How to Write Quality Posts When You Have a Day Job

 

Not everyone has the luxury of a full-time blogger — you know, that lazy sonofagun who lays around on the couch all day, absent-mindedly pecking away at his keyboard while eating Cheetohs and watching reruns of Lost and The Office, writing his blog posts as the muse whispers to him in tidbits throughout the day.

No, not everyone is that lucky.

Some bloggers actually have — gasp! — day jobs! And all the pressures and time constraints that that entails: working late hours, no time for loved ones or exercise or outside goals as it is.How’s a blogger supposed to find time to write great posts in between all the million other things she has to do every day? That’s the question most bloggers face, and if they understand blogging, they know that quality posts are the key to growing a blog.

How’s a blogger supposed to find time to write great posts in between all the million other things she has to do every day? That’s the question most bloggers face, and if they understand blogging, they know that quality posts are the key to growing a blog.

Although I’m a full-time blogger now (I don’t eat Cheetohs but the rest of the picture above fits me fairly well), for the first year I was writing Zen Habits posts, I had a full-time job, I did free-lance writing on the side, I was training for a marathon, and I was (and still am) married with six kids.

I was able to produce quality posts and grow my readership numbers in the fist year (I had 27,000 subscribers within the first year), despite all the other things I had to do, in large part because I was passionate about it.

If you’re passionate about something, you’ll make it happen. You’ll find a way.

However, that’s not very helpful to most bloggers, so let’s go into a little more detail — the specifics of how I was able to continue to generate quality posts on a very regular basis despite a full-time job.

And so we move on to the inevitable list!

1. Focus on what’s important. What’s the most important thing a blogger can do to grow his blog and readership? Write great content. Not add links or widgets to the sidebar, not check stats, not reading or commenting other blogs, not even responding to comments or email. Writing great content. That’s by far the most important thing you can do. Focus on this. Whatever time you have for blogging should be spent mostly on this. By really keeping yourself focused, you can find the time to write. If you veer off track and start getting distracted, you won’t have time for writing.

2. Don’t mess with other stuff too much. The flip side of the above point is to minimize the time you spend doing other things related to blogging. This means becoming more aware of what you do as a blogger. Do you spend a lot of time on email, IM, Twitter or forums? Do you check your stats or earnings a lot? Do you fiddle with WordPress or other software? Do you spend time on SEO? Don’t! It’s all a waste of time, for the most part. Become aware of how you spend your time, and cut these non-important activities as much as possible.

3. Carve out a regular time each day. No matter how busy you think you are, you can find at least 20-30 minutes a day for writing. That might mean waking earlier, or writing when you first get into work and no one else is around, or doing it during your lunch break, or during that lull in the afternoon when everyone is falling asleep, or staying at work for an extra 20 minutes, or writing on your commute while on the train, or right when you get home from work, or right before you go to bed. If you don’t have 20-30 minutes during any of these times, you’ll need to cut back on something else. Or else consider dropping blogging. Find that time each day, and make it a regular appointment you can’t miss. Sometimes you can find 2-3 small blocks of 15 minutes each for writing every day.

4. Have time for reflection. Blogging is largely reliant on reflection. I’ve always done my best reflecting while running, while driving, while walking, or while showering. Sometimes while reading. Find your times for reflection, and use it to think about things in your life, and then make a note of these things so you can blog about them. This is a big part of writing posts — and once you’re done, you just need to articulate these reflections with the keyboard.

5. Take advantages of lulls in your schedule. Sometimes we don’t have a lot of work to do, or things quiet down. Use this spare time wisely. Write a few posts during this time, if you can, so that you have some extras for the times when you absolutely can’t write posts.

6. Write shorter posts you can write in one burst. Can you write a quality post in 20 minutes? I can, if I keep it short. I bet you can too. Just make it very focused, and put in a few quality thoughts, and then ask readers to contribute their thoughts. There’s a lot of value in these kinds of posts, if you don’t do them every time. Writing a post in a short burst is a great way to make the best of limited time.

7. Outline during meetings. I’ve always found that most meetings are a waste of time, especially if it’s more than just 2-3 people and you’re just sitting around most of the time. If you have that problem, use your meeting time wisely: bring a notebook and start outlining your next post. When you get out of the meeting, type up the outline and even fill in some sections if you have the time. When you’re ready to sit down and write the post, you’re halfway done already!

8. Write in your head. I used to write posts, in my head, while running or driving or pretending to listen to my boss. Oops! Strike that last one. I was really listening, I swear. When I was ready to write at the computer, much of the post was already done — I just had to spit it out through the keyboard. Some of my best writing is done in my head when I’m away from the computer.

9. Cut out time-wasters. Do you surf the Internet a lot at work, or participate in forums or mailing list discussions or social media sites? If you spend a lot of time online, you have the time to write quality posts. You just need to cut out the online time. Disconnect from the Internet, open a text file, and start writing a post. If you watch a lot of TV, you have the time to write — if you just turn off the TV. I’m sure most of you could find other time-wasters in your life.

10. Don’t try to post every single day. I tried doing that when I first started, but realized that people don’t necessarily want to read a post from you every day. 3-4 times a week might be better, or even 1-2 times a week. I now shoot for 4-5 times a week, but I have more time than I used to have. If you have a full-time job, try to do a regular posting schedule, but make it less frequent than every day. Let’s say you decided to post 2 days a week — that would mean you could write 1/3 to 1/2 of a post each day, instead of a full post.

 

About the author

Leo Babauta

Leo Babauta is the blogger behind the superblog, Zen Habits, which is about finding simplicity in the daily chaos of life.

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