My Exploration Of An Ongoing Sustainable Blogging Habit
Blogging is a wonderful outlet for getting found and one I wish I had started over a decade ago. But doing it well and consistently has been challenging since I started weekday blogging on August first and as I've continued here in September. My intent going forward is to continue weekday blogging through the end of November (where I'll then take my annual blogging break).
While I've been blogging since 2014, I've ramped up this habit from a few posts per month to over twenty. With a full plate of freelancing work, a family of six, and my community involvement I've got a lot going on. I'm now facing the challenge of changing my life to facilitate a sustainable and life-giving blogging cadence when there was little room to add anything at all. Each time I finish writing a blog post, I'm deeply satisfied with this sense of accomplishment. I created something good and it feels good. But, while the work itself is life-giving, the way I'm going about it is problematic and requires some restructuring.
What Are My Reasons For Blogging?
To get started in this weekday blogging audit, I want to start by exploring my reasons for publishing my writing. According to Blair Enns, there are four reasons to write.
- 1 - Validate Our Expertise
- 2 - Deepen Our Expertise
- 3 - Test Our Positioning
- 4 - Get Found
"The good news is that, unlike public speaking, which can require the conquering of a long-standing, deep-rooted fear, writing is really an issue of discipline, having something to write about, practice and more practice. It’s fine to enlist others to help, like editors and collaborators, but he who generates the content is king." - Blair Enns
When I first began blogging actively in 2014, my reasons to write included validating my expertise and getting found. I saw it as an opportunity to share my expertise with my network, and as a way to build a long-lasting platform I could leverage. To start my journey, I was writing one short blog post per week. In 2015, I decided to go deeper with my writing and write less often. The challenge I faced was the difficulty of writing these deeper more meaningful articles. It was a helpful and productive mental wrestling match, but it took more energy than I expected. Worn out and finding myself procrastinating on writing new articles, I decided to pivot again in 2016 and write quicker shorter ones. This was my way of removing the roadblock. I entered 2017 without intention other than I wanted one new blog post up on my personal website every month. Since I published Path Of The Freelancer, I was writing articles around the web and adding content on that website to help promote the book. Simply put, I was building a second platform specifically targeted towards empowering freelancers.
One of my personal ambitions is to create a financially sustainable writing career. I saw this weekday blogging challenge as an opportunity to go deeper with my writing, explore the areas I keep writing about, and also grow the volume of readers who benefit from my writing.
When I look back at my blogging journey, I see how I've continually pushed myself to go beyond what I was able to sustain and then pull back to a healthy level. This ebb and flow pattern has empowered me to move towards my writing aspirations while also developing my endurance and capacity. I'm writing more quality and volume than I ever have, which is exciting.
As I entered into this blogging challenge, my intentions were to help a friend, grow my online presence, deepen my expertise, and test my positioning. And since I've begun, I've had success on all three accounts. While the challenge only requires we post four-hundred words, I'm inclined to write deeper more meaningful blog posts. In fact, I wrote my longest blog post ever, as I dove deep into the topic of fear. Realistically speaking, I won't be able to do these deep dives every time, so I've also had several blog posts with short quick content.
So the question becomes, what is my target for creating content going forward? I've explored different options during different seasons, but when I step back and think about what would best help me accomplish my goals, I need to figure out what is my best path forward.
There is good evidence to suggest longer blog posts get the best traction on search engines and with people sharing them. The research also indicates that the ideal length of a blog post for a reader finishing it is seven minutes. In word count, this is between one-thousand and sixteen-hundred words. Since writing in this window is best for readers and for the search engines, and I'm focused on deepening my expertise, it seems like the best opportunity is for me to write these longer blog posts. With this conclusion, I now need to evaluate my current system and what I need to change to make it work within my life guidelines.
What Does It Currently Look Like?
Getting a grip of how much time it really takes me to publish five meaningful blog posts per week, and where I could fit that time into my schedule, is critical to not burning myself out. As part of my freelancing work, I log my time and since I was already in this rhythm, I've also have been logging the time I've spent blogging. Since August first, I've logged sixty-two hours writing and publishing blogs. I suspect there are another ten hours that were not logged, so I estimate I've spent seventy-two hours in total. So far, I've published twenty-three blog posts in August and fourteen in September for a total of thirty-seven new blogs.
This means I'm at two hours per blog post. This seems a bit fast, but now that I'm tracking my efforts more closely, I'll be able to validate or update this projection going forward. In order to make room for writing these posts, I've spent time in the mornings, during my work day, in the evenings, and on the weekends to make them happen. Yeah, this writing has permeated my life, so now is a good time to push back and put it in its proper place.
How I Plan To Move Forward In A Sustainable Way
As I look out over the next year, I don't think I can make blogging weekdays sustainable without robbing time from myself (fun), family, and community. In addition to sustaining this writing habit, I also want to do so within the context of my work day. This means I would log my six billable hours and publish a blog post. This is eight hours per day of time. Since I start at eight-thirty and end at six in the evening, I've got ninety minutes of margin, which is not enough. When I come back to blogging in January 2018, after my year-end break, I suspect I'll pull back to three blog posts per week to ensure that I can publish my writing and finish my freelancing work. This will also give me another year to position myself for effectively moving to weekday blogging in 2019.
During the next few months, I'll begin taking steps in this direction. Before I got off track with this blogging challenge, I was waking up each morning at seven in the morning and starting my work day at eight-thirty. In the evenings, my target bedtime is ten-thirty, with my wife usually going to bed around nine-thirty. If it truly only takes me two hours to write and publish a blog post, I should be able to pull an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to sustain this writing habit. Spending this time in these two zones, and not elsewhere, will be my first step next week.
Step two will be leveraging extra pockets of time I have on the weekends to get ahead of the game. I want the blog posts I'm publishing today already done and the ones I'm working on today, to be scheduled for later. When I get ahead of the game with my publishing schedule, it will alleviate the stress and pressure that comes with publishing each post the same day. This will make my life better, the family happier, and my writing a higher quality.
My third and final step will be testing how I can move my writing into my work day so I don't have to pull from the morning and evenings (thus freeing it up for other things). It'll also entail more accurate reporting on how long it takes me to write and publish each post. Once I get the numbers right, I can build them into my schedule appropriately.
All of this work will be helpful for launching me into a new and improved blogging system for next year.