At the outset of this blog post, I would like to make a few important points.
Firstly, this advice is intended primarily for bloggers who are invested in increasing their subscriber numbers. For the purposes of this blog post, the concept of ‘time management’ should be understood in the context of a blogger’s efforts to successfully build a following. In other words, it’s about strategic prioritization.
Secondly, every blogger and every blog is different. I can only share what works for me; you may discover that something entirely different works for you. If you take a look at the comments section of my post titled ‘Concerned with time management?’, you’ll see that other members of our WP community have different priorities and take different approaches.
Thirdly, bloggers who are hoping to increase their subscriber numbers will need to employ different time management strategies at different stages. In other words, an entirely new blog will attract very few readers, even if its content is brilliant, unless the blogger invests a lot of time in liking and commenting on other blogs. More established blogs, on the other hand, allow bloggers to invest more time in content creation because they have essentially become forums for other bloggers to interact and get to know one another.
Fourthly, if you are not exclusively concerned with increasing your subscriber numbers, and you have other priorities (like maintaining meaningful human relationships with other bloggers), you will have to adjust your time management accordingly. At the end of the day – you need to decide what is most important for you; and you need to decide how much time you can commit to blogging.
Lastly, these are only my personal thoughts, and I am sure that I haven’t thought of everything. If you have other ideas, based upon your own experiences, please do share them!
Let’s take a moment to clarify what we are discussing. What are the blog-related tasks that we could be spending our time upon? As I see it, there are two primary fields that bloggers must simultaneously play on: 1) their own blogs, and 2) the rest of the Internet. Let’s put it this way –
- Your blog:
- Blog design
- Content creation
- The Internet:
At the outset, when you create your blog, you have to select a theme for it. What do you want your blog to look like? What impression do you want to leave people with when they first look directly at your website? There are many free themes and many others that you have to pay for. Pick something aesthetically appealing that suits the nature of your blog.
Secondly, take the time to create an ‘about page’, which should be featured prominently at the top of your blog (in the menu). I’ve read articles recommending that an ‘about page’ should be short, and I’ve read articles recommending that an ‘about page’ should be long. Regardless (mine is short), it’s critical. People who visit your blog will want to know whom they are visiting and what sort of content to expect from them.
Blog design also includes widgets and menus. Over time, you can add and remove things from your blog – so you don’t have to worry about this too much, but I would strongly recommend that you put some of the basic widgets on your blog. I would definitely include the following (in no particular order):
- Image (of your face) and text (mini bio)
- Search bar
- Follow blog
I would also highly recommend a ‘tag cloud’; ‘category cloud’; ‘archives’; ‘top posts & pages’; or other widget that provides links to your blog posts… this will encourage readers to continue reading your blog content.
You should also think through your menus – have one at the top of your blog and consider putting one at the bottom or on the side too. Then think about what pages should be included in your menus and which of them should be top menu items, versus placed on submenus. Menus should not be too crowded, and they should be simple to follow.
Again, keep in mind that none of the decisions are permanent. You may see something you like on another person’s blog and decide to incorporate it into yours. You may decide that a particular widget or menu item is simply taking up space. All of that is okay. The main thing is – when you launch your blog, you should take the time to make it appealing, clear, and easy to navigate.
In terms of time management, this should not be something that you invest much time in after getting your blog off the ground. Most of your efforts in designing your blog should be up front, but I still think it’s important to mention this because I’d like to cover all stages of blog development.
People consider content to be the most important component of their blogs; and they are correct. However, as I wrote above, even the best content in the world will not draw readership on its own. If somebody creates a new blog and proceeds to produce amazing content every single day without making any effort to connect with other human beings, it will remain mostly unread.
I’ll get into networking below, but regarding content creation, here is what I would say, based upon my own experience and based upon articles and videos that I’ve gone through –
When you first start blogging, try to maintain a 1:3 ratio of time invested in content creation to time invested in networking. In other words, one quarter of your time should go into producing content for your blog, and three quarters should go into drawing people’s eyeballs to your blog. Over time, this ratio should naturally shift; and, eventually, creating content will likely command most of your time.
Please keep in mind that the above does not account for an individual’s attachments to other bloggers. For many of us, reading our friends’ blogs has nothing to do with strategy – it’s done out of affection and interest. Ultimately, you must find the ratio that works best for you.
By ‘networking’, I am primarily referring to networking with other bloggers on WordPress, which can be done in a few ways via the WordPress Reader.
The least time consuming ‘networking’ tool at our disposal is the ‘like’ button that most WordPress blogs include. If you want to get noticed, drop some likes for other bloggers, especially bloggers who have small followings, as I’ve written before.
Speaking for myself, the bloggers that I first noticed and took an interest in on WordPress when I first started out last year were those who liked my blog posts. In some cases, our subsequent interactions led to friendships. Really, it’s impossible to go wrong with a ‘like’ – just do it; in the worst case scenario, it won’t lead to anything, and you’ll have wasted a relatively small amount of time.
Obviously, writing a comment is more of a commitment than simply clicking on a ‘like’ button, which is why we all receive fewer comments than likes.
Some people occasionally leave fairly shallow comments that show no indication of their having read our blog posts. Don’t be one of those people – if you have nothing meaningful to respond with, just leave a ‘like’ instead of leaving a fluffy, pointless comment. Leaving inane, nearly empty comments just makes it seem like you’re seeking attention, which you likely are.
Once you get into reading other bloggers’ posts, you’ll find that many of them are responding to poetry and flash fiction prompts. Some prompts are offered by individual bloggers with followings, and others are provided by group blogs like the d’Verse Poets Pub, which I am so fond of.
Aside from stirring your creative juices and giving you ideas for content creation, responding to prompts is a terrific way to network and increase your blog’s exposure. Make sure to take the time to review other bloggers’ responses to these prompts. More often than not, the blog posts you write in response to prompts will generate more traffic for your blog than your other poems and articles.
By ‘distribution’, I am referring to the sharing of your content via social media and e-newsletters, which I have done almost none of myself.
While this is not something that currently interests me personally, multiple sources suggest that Pinterest is considered by professional bloggers to be the most effective social media platform for promoting their blogs. Other bloggers use Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. If you are hoping to make a living off of your blog, you will gradually have to branch out into at least one or two of these channels.
Personally, I am more interested in having discussions on WordPress with other poets and thinkers – I’m not trying to make a living off of the Skeptic’s Kaddish so I don’t care to promote my content on other channels. That’s my personal calculus, but it could change if I decide to write a book some day… perhaps then I’ll decide that promoting my website across other channels is worth my time and energy.
Big picture considerations
When I log in to WP, I always go through the same steps, more or less.
First, I make sure to go through all of the blogs that I’m following and give them ‘likes’ on all of their blog posts. I consider that to be the minimum level of support that I should show to all of the bloggers who I have come to befriend. Also, while I am going through their posts, I single out the ones that seem most interesting and open them for reading and commenting.
Second, if I recently responded to a d’Verse prompt, I make sure to give all other participants ‘likes’ and comment on their works if I am moved to do so. Following that, I open up my WordPress Reader and look for bloggers who share my interests, liking (and sometimes commenting on) their posts. I know that my presence on other people’s blogs will bring at least some of them to the Skeptic’s Kaddish.
(From a strategic, pragmatic perspective, I spend more time reading and commenting on other people’s blogs than I think is necessary for increasing my readership… but, as I said, I am not treating this as a professional enterprise. I’m interested in forming relationships with interesting people.)
Anyway, after going through other people’s blog posts, I respond to all of the comments left on the Skeptic’s Kaddish. I consider this to be among the most important aspects of maintaining an active blog. Also, this is important to me on a personal level. If someone is moved to leave me a thoughtful comment, I owe them nothing less than a respectful response. (While this is not the first thing I do, it is a higher priority for me than liking other people’s blog posts.)
(By the way, I admit that sometimes, especially after the Sabbath, when I have been offline for 25 hours, the responses I leave to comments on the Skeptic’s Kaddish are more hurried because a number of them have accumulated over the day.)
After having taking the above steps, I work on a poem or other post. Generally, I post twice every 24 hours, but, recently, I have been writing a lot of micropoetry, which means more posting.
Actually, this brings me to another realization that I have come to: it’s ok to write short posts (which lend themselves to poems), and: it’s good to create different kinds of content, of different lengths.
Obviously, shorter posts take less time to write (thus allowing more time for networking), but they are also appealing to many readers because they are faster to read. Shorter definitely does not mean worse; longer definitely does not mean better.
We should think about the subjects that we intend to be blogging about. Some lend themselves to longer posts; others lend themselves to brief reflections or poetry. It behooves us to vary both the substance and length of our blog posts to build our audiences, as variety will appeal to a wider range of people. (Within reason, of course. Do not attempt to be too many different things to too many different kinds of people.)
When you try to be everything to everyone, you accomplish being nothing to anyone.-Bonnie Gillespie
This leads me to a question that was posed to me on a previous blog post:
The question is – how do we plan ahead in order to maintain the consistency of our posting schedules?
To be honest, I think the most important aspect of maintaining a consistent posting schedule is related to content creation more generally: Make sure that you are blogging about something that you enjoy writing about.
Blogging is a marathon, not a sprint. If you take this project seriously, you’ll be creating content for your blog for years. That’s why it’s so critical to enjoy this process and enjoy what you write about. Also, for those of us who don’t necessarily plan ahead very much, it’s easier to come up with ideas for new blog posts if we’re writing about subjects that excite us.
Beyond this, responding to prompts, which I mentioned above in the context of networking, is a great way of drawing inspiration and maintaining your consistency. When you can’t think of something to write about, why not respond to a prompt? For that matter, why not read other people’s blog posts and respond to them? Of course, it helps to have a few core areas of interest, as I’ve noted.
Personally, I don’t exactly “plan” ahead, but I am often thinking about my blog and tend to walk around mumbling words to myself. If I wasn’t personally moved by the topics that I cover here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish, they wouldn’t occupy so much of my mind.
In terms of “planning ahead”, I would suggest that you take notes whenever an idea comes to you, and save these notes in your drafts folder. Once you’ve found a posting schedule that works for you, you can save posts that exceed your schedule and post them later.
So… about scheduling
Clearly, the first question we need to answer for ourselves is – how much time do I have for my blog every week?
Once you have answered this question, you have to divide those weekly hours into time spent on content creation and networking. The newer your blog, the more time you should invest in networking, and the less time you should invest in creating content. If you only produce one blog post every week, that’s okay! Remember – at the start, you should maintain a 1:3 ratio of time spent on content to time spent on networking.
As your blog grows, and as you find yourself becoming busier with it, in terms of responding to your readers’ comments and producing posts for generate further discussion, you’ll see that this ratio will gradually begin to shift.
As your subscribership grows, regardless of the weekly hours you’ve allotted for yourself, you may never have enough time for all of your blogging-related tasks, especially in terms of keeping up with your fellow bloggers. The reality is that you will have to set priorities. You will have to browse titles, bloggers, and tags in order to determine which to prioritize. That’s a skill you have to acquire over time.
This has turned out to be a fairly long blog post because, at the end of the day, I don’t have an answer to the question of time management. In fact, only you can figure out the answer for yourself. Instead, what I have attempted to do here is to lay out the various facets of blogging that we should consider in setting our schedules. We must be realistic with ourselves and not be afraid to correct course if we find that something isn’t working. Ultimately, blogging is primarily a matter of trial and error for us all.
As always, since I definitely do not have all the answers, your feedback on this rather slippery issue would be very much appreciated.