On May 2nd I presented the opening keynote speech at the BlogOn Conference in Manchester. The session was extremely well received with lots of positive feedback and quotes taken from the presentation and shared on Twitter.
I opened with the news that I wasn't going to be sharing slides showing my Filfoax, my bullet journal and my stationery collection. I then explained that I’ve been a lover of lists and a fan of Filofaxes for as long as I can remember. For me, there’s something deeply satisfying about creating a to-do list and crossing each item off or formulating a plan and seeing it through with the results you expected - or an outcome that exceeds expectations.
I lead a busy life, just like everyone else, and management of that takes a lot of planning or it just doesn’t happen. People don’t arrive where they are supposed to be, tasks aren’t completed and everything starts to fall apart at the seams.
Everything starts with an idea, which turns into a plan, which generates an action.
I choose examples such as the table the attendees were sat at, the building (the amazing Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester), the BlogOn Conference and everyone's actual attendance at this conference. No-one just got up that morning and magically appeared in their chair. Everyone had to create a plan of action. And that happens every day, mostly subconsciously, or because we have embedded routines into our daily life.
We can carry this over to our blogging time. Even if you don’t have a blog that brings you an income or is attached to a business, there has to be a plan of action so that it doesn’t start to take over your life.
I asked who else had a schedule looks like this? I admitted that mine did on most evenings but then most of my personal blog ramblings are based around what I’ve seen, heard or thought whilst procrastinating (or, as my husband says, twatting about on social media).
I know some people may say that scheduling your blogging (or vlogging) activity takes the fun out of it or can make it feel like you’re running a business but a little bit of planning can take some of the pressure off. It’s up to you to adapt the planning to your needs.
USE A PLANNER
This may take on many forms. I personally use a bullet journal system incorporated into my Filofax. I also have a BOAT (Book Of All Things) which is generally a brain dump and I’m a bit old school where I have to write things down. I also use Google Calendar a lot (linked to my phone) for reminders on the go and we have a Family Google Calendar too for 'family reminders'. This may seem like overkill to some people, however, what works for me may not work for you but you can take ideas from various sources and incorporate them into your own planning system.
Prior to the conference, Laura (BlogOn Director) and I got our heads together and made a list of everything that bloggers may need to think about and pulled together a mini-planner for attendees to use. A one-month example was printed out for everyone for them to take away with the full 12-month version available to download from the BlogOn website.
We included a blog scheduler with reminders for promoting on various social media channels, a place to add your blogging statistics if you want to compare them month to month, a daily sheet for reminders (I’ve got one of these in my BOAT for various things including YouTube, Slimming World, book sales and more), a place to note down any income or earnings you might create from your blog - the same with reviews, giveaways and sponsored activities such as advertising and finally something akin to the bullet journal which is a blog-friendly to-do list.
It's important to know your own schedule and where blogging fits into that on both a personal and business level.
On a personal level, I have my Sunday evenings set aside (reality TV permitting) to look back over the previous week and look forward to the next week. This is also the time that I do The Three Ps: PRIORITISE == PLAN == PROGRAM
Here I make a list of things to do. This might be blog maintenance, blog post ideas I have, pitches to make to PRs/Brands, sponsored posts that need writing, invoices to send out or chase up…
Once tasks have been prioritised you can base your plan on deadline, what matters the most and ease of task (not necessarily completing the easiest task first or leaving it until last). At this time I also incorporate activities such as research to back up ideas, freewriting, brainstorming, drafting posts, comparing my statistics from month to month. Look at points in the week where you know you will have the time to complete specific tasks.
Human interaction and real-time sharing is the most important way to get hits on your blog. Social media platforms penalise auto-sharing activity but that’s a whole other discussion for another day. However, there are short-cut tools that can help you create a presence even when you’re away from your computer, especially as you will have different audiences tuning in at different times and for different reasons. Examples I used were Buffer for multi-platform sharing and Tweetdeck for Twitter scheduling and IFTTT for creating future online 'actions' from other online activity. Examples from the audience included Hootsuite and Sprout Social.
I also mentioned that Chrome Extensions (for those who use a Chrome browser) were fabulous as shortcuts and my favourites are the bit.ly button (a URL shortener), the Evernote clipper, a G+ sharing button, a screencapture tool, and a StumbleUpon button.
TIPS AND TRICKS
I closed with some favourite tips and tricks of mine as it's very easy to get carried away. These included:
- If you’re really bad at time management, set an alarm
- Find your own best productive time - it might be first thing in the morning, 3am, just after you’ve put the kids to bed. Use that time wisely (as above).
- Use an actual diary to break down your plan. In real life, no-one expects you to work outside your allocated hours without appropriate recompense so why do it with your blog.
We live in a fast paced world with so much going on around us. There’s pressure to be online, everywhere, all of the time. Time management is the best skill you can master. The key to time management is to have a holistic approach and to work out YOUR priorities.
REMEMBER - it’s your blog, your plan and your life