evening I spend my time learning new stuff.

This might be figuring out Twitter (that was my assignment last fall) or it might be figuring out Wordpress (another assignment for my new project) or it might be researching any number of things I don't know how to do. It's basically my time to increase my understanding of the latest and greatest out there--and with one evening a week for reading up on it I no longer have an excuse for not knowing what something is.

Occasionally I'll spend a Thursday writing a guest post or planning my next month's posts. It used to be a day where I'd work on finding sponsors (when I was first starting out in this area) but now it's generally an evening to do the things I need to to promote Scribbit and keep it going forward.

Friday? Time to Play
Friday mornings finds me cleaning my house, doing laundry, watering plants and changing sheets but after I've got my morning blog list finished and my chores done I use any extra time to go back through my posts from the past seven days and pay visits to those who were so kind as to comment or visit my site.

Now I have to admit that sometimes I don't find time to do this--Andrew and I often go out Friday nights so I'm not around to pay those visits but if I don't have time on Fridays then I'll do it on Saturday but so far this little schedule has allowed me to go through all the comments I've received for several months now and it feels good. Before I followed my schedule visiting my favorite blogs was always the thing that fell to the bottom of my "to do" list and it left me feeling not only unconnected but guilty. Now not only do I have time every day to read my favorite blogs through RSS feeds but I have time to pay the return visit and connect more deeply with the bloggers I enjoy.

Saturdays are a catch up day for anything that didn't get quite finished during the week for whatever reason but Sundays I take off. You've got to have some rest in life right?

So there it is, it may sound a bit strict or even obsessive but it's amazing how just knowing what I should be doing to stay on track helps me keep on track. A little structure is an amazing thing.

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Technorati tags: blogging, efficiency

69 comments:

Flea said...

My Hunny's been getting after me to create a blogging schedule for ages. Thank you for the impetus and means to actually do so! You rock, Michelle!

Kelley said...

Wow. I'm very impressed! You've given me a lot to think about! Thanks!

Trixie said...

Hello!

Thank you for sharing your blog schedule; it's very motivating

I always been a semi organized and scheduled blogger, but still struggle with the R & D time and follow ups. The idea of scheduling time for those tasks never occurred to me. Thanks for the idea!

Trixie
http://farmhomelife.blogspot.com/

Aimee said...

I think this blogging schedule has a lot to offer even an amateur blogger, like myself.

I don't follow as many blogs as you do or have that many readers, but I still like to "make the rounds," respond to commenters, and write good posts without feeling like I'm neglecting my children or living in squalor :)

I already have a schedule for computer time, but I need to get a better schedule for writing. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

jacjewelry said...

Thanks for sharing - you are so disciplined, and it's great! Before I started blogging, I created a daily topics schedule, and it has hepled me blog daily. Once in a while, I will blog about something other than my pre-planned topic to make things fun!

Adventures In Babywearing said...

This is such an inspiration to me! I need to be more efficient!

Steph

Jill in MA said...

Wow, you are really organized, but your blog really reflects your organization. It is always well written, insightful, and you always have a new post when I'm sitting down to breakfast. You also have a variety of topics that makes it so interesting.

I love that you take the time to look through your comments and connect with your readers. You have commented a couple of times on my little, unorganized blog (that I started really just to keep connected with friends and family,) and it does make me feel connected to you.

Your blog has really touched me, and it is my all-time favorite. Keep it up!

JENNIFER said...

whew...so much I need to learn..all the words like "twitter" and "wordpress." veru interesting to see how you divide it all up :)

angie said...

I had a feeling that you had a complete blogging schedule down! :)

Allysha said...

Wow. That's impressive.

Angela Fehr said...

Great post, Michelle! I've been struggling with scheduling my time on the internet - with blogging, site maintenance, etsy and fun it can be hard to find a balance and still have a real life! I know I need to get myself in gear and set some time limits too.
And I like the idea of using Stumble and Delicio more!

Amber said...

Good gracious, girl. You are waaaaaay too organized! But I guess if my kids were in school I would be able to do that, too. As it now stands, I just squeeze it in whenever I have a spare moment!

Marcy said...

This is very impressive. I'm trying to get on a blogging schedule and find that I do my best writing at night after everyone is asleep.

Do you ever take a vacation from blogging?

Steph at The Red Clay Diaries said...

Michelle,

This is EXACTLY what I needed to read today. I've been getting busier and busier with blogging and other writing, and I really needed some kind of plan.

I love how you described your daily/weekly activities.

Have you written a post on a monthly schedule for posts? I did a little searching thru the archives, but I didn't see anything. I know I'd like to plan ahead like that, and I'd love to see your take on it.

Thanks!

Mirien said...

And to think that you started all this when your kids were still little--good for you! I've found that following a schedule helps with household organization, so why not blogging? I'll keep this in mind for the future.

Scribbit said...

Well I'm glad to hear that this might be a little helpful--you know I kind of worried that I was laying bare my OCD for the world to see--neuroses are never pretty :)

Of course I do have those extra hours with the kids in school. On days when they're home on vacation things are much less structured.

Scribbit said...

Jill, thanks, you're sweet :)

Marcy-

Sure, I had to take a break around Christmas and I used some guest posts I'd done during the year or link lists as fillers. Sometimes I want to quit but usually that only lasts for a couple days. With a schedule for the month and writing in batches it helps me to already have things written so when I hit those periods of wanting to quit I already have something written to slide me through.

Lara said...

I try to get a week's worth of posts drafted every weekend, but I have neglected that majorly the last few weeks and my blog will not be updated for a few days. I like your ideas...thanks for sharing!

MommyTime said...

The thing I admire about this schedule is that you've made it one priority to connect with your readers too, which I think a lot of big bloggers don't bother doing. This is something I agonize about because I only have an hour or two each day to do my writing and reading (and some days not even that, with the little ones at home), so I worry that I'm not being a good enough member of the community. (And I don't have half the readers you do, so I know how much effort this takes for you.) You are an inspiration.

Becky said...

This is the most helpful post I've ever read. I'm copying.

Headless Mom said...

Thanks for this look into your blogging schedule. I am trying to schedule my computer time so this really helps me get an idea of what/how/when.

Jane @ What About Mom? said...

This explains a lot -- like why you're so successful and the fact that you certainly have worked for and deserve it. (and I guess it really is true that if you want to have blogging for a job, you really have to make blogging a . . . job.)

Love you how-to blogging posts.

Kim said...

I'm always very interested in how my favorite bloggers balance the writing of their own posts and the reading/social networking aspect, because that is what causes me the most grief.

I have such limited time, but reaching out to others is as important as producing quality content . . . No matter how much time I spend on a post, if I don't spend that same amount of time reading/commenting on other sites, no one visits and I'm just writing for myself—which is fine, but I'm an easy boss and will start to let myself slack off.

I'm amazed at how you do it.

TJ said...

i'm looking forward to having a schedule like this someday. my life overall is fairly unstructured at the moment, and sometimes too much structure makes me feel suffocated!!! but i am going to try and make me a schedule for blogging. and it's not even for my readers, mostly just for me. and thank you for your comment on my tulips. :)

37 Questions said...

As a new blogger, it is really great to read your schedule. My twins are 20 months so it will be a while before I will be able to dedicate daily time to my blog, but I am inspired to come up with a two or three day a week schedule.

I particularly like the idea of a monthly list of post topics, and the idea of writing a few posts in one day to have "in the bank".

Gray Matters said...

I'm so inspired by your dedication - You're one of the first blogs I started following and definitely one to aspire to. You didn't even mention that you have an Etsy shop that you make wonderful things for (in your spare time, right?).

mum2twelve said...

A most excellent post - thank you for sharing all these great ideas. Obviously the idea is to take the spirit of the post and apply to one's own life and I really like you schedule - it seems neither obsessive or strict. After all in routine - we actually find a freedom to do what we want instead of spending so much time floundering about while feeling overwhelmed. The one idea I never thought of doing was assigning myself homework - ie learning about twitter... I just keep wishing I had the time to figure it out. Light bulb moment combined with a DUH! Thanks Scribbit!
Blessings
Christi aka Mum2twelve - Now a Bakers Dozen

Naomi said...

I need to create a schedule. I feel like either blogging or my kids are getting the short end of the stick...

Neas Nuttiness said...

I wish that I could borrow you for a couple of days, once I get home. I could sure use a tutor, to show me all the tricks of the trade! Seriously...how does a fun days in the sunny south sound to you?

Jenna Consolo said...

Holy, frijoles, Batman! On so many levels. You are uber-organized and oh-so-efficient. Thanks for the tips!

chelle said...

wow! You are crazy organized.
I have a schedule but not regimented! Mine still needs work :)

reprehriestless warillever said...

Great post!

I have to admit that it made me feel much better about my own blog. I don't have (or rather am not willing to dedicate) that much time to my blog right now. Knowing how much time the "pros" give to their blogs is an eye-opener.

Courtney from mommie blogs said...

okay, I totally needed this post and I will be bookmarking it. not ready this week to manage making a schedule for me, but you are 100% right that having a schedule is so helpful. I am so scheduled in other areas of my life and love it!

ah, thank you, thank you, thank you!

An Ordinary Mom said...

You are definitely my kind of gal!

And no, this isn't OCD :) !! You are merely orderly and organized. Once my kids are older I hope to get back in to the blogging schedule I had before my newest came along.

Leslie said...

I'm awed by your ability to organize. I try, but I think I'm allergic to it or something.

Chris said...

I always love to see that you have visited me for whatever reason, but baby girl...commenting on my site versus a night out with your honey, or time with your family, is no contest in my book! Go for it with my blessing.........

Kim N said...

What a great schedule! I was just telling my husband last night how I enjoy the organization of your posts and your blog. I will have to try to put together a schedule for myself, although I can already feel my disorganized nature holding me back!

Carrie said...

Thank you so much for sharing this! I really appreciate it! I will be thinking more about this schedule- and what I should add to mine! :)

MoziEsmé said...

Thanks so much for sharing this - I definitely needed to read it right about now!!!

Cathy ~ Tadpoles and Teacups said...

Wow! Great advioe. Now. . .how are you with laundry tips?! :)

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

A blogging schedule. I'm very impressed! I just started to document my pregnancy, but I'm not even good at updating a daily photo on a daily basis lol. I'm glad this works for you =)

Mandy said...

This is such a great post. It kinda of made me laugh b/c this morning I made myself NOT get on the computer as I have a ton of things to do to get ready for a trip we are going on tomorrow. And as I was cleaning, packing, sorting, etc....I was thinking I really need to make a better schedule, find some sort of balance in my life, and now it is nearly 7 pm finally getting on the computer and see this post! I think it was written for me. Hee hee! Also...I really need to go with it and figure out Rss, Twitter, Stumble, etc...So many...!

Kimm at Reinvented said...

This is SO what I need. My blog has been growing fairly quickly (as least I think so!), and I'm finding that I could spend all day every day blogging if I let me. I need a schedule! Thanks for sharing yours.

Felicia said...

An excellent management of time :)

Kaye said...

What a great schedule! I so appreciate your sharing this with us. With four grandkids popping in and out constantly, coupled with a variety of doctor and therapy appts., I'm not usually able to have such a great schedule but I'm adding most of your ideas to my ideas to make a check off list to help me get to everything at least somewhat regularly :)

One thing that really helps me is automating my backups. I subscribed to my own RSS and email feeds so I have two backups of each article. Plus I use the WordPress Database Backup plugin by Austin Matzko to automatically send my database to my email. However I always do a manual backup, as well, before updating anything :)

Now if only there was a plugin to do all my other chores for me.... hmmmm :) :) :)

Heather said...

This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing it with us. I need to think about setting up something like this.

Anonymous said...

I don't blog... Just read other people's great blogs :) I have to admit, I didn't realize how involved the process was for you pro bloggers! I'm definitely impressed... takes a lot of discipline to stick to a schedule like that, but I'm sure it pays off in the end. Keep up the great entries!

Karen Travels said...

Hello! I have been blogging from Anchorage since last August, but just discovered yours. Will be spending more time here!

ChefDruck said...

About six months ago, I read a guest post you did at 5 minutes for mom about treating your blog like a magazine with different features on each day. It revolutionized the way I blog and gave me great structure.

I think you've now revolutionized my schedule!

thank you, as always, you are such an inspiration.

M said...

BTW: Its your slightly OCD side that resonates with me, so keep laying it out there in these great posts!

Maddy said...

Well that's good. I'm so late and tired tonight I almost gave you a miss [sorry!] but I'm so glad I didn't.

My life is so scheduled at the moment and so full of real life people that blogging has to be on the back burner, but it's so therapeutic I just can't resist.

A big thank you to helping us all stay on track.
Cheers

Grace @ Sandier Pastures said...

While I can't claim to be an efficient blogger (striving to be), I do maintain a blogging schedule. It helps me put the most effort on my priorities.

I always knew you have a blogging sked, Michelle - with the long and insightful and clearly planned posts you have.

This was a great post, you are an inspiration!

Motherboard said...

Thanks for sharing this! I used to keep a schedule... then I got lazy. I need to get back on it!

This is why YOU are the QUEEN!

melinda said...

i kinda enjoy blogging willy-nilly-chicken-with-its-head-cut-off style, though..makes me feel like i'm living dangerously! HA!

i do need to find a rthymn..so thanks for the insight:)

Patois said...

I can't tell you how grateful I am to hear about your organization. Great of you, as always, to share.

Patricia Zapata said...

Ok that's it. I need a schedule of my own. I should've done this a looong time ago. Thank you for sharing!

Marianne Thomas said...

Michelle, this is a great resource.

My youngest is only three so I'm not quite where you are yet. I am aiming on creating a schedule for myself that works not just for me as a blogger, but me as a mom.

One thing I do regularly on both my blogs is sit down and write post titles only of posts that have been floating around in my head. I save just the titles to "Draft" and leave 'em. When I find myself with a little chunk of extra time (a rare commodity), I sit down and write a few of those draft title posts.

Take care! I was thinking of you the other day when I explained to my seven year old how short the winter days in Alaska are. Enjoy the returning sun.

;-)

Rekha said...

You shared very good information

Laura Moffitt said...

You are amazing I have to say. I try to do my 6 most important list at work but once I get home I get incredibly lazy. Not a good thing. Thank you for all the tips.

Teaching Kids Yoga said...

Insightful! This post helped me recognize that keeping a blog up to date with good info - is much more than a hobby. Thanks for the words that illuminated this for me.

Jody (milehighmommy) said...

Hmmm...very interesting. While I am totally "pro-schedule" - I schedule my household chores pretty religiously - it's never really dawned on me to create a blog schedule.
It makes sense, and now I understand how those mega-blogging-mommies out there stay on top of it! Thanks!

Musings of a Housewife said...

WOW. I'm so, um, NOT that organized. :-) Can I be Scribbit when I grow up?

Jeannette said...

This is a great post. Someone RT it on Twitter. I've been trying to start a blog, but get bogged down by everything else to even get a chance to write. Thanks for sharing your schedule. It's really motivating and inspiring!

thediaperdiaries said...

I love this. And you are right, Twitter is my crack. Sometimes, I just can't get enough and have to walk away.

~ Straight Shooter ~ said...

Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!
Found you from Flea and you couldn't have been more of a lifesaver Girl!

Debbie said...

I came here from Flea's and WOW. You are extremely organized! I was doing well until I went back to work P/T, but this makes so much sense. Thank you!

Laurel Nelson said...

Congrats Michelle- I just saw that this post was featured in the "Bloggernacle Back Bench" on "Mormon Times". :) (But I'm sure you already knew it was there.)

Damselfly said...

You are so organized! Thanks for sharing your tips.

oh amanda said...

I love this. LOVE this. I was seriously just thinking I wish I could do a carnival of "what do you really do for your blog" b/c I know I waste too much time. Blah blah...kinda like this comment. Anyway. Love it. Thanks for the full disclosure!