Pro Blogging: Managing Your Work Schedule

Sharon Sarmiento writes over at 901am, 5 ways to work less and get more done online. This is good advice that may help you if you’re having a hard time managing your blogging schedule, whether you work full time at it or not. Particularly useful to me is point #1: restrict your work hours to increase efficiency. Kathy Sierra also talked about this over at the Headrush blog. If you’re trying to learn in limited time, check out hacking knowledge: 77 ways to learn faster, deeper, and better.

Now, I guess I’m bad for this. Since 2005, I’ve been putting in 10-17 hour days blogging. When I first shrank the time spent in late 2005, I found that I got my work done regardless. The trick is that I had to leave my workspace and go do other things. So sometimes I’d shoot off to the local Farmer’s Market or go see a movie or whatever. And I’d still get my scheduled blogging done (this was all my own work then). But when I started getting (ghost)blogging contracts in 2006, I started feeling guilty that I wasn’t spending more time for my clients. Big mistake. So I did, and I allowed all sorts of distractions, getting less done in more time. And so I ended up in the same 10-17 hr/day trap.

Part of the problem in work for yourself is that it’s easy to think you have the whole day to finish work. This is a mistake because your work will expand to fill that void, if you let it. You have to discipline yourself to structure your time – something I struggle with constantly.

Finally, as of two weeks ago, I got sick of blogging 7 days a week. How different was this when I was a workaholic in the “real” world? So I decided to shrink my work week to M-F, and leave Sat/Sundays for my own blogging. I just started this last week and it’s getting better — and I’m actually starting to get more work done than when I spent more time.

I experienced the same phenomenon when I designed and co-wrote a book on web programming in 2002. I was spending 16 hrs a day writing and feeling like I was getting nowhere – sometimes staring at the computer screen. When I told myself it was okay to go shopping, okay to see a movie, visit friends, etc., I found that not only did I get my quota of at least 3000 words/day of technical writing done, but I managed to do it in only 10 hrs per day, as well as fire off some programming and diagrams.

Change of scenery is especially important for creative endeavours such as writing, especially if you’re stagnating in ideas. I managed to produce 900 pages of text, code and diagrams in only 3 months, plus a month of editing. Had I not taken breaks, I doubt I would have produced that much content in that amount of time.

As for the here and now, my next step is to shrink down to an 8 hour/day schedule, then maybe 6 after that, so that I can start doing other activities that I’ve forgotten about. Like having a life outside blogging. I find that I have to try different scheduling and productivity techniques regularly, to see which method fits at the time. I’m great at planning and writing down what “needs to be done today”, as Sharon suggests, but when it comes to getting it all done, I often get distracted by the millions of administrative details that need to be taken care of.

But I am learning and at least trying, which ensure that I keep blogging as a profession. Save for a bit of overlap with Sharon’s tips, here are a few of my own tips:

  1. Change the medium.
    E.g., switch from typing on the computer to planning on paper, or vice versa.

  2. Change your viewpoint.
    If you have a laptop, try working in another room. Some experts suggest you don’t work in your bedrom, else insomnia may set in. But not everyone has the option.

  3. Change stimulus.
    Listen to some music for a while, or the TV. (But do turn the TV off when you start to write again, else the visuals may distract you and reduce productivity.) I find that watching comedy for at least an hour a day helps me loosen up my writing style. If I’m suffering the screaming blue meanies (seasonal depression), I’ll watch two hours or more.

  4. Change of scenery.
    Put down your laptop and go somewhere else, do something else. I’ll sometimes go walk in the forest with the dogs. Watching a movie at a theatre also very often helps me get creative.

  5. Change your schedule.
    If your current schedule isn’t working, try something different. I’m a night bird, but when I can manage it, I like to do most of my reading either late night (after 10 pm) or early in the morning. When I was working solely on my short stories and novellas in 2002, I found that if I wrote at least 500 words before 10 am, I could often write 3000 words that day. But if for whatever reason I put off doing any writing (even just garbage doodling) until after that time, I usually couldn’t get more than 1000 words. Similarly, I tend to be ultra productive on some Saturdays, if I first spend the morning and afternoon in pure reading, with no distractions.

Not all of these tips will work for everyone, so you have to discover it for yourself. What blogging productivity techniques do you use that work for you?

7 thoughts on “Pro Blogging: Managing Your Work Schedule

  1. I landed here looking for a better way to manage my time working online.
    I have found each and everything you said to be true.
    I run websites for people and blogs and create and design them too.
    I am working from about 7am -midnight often.
    7 days a week and feel guilty when I am not doing stuff for clients.
    I have a family and a life so this is starting to really get to me.
    I am starting to hate getting up in the morning.
    Not to mention all my own projects have fallen to the wayside most of the time.
    I have a half finished book, so I related to you there too.
    I have tried some of your suggestions and they do help, now I need to discipline myself to quit after so many hours and allow myself some days off.
    My writing support group told me the same thing.
    I never realized I would struggle with walking away from work, but I do get more done when I have limits.
    I have been reading your blog for 2 years and it has helped me so much, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  2. Well, technically, I don’t call my blogging ‘work’ – even it makes me money, I try to only take on projects that I’d do regardless of the money (get paid for having fun). See my football blogs as an example.

    So the actual work – the SEO consulting, the copywriting, the PPC campaigns, etc – that’s 2-3 hours a day.

    The rest is spent goofing off – blogging or out of the house.

  3. @Ahmed: Seriously? You earn full-time on 2 hrs a day? Must be nice. I think I’d be bored out of my skull, though. I’ve always enjoyed at least researching. Anything less than 6 hrs of work per day and I’d go comatose. (Of course, I’d still work 10hrs per day, but 4hrs would be my own writing, promotion, and design tweaking.)

  4. Agree on Sharon on the ‘inspiration’ bit. Will be following your advice, although I don’t think I can reduce 2-hour work days any further

  5. @Sharon: Absolutely. Deadlines stifle creativity. I like your idea of weekend posts. At least, I used to do that, but I’m now reserving weekends for myself. However, I do try to research my posts and write a rough draft at least a day (or several hours) before posting. I find my writing is usually better this way.

  6. Hey Raj,

    Excellent bonus tips! You’re so spot on– basically any way that we can switch things up helps to pump up the productivity and stimulate creativity.

    As far as blogging goes, I try to crank out as many posts as possible on the weekend, then schedule them to come out during the week. It just gives me breathing room, and the more I’m able to relax, the more frequenly I find inspiration strikes. There’s no worse blog writing feeling than seeing a deadline approaching and struggling for something to write about. If I at least have something to post, even if it’s not my absolute best writing, then it takes a bit of the pressure off.

    Probably the hardest part of managing time with blogging is that it’s a creative endeavor, and it’s hard to get the juices going sometimes. On my own blog, I’ve sort of given myself permission not to have to come up with a Nobel prize worthy post 😉 everytime. Sometimes they’re shorter posts that are more thought provoking, sometimes it’s a video with a couple paragraphs of commentary, and they other times it’s a full blown feature article.

    Basically for a blogger, productivity is intricately tied to inspiration.

    Actually, reading your post here has given me some some ideas for another post …okay off to write while the inspiration is fresh!


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