Last week, one of my BlogHer friends, Rachel of Totally Ovar It, wrote, “I truly do not understand how anyone, especially a woman, finds the time to write insightful yet witty blog posts, comment thoughtfully on dozens of other blogs and contribute to Twitter and other social media on a daily basis.” Rachel went on to describe her typical day (busy) and concluded “do you have any suggestions on how to make time to be more interactive in the blogging community while keeping my sanity?” As I spent many hours this weekend at my desk preparing my tax return, completing blog tasks and scanning documents for a family tree project, I started to think about Rachel’s post and my own growing to do list and also about how challenging this whole process has been. MauiShopGirl went live in late July of 2011 and each time I cross a task off my to do list, two others take its place…
My bloggy challenges and how I’ve been trying to manage the chaos after the jump…
I don’t have any children but I do have a demanding full-time job that often requires long hours, working on weekends and holidays. Blogging is my hobby, not my occupation; it’s a way for me to fill the creative piece of my life pie. For years, the part of me that enjoyed writing and design was pushed to the side as my analytical and technical career took the forefront. I always felt too busy to pursue writing in my spare time. The truth was there was a bit of fear also holding me back. It’s one thing to say you’d like to write, it’s quite another to put yourself out there. In the past few years, I realized not having a creative outlet was affecting my life in a negative way. Excessive shopping was just one of the ways the creative part of my personality tried to get satisfaction but it was never enough.
So, in 2011, I vowed to start my blog and work on a novel. Many startup bloggers like myself are one man (or woman) shows. We are our own photographer, editor, publicist, legal department and tech support. I had never used wordpress and had barely touched a camera prior to blogging. I am naturally shy and much more comfortable out of the spotlight (preferably in a corner reading a book) so self-promotion is a very uncomfortable activity for me to engage in. But, here’s what happened; I started blogging and I loved it, everything about it. From writing to taking/editing photos to wordpress to engaging with others via social media, blogging has been such a wonderful experience. But as my blog (and my expectations) grew, so has my to do list. Here are some of the ways I’ve been trying to juggle it all.
Set aside specific times for social media and blogging
I’ve begun to set aside specific times during the day to go on twitter/facebook, respond to blog comments and to work on blog posts. Once in the morning, at lunch and in the evening. On most evenings, I try to be in bed by 9 to read and chill.
Networking social media platforms
My facebook page posts are setup to be automatically tweeted. I have a different following on both platforms, so I’m able to share relevant links and photos with both audiences automatically. Other bloggers I know go quite a bit farther than I have in this area, using posterous to post by email, automating posting blog links and other social media directly to their facebook or other platforms.
Reduce frequency of blog posts
I started off blogging daily to decrease my learning curve and also to train myself to write on a deadline, even when I felt blocked. I’ve reduced my weekly blog posts to four or five a week. By reducing my number of posts, I have time to work on certain administration tasks, network and my photography skills.
My picture files, blog notes and social media networking contacts have grown exponentially. I’ve now added to my to do list various tasks to organize my files, delete unneeded files and also to use lists in some of my social media platforms (for example, today I completed putting certain tweeters I’m following into lists by categories as my twitter feed was overwhelming and I began to feel I was not finding the content useful to me in the most efficient way, I set up categories for Maui, blogs, tech, fashion, etc.). My goal is if I spend time getting organized and maintain that system, I’ll reap the benefits in efficiency.
One thing at a time
I’ve referred to my to do list several times in this post and tasks to get organized. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by my to do list, I plan to tackle just one non-post related project a week. This includes projects to get organized or administrative type of research or tasks regarding site design or tech issues. By setting a limit on the time spent each week on my administrative to do list, I feel less pressure about my to do list in general and I keep a healthy balance of my valuable weekend time between non-creative and creative tasks. I don’t ever want to lose my focus and forget the reason I started blogging in the first place.
I keep track of my to dos using an app on my iPhone which allows me to schedule out and separate my to dos into groups. I have a group for blog admin, blog posts and personal errands.
Frontload writing and photo editing
On the weekends, I try to write two or three posts for the upcoming week, I don’t always succeed but when I do, it’s a great feeling. I’m also finding it’s more efficient to reduce my number of photo editing sessions by creating collages and editing photos for multiple posts in one session.
My life = my blog
I am constantly on the lookout for inspiration on my lunch break, on the drive home from work, on my walks or on the weekends for posts I think my readers may enjoy. I keep notes on my iPhone for post ideas, phrases or other inspiration and I have a point and shoot in my bag at all times. For my Eat Me features, I usually invite a friend to join me for my meal and get in some girl time too. Gift wrapping, home organization projects and the little things in life all become potential material for my blog.
Set aside specific times to blog hop
I don’t do full blog hops daily. I catch up with a handful of my favorite blogs every other night or so, typically on a non-writing night or a night when the post I’ve worked on is shorter and less introspective.
I haven’t quite found an efficient way to keep track of all the blogs I enjoy and want to follow. I’ve been using google reader, email subscriptions, a list on twitter and my blog roll to manage my favorites. Another blogger, Sarah of TheOhanaMama, just signed up for readitlater that sounds promising. My favorite is blog lovin. I am so happy when I find a blogger I want to follow is on blog lovin because it’s so easy. I follow them, then once a day I get an email update from blog lovin with a preview and a link to any blogs that put up a new post that day. I do feel my list of blogs to follow is disjointed and a bit disorganized. I’d love to hear how the rest of you keep track of your bloggy friends
I don’t make money from my blog so at first I was reluctant to spend any money on it. But as my blog grows, I’ve spent with no regrets on a paid theme (better security and more design options), a backup plug in and consultations. I have rolled up my sleeves and done mostly everything myself, until now. As I look to move to another web host, I will pay someone to assist me. Even though his initial assessment was I could likely do it myself, the time savings would be worth the cost. I’ve also taken a few hours to meet with another consultant to help me with SEO, design questions and other random issues I’ve been wanting to bounce off of someone.
I don’t ever want social media or blogging to become a chore or unenjoyable so I’ve been choosing weekends on a monthly basis to go dark. I might still write blog posts but I don’t go on facebook, check twitter, surf the net or engage on other blogs. I’m still on Instagram because I can’t pull myself away, it is just too much FUN. By the end of the weekend, I feel refreshed and ready to dive back in.
How do all of you balance your social media engagement and blog with your busy lives…
I’m not one of those bloggers trying to make my blog a huge money maker so I can quit my day job. I like my day job and I like that the editorial content of my blog is free of ads, commissions and paid links. But there is a part of me that daydreams about how great the blog could be if I had more time to spend on it…more small business profiles, attendance at local events and interviews with emerging designers/artists.