Last week, I ate some crow after letting my blogging habit fall to the wayside.
Unlike times past, when I would have just given up altogether and moved on to some other venture, though, this time I used my shortcomings as a springboard for a new blog post about blogging consistently.
I decided to make it a two-part entry for a few reasons:
- The initial discussion about the importance of blogging consistently ran a little long
- I figured I could keep you all coming back to see how to stay consistent
- It gave me incentive to come back and write more. How “meta”!
We all know that blogging consistently is incredibly important if we want to retain and grow our audience.
But how can you hold yourself to it? We all live busy lives, and, for lack of a better term, shit happens to all of us. Some days, blogging just isn’t the most important thing in your life.
I understand we’re all human. And your audience definitely knows this.
They have no obligation to stick around on your page if you’re not providing them with anything of value. I’ve said it before: your audience isn’t interested in you on a personal level.
This sounds so callous, but think about it: If your local coffee shop was closed for the day, you wouldn’t spend more than a minute or two wondering if the owner is okay. You’d go across the street and get your morning pick-me-up elsewhere, and move on with your day. This isn’t to say you don’t care and are some horrible person; it’s just that you have other things to worry about, and can’t afford to take on the burden of worrying about someone’s well-being just because you buy coffee from them.
Anyway, I digress.
The point is, if you want your blog to be successful, you have to stay consistent, no matter what.
And you can do this by:
- Setting Reasonable, Meaningful, and Measurable Goals
- Making a Schedule and Sticking to It
- Being Deliberate
- Shifting Your Perspective
Let’s unpack these a little bit, shall we?
Setting Reasonable, Meaningful, and Measurable Goals
I mentioned this in passing in the first part of this post.
But I want to dive a little deeper into the topic, because it really can make or break a blog (and a blogger).
Think back on all the New Year’s Resolutions you’ve made in the past. How many of them have you actually kept?
Now, I’m not saying you never kept any of them. But I bet the ones you didn’t keep weren’t reasonable, meaningful, or measurable. By setting up these unrealistic goals, you actually set yourself up to fail before you even took the first steps.
The same goes for your blogging goals.
I told myself at the beginning of this year that I would blog at least three times a week (aiming for five), including one longform post.
It doesn’t sound like a lot, does it? It sounds pretty reasonable, especially as I write this.
But, I didn’t take into consideration all the other writing I’d be doing as a freelancer. I didn’t take into consideration that some weeks my daily schedule would be absolutely packed with assignments that actually need to be done unless I wanted to lose a well-paying gig. I didn’t take into consideration life’s contingencies, like flat tires, doctor’s appointments, and family dinners. For some reason, I thought it would be possible (and socially acceptable) to just lock myself up and write, write, write for an entire year. I mean, it’d be nice…but it just isn’t reasonable.
Not to mention the human factor – that is, I’m no machine. Not yet, at least.
Imagine if, instead of blogging daily, my goal was to hit the gym every single day. It sounds ambitious, but it’s not sustainable. Even professional athletes have rest days, after all.
It was crazy of me to think that blogging daily would be any different. Yes, some days you’ll wake up ready to type, type, type. But other days, it’s just like any other job – you’d rather stare at the wall for eight hours than go anywhere near your keyboard.
I’m reminded of the old adage that works in pretty much any given scenario (except the 400m dash, I guess): It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
In other words, pace yourself.
I’m going to run some numbers here to make sense of what I’m trying to say.
Let’s say I paced myself at three articles a week throughout the entire year (and stuck to it):
(3 x 52) = 156.
By the end of my first year of blogging, I’d have 156 posts under my belt (in addition to the many other articles I’d hopefully have written elsewhere).
In reality, during the month of January, I wrote eight posts in the first two weeks, then took almost two weeks off (let’s round up to two weeks to make it easy). Essentially, that’s only eight posts per month.
8 x 12 = 96.
Even though I started off incredibly fast, I only kept up that pace for two weeks. Extrapolated over a year, this method would result in sixty fewer posts than if I committed to three per week.
It turns out writing less, but more consistently, will ultimately result in huge gains in the long run.
Another thing to take note of is the measurable aspect of this goal.
Imagine my goal was “I want to blog more than I did last year.” If that were my goal, I would have already reached it by now with the ten or so articles I’ve posted. Big whoop.
“More” isn’t exactly quantifiable. And it doesn’t speak to quality, either. I could have posted “more” than I did last year by just posting a captioned stock photo every day. Again, big whoop. I would have reached my goal, but am I really growing in any way?
Since I revamped my goal to three blog posts per week (on average), I will be able to tell by the end of the year whether or not I’ve reached my goal.
Yes, I know I need to step it up. Keep it to yourself 😉
Make a Schedule, and Stick to It
As with any goal, you need to figure out how often you want to work toward your goal. And you should never, ever derive from this plan for anything short of a true emergency.
I discussed this in the intro of the first part of this post: Once you make one excuse, it becomes easier to make another, and another…until you just stop working toward your goal completely.
Don’t let this happen. Your friends want to meet for happy hour? Too bad, it’s a blogging day. Your favorite rerun of Seinfeld is on? Too bad, you have work to do. Your wife’s car broke down? Too ba…
Just kidding. Like I said, things come up. Of course, you should never put your blogging above the health and safety of yourself or your loved ones. But just know that once you pick your wife up and take care of the car troubles, you’re going to have to sacrifice some leisure time later on to reach your daily goal.
Set the Bar, Then Aim Higher
Okay, so you’ve set a reasonable goal, and set a schedule for your blogging habit. But some weeks you just feel like you could do better.
By no means should you confuse the bar you set for a ceiling.
If you feel like writing, write. Don’t hold yourself back just because you’ve already written your “three for the week.” Take advantage of the time you have. Push yourself when the mood strikes.
Internet readers are fickle (which I’ve said before). You don’t want to confuse your audience by posting daily one week, three times another week, two times in one day the next week…you get my point.
If you post on a random Thursday after your audience has become accustomed to hearing from you every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, what do you think they’re going to want next Thursday?
Instead of posting whenever you finish an article, no matter how many posts you write, keep your schedule consistent. Keep those other posts locked up for future publication. Within a few months you should have a dozen or so articles that have yet to go live, giving you a bit of leeway when life throws a monkey wrench into your plans.
I said something before about how easy it would be simply to “blog more”: It’d be easy to just write a quick paragraph every single day and boast about how you wrote 365 blog posts this year.
But that’s not what you want to do, is it?
Don’t ever catch yourself writing “just because you have to.” Blogging will quickly become a chore if you start seeing it like one.
Write About Your Interests
I love writing, and I love writing about writing.
Unlike in my college days, I’m not constantly looking at the word count of the blog posts I write. I’m not writing to fulfill a quota; I’m writing to get my ideas out there.
That isn’t to say I’m writing for myself. You should know by now that’s not the case.
But I’m not writing about something I have absolutely no vested interest in just because it’s a hot button topic. You’d know immediately if I was looking for clicks.
One of the best ways to stay consistent in your blogging is to always write about topics that interest you. Your daily life is a treasure trove of content, even if you don’t realize it. Case in point: this article stemmed from the fact that I had shirked my blogging responsibility for almost two weeks. In delving into a shortcoming of mine, I’ve managed to pen a longform article discussing how I (and others in similar situations) can improve.
Write With Fervor
My blog’s tagline says it all: Why write if my life doesn’t depend on it?
When you sit down to write, you need to be writing. Not checking your Facebook page. Not wondering if your friend got the meme you sent them earlier. Not eavesdropping on the conversation being held on the other side of the Starbucks. You need to write.
If you find yourself getting distracted constantly, figure out the problem and fix it.
The problem is going to be unique to your own situation, so unfortunately you’re on your own for the most part. Maybe you need some soundproof headphones. Maybe you need to unplug your WiFi. Maybe you need a change of scenery. Whatever it is, do it, and do it now – before you waste anymore time
Check out Write or Die if you’re having trouble staying on track. It sounds pretty morbid, but it’s more along the lines of sadistic: Once you start writing, you can’t stop – or you’ll be punished. If you so much as glance around the room, your words will start to be erased. It’s a great way to keep your ideas flowing and stop you from micro-editing along the way. And you definitely won’t want to “just check Instagram for a minute,” because a minute could be all it takes to erase an hour of your hard work.
If you have trouble managing your time while writing, check out time-tracking apps such as Toggl, or use the Pomodoro technique. There are a ton of programs out there that will help you keep track of how much time you’ve spent working – as well as how much time you’ve wasted staring into space. Seeing how both of these periods of time add up may just be the catalyst you need to make a change in your writing habits.
Maintaining a blog seems like it’d be pretty easy, but once you start it becomes crystal clear that a lot more goes into it than you may have at first thought. Once you have a more realistic idea of what to expect throughout your blogging journey, though, you’ll realize that you definitely can make it happen – as long as you do it on your own terms.