How to find time to blog

This was my talk at the launch of the History Blogging Project – if you’d like to leave any comments please do so on the project’s website.

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that actually, I don’t always find the time! I’ve been blogging in various guises for about 5 years now, so these are the best ways I’ve found to avoid a blog being just a flash-in-the-pan activity.

Be realistic

As a busy PhD student, you’re not going to be able to write a post a day, nor in most cases would you want to. Set yourself a target you think you can keep to, say a post a week – but then don’t feel guilty if you miss a week or two. A blog is supposed to be fun and useful, not a chore or something to beat yourself up over.

Collect ideas for future posts

If you sit down in front of the computer and think ‘I’ve got to write a blog post’, most of the time it’s not going to work. You’ll find that ideas come at the strangest times, so write them down, keep a list of things you want to write about so that you’re not starting from scratch every time.

Take time to think

Similarly, as with any piece of writing, a blog post won’t normally spring to your fingers fully formed. When you’ve decided on the topic for your next post, think about it when you’re on the bus or in the bath and you’ll find the right shape and tone will often come to you, so when you do start to write you’ll be more prepared.

Create a routine

What works for me is to write first thing in the morning, which is my most productive time. I check my emails and my Google Reader, then look at the blog stats and comments just in case a particular post seems to have sparked a great deal of interest – and then open a new post and start writing, based on the draft I already have in my head.

Write fast then edit

Again, you probably already work like this, but I find it’s best just to write and worry about the finer points later. Get the whole post down on screen, then go back through and check that it flows properly and for the obvious things like grammar and spelling. Reading it out loud will give you a different perspective on what you’ve written that can be helpful. Add images or tables at the end as well, otherwise that activity can get in the way of your writing.

Don’t get distracted or procrastinate

Avoid other sources of distraction as well – ignore emails, Twitter, Facebook messages and everything else until you’ve finished. If you don’t, your blog post will just take twice as long. If you find yourself procrastinating in other ways – making yet another cup of coffee, even doing the washing up – then either stop or accept that you’re not in the mood and leave the post for another time.

Don’t feel you have to write everything

It’s a blog post, not a journal article or a chapter from your PhD. You’re not writing ‘Everything I know about X’, more often than not you’re aiming for a taster on a particular topic, a provocative piece to get reaction or comments, or a hopefully amusing anecdote on something you’ve found in your research. Your readers are just as busy as you and they don’t want to read screeds of text – so keep it short and sweet and save the agonising for work that does require you to be comprehensive.

So a blog doesn’t have to take over your life, it’s perfectly possible to fit it in to the horrendous schedules we all have. It takes a bit of self-discipline and some prior planning, but after that it should become a pleasure – and hopefully the feedback you get will make it all worthwhile!

Do you have any strategies for making time to write your own blog? How about ways of avoiding distractions? I’d love to hear any of your suggestions, so do get in touch.

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23 thoughts on “How to find time to blog

  1. Thank you so much for this post – I’m trying to post once a day in 2011 and it’s certainly challenging to find the time and the ideas.

    I started keeping a journal where I scribble thoughts on topics, funny things I saw, etc. I’ve come back to it time and time again when at the end of a long day my brain has turned to mush. I highly recommend it!

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  3. What excellent points. I find that I am easily distracted when I’m writing and then just can’t seem to get back into it and I still need to settle down into a routine. I’m sure it will happen in time, I just hope it’s soon. 🙂

  4. As a PhD student myself, I can relate to your post. I blog when I get the time and I feel like I want to write something. Period.
    It doesn’t have to be a novel or cover a topic extensively. I find it more interesting to post short/medium-length posts, add a photo and throw some ideas out there on the ether.
    I also set myself goals and try to avoid procrastination. I turned off/signed off all type of notification I don’t really need. I don’t get any from Facebook and I unsubscribed to all newsletters I ended up dumping without even reading the headlines. Why would I spend my time deleting emails I don’t read anyway? I’d rather spend that time playing tennis with my friends.

  5. Great ideas. I find that either, early in the morning or late in the evening are my ideal times to blog. Another tool I use, I keep a note book handy and make notes about things that happened during the day. Often times, I find fodder for a blog in the conversations and interactions around me.

  6. Thank you for sharing these valuable insights.

    When I find myself writing posts that are too long, I break them into a short series. This allows me to cover a topic in depth and the readers know this will be a multi-part post.

    It is possible to put a copy of the full article on Box.Net for those who simply can’t wait for the full series to be released.

    Excellent post.

  7. Sometimes I really struggle with my goal of two posts weekly (M & W). It stays on my mind and refuses to get to my finger tips. So, a couple times I decided to shorten the trip: I dictated it into my email on my Blackberry (brain to mouth is definitely shorter trip than brain to fingers), sent it to myself, cleaned it up and posted it. It worked!

  8. I just had an amazing conversation with my friend’s TA from last semester. The TA is a PhD anthropology student from Ghana with great insight and philosophy, and I would aspire to be most like him. I plan to blog about him almost immediately.

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  10. It’s interesting how much something like how to make time for blogging regularly overlaps with the sort of directions you’d have to give about making time to do just about anything regularly.

    One thing that I think I could add is that you should remember that the problem isn’t really how much time we have. Everyone has the same number of hours in a given week. What differs is how we choose to set our priorities. You have to make the thing that you want to be doing the priority over something else that’s going to be giving up time to make room for it.

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  12. Totally agreed with your post. Most of us are having very busy schedules throughout the week and when come sthe weekend, we try to relax ourselves. And in such a scenario, it is very difficult to keep up with blogging. That’s why inspite of understanding the significance of posting daily, I didn’t take it up as a target.

    One has to keep away the pressures of posting on the blog and give some space to oneself for thinking/generating ideas, only then it can continue as a fun and let us be productive too!!!

  13. Hey Erica

    Excellent advice! I do keep a file of ideas for blogposts although by the time I come to write them up I sometimes forget why I had that idea!

    Thanks for the extra ideas!

    Cheers

  14. Thank you for sharing. I have just started my blog, and this will be a good advice.

    Just started having a look through other posts…fascinating blog.
    Caroline.

  15. This is a great post, one that i’ve drawn a few ideas from. Whilst we’re talking about finding the time of day, it reminded me of a wonderful post by Olivia at http://bit.ly/fQtU9C – Sometimes when finding the time of day, you have to decide what time of day also. Morning, afternoon or night.

    I think your tip about thinking about when/how to blog whilst carrying out everyday activities is great. You can pick up a pocket-sized notepad and pen pretty cheap now, then whenever you get an idea for a blog post, just scribble it down. Whilst I was studying my degree, I’d often need to get video ideas and other things related. Seriously, whenever you get an idea just write it down, save it as a draft text in your phone, leave yourself an answer-phone message etc – it doesn’t matter if it’s a naff idea or the best thing ever, as they say in script-writing… throw up in the morning, clean up at night.

    Great post though, I’ve liked and subbed.

  16. This is very encouraging especially for a procrastinator like me! I took on the Post a Day challenge because I felt that it would help me stop procrastinating. Fingers crossed that this works for me! 🙂

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  19. I am an amateur blogger and found your tips really relevant. To keep me on track I use a “worry space” (a page in Microsoft OneNote) to write down things that are distracting me from study or writing. Things like: ring the shop, check bank balance, send birthday card to aunty, etc. Works a treat and keeps me focussed.

  20. I started a blog on a specific course I am taking. I find having a very specific topic helps me in making posts. I started the blog to be and electronic journal of my progress through this program. I then started thinking that sharing the experience may help others, and generate comments that might help me. Hence, the blog. I post at least weekly and hopefully more.

    Having a schedule and goal helps. I only write when I have something to say about the topic. The blog helps me stay on task with the project because I want to post progress therefore; I must make progress. Having the project helps the blog because the content is interesting and informative due to the experiences I am having.

    I agree that we all have the same amount of time in the day. Everyone should do what is most important to them. If blogging is important, make a goal, construct a plan, and discipline yourself to get it done. This is easy to preach not so easy to implement so get a buddy, or another blogger and hold yourself accountable (if it is important enough to you). Only post quality content that is meaningful to you and your readers.

    Good luck everyone. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful method of communication and creativity.

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  22. I am an epic procrastinator, even with my blogging (which started as a tool to procrastinate from my undergrad studies). It’s always nice to have a few helpful hints to give me a kick up the ass next time I put off writing.
    Thanks
    Sammy

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