June 30, 2011
Blogging has this image of being something that’s quick, easy and casual. The savvy blogger is surfing the Internet, comes across the news story of the day, and dashes off an indignant commentary on the topic, his scathing wit flowing from dancing fingers into the ether of the web, going up within mere moments for all to see and appreciate.
So why is it that when I try to sit down and blog, it seems to take forever, or worse, never gets done as I continually push it aside? What the heck makes blogging take so long to get a handle on?
For an answer, I actually took a step away from the blogging world and looked at the way I handled another part of my life a few years ago – distance education.
There’s actually a lot of overlap between taking classes online or by correspondence and handling a career based entirely on your own creative input. In particular, the time management techniques that I used to handle my online classes applied just as strongly to the world of blogging as it did to the world of distance literature courses.
No One to Do it For You
The advantage of traditional classes and traditional employment alike is that a lot of the work is done for you. Shocking to say, given how hard we all seem to work in such arrangements, but hear me out. The average employer schedules your hours for you, handles paychecks for you, deducts your taxes for you, and so forth. You really only do a fraction of work under the traditional division of labor.
In the world of blogging, on the other hand, time management is left entirely up to us. No one’s going to tell us “work on blogging from 7 am to 11 am,” nor in particular what proportion of that time should be research and what proportion writing. We have to handle it ourselves.
Set a Schedule
Notice that I named specific times there. Part of the appeal of blogging to me was the freedom to write at whatever time I wanted, but I’ve increasingly found that thinking of it that way causes me the same problems distance learning did: Thinking I could do it whenever meant I ended up doing it when-never.
So instead, I make myself a schedule. I wake up early, when my mind is least distracted by the thousand things I need to handle in a given day like shopping or errands or the pressing demands of a busy social life on Facebook. I spend the first half hour researching the topic I want to tackle, whether a topic for later in the week or the day’s own work, and then I start writing. Seven a.m. to 11 a.m. is content time.
Make Your Schedule Sacred
One of the perks of blogging is that you get to brag about it to your friends. Don’t laugh, we’ve all done it – who wouldn’t want to be the one who gets to laugh knowingly when people talk about their killer commute every day?
That said, this also means they know your work schedule is flexible, and they’re often all too willing to take elaborate revenge in the form of asking you to come hang out at all hours.
Of course, this isn’t the only form of interruption, but it is iconic of the matter: You’re just a blogger, so “you can do it later, come take care of…” will pop up a whole lot in your life.
The key to avoiding this is letting people know your schedule, and telling them that it is a firm, sacred commitment. If you’re the kind of person who can work without a schedule, you already don’t need this advice, but most of us aren’t able to be entirely anarchistic about our work environment and still get anything properly done. So let people know when you’re working and that you aren’t going to break your schedule. Eventually they will come to understand and respect your firmly-expressed needs, and you’ll have the ability to produce content on time.
This is going to run contrary to the previous principle, but once again, hear me out.
The human mind is actually a multitasking engine par excellence. We evolved in a world where we had to keep tabs on children, those lions on the next hill, the camp supplies and a hundred thousand other little details. Hence, the mind really doesn’t thrive when forced to focus on a single thing for too long.
Now, too often this tends to result in us scattering our attention over a bunch of small things and never returning to our core focus, which is equally as bad as burying ourselves in too much stress over one thing.
So, learn to take mini-breathers with your writing. People get 15 minute breaks in traditional jobs, you should account for some yourself as well. Take a minute to step back from an article and do something else every so often.
But keep your distractions on-topic, as a means of making sure you don’t procrastinate your time away. Read another post on the same subject, or watch a video relating to it. Go over your schedule for the day, or send a quick letter to a friend. Keep your mind engaged, but fed with diverse subjects, and you’ll find your writing improving.
These aren’t hard and fast rules, of course, just ones that I myself have found useful at two very different times in my life. If you like the non-traditional world but find yourself needing traditional strictures, give these a try and let me know if they helped out.
Enzo F. Cesario is an expert on blogs and social media for business and co-founder of Brandsplat, a digital content agency. Brandsplat creates blogs, videos and social media in the “voice” of our client’s brand. For the free Brandsplat Report go to Brandsplat.com or visit our blog at http://www.ibrandcasting.com