Avoid blogger burnout with these 10 tools to blog more in less time!
The appeal of blogging – making your schedule, passive income streams, story telling, building online influence – earns significantly more coverage than the drawbacks. But the reality of blogging is that behind the perfectly curated graphics and blog post punchlines are hours logged at the computer. That slow creep of the to do list, never completed and always growing, easily expands to take over your free time unless you develop a workflow to tame your plan!
A few years ago, I had sold my third blog and started again with the process of branding a new one. A shiny new logo, a fresh WordPress install and new social accounts later, I found myself staring at a blank editorial calendar waiting for that excited rush of ideas and inspiration.
I took a few days away from the computer, blaming my idea drought on the hectic pace of that latest sale. It had gone quickly and I had plunged straight into branding my new blog before that process was even finished. I needed to clear my head, get some fresh air, do some cooking…any of those things that I did to take a break from the computer.
In the end, I spent 6 months doing almost zero personal blogging. I still kept up with my client work and ghost writing, but I simply didn’t have a story of my own to tell. I had run headlong into blogger burnout. Thousands of word written, endless graphics created, courses to learn the latest & greatest and the 24/7 social connection had created a new kind of rat race of my own design.
I stepped away. I stopped forcing it. In those morning hours that had been dedicated to my content creation, I started working out. I slept more. I spent less time on my phone Facebook app. Then, I felt that itch. I had an idea, a story I wanted to tell, a picture I wanted to share, a recipe that I knew my audience would love. So, I started writing again but with a significantly different approach.
Blog Smarter, Not Harder
While I’ve always been a fan of productivity tools (planners give me heart palpitations), I realized when I came back to personal blogging that all the apps and planners and tools in the world would only help if I still had enough time to live my life.
Eating dinner with my family, getting enough sleep, playing games on snow days and all those in between moments when it is tempting to check your Facebook page insights or get one more thing done before you put the computer away – that matters. And here’s where it gets tricky. It’s so incredibly easy to let your efforts to streamline actually turn into another layer of distraction thanks to SOS (shiny object syndrome). Instead, if we pare down our tools to essentials and streamline our systems, we get the essentials done and have the room to decide how best to use our time! Here, I’ve outlined the tools that I’ve found useful and how I use them. Some of these programs offer affiliate programs that I enthusiastically participate in, some don’t and some are free. They’re all worth a look.
But first, a note for beginning bloggers. If this list overwhelms you, take a deep breath. By the time I started using all of these tools I had been blogging for more than 13 years and was earning a more than part time income from my efforts. You don’t need to immediately jump into ALL of these. Use what you need and grow as your blogging evolves.
Start with a plan
When it comes to blogging efficiently, a plan is absolutely necessary. Clarity about who you are serving and what you will provide for them is the foundation of every decision you’ll make from here on out. There are a thousand ways to zero in on your plan. I’ve developed planning pages that I call my KickStart to walk me through how much time I want to spend blogging right now, what I’d like to get out of it, and the small steps I’ll take to get there.
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Routines are important for my workflow. There are as many ways to create blogging systems as there are bloggers. The key is to find something that works for you. Pen and paper, online software, apps and more are all options to organize your process.
Quarterly, I take the editorial calendar outlined in my KickStart pages and add it to Asana, which I use to track all the tasks it takes to keep my 3 businesses running. For my editorial calendars, I have my tasks sorted by quarter, then month in Asana. Each blog post is a task, and each of my blog post steps are sub-tasks.
Having everything outlined in my project management software helps to keep me on track. Also, when I can glance at my calendar and know what needs to get done to hit my goals, I can more effectively prioritize my available time. Using this same online system for my blogging that I use for client work and major projects means that I can do all of that tracking inside one tool. In the past, I’ve used paper blog planners and spreadsheets. I found that I spent more time putting the information INTO the planner/spreadsheet than actually using it. I was simply adding steps to my process.
I use Evernote primarily to make it easier for me to take my blogging anywhere – the school pick up line, horse shows, last minute weekend trips. There are some days that I have blocked hours in the office while my son is at school. Other days, blogging needs to fit into the corners of my life. Through it all, content creation needs to happen. I use Evernote to record ideas on the fly or build the rough draft of a post. Balance, for me, does not mean that I keep blogging in one bucket and the rest of the my life in another. Balance is all about using my time in a way that is true to my priorities – with the tasks integrated in a way that flows together.
Grammarly to improve your writing
All the tools in the world won’t fuel blog growth without well-written, relevant content. In an ideal world, we’d have an editor to give our writing a thorough look over. Fresh eyes are a valuable part of that process – when you’ve written content, it’s easy to miss small mistakes. If there’s no room in the budget for an editor, Grammarly is an excellent (automatic) substitute. I use the free Grammarly plug-in directly in my browser. As a bonus, it works directly in my social media, too, and helps to prevent mistakes in my social content that would impact the professionalism of my brand.
Canva For Graphics & Lead Magnets
With a background in photography, I am fluent in Photoshop and value the role of effective imagery. But it’s time consuming and Photoshop means I’m tied to my computer. A few years ago, I moved the bulk of my image creation to Canva and found immediate time savings. Canva is a web based graphic editor that offers templates for social media images, blog graphics, and more. If you opt for the paid version, Canva for Work, you can also upload your brand colors and font. I created a template graphic for the images I need to create for each post: featured image, Pinterest image, square Instagram image, and Facebook image to make image creation even faster.
A nice bonus is that Canva also has templates for a variety of documents that could help you to create lead magnets in PDF form. Magazine style pages, ebooks and more are included. As a bonus, there is an iPad app that lets me do graphic work on the go.
Power Your Video – OBS & Animoto
Your social marketing plan needs to constantly evolve to reflect the changing ways that users are experiencing social media. While written content is still important, video has a vital role to play in your visibility in 2017. Get more shares, more views and build more awareness using video.
I use OBS to record presentations with a voice over, and before Facebook’s most recent desktop Live roll out, to broadcast from my desktop. It’s a simple and straight-forward way to create video. It is also available free as an open-source software!
Once I have my raw video draft, I edit and package in Animoto. Animoto has been a popular tool for photographers for years and they’ve recently expanded into marketing video templates as well. I can quickly add a basic intro and outro that I created in Animoto with my logo. I edit out the beginning and end bits of me getting settled and ready to start. You can also add music to videos that don’t feature voice over. Videos can be hosted on Animoto and shared from there or downloaded in a variety of sizes. Like most of my tools, it’s also available in an app that is perfect for when I use my iPad to make videos!
Coschedule for more efficient social media
With 20-30 blog posts to share, affiliate partners to promote, my groups to engage with and awesome content to share with my audience, social media can eat up my time faster than just about any other aspect of blogging. Over the years, I’ve been through most of the major social media planners. Buffer, Hootsuite, Edgar and the others all have their own strengths. Which is the best for you depends on your goals, your current needs and what kind of interface you prefer.
After testing Buffer, Edgar and Coschedule, I went with Coschedule. It integrates directly with WordPress, which goes a long way to streamlining my post promotion. In the screen shots of my Asana tasks, you’ll see that I have schedule social promotion. Coschedule‘s integration means that I can create and schedule those posts right inside the WordPress post editor. I schedule posts to share:
- the day after it publishes
- four days after it publishes
- 7 days after it publishes
- 14 days after it publishes (I have this post automatically added to Coschedule‘s Requeue which publishes preset content automatically)
When you are evaluating what is working and what needs to change with your blog, it is vital to have reliable information about who is coming to your blog, how they are getting there and what they are doing once they arrive. Google Analytics is the most effective way of gathering and evaluating that information so you know you are using your time as effectively as possible.
Looking at the demographic information of your audience gives you a snapshot of who you are actually writing for. Is it who you thought you were writing for? Is there an audience that you didn’t realize you were attracting? How can you engage those people more? Do you need to rethink your branding to attract the people you want to bring to your online community?
I try to keep a general eye on the number of new traffic I’m bringing in. To maintain growth, you need to continuously be attracting new visitors. Engagement offers a couple tidbits of information including page depth – the number of pages your visitors looked at during their visit. If this number is low, it’s a good indicator that you could better optimize your sidebar, embedded links and post entry settings to encourage readers to visit other pages and posts on your blog.
10 Tools To Blog More In Less Time
So, where do I start?
I use each of these tools on a daily or weekly basis. But, start with the planning and repetitive parts of your workflow. Tools should make blogging easier and more accessible instead of more difficult. A solid plan saves you an incredible amount of time – know where to focus your effort with KickStart 2017 and Google Analytics. Grammarly is free and improves the quality of your written content. Do the same for your visual content with Canva (which has both free and paid versions).
If you need to be able to compose on the go, add in Evernote. When you’re ready to dial in your social strategy and batch your posting, add a tool like Coschedule.
Ready to take things to the next level and add video? OBS is free to download, although give yourself an afternoon to play with it and get set up. Animoto is the plug and play video tool to jump start your video marketing and ride the social trends!
- An annual plan like KickStart 2017
- Blog Post Prompts to kick blogger’s block
- Project management & tracking tool like Asana
- Evernote for mobile blogging
- Grammarly for better writing
- Google Analytics
Which part of your blogging process needs to be streamlined?