The truth is of course that the juggling is a nightmare. I'm not going to lie to you and tell you everything is rosy when it's not. With three children at home 24/7 I have to grab moments as and when I can and still sometimes work till the early hours of the morning, but here are some tricks and tips I've gleaned over the past four years that make it a bit easier.
Write down everything. When a new contract or product comes in, create a draft post straight away. When you use it jot ideas down in a notebook or on to your phone (lots of people love Dragon Dictate, I hear). When you're out and about, scribble down random thoughts and ideas, or notes for future blog posts as they occur. Get these notes into your draft post and the bare bones are written already. Then all you need to do is flash it out and add some killer images.
Create an Image Library
Use sites like Pixabay to collect generic photos, but be on the look out all the time for great images when you're out and about. That beautiful lilac or interesting post box could be perfect for a future post, so snap away then add to a stock images folder on your laptop.
Don't Try to Do Everything
As tempting as it is to keep up with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Periscope and all the rest, your time is limited. Just pick two or three and focus your energies on those. Secure the name(s) you use on the other platforms, in case you want to use them later, but for now just put your energies into a couple of outlets. If beautiful images are your thing, Pinterest and Instagram are the obvious choices.
For me, the most traffic and interaction comes from Twitter and Facebook, so I focus on those mostly. I opted out of Instagram as I don't have or want a Smartphone, and don't really want to be sharing so much of our life online. Figure out what works for you and focus your energies there. Check Google Analytics to see where most of your traffic comes from and concentrate your energies there, or focus on the new network that excites you most.
Use a Scheduling Service
If you haven't already done so, get your syncing set up immediately so that when a post is published it goes straight to your subscribers and your social media accounts too. There has been a lot of talk about how much reach auto-syncing has, but it works well enough for me and saves the time it would take to share everything separately.
However, the chances of your followers seeing an unpromoted post, especially on Twitter, are tiny, so get the tech doing it for you. Using a scheduling service like Buffer, Hootsuite or, my favourite, Social Oomph to prompte your content going forward, potentially forever! I would really recommend the paid for versions as it's only a few pounds a month, tax deductible, and you get a lot more for it.
But always remember that there is no substitute for your unique voice so, within the scheduled posts, make sure you share personal thoughts and comments too. You should also be on your social accounts at least every other day (twice a day preferably) to respond to comments, chat, or share interesting content live.
End your work time each day with a realistic list of things to accomplish the next day. A maximum of 7-10 is achievable and not too overwhelming. Having a daily schedule is also useful, with a list of social and admin tasks to perform on certain days, plus linkies you like to join in with. Keeping all your daily tasks in one place means they don't clog up your to do list, leaving it free for the really important tasks. When your time is limited the 'to do' list should be ticked off first, before the items on the daily schedule.
Keep a longer list of bigger things to do such as re-design or blog maintenance tasks, re-working your media pack, or taking an e-course. Set yourself goals for the short, medium and long-term. If you are/want to be a pro-blogger and plan to increase your income, dedicate some time on your 'big to do list' for this. Want to start a separate new blog? That goes on your big list too. Then schedule some time each fortnight or month to tackle these tasks. Make an appointment with yourself in your diary, and ring fence that time.
When writing, turn off the phone(s), close your e-mail and social screens, and find a quiet place without distractions. Cafes work for me, but you may need a separate work space at home that can be away from the rest of the family. Whatever your space the biggest attention-zappers are e-mails zipping onto your screen willy-nilly and social alerts. Which of us hasn't lost an hour to our inbox or social media?! Turn them off!
Practice Time Chunking
When do you write best? Early morning, morning, afternoon, evening, late at night? Knowing when you work best, both creatively and efficiently, is key. Optimise the time do you have by scheduling writing tasks for the times and days you are most productive. If you can shift your family's timetable around to free up more time at these critical points, do so. Remember that writing is the primary need for your blog, don't let all the other stuff (social, admin etc) sap too many of your precious hours. Writing time comes first.
Separate tasks out so that you spend a concentrated hour on social media, another concentrated hour sourcing images or photoshopping your own photos, an hour for admin like responding to comments, a couple of hours for research and note-making, another couple of hours for writing, etc. You probably won't manage it all in one day so map out your free time over a week and put certain jobs in each slot, chunking similar tasks together. Leave time for garden breaks or to make a cup of tea too, you need to refresh between time chunks - and those little 'rewards' help too!
Turn Your Inner Critic Off for a While
Don't spend ages agonising over every word you write, or checking you are at the (supposed) magic 5-600 word length for your blog post, JUST WRITE! Get your metaphorical pen on that sheet of plain paper and get words down, fast. Then go and make a cup of tea and come back to re-draft it. Or write several posts like this and then leave them until your next writing session to re-write. Don't sit there obsessing over every word or sentence, better to get your thoughts on paper first, then tidy it up.
Start an Editorial Schedule
Plan ahead as much as you possibly can. Didn't finish that post with your thoughts on the commercialism of Valentine's Day, or your amazing spring cleaning advice? Finish them now and get them scheduled for February or March 2017.
Map out an editorial schedule with all the key themes you want to cover, any occasions or dates you want to highlight, and get posts scheduled way in advance. Then you can slot the off-the-cuff posts, the brand content for clients, the photo posts, and the review posts in around them. If possible try to get at least a couple of months ahead, then there will still be content ready to go even if you or your children are ill, or something else happens that puts a spanner in the works.
Create Some Stock Posts
Look back at your old content and use it to create new posts such as 10 Best Cake Recipes or Craft Activities for Toddlers or Where To Go This Summer. By re-working your old content this way you are likely to reach new followers, get old followers reading stuff they missed, and you have a pre-written post for when the muse fails you and you need a blogging break.
You could also ask your blogging friends to send you their best picnic food posts/autumn art projects/family day out posts and collate a post for your blog out of these. Just check you can use one of their photos and give them a nice link back.
Manage Your Inbox
Check your e-mail twice a day max, preferably once in the morning and once in the evening. Create folders for Action, Posts to Write, Paid Work, Review Posts etc and when you check your inbox sort e-mails into these categories straightaway. Then spend the rest of your dedicated e-mail time, max one hour, in replying to the Action e-mails.
Make life easier by having reply templates set up for the different kinds of enquiries you get: reviews, sponsored posts, guest posts, freelance work, event invitations etc. Add in the person's name and a quick personal greeting if you know them already and you're done.
If you use Gmail, install Boomerang. That way you can schedule e-mails for the next day, or schedule an e-mail to send the link of your review post to the PR next week. It really helps with getting organised.
Never underestimate the power of 'no', do you really want to spend time reviewing that bag of sugar/box of biscuits? Actually, maybe biscuits... Figure out if it's worth the time taking and editing photos, writing and researching for something worth less than a fiver. Or start creating review round-ups where lower value items just get a brief mention and one photo.
I hope some of those tips resonate with you and that they will help you find more time to blog. But remember above all that you started doing this because it's fun and you enjoy it, it shouldn't become yet another chore to tick off. Take a break every so often, have a night off to watch a film or have a Netflix marathon. The world isn't going to stop because you didn't post anything today/this week. Family and life come first!
Happy blogging x
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