How to Fit Your Blog With the Rest of Your Life
5 questions only you can, and should, answer
A blog can be so many things:
- A job
- A side hustle
- A passion project
- An experiment
- A hobby
What is it for you?
Many people want to have a blog. But to what end? I’d risk saying that the majority of aspiring bloggers don’t have a clear answer to this question.
Often, it seems like it’s just this fantasy of being a widely-read, influential blogger. I agree that it’s a cool thing to fantasize about. But if you don’t know what role your blog plays in your life, then it’s almost impossible to give it the right priority.
Because here’s the thing: To grow a blog, you need to work on it regularly. There’s no other way it’ll happen. And to find the time to work on your blog, you need to understand where it fits with other commitments.
This is the part of the blogging mindset that popular advice rarely addresses. You need to know where your blog fits with the rest of your life. In this post, I want to show you how I discovered that — and how you can, too.
Let’s start with the most basic premise: You need to schedule time to work on your blog.
To Schedule “Blog Time,” You Need to Know How Important It Is
“You can’t call something a distraction unless you know what it is distracting you from. Planning ahead is the only way to know the difference.”
As opposed to distraction, Nir refers to doing what matters as “traction.” In this case, traction means the efforts to build and grow your blog.
To make sure traction happens, the best way is to decide in advance when, how, and what exactly you’ll be doing. This technique is called timeboxing and it’s a no-brainer. It’s so simple and obvious that we often assume we do it. In reality, we don’t necessarily.
There are parts of your life where timeboxing happens by default. It’s usually with plans that involve other people. When comes to scheduling meetings and appointments, there’s no other way but to timebox. Otherwise, how could you be sure that you’ll both be in the same place, at the right time, intending to do the same thing?
When it comes to working on your blog, this isn’t so obvious. Because it’s just you, you may tell yourself you’ll be flexible. You can still think you are planning, though. For example, you may think, I’ll work on my blog this afternoon, as soon as I’m finished with other stuff.
But that’s a recipe for failure. What does it mean to be “finished with other stuff?” Making a “plan” like that leaves you an easy out of creating any traction at all.
That’s why you need to timebox. For that, it helps to know how much the blog matters to you.
Should it happen before or after job-related tasks? Should you wake up early to do it — or set aside time in the evening? Will you trade a meeting with your friend for a few extra hours of researching a new blog post?
Such questions demand an answer before you can timebox work on your blog. The rest of this post is dedicated to helping you discover what trade-offs you are (and aren’t) willing to make while building your blog.
Blogging Is a Different Thing For Different People
When we talk about blogging, we assume we all agree what it means. I think that’s a false assumption.
Blogging plays different roles in different people’s lives. They devote various amounts of time, energy, and attention to it. Let’s look at a few examples to grasp this.
For Seth Godin, his daily blog is the essence of his brand. It’s how he communicates with readers and sees which ideas resonate. While it’s central to his work, I’m quite sure the blog doesn’t take up a large part of his day. And, to be fair, it doesn’t need to. His brilliant thinking and decades of experience make great ideas come to him almost casually.
Then I look at my friends Sílvia and Michal from JournalSmarter. For them, the blog is essential for their business. Two years ago, they committed to treating it as their full-time job. Today, this is how they make a living.
Finally, for me, the Self-Awareness Blog is something in between. I can’t yet afford to dedicate myself to it full-time. It’s not bringing in any income yet. I rely on Medium and freelance gigs for money. While the blog doesn’t pay me, I can dedicate 10–15 hours to it weekly.
These three examples, of course, aren’t exhaustive. There are thousands of other ways to approach blogging. And it’s important to know which way you want to approach it.
Obviously, I can’t answer this for you. Instead, I’ll give you five questions I asked myself. They helped me determine how much time and energy I wanted (and could afford) to spend on my blog.
How I Fit My Blog With Other Commitments
A while ago, I decided that weekly planning is the most important for my time management. I still do daily to-do lists and, sometimes, monthly goals. However, I found that focusing on the weekly horizon is optimal.
A week is short enough to allow you to plan realistically. You can schedule things in detail without having to account for the possibility of your life changing dramatically in the next seven days.
On the other hand, those seven days are enough to see tangible results. Setting weekly goals allows you to see the fruits of your work. This helps you stay motivated because you know you’re moving forward.
When my blog went live a few weeks ago, I was in the middle of redefining my whole working schedule. After a year of trying to turn Medium into a full-time income and failing, I needed to pivot. I took on freelance work and needed to find a way to fit my blog with all of that.
I realized I needed clarity as to how much time and energy I would devote to my blog. This, however, was too broad a question.
To narrow it down, I asked myself these five specific questions. They helped me define where my blog fits in with the rest of my life.
5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your Blog
Ask yourself these questions and be open to whatever answers come. Try to be as honest with yourself as you can.
You may find yourself wishing some of the answers were different. But it’s important to accept them for what they are at the moment.
Also, remember that whatever answer you have now may change in the future. You can revisit these questions as often as you want. It’s likely that your answers will evolve and your blog will pivot.
But right now, you need to start somewhere. So let’s try and answer these questions honestly, shall we?
1. Do I treat my blog as work or a hobby?
For me, this was a starting point to everything else. For a long time, I was shy to say that I wanted to be a professional blogger. I also never asked myself the above question directly.
But once I did, the answer was clear. What I really wanted was to turn blogging into a business.
It’s still hard to grasp what this means because it seems like such a long way before I can get there. I’m aware it may take a few years to establish myself as a professional blogger.
But the intention is there. I know that, for me, this is more than just a hobby.
Because of that, the time required to “make it” as a blogger became a secondary issue. I’m clear on where I’m going, so it’s not so important how long it takes anymore.
Making peace with your answer, whatever it is, can remove a lot of pressure to chase external validation.
2. Which of your commitments are more and which are less important than the blog?
Even though I decided to blog professionally — and this includes earning money from it — it isn’t happening yet. Meanwhile, I need income.
For now, this means I can’t afford to spend all my time building the blog. When comes to work, therefore, freelance writing is a priority. The money it brings gives me a sense of financial stability and abundance. As I discovered, this is a prerequisite for doing my best work.
I decided to prioritize freelancing before the blog, but I also prioritize the blog before publishing on Medium. Thanks to that, when I need to compromise on any of these things, I instantly know what to let go of.
Similarly, you may want to decide how important your blog is in relation to personal commitments. Is it more or less important than your family? Is it more or less important than hobbies, socializing, community events, travelling?
You get to decide what you prioritize. Just make sure you do. It will help you know what to let go of if the time comes to do it.
3. What time of the day is the best to work on your blog?
This doesn’t mean you need to commit to always working on your blog at the same time of day. But it’s good to be aware of the order of the various activities in your schedule.
You probably exert a different quality of energy in the morning, throughout your workday, and in the evening. It’s important to know which times are suitable to work on the blog.
In my case, doing it after my freelancing tasks are done for the day isn’t an option. I want to keep my evenings off. But waking up at 5 a.m. to blog before anything else didn’t sound good either. Fortunately, I could take advantage of scheduling my work as a freelancer.
I decided to do my paid gigs on three to four days every week. Then, I dedicate the remaining time to the blog.
It may be very different for you, especially if you work a full-time office job. But simply asking, ‘When in my day is a good time to focus on my blog?’ will make you consciously think about it. Then, pick the best available timeslot — even if it’s not perfect.
4. How many hours per week can you realistically dedicate?
After answering (or at least pondering) the three previous questions, you should have a better sense of how important your blog is for you. With that, you can look at your weekly schedule and try to initially timebox your blog “appointments.”
As a reminder, timeboxing requires you to decide when and how long you’ll spend on traction. This means you should decide the starting and finishing time of your blogging session.
Don’t worry if you initially over or underestimate the time you can devote to your blog. None of us is born with time management skills. Just be prepared to learn as you go along. Perfection isn’t the point here.
As Nir Eyal put it:
“Knowing you’ll slip-up is the secret to sustainable schedule making. Every time you fail, you have an opportunity to learn, adapt, and improve how you use your time to better accomplish what you want.”
5. How can you ensure that you spend your time productively?
That’s the tricky part of planning the work on your blog. If you’re just starting, you probably don’t know what you still don’t know. This makes accurate planning hard for two reasons:
- You’re not fully aware of all the things you’ll need to do.
- Even if you knew what you should do, it’d be almost impossible to assess how long it’s going to take.
Because of that, you may find yourself getting lost in tutorials, research, or just fighting with technical setup. All of it is to be expected. However, it doesn’t have to make you less productive.
It may often feel like you’re not moving forward. But more often than not, you are. It’s just that a big part of this journey is about learning from trial and error. There isn’t any way around it.
I found these two ways to ensure I don’t get completely lost as I’m learning new things about blogging.
I decide my next steps week by week
It’s nice to have a long-term roadmap of where you’re going with your blog. But knowing what tasks await you in the next months may just not be realistic.
You don’t know what you don’t know. Therefore, accurate long-term planning may be out of reach.
I find comfort in knowing that I only need to plan my steps for the next week or two. As I move on, the next actions usually reveal themselves. Sure, it can feel frustrating. But you can also find grace and ease in taking it one step at a time.
I frame goals as process-oriented rather than outcome-oriented
There’s a difference between process- and outcome-oriented goals.
- With process-oriented goals, you focus on doing a specific thing for a certain time. You put your attention to what you can fully control — which is the process.
- With outcome-oriented goals, you focus on producing a specific result. With these goals, there may be other factors at play than just your effort.
Neither kind of goal is better or worse. But with learning something new like blogging, you don’t always know how to make a specific outcome happen.
That’s why, initially, it may be more productive to focus on process-oriented goals. This way, you give yourself time to learn and avoid unnecessary frustration.
“When it came to writing I went with the wrong approach — goal-orientation — at first. I worked towards daily word counts, daily publishing goals, daily followers, and all the things which add pressure to the process.
I constantly fell behind. I had no steady writing experience and didn’t earn a single cent in the beginning. This made me doubt my goals in the first place and filled me with a bad conscience since I didn’t focus on the ‘profitable’ stuff.
To switch to process-orientation changed everything: I decided to spend 1.5 hours per day on writing, 5 days a week. If it was 100 words, fine, if it was 1,000 words, also fine. My goal was to sit there for 1.5 hours, regardless of the outcome.”
By embracing a process-oriented goal, Julia found a sustainable way to progress as a writer. She moved past her doubt and frustration and started publishing consistently — even though her goal was to simply write for 90 minutes a day.
To Succeed as a Blogger, Understand Why You Want to Be One
To grow your blog, you need to understand what role it plays in your life. There are three elements to this:
- Prioritize. Decide how important your blog is in relation to other things.
- Plan. Timebox it in your schedule to make sure you work on it.
- Execute. Do what you said you would.
The latter is, of course, critical to see progress. But you need to acknowledge that it can only happen when the previous two are in place.
Prioritizing, planning, and execution are all a part of the same sequence. One cannot happen without the other. And it all starts with assigning your blog the right level of priority.
That’s why you need to be clear about your relationship with blogging. Why do you want to do it?
Once you know the answer to this question, all the other ones become easier to tackle.