Let's talk about blogger overwhelm. The other day, I asked the members of my Facebook group, "How do you feel about your blogging to do list?" Most people said some variation of "overwhelmed and excited."
Ain't that the truth? There's such a fine line between overwhelm and excitement.
Well, today I've got dozens of pro bloggers sharing their best productivity and time management tips. These tips will help you stop blogger overwhelm and get back to feeling excited about your blog.
Several bloggers said that planning ahead is the secret to their success. Whether it's your to do list, your content calendar, or your social media posts, you'll get more done if you plan in advance.
Don't have a solid planning system in place? Check out Planning for Success, my planning and time management course for bloggers.
It's helpful if I plan out my to do list for the next day - the night before. That way when I sit down at my desk in the morning I don't waste time trying to prioritize my tasks or feeling overwhelmed.
I plan things out in advance, with a task list. When I start my computer, I know exactly what I should be doing next. That way I don't have to waste time on unessential things.
Spending the first 10-15 minutes of each day outlining what I need to do for the day has been the most useful for me. I include everything that I have to do whether for my blog, for my house, or for my other job and assign buckets of time to them. This gives me a clear picture of the day and ensure nothing gets missed.
Decide what to do ahead of time. When you get on the computer, consult your list. This way you don't waste time wondering "what's next?".
Before I launched my blog, I took Ruth Soukup's course called Daily Productivity Guide for Bloggers and started planning out my content using a content calendar.
Batch the work
Several pro bloggers mentioned batching as a top productivity strategy. Click here to learn more about batching and grab a FREE copy of my batching calendar for bloggers.
Batching! I focus on one main task per day in order to keep myself from getting distracted and trying to tackle too many things at once. I get a lot more done if I spend one day dedicated completely to writing a post than if I have to write a single post, find images, and schedule social promotions for that post. I have dedicated writing, social and research days, and these batch days have skyrocketed my productivity!
Do your blog work in batches. Instead of researching a post, writing it, editing it, taking photos, editing photos, adding photos etc. and then publishing a post in one shot... Write a bunch of posts all at once. Take photos for a couple of blog posts at once. Finalize posts and schedule them all at once. Of course you can't always do this but as much as you can, grouping tasks will save you time.
Prioritize your work
With 800 things on your to do list, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. One of the best ways to overcome blogger overwhelm is to create a prioritized task list. Plus, when you're working from a prioritized list, you always know that you're getting the most important work done first. For more tips on prioritizing the items on your to do list, check out this blog post.
The one thing that has helped me more than any other productivity or time management hack is choosing the SINGLE most important task to accomplish each day, and prioritizing that task above all else. Some days, it's writing a new blog post from start to finish. Other days, it's working on a pitch for a different site.
Sometimes I have time-sensitive tasks, so those get bumped to the top of my list. The key here is to pick the one thing that, if it was the ONLY thing I managed to accomplish for the day, would leave me feeling good about how I used my time. It has really helped me understand my priorities as a full-time blogger. These big tasks are typically things that will give me the most bang for my buck in terms of blog growth or revenue.
Of course, the task I choose rarely takes an entire day, which means I have several extra hours to put toward "bonus" tasks. These are usually items that need to be done, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if they happened the next day, like responding to blog comments.
I know this sounds funny - but my most valuable time management tip for bloggers is to actually block out time everyday to WRITE. Use this time to focus on creating content and nothing else. It is so easy to get distracted by social media, responding to email, connecting with different affiliate programs, and the bazillion other things that we have going on. But without fresh content - you really aren't blogging. - so set aside the time to write.
My best strategy: choosing two things to focus on each week instead of trying to juggle ten balls and ending up overwhelmed and ineffective.
The most helpful tip I've ever used was from Emily - basically, you write down all your goals and ideas of how you're going to get there and then prioritize them. It helped me so much because I kept getting stuck on what to do next. There's always a million things that could be done when blogging, but what comes first? So, I'd end up reading a blog or going on Facebook rather than doing something actually productive. Now I know what my priorities are, and I focus on them. It helps so much!
If you’re constantly feeling overwhelmed by your “to do” list, this is a productivity hack that I highly recommend.
Like many bloggers, there are always a million things on my "to do" list, but trying to do them all at once is a guaranteed way to not get any of them completed. Since I have a full-time job and three kids, I don’t blog on a rigid schedule, with everything planned out in advance. I take more of an agile approach, with a backlog of things to do which gets continually updated and reprioritized. I keep the prioritized list in Trello as a checklist and when I complete one task, the next item from the top of the checklist gets converted to a “in progress” item. In Trello, I do this by using the “convert checklist item to card” feature.
The added benefit of working this way is that when a new blogging opportunity arises, I can add it to the top of my prioritized list – like contributing to this post. 🙂
With things constantly changing in the blogging and online marketing space, it is important to be able to react to new opportunities and I find that this system allows me to do that most effectively.
When you work online it can be so easy to fall down the Internet rabbit hole or get sucked into social media. Plus, if you're working from home, you've got the added distraction of kids, pets, roommates, or household chores pulling your attention away from your blog.
Several bloggers mentioned that the Pomodoro technique helps them focus intensely for 25 minutes at a time without distraction. Other bloggers reduce distraction by getting out of the house or by turning off notifications on their phone or browser.
For simple tips on overcoming social media distraction, sign up for No More Distractions, my free 5-day course for bloggers.
I use the Pomodoro method to help me stay extremely focused on certain tasks. Essentially, the Pomodoro method teaches you to work on a set task for 25 minutes without distraction. Once the 25-minute timer buzzes, you take a brief 5 minute break. Then you start the timer again for another 25 minutes. You can alternate between short breaks (5 minutes) and long breaks (10 minutes). I use the tomato timer to help execute the Pomodoro method. I've found that this strategy prevents me from taking long breaks and allows me to stay focused on one specific task without any distractions. It works best when I hide my phone (far away) and turn off all push notifications on my computer. It's amazing what you can get done in just 25 unbroken minutes!
With 3 small kiddos I have to focus the minute I get a chance to sit down and write on both my blogs. I turn off notifications on my phone and use the Tomato Timer on my computer. I set the timer and focus on one task for the entire time the timer is on. Once the timer is up I take a 5 minute break, check any notifications (or on the kiddos) and then set it again to either finish the task I was on or start on a new one. It helps me stay productive especially since I really try to finish what I'm doing before the timer goes off.
I have been using the Pomodoro Technique to manage my time successfully every day for the last three months. This method uses a timer to isolate work into intervals of twenty-five minutes, separated by five minute breaks. The goal is to increase focus and production while decreasing interruptions and distractions. The small breaks give your mind a chance to relax so you're ready to start the next round. You will be amazed by the amount of work you can get done in such a short amount of time if you dedicate yourself to the task.
Multi-tasking isn't always best! When writing a post, shut down all other tabs and social media notifications and focus on the post. I can sit down and crank out 4 posts in no time by doing this. Alternatively, I can spend all day trying to write one post and not finish it thanks to all the shiny things that distract me.
One of the easiest ways for me to increase my productivity is simply to get out of the house. Far too many bloggers work from home and struggle with the distractions that abound from simply being in your place of living. Can you nap at the library? Nope (well you shouldn't anyways). Can you turn on TV and flip through the channels and leave a program on in the background. Nope. Can you eye your bed and have that 15-minute nap turn into 2 hours? Nope.
Get out of the house. Find a place where you can actually be productive. Get away from kids, pets, and people if you need to. Treat your blog like a profession. If you blog for a living you can still enjoy the freedom of setting your own schedule and being your own boss, but be disciplined/responsible about it. This has singularly helped me more than anything else. Rather than get an office, my co-worker and I rent some shared office space for $125/month. A small price to pay to have somewhere to go get work done (but also a place to network with other like-minded professionals!).
Get clear on your goals
Pro bloggers know that if you don't have a clearly defined goal, you're never going to turn your blog into a business. For tips on goal-setting, plus a free goal setting worksheet, check out this post.
My planner is, hands down, my favorite tool. There are so many aspects of blogging, being a blogger, and being a YouTuber. Setting and writing down goals to plan the tasks effectively to get stuff done is so important. You have to focus on what matters.
My favorite tip is to work with the end in mind and focus on actions I can directly influence. It’s overwhelming when you have a big project. What has worked for me is to work in every single step that will lead me to the end goal. I work backwards till I can’t go any further. This helps me find out where my bottleneck is.
Batching related tasks is also something that has helped me a lot. Switching between tasks actually sucks up time and energy. You can’t go from 1 unrelated task to another seamlessly because it takes time for your brain to focus on the new task.
Likewise, if you buy a new course or ebook, you’ll increase your chances of finishing it if you get through at a stretch within the first few days. Binge through the lessons! That’s what I do so that no course goes to waste.
Use Systems, Checklists, and Templates
There are so many moving parts involved in running a blog. Many successful bloggers use templates and checklists to streamline their blogging work, and to ensure they don't forget anything.
I absolutely love templates and checklists. I have templates for different types of blog posts, newsletters, invoices, and images (I've made several image templates that I save in my Canva account). I use checklists for things like promoting blog posts, posting to Pinterest group boards, publishing my ebooks, or hosting a giveaway. If it's a process I'm likely to do more than once I create a template or checklist to make it faster and easier next time around.
Having templates + systems for everything makes things soooo much easier. Especially for blog post graphics. Canva.com (even the free version) will allow you to hit "copy" then just change out the picture and title and you're good to go. It's really great for creating multiple Pins for your post. (Yay more traffic!)
I used AirTable to create a list of my daily, weekly and monthly tasks. I have tabs to keep track of Facebook group promo days with links, social media schedules, Pinterest group boards and more! Makes it easy to keep on top of all my tasks and I know when I did each task last.
Repurpose Your Content
Work smarter, not harder by repurposing your content. You can also speed up your production by recording yourself and then turning your recording into a blog post. Laura shows you her exact recording and speed writing process in this blog post.
Record yourself! Get your videos, webinars, and other presentations recorded so you can repurpose them! We talk faster than we can type so you can get thousands of words of quality materials by repurposing with some minor edits! I love rev.com for transcription.
Find what works for you
Sometimes productivity is as simple as doing what works for you, even if it runs counter to all the advice you read online. I love Dawn's tip below, probably because I do the same thing. 🙂 I start my day with a quick check of email and browsing social media, and then I get to work.
My secret to being productive is to not be productive at all right away: Instead of jumping right into my work when I sit down at my computer, I give myself 10 minutes of completely brainless social-media time. It seems counterintuitive because I mostly work when my kids are sleeping and I don't want to waste a minute, let alone 10. But without it, my brain is mom mush, and I end up staring at the screen, unable to focus and completely unproductive. Giving my brain those 10 minutes to decompress really helps to kick it into gear.