Balancing Blogging and the Rest of Your Life; a Student’s Perspective

Many of us love to see bursts in our blog feed subscribers, a steady flow of productive comments, and especially an undying interest in our ad spaces for sale. That goes without saying. However, we also all know that blogging is not an effortless task, and in order to be successful, we must work hard and devote ourselves to our blogs — we must focus on improving our blogs every day.

That’s not an easy task if you’re a college student like me. I constantly have other tasks pending: assignments to complete, tests to study for, and on top of all that, I’m trying to manage my upcoming freelancing business. I have many things that I need to do in order to get good grades and make a living, in front of what I’d like to do: maintain my blogs.

It is so frustrating when I see my subscriber count going down, my comment section becoming increasingly less active, and my page views just looking dreadful. The busier I get with the rest of my life, the more my blog fails.

So how does one balance the dream of a successful blog and the rest of their life? I’m not quite there yet myself, but whether you’re a student, freelancer, or working full-time at a company, I’ll share what I’ve learned so far for blogging part-time with full-time results.

Don’t Work Harder, Work Smarter

After my first post was published on SmashingMagazine I was bombarded with requests from other blog owners to write for them. I gladly accepted two more, and they started bringing me a bunch of targeted traffic — people that were actually interested in what I had to write! Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

Wort OutHowever, I soon found out that as my blog got more popular, it also became more difficult to keep up with. I had more demand, both for more posts and for better quality posts. I tried setting up a blogging schedule for myself, and ended up working too many hours a day trying to keep up with the quality and quantity demand.

Then — I decided I had had enough. What’s the worst that could happen if I didn’t blog every day? Well I stopped all that, re-focused my priorities, and got caught up in a few other areas in life. When I got down to about two posts a week, I noticed my blog failing in every aspect possible. Despite my enjoying what I thought was a more balanced lifestyle, I still wasn’t succeeding in something that mattered a great deal to me.

That’s when someone recommended to me a book: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. Sounds like the basic borderline self-help, never-could-actually-happen book where the author is just trying to make a quick buck, but I was told it was a good read. —I bought it, and well, I was impressed. It was a smart book. The title was a bit misleading, because instead of the author trying to teach his readers how to achieve a 4-hour workweek, it was really a series of lessons on how to work smarter, instead of working harder. The lessons were based on his own personal experiences, life-balancing lessons inspired by classic authors like Theroux and Emerson, and even scientific studies and statistics.

80/20 or 20/80?

Of course, I took some of the principles with me. For one, he discussed the 80/20 rule. This one was based off of a formal study involving workflow and efficiency in the workplace. Basically, it concluded that most of us worked by putting in 80% effort, and only getting 20% success out of it. The author and many other entrepreneurs like him, decided to switch this statistic around by working smarter: putting 20% effort in, and getting 80% out.

The way he applied this himself was by analyzing his customer base. He spent most of his work day calling customers, working on sales, and usually failing. His initial theory (as most of us would also think), is that the more people he would call, the greater chance of making a sale. The equation for success being, more customer calls = more profit.

However, one day he did a quick analysis, and found that only a certain 5% of this customers were active, and were actually doing business with him. So, to fix his dilemma, he stopped calling 95% of his customer base, focusing his time only on the 5% that were likely to do business with him. He cut down his work time by several hours, and ended up losing very little profit. (His profits were something around 3% down, but by cutting his work time in half, he had decided it was worth it.) He then took that extra time for either improving and marketing his business, or for leisure.

Despite his small profit loss, his extra hours devoted into new business ventures and exploration on how to improve his current business managed to make him more profit, all while working less.

Apply It To Your Blog

Of course, this can work with blogging too. In fact, that’s what I decided to do when I realized I needed a better blogging/life balance. This helped me re-focus so I had more time working on other areas of my blog rather than just grinding out posts. I also so I had more time for schoolwork, freelancing work, and free time. Here are some of the things you can do as well:

  • If you see that your blog is going nowhere, step back for a few days to break a potentially destructive cycle.
  • After that break, reanalyze your blog, taking a close look at the statistics.
  • Read up on basic SEO and marketing rules where you may be struggling. Yes, you’ve learned it all before, but it’s amazing what you could have forgotten.
  • Brainstorm ways to increase the quality of your blog, and then research how those strategies are working out in other blogs in your niche.
  • Consider post quality, posts published per week, marketing, your blog’s design, and every other matter in between when thinking of ways to become more efficient while improving quality.

Stop the Time Wasters

We are all time wasters and procrastinators. Cut out anything unnecessary and start building new habits that don’t allow you to procrastinate. Stop checking your email 10 times a day, taking a break every two minutes, and for goodness sakes, keep away from Facebook while you’re supposed to be working!

Time WastingMuch of the time I’d feel as though I’ve been working for hours on end, and I probably had been sitting in front of my laptop trying to get things done for all those hours. However, when the night is done and I realize how late it is, I realize something else — I really didn’t do anything. I may have responded to an email here, came up with a few title posts there, but for the most part I spent most of my time taking breaks on Facebook, playing with my cat, or using the “I’m hungry…can’t work on an empty stomach” excuse. In the end, I really had quite a chill night.

However, I took up that night responding to all other requests as “No, I have to get some work done tonight.” Also, in the end, despite me not really working very hard, I was fatigued and tired.

Most likely, many people have this problem, and wish to be more productive while having more free time. Cutting out time-wasters is the answer.

Breaking the Cycle

To begin, recognize your biggest time wasters, and start recognizing them as procrastinating rather than “being productive” (I am of course referring to the biggest flaw of most of us: constant email checking).

Also, don’t use other websites as a break. These might include fun social networking sites, catching up on RSS feeds, or just web browsing. We can still do this, but try not to do it during work time. Often times when we need a break from any sort of web work, we really just need to get up and away from our computer screen. Not doing so will cause fatigue and further stress. As an added tip: go outside. Natural sounds, other people, and just plain sunlight instantly relieves stress.

There are a number of other steps you can take, but the best strategy is to recognize your weaknesses in this area first, and to improve upon them on an individual basis.

Set Realistic, Short Term Goals

Losing sight of where your blog is going is an issue many bloggers face every day, but it is especially relevant for those with tight schedules and other priorities. If we stop seeing progress, there becomes an “Is it worth it?” attitude, and keeping up a blog seems more like a chore added onto an already busy schedule.

GoalsWhenever I had a test coming up, a huge list of assignments to fulfill, or a busy schedule otherwise, it seemed impossible to pay attention to my blogging, let alone enjoy it. These were also the times when my blog became more inactive, and I thought about shutting it down many times because I felt it really wasn’t doing anything to meet my goals professionally. I always ended up deciding it wasn’t worth throwing all my hard work away, so I decided to do something differently.

That is where short term goals can come in. We all have long-term goals for our blog and our online presence as a whole, but we can lose sight when we have to keep other things on our mind. To keep on track and to keep inspired, set short term goals. For example, try to become more active in social media for one week to test out the result it has on your blog. Seeing short term progress can keep you motivated, and help you keep sight that your blog is improving — even if you haven’t seen your long-term goals accomplished yet.

Keep in mind that they should be realistic, too. Don’t expect 1000 more subscribers for a small blog within a week! While we should all dream high, short-term goals are for realistic settings that ultimately will get you those extra 1000 subscribers, or whatever else you desire for your blog.

Find Some Help

No matter how much we can become re-interested in our blogging, sometimes we still just don’t have the time. One other possibility to explore is to either hire other bloggers or invite guest bloggers to help out. Depending on the size of your blog in its current state, many other bloggers in your niche may want to get their name out and provide a guest post for free. Otherwise, it’s very easy to find paid bloggers by putting up an ad either on a blogging job board, or a job board within your niche.

Ask for helpWithin my experience, I’ve ventured into both these options. It’s always nice to have someone provide content for your blog free of charge, but in my experience paid bloggers provide much better quality posts. That’s not to say all guest posters are bad, just be wary when considering the option. Also, it’s easier to ask a paid blogger to change a certain aspect of a post than a guest blogger, because you are their “boss” for that time being.

As another benefit, with anyone else writing on your blog, you can see how your readers will react to another style of writing. Don’t be too assertive when it comes to the style of writing for your guest authors. In the least, you should be assertive on good grammar, spelling, and general format, but don’t get too uptight on any other areas. You may soon discover new habits that your readers will better respond to. This is a great opportunity for your blog to grow.

Wrapping Up

There are plenty more lessons to be taught on managing a blog with a busy schedule. These are just a few of the tips that have helped me the most, passed down to me from even greater entrepreneurs and bloggers. Hopefully, they can help you too.

The things to remember is to work smarter, not harder, and to remind yourself how to enjoy blogging once more. It shouldn’t feel like a job, but hectic lifestyles can turn it into one. When that happens, it’s your job to revamp the way you do things and get back on track!

Feel free to share any additional tips you might have on better time-management for blogs.

Further Resources:

Kayla Knight is a college student, freelancer, and blogger. In her spare time she maintains two blogs: Webitect.net (RSS) and DesignFinds.Me (RSS). Feel free to get in touch with her through her blogs, her portfolio, or follow her on twitter.

 

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