One 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.
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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