I’ve had several blogger friends tell me one thing they struggle with is staying on top of all the tasks that need to get done as well as staying on track with making progress toward their long term goals. In short, a lot of bloggers (and entrepreneurs, and people who work from home….) struggle with time management.
I wasn’t always organized myself. When I was young, I tended to be so disorganized and irresponsible that my very organized Mom often became frustrated with me. I credit my time as a middle school English teacher with helping me develop the skills necessary to stay organized as a blogger. As a teacher, I quickly realized that if I wasn’t organized, I wouldn’t survive spending 8 hours per day with 7th graders!
In this blog post, I’m going to share seven things I do in my own blogging business that help me prioritize, stay focused, and be efficient.
1. I regularly set (and revise) goals.
You can’t accomplish your goals if you don’t have any. If you have a vague idea that you’d like to make money as a blogger, simply writing and publishing weekly blog posts alone won’t get you there. Instead, you need a specific plan that will take you from where you are now as a blogger to where you want to be.
At the beginning of each year, I set ambitious yet specific goals for what I want to accomplish with my blog that year. These goals include things like how much income I want to be earning per month by the end of the year, how much time on average I want to be spending doing specific tasks, certain projects I want to have completed, etc. Then (and throughout the year) I brainstorm tasks and projects I believe can help me accomplish those goals.
At the beginning of each month, I choose one or two projects to focus on that I believe will help me progress toward my goals for that year, and I set short-term goals to make sure I complete those projects by the end of the month. I also spend time at the beginning of each week listing tasks that I plan to accomplish that week, and if necessary, planning which days I’ll do each task.
At the end of each week and month, I take stock of what I did and didn’t accomplish. If I didn’t accomplish something I planned to, I try to identify the reason why: Did I underestimate the time it would take? Was it something that deep down I don’t believe is important? Then I use that information to help me revise my goals and plan the next week or month.
[bctt tweet=”When you fail to reach a goal, identify why and use that information to help you set your next goal. Did you underestimate the time it would take? Or is it something that, deep down, you don’t believe is important?” username=”contactashley”]
When creating goals, both short-term and long-term, I highly recommend writing S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are goals that are
- Specific – The result or outcome can be described in a single sentence.
- Measurable – It’s easy to know when you’ve accomplished it.
- Attainable – Challenging yet still realistic and doable.
- Relevant – Will help move you toward your long-term goals.
- Time-bound – You set a certain date by which you intend to complete that goal.
If you form a habit of making all your goals SMART goals, eventually the criteria will be so ingrained in your thought process that creating them won’t require any additional effort, but your goals will gradually become more and more likely to actually be accomplished.
2. I create daily, weekly, and monthly to-do lists.
As I mentioned earlier, I spend time at the beginning of each week and month listing the things I intend to accomplish during that time period. I don’t always create daily to-do lists because I don’t often work on more than one project per day (not including daily tasks like responding to urgent emails), but if I do have a particularly busy day or several shorter tasks or smaller projects, I will create a to-do list for that one day.
I like to write out my weekly and monthly goals by hand in a physical journal and then check them off when I’m planning for the next week or month, but you could easily use a phone app or a document on your laptop for this purpose. However, I’ve often seen research cited that indicates writing down one’s goals makes them statistically more likely to happen.
In addition to writing down my goals, I also use a free software called Trello to help me set goals, stay on track during the week, and easily revise as needed. At the beginning of the month, I look at my list of long-term goals, choose one or two to focus on for that month, and drag it to my “Do This Month” list. Every Sunday, I list specific tasks for the coming week that will help me make progress toward that goal. Then at the beginning of each day, I choose a few tasks from my “Do This Week” list and move them to “Do Today”.
Sometimes when I have a lot to do and am working on tight deadlines, I create lists for each week of the month or each day of the week and plan more granularly exactly which days and weeks I will be working on what.
Below is a sample Trello board I created to illustrate my system:
For more ideas of ways to use Trello, check out my blog post “How Trello Can Help You Stay Organized As a Blogger.”
3. I schedule and block out time on my calendar.
Something I’ve found to be true in both my business and in my personal life is that if I don’t schedule a time to do the things I want to do, they won’t get done. For example, I may keep thinking to myself, “I really should call so-and-so,” but I won’t do it unless I actually decide exactly when I will make that phone call, put it on my calendar, and set an alert to remind me.
The same is true in my business. If I want to actually accomplish the goals I set for my blog, I have to set aside time to work toward them. If you have free time on a regular basis that you can work on your blog, I suggest that you plan to always work on it during that time, whether it’s at the same time each day, or for a few hours at the same time each week, or whatever works with your schedule.
If you have trouble finding time to work on your blog on a regular basis, I still recommend that you schedule the times you are able to work on it in advance rather than just waiting until you have a free moment, because inevitably something else will come up at the last minute, but it’s easier to say no to those other things if you have made a prior commitment.
4. I only do one thing at a time.
I’ve tried multi-tasking in my business. I’ve tried listening to webinars while scheduling social media posts. I’ve tried working on several projects at once by spending a few hours per day or one day per week on each thing. But whenever I’ve tried that, the quality of my work suffers.
I do my best work when I “get in the zone” or reach “flow state.” Those are the times when I become so focused I forget to eat or want to stay up late finishing a task. And those are the times when I end up being amazed at how much I accomplished in such a short time. But that only happens when I’m able to deeply focus on a particular task for several hours instead of stopping and switching mental gears or being partially distracted by something else.
For that reason, I limit myself to one project at a time, and I stick with it as my main focus until it’s finished, or until the chunk of the project I’ve planned to work on that day or that week is finished.
If you have a hard time forcing yourself to stay focused on a particular task without being distracted, you might try using the Pomodoro Technique. There are several phone apps and browser extensions built to help facilitate the use of this popular time management method.
5. I prioritize tasks and projects that are most likely to produce maximum results.
It’s all too easy to stay busy as a blogger and never make any actual progress toward your long-term goals. You can easily fill an entire week with cleaning out your email inbox, installing and customizing a new WordPress plugin, designing a beautiful image to share on social media, and even writing a blog post, and at the end of that week be nowhere closer to increasing your blog’s revenue or whatever long-term goals you have set.
Whenever a new opportunity or idea comes to me, before committing or diving in, I first consider the goals I’ve set for the year and ask myself if that project will help me accomplish those goals. If not, I either say no or add it to a “Do Someday” list. If I do believe it will help me reach one of my goals, I don’t start on it right away (because I only do one thing at a time, remember?) but instead add it to a list under the long term goal I believe it will help me achieve as a project to choose from when I’m planning the next month.
A tool that can be helpful in determining how much time to spend on various blogging tasks is the Time Management Matrix developed by Stephen Covey, author of one of my favorite books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. This chart can help you classify the things you need to get done and want to get done according to their long-term value to your business. Then, you can schedule time to work on each type of task in proportion to its value.
Below is an example I created to show how you could use this tool for evaluating blogging tasks. Kind of like the SMART goals, this is something that if you use it often enough, you’ll eventually find it becomes so ingrained that you’re able to quickly determine the urgency and importance of a given task without having to draw a chart.
Remember: The tasks which are truly important to your blogging business are those which will help you reach your long-term goals.
6. I batch repetitive tasks.
Whenever I have several similar tasks to get done, I look for ways to save time by breaking those tasks into smaller components.
For example, today I wrote four blog posts for this blog. This actually isn’t typical for me; I don’t usually write more than one blog post in a given week, but because I haven’t written for this blog in a while, I wanted to catch up.
As you may know by now, a lot of the time spent working on a blog post is sourcing, sizing, and uploading the images; logging into affiliate accounts to grab affiliate links (which you can save time on by using the Pretty Links plugin); writing meta descriptions, identifying the best keywords for SEO, and creating social sharing images.
To be more efficient with my time and allow myself to enter “flow state”, I decided that today I would just write the text of all the blog posts and save each article as a draft. No links, no images. Once those are all finished, I’ll go back through each blog post and add all the links. Then, I’ll source images for all the blog posts, upload them all at once, and write all their titles, captions and alt text (including any relevant keywords). Finally, I’ll create sharing images for all of them at the same time in Canva.
Some other ways you could batch repetitive blogging tasks might include spending a day creating a month’s worth of Instagram posts, sourcing and editing all the photos you’ll need for all the blog posts you have planned for the month, or creating Pinterest images for your next several blog posts all at the same time.
7. I automate repetitive tasks and spend the time I save increasing my revenue.
One of the best investments I’ve made in my blogging business has been in paying for software that freed my time as soon as I was able to afford it.
Sure, I could save money by doing things like manually scheduling Facebook posts and regularly re-pinning my old blog posts to Pinterest, but if I had done that instead of investing in software to help me automate those tasks, I wouldn’t have had time to write an e-book or creating an online course, take educational courses, or even write as many blog posts, and these are the types of projects that have enabled me to afford the software I need, start earning income, and most importantly, free my time. This is what has allowed me to build a business doing only tasks I enjoy and nothing I hate.
I totally get that when you’re first starting out, it’s not possible to afford every software that would be useful, and it’s also easy to waste money on software you don’t really need or that ends up not being the best solution. I’m not saying you should spend money you don’t have; I’m saying to work smarter, not harder. If you spend two hours per week scheduling social media posts that could be automated with a $30/month software, you’re essentially working for $3.75/hour! Determine to make your time more valuable than that!
If you would like to learn how to free yourself from time-consuming social media related tasks, check my blog post about how I set up my social media accounts so they run (and grow!) nearly on autopilot!
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