Monday, November 21, 2011

Seven Ways to Find the Time to Blog

After a friend recently posted about trying to find the time to blog, I got to thinking: How do I find the time to blog? 

After some thinking, I came up with a few principles. In some ways, I'm the worst person to give advice, because my frequency of posting is terrible compared to any decent blogger. On the other hand, I'm the father of 3 children under the age of 4 (doing attachment parenting no less) and I work full time, so if I can find the time to post, then anyone can.

First, make sure that you know why you're blogging. If you don't know, the issue may not be a lack of time, but a lack of clarity or motivation. Rebecca Blood's articles and references on blogging and book, The Weblog Handbook, are useful if you are just finding your voice. Once you know why you're blogging, the following tips may help you find the time to actually get those blog posts going.
  1. Repurpose: If you are an information worker of any kind or a student, you're probably already doing research, generating reports, analyzing information. If you can find a way to take your initial work and repurpose it for use in two places, then you can generate content for your blog with only a little additional work. Be aware that depending on your employment contract, work policy, and employment laws, there could be all sorts of issues about who owns your work, the confidentiality of your work, and a slew of other issues. On the other hand, judging from recent Wired magazine articles, many companies are now opening up and encouraging transparency in all its forms, including blogging. Research this ahead of time so that you're doing the correct legal and ethical thing.
  2. Substitute: You probably already bookmark websites, send emails about interesting articles or thoughts to friends and you may even write the occasional letter or holiday newsletter to family and friends. All of these are material that could be published on your blog. When you publish your bookmarks on your blog, not only do you benefit, but so do your readers. Blog instead of bookmarking, blog instead of emailing, blog instead of writing a letter, blog instead of publishing. 
  3. Get creative: Take the creativity advice of Gifford Pinchot III, and always keep index cards or a quarto on you. The time when you have a creative idea to post is most likely not when you are in front of a computer. So grab that handy pen and paper, outline your post, and it'll be quick and easy to post when you next sit in front of a computer.
  4. Scratch an itch: My own blog originated from my desire to keep track of books that I had read. As I borrowed more books to read (instead of buying), I found it difficult to keep track of books and authors I liked. That make it difficult to decide what books to read next. I could have simply kept a lot on my computer, but how much more fun to share it with everyone. Now using my blog helps me do something I already wanted to do, and that's true even if no one ever reads it. The epilogue to MIT's open source book has an interesting discussion of the open source principle applied to writing:
    "While every writer will tell you they write for themselves, this is more a statement of principle than an actual description of process—a piece of writing, whether a textbook or a novel, needs an audience to succeed. A programmer who claims to writes code for him or herself, on the other hand, is often telling the literal truth: “This tool is for me to use. Additional users are nice, but not necessary.”
    If you can manage to write and simultaneously create value for yourself through your writing, then you have a double motivation to write.
  5. Eliminate barriers: If posting on your blog requires you to jump over a dozen hurdles, you won't do it. Eliminate barriers, and you'll find that even five minutes can be enough to start an interesting post. Use simple blog software with a WYSIWYG editor so you aren't spending time messing with HTML. Keep a browser window open to your blog editor at all times, so it is always easy to get to. Start a post, even if you won't have time to finish it now, and keep the edit window open. You'll come back to it later when you do have time.
  6. Have modest expectations: I'm sure I could have made this a "top ten" list, but seven items came easily, and still fulfilled the purpose of the post.
  7. Set a goal: E set the goal of posting at least once a week, and while she may have missed one week somewhere in there, for the last two months, her blog has had plenty of fresh, interesting articles. Way to go!
Update (4/12/2007): Here are several other resources about finding or making the time to blog:
Update (November 2011): I've been blogging less, but I've also written three science fiction novels, so the principles here work for things other than just blogging. 

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