The Consequences of Taking a Break from Blogging: A Case Study
I’m going to provide full disclosure. I paused blogging for an entire month, but I don’t regret it.
I want to take this time to share my story with the purpose of helping you decide whether a pause in blogging is worth considering for yourself. I hope this life lessons-type article gives you a better understanding and appreciation for taking temporary time off from this long-term process.
I had valid reasons for stopping that you might relate to you as well if you run your own blog. By stopping blog activity for as long as I did, I learned valuable lessons about my blog, myself, and blogging as a whole. You, too, can benefit from a brief break. Take this as a guide.
Why I Paused Blogging
When you think about all the work you do for your blog, don’t you ever feel a sense of being overwhelmed? Blogging takes a ton of your time and effort, so sooner or later, you’re likely to burn out.
Problem: Burning Out
That’s one of the reasons why I stopped writing. I spent so much of my mental and physical strength to try to catch up and keep up with the recommended blogging timeline. I didn’t pay attention to how exhausted I was getting until I finally just needed to take a break.
I burned out. I was ignoring my health for the sake of my content and its schedule. I experienced back and shoulder pain from sitting with bad posture for prolonged time periods. I neglected my mental health by isolating myself in the confines of my office space.
If you write in a room by yourself all day, you need to give yourself time to be around people. Social engagement is necessary for everyone because we are all social beings by nature. We all seek opportunities to spend time around others, so give yourself that resource from time to time. Otherwise, your mental health will suffer.
When you sit at a desk for too long, especially with bad posture, you can seriously damage your body. Make sure you’re getting up to stretch, and allow yourself more than a few minutes. Use the Pomodoro Technique to keep yourself accountable for these breaks. I highly recommend using Tomato Timer on your computer or Focus Keeper on your iPhone.
Problem: Comparing Myself to Others
Another similar reason why I took a break from my blog is: I felt defeated that I simply could not do what I saw other bloggers doing.
I look at Neil Patel, for example, and see him publishing three or more well-written, thoroughly-researched articles every day. And that’s just for his blog. He also writes for Quick Sprout and frequently guest blogs. He’s the epitome of the ideal blogger, and I admire his success.
The problem was: I didn’t think I could ever create content to that scale.
I was comparing my blogging efforts to that of one of the most influential leaders in the marketing industry. It was an unhealthy attempt at motivating myself.
You want to have inspiring leaders to look to for advice, but if you start comparing yourself to them, that’s when disaster strikes. By trying to be as successful as someone else, you lose track of your own blogging purpose and capabilities. It’s a recipe for burning out.
Problem: Unrealistic Expectations
I paused my writing when I saw my blog wasn’t getting the attention and engagement I wanted. I read plenty of articles that provided metrics and goals I should track and achieve, and I wanted to see success faster than was realistic.
I write one to two articles a week for my blog, and I expected this content to reap higher rewards than reality would provide. I don’t expect my articles to go “viral,” but I did expect more traffic and subscribers than I was getting.
While it’s true my content needs improvement to help with these results, my mentality needed to change as well.
When you think about your blog goals, are they actually achievable? Or are you like me, trying too hard to reach your goal at an unrealistic pace?
Yes, you want to have a goal to aim for, but it should always be something that inspires, not defeats, you.
Don’t let yourself get defeated by your unrealistic expectations. Instead, create different stages and timelines for yourself. Pace yourself.
No matter what I read about optimizing content and making it work, I wasn’t doing enough to apply what I learned. I was stubbornly refusing to change in some ways, or I felt like I didn’t have the skill to do it.
We all resist change by nature, but that doesn’t stop it from happening.
For example, I’m a writer who depended on the written word far too strongly. I resisted video as if it was going to kill me. However, my resistance hasn’t stopped video from becoming the preferred communication medium. I needed to stop resisting and learn how to adapt.
Accept change when it happens, not when you no longer have a choice.
If you try to resist the inevitable, you fall behind like I did. Most changes in my field, marketing, are results of audience preferences. They have the final say, so I need to be willing to give them what they want. The same goes with businesses seeking customers or nonprofits seeking donors. It’s a universal principle that your blog serves your audience first, not yourself.
How I Started Up Again
After realizing what my concerns were and understanding how to overcome them, I knew it was time I got back to blogging. There were just a few steps I needed to take to get moving again. These are the four best strategies I implemented.
I read — a lot.
I built a vast supply of valuable blogging advice from influential blog leaders, such as Neil Patel, Smart Blogger, and Copyblogger. I dedicated time every day to read and take notes about blogging best practices. I also wanted to learn how to be more productive in my content creation efforts, so I read several productivity articles to see what I could do to improve my output.
My main goal was to learn all I could about making my blog work, including:
- Bringing in blog traffic, especially visitors who would stick around
- Increasing (and keeping) blog subscribers
- Maintaining a consistent content schedule to be more reliable
I started using reading tools to bring my reading lists with me on the go. My favorite is Pocket because of its offline access, its mobile app, and its ease of use, among other helpful features. This allowed me to take my much-needed education with me inside or outside, anywhere and everywhere. It gave me the ability to get away from my desk, which I really needed.
I reorganized my workstation.
I had a disaster for a desk for a long time. I didn’t consider the space I had in an organized way but rather just put things wherever they fit. My desk started piling up with stuff to the point where I couldn’t even find things. It was out of control.
Now that I had the time and opportunity, I decided I was going to fix this issue.
It started simply:
- Get rid of everything I didn’t need anymore, such as excess decorations and outdated files.
- Take the items I need to keep but don’t need to have accessible, and put them away in a drawer.
- Place everything I need to refer to on a regular basis neatly on shelving nearby.
When I completed the clean-up, it was time I decide item placement wisely.
My Standing Desk
I have a standing desk, and it used to face out the window. I found that very distracting despite the benefits of direct sunlight. So, I moved it to the other side of my L-shaped desk to face the wall. I’ll still get sunlight from a side angle, but I won’t get distracted from the activities outside.
My Second Monitor
I added a second monitor to help me with my posture for better physical health. It also helps me organize my different windows on my computer for better writing productivity. I no longer have to worry about switching between different tabs.
Paper and Pen
I reserved the space to the right of my mouse pad for paper and pens. Even as a Millennial, I still can’t give up the benefits of using classic paper to take notes. I have a pen holder nearby to keep the various writing utensils organized for easy access.
My Sun Lamp
I received a sun lamp as a gift back when sunlight was almost nonexistent in my workspace. It helps with concentration and mood. I made sure to give it prime placement to shine toward me when I need it.
I added my favorite scented candle to a closeby spot to help make the space smell nice. I hear having scents you enjoy can help with productivity, and I do enjoy smelling a scent that reminds me of a special time in my life.
I recently moved and now have a ceiling fan. It’s the best new apartment feature I have, and I enjoy using it to circulate the air and keep the temperature down. Comfort is key to getting things done, and my fan plays a significant role in that.
Television is a distraction I can’t afford to have, so I made sure it remained out of site. Instead of being visible, creating the temptation to binge watch Netflix shows, I have it behind me and off. I appreciate having sound while I write, but I know from experience that TV noise will only distract you. I’m using a music playlist now instead.
Those are just some of the changes and improvements I made to my workspace. You might have other things you can do to make your desk area work better for you. I’ve said it before, but…
How you design and organize your space depends on your own unique preferences and needs. Do what will help you write effectively and distraction-free.
I created a DIY content calendar I could rely on.
For me, I don’t have the budget to pay for a calendar service, so I follow my own DIY guide for creating a calendar in Google Sheets. It takes more time and manual work, but it’s the best way to manage your content schedule for free.
If you have a budget for purchasing a service, I highly recommend CoSchedule. They offer everything you need for managing your content calendar without the excess manual effort. Some of their key blog features include:
- Quick and easy access to your entire calendar in one view
- Plenty of key integrations to help streamline your entire process
- Ability to schedule your content promotion on social media from within the platform
As for me, I use my DIY calendar the best I can to keep myself accountable and organized.
I have room for my in-progress tasks, finished tasks, ideas to develop, and more. It would be better if I could invest in a tool like CoSchedule, but until that date comes, I use Google Sheets.
My family and peer networks motivated me.
Without the support of my family, friends, and social community, I wouldn’t still be writing. I love to write, of course, but my passion wanes when I’m hitting hard times.
To have support and “cheerleaders” guiding me, I feel more motivated and eager to push forward.
Some of the ways I’ve received guidance include:
- Asking for input directly via Twitter polls and Google surveys
- Getting critiqued for my existing content to see where I’m doing well and what I need to do to improve
A couple of the most compelling motivators for getting me to write again were quite simple:
- I wasn’t seeing almost any engagement from my blog subscribers.
- My bounce rate was near 100% on some days.
To have the support and key reality checks from others really helped me regain the confidence and motivation to return to my writing.
What I Learned
Other than the lessons I described previously, I had other learning opportunities that assisted my growth.
Physical and Mental Wellness
Your health should always come before your blog, and I had to learn that the hard way.
When I spent hours sitting at my desk, never using my standing desk, I hurt my back. The constant sitting caused significant back pain, so I knew I needed to find a new balance. I needed to teach myself to combine sitting with standing, and I needed to take more breaks.
For you, I highly recommend that you avoid sitting for more than an hour at a time. Ideally, it should be no more than 45 minutes at a time. Use a system to remind you to get up from time to time. I’ve mentioned the Pomodoro Technique because it truly is effective.
You might also consider investing in a standing desk. I recommend looking into Varidesk because the one I have is very reliable and well-constructed. Just remember to actually use it to stand up while you’re writing. This is something I know I need to remember to do.
I’ve discussed burnout quite extensively already, but it is a major part of why I and many other writers stop our blogging. It’s exhausting what we put ourselves through, and it can cause significant mental strain.
Some of the consequences of ignoring your mental health include:
When it comes to depression, that is what you really want to avoid. It’s why sunlight, breaks, and social gatherings are so important.
You need to feed your brain with positive reinforcement or else risk negative consequences.
One of the ways I refreshed my mind while I took my break was: I returned to my favorite hobby, which is latch hook projects (crocheting). I used to love creating pillows and wall hangings to serve as gifts for others. The reactions I saw from recipients were priceless and greatly improved my mental health.
During my break, I enjoyed the return to hobbies I had forgotten or neglected. Going for long walks, crocheting, reading fiction… Hobbies are so important for everyone, not just me.
There are many benefits of picking up hobbies, so I highly recommend you find one that appeals to you.
The end result of everything I learned was that I regained my motivation, with plenty of refreshing energy. I had a fresh mind and prepared body, so I was good to go with a new drive to guide me along.
Will I Do It Again?
Perhaps I won’t pause blogging for an entire month again. That was a long break, but I do advocate for the occasional week or two to refresh and recover.
It’s important to give yourself the opportunity to do other things for a while — something that’ll involve a different part of you.
Instead of a task that requires typing at a desk, find a hobby that involves physical activity.
Now, I’m not saying you should drop your new hobby once you return to your blog. On the contrary, I consider your break a learning opportunity that continues even during your blog writing. Reserve time to devote to your new hobby instead of committing your all to your blog.
Your break is your chance to learn what you need to do to stay strong in all areas while you’re blogging.
Discover how you can organize your calendar to allow for a variety of activity, not just desk work. Give yourself the chance to continue your hobby, and don’t drop it.
Take your break for as long as you need so that you can come back feeling stronger and more committed than ever.
My blog has been a long series of lessons learned, and that will never end. Some lessons were harder than others, but they all helped me develop my blog and grow as an individual.
Have you taken a break from your blog? What did you do while you paused? What did you learn? Leave a comment with your story.
Although I usually write about marketing subjects, such as social media, email, and content marketing, I dedicate my content to helping writers and marketers make the most of their talents and platform best practices. I welcome you to subscribe to my blog updates to receive notifications of new content, which usually comes once or twice a week.
I wish you the best with your blogging efforts!
Originally published at www.mktginnovator.com on August 15, 2017.