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My Secret Productivity Hacks For Kick Ass Blogging
I don't know about you, but I have struggled with some serious productivity problems in the past. Let's be honest, these days there is just so much you have to do to really make it in the blogging world.
First, you have to write lots of content every week, and it has to be great. Then you have to edit it and add graphics. Then you have to promote it all over social media and on Pinterest.
Then you have to create content upgrades, and those content upgrades have to link to your email marketing service. And then you have to create emails for your sales funnel in that email marketing service. And then you actually have to create products to sell, or you don't have a business. On and on it goes.
I know, I'm preaching to the choir here. You already know firsthand how much work goes into your baby.
So today, I am super excited to share with you the top 10 productivity hacks and shortcuts I use to keep my blog chugging along without completely losing my sanity! (Part of that sanity is already long gone, but we just won't talk about that.)
Here they are, in no particular order.
1. I Dictate My Blog Posts And Email Newsletters
Can I be honest for a moment? Yeah? Ok here it is.
I don't love writing.
Let me rephrase that. I don't love writing for hours at a time just sitting and staring at my computer.
Truthfully, one of my greatest writing fears is sitting down to write and seeing that cursor blinking on a blank page, unable to get out the words that I want to say.
I actually struggled with this for quite a while in the various businesses I've run over the years, and I always found myself procrastinating on blogging and long-form writing.
I tend to be a rather impatient person in general when it comes to personal results, which doesn't help. I don't like to wait around and I push really hard to see positive results as quickly as possible.
Dictating my content has been an absolute game-changer for me. I had been dictating my texts to friends and family for a while, but it never actually occurred to me to start dictating my blog posts and emails as well.
The amazing part is that I can create a 2,000 word blog post in about a half an hour, whereas to write that blog post would take me about 2 hours.
Plus, my content tends to sound more natural when I dictate, given that it is coming straight from my own voice rather than the more formal voice in my head the spews out words when I'm trying to write. (Anyone else still trying to recover from formal writing classes in high school and college?)
So how do I do it?
Well, there are a couple ways. First, I dictate on my phone because I find it to be the easiest way to get started, and it doesn't cost any money.
I've tried dictation software like Dragon Naturally Speaking, but so far I've found them to be rather clunky. Another downside to most dictation software is that you have to be tied to your computer the entire time.
I prefer to dictate my content while I'm up and about on a walk or doing housework.
Sometimes I'll even dictate little paragraphs I come up with while I'm driving. I don't know what it is, but driving just puts me in inspiration mode!
I have some of my best thoughts while I'm in the car or taking a shower. And yes, I've even dictated my posts while painting my toenails and, let me tell you, it is so freaking awesome! I feel like I'm not even working.
My Favorite Dictation Apps For Major Productivity
The apps I use most frequently to dictate my content are the Google Docs app, and the Evernote app. Both of them are great at transcribing your written words. I would add, however, that if you plan to dictate a large piece of content I would highly recommend going with Google Docs.
Google Docs automatically saves your content every couple of seconds, whereas with Evernote you will have to manually save your work regularly. If you drop your phone and it clicks a weird button or your phone suddenly dies, you may lose your work in Evernote if you haven't saved consistently.
Here's my blog content dictation process:
1. Start By Outlining
The first step in my process is to create an outline. This is where I open up my handy notebook and start brainstorming all of the things I want to say in that particular blog post.
Then I go ahead and organize them and write the headlines in advance.
Realistically, I will probably change the headlines again when I put the blog post up, but it's nice having them written down as a great way to keep your brain flowing along when you're dictating.
2. Dictating The Text
The second step in my process is to open up Google Docs or Evernote and begin dictating. I try to speak in a very clear manner so that the voice-to-text software picks up my words as accurately as possible. Overall, I would say that the software does a good job of transcribing.
The weirdest part for me is that you have to dictate your punctuation, so I have to read out things like “comma” and “period” in my sentences. This kind of threw off my train of thought in the beginning, but it became second nature pretty quickly and now I hardly think about it!
3. Editing Your Content
For me, editing takes a fair amount of time after I've dictated the text That's because while the dictation software is pretty good, it still makes plenty of mistakes.
You definitely want to review your work at least twice before posting it, or you'll find tons of strange mistakes that the software thinks you're trying to say.
My first step is running the blog post through Grammarly.
Grammarly is an awesome app that helps you make mistake free text. It's designed to pick up weird autocorrects from your phone and help you correct them quickly.
Once I've fixed all the mistakes that Grammarly picks up, I will then take a little break from the post and come back to it a few hours later to read through it again and fix any odd sounding sentences or transitions.
2. I Create Templates In PicMonkey's Hub
If you pay for a premium membership with PicMonkey (which is only a few dollars a month), you can actually save your graphics in their editable form within PicMonkey Hub.
That means you can come back to the graphics again and again and change headlines, fonts, colors, and anything else that you would do as if you were creating the graphic for the first time.
When it comes to creating some of my site graphics and Pinterest pins, I keep templates in the PicMonkey Hub so I can go back at any time and tweak them to create new graphics. This keeps my graphics consistent and on brand, and it saves me a ton of time.
3. I Batch Certain Tasks To Save Time
Not every type of tasks is “batchable”, but many of them are and it can make an enormous difference in your productivity and overall output if you batch the ones that can essentially be created in bulk.
For example, when I take flatlay photos for my blog posts, I don't just take one photo and then edit it and add it to my blog post. Instead, I round up all of my materials and my card stock backgrounds and my camera, and I aim to shoot 40 or 50 flatlay photos at once. Then I upload them into Lightroom for editing.
Want to know another one of my productivity secrets that I just love? Lightroom has a feature where you can sync all of your edits from one photo onto the next photo. This works extremely well if the photos you took all have the same background, were taken in the same lighting, etc.
So if I take 50 photos for my blog, I will start by editing just the first one until it looks exactly the way I want it. Then I will sync the first photo to all of the other photos. Effectively, this means I've applied the exact edits to all 50 photos, but only had to make the adjustments once.
4. I Keep A Style Guide In Google Docs
Brand consistency across social media graphics and blog graphics, as well as various designs across your business is incredibly important.
In order to keep my branding on point and efficient, I keep a style guide in Google Docs that keeps track of all of my brand's fonts, color hex codes, logos, and watermarks. I also keep a short list in the document of words that symbolize my writing voice and tone.
Having a style guide keeps me from scrambling around looking for lost hex codes or logo graphics. Instead I have everything I need in one document, and for a quick moment, I'll feel like I have my life together. Yeah...
5. I Know What I'm Working On Next
Tell me you've been there too.
You're sitting at your computer trying to figure out what to do next in your business. Maybe if you're like me, you tell yourself that you'll “just check email for a minute until you figure out what you're working on next”.
Pretty soon an hour or two goes by and you're no closer to finishing anything of use to your business, and you still have no idea what you should do next.
I've experienced this exact thing way too many times for comfort, and so in order to eliminate that completely, I've started using an editorial calendar and a social media scheduler.
Every week I try to come up with a couple of different blog posts that I plan to write about that week. Then I write a tentative title for it and input the post as a draft into my editorial calendar. This keeps me on track and lets me know at all times what my next post is and where I'm at with it.
For each blog post, I also write out my social media blurbs and create graphics for each post. These social posts live in my social media scheduler, where they automatically go out on the right day and time without me having to upload them manually.
I personally use Tailwind to schedule my Pinterest posts, and am planning on setting up Buffer soon to manage my other social media accounts.
Outside of creating blog posts and making social media updates, I keep a “ what to do next” list in my business notebook.
On this list I've written out my routine business tasks in order of importance. If there's ever a time when I don't know what I should do next, I just reference the post and work my way down.
This helps me make sure that I'm focusing my time effectively on the most important tasks that need to get done. If I find myself having an ultra productive day and getting all of those important tasks done, I continue down the list and start working on the “someday” tasks, which always feels great!
6. I Create Email Templates To Help Me Respond More Quickly And Consistently
If you get lots of email from your blog readers, you know that there are a few questions that get asked over and over again.
Instead of retyping out the answer to the same question several times a day, I create email templates that help me give a thorough and complete answer to almost everyone who emails me.
Of course, I will make small changes like tweaking the name and maybe commenting on something that pertains specifically to the sender's situation.
Overall though, these email templates save me so many hours each week. Not only is that beneficial to me, but it also benefits my readers because it means I can spend more time creating new content to help them further their business is even more.
So how exactly do you create an email template anyway?
It's super simple. Go into your email, click compose, and write out the email template just the way you want it. Then, just don't send it! The email will automatically be saved in your drafts folder which you can reference again and again.
Oh and also- if you are getting asked a question over and over, that's a great sign that you should create a product that thoroughly explains the answer to that question!
5. I Outsource Like Crazy
Understandably when you're first starting out, you'll probably wear all of the hats in your business.
As your business grows and you start to make money from it however, it's a great idea to start outsourcing the little tasks that really could be done by anyone besides you. This frees you up to spend all of your amazing brain power on the big projects that you do best.
I've written a complete guide to outsourcing for bloggers here.
6. I Keep A Running List Of Blog Post Ideas
Have you ever sat down to work and realize that you had no idea what to write about? Oh girl, I have so been there!
It can be so stressful realizing you need to be producing amazing content, and not even knowing where to start. Which brings me to Evernote. Can I just say that I love my Evernote app so much? Seriously. It saves me.
Evernote is where I store my blog post ideas that come to me while I'm out walking or driving. It's also where I keep light bulb marketing moments that I need to write down ASAP, and it's where I store quotes or photos and other resources that I want to share with you in a later post so that I don't forget about them.
Evernote is a free app, so make sure you download it and start keeping a list of ideas that come to you throughout the day. I don't know about you, but for me there is nothing like a nice bike ride or long walk in a new area to stimulate fresh ideas!
7. I Listen To Podcasts And Audio Books At 1.7 X Speed
Podcast and audio book lovers, I'm about to turn your world upside down. Did you know that you can increase the speed at which you listen to audio content? It's true!
You can effectively pack in the learning in half the time if you 2x your playback speed.
Adjusting the playback speed is simple. Click the toggle switch in the upper right hand corner (I use the Castbox podcast app). The Adjustment screen will appear and you can adjust the speed without a hassle.
8. I Work When The Rest Of The House Is Asleep
There is nothing quite as wonderful as waking up early in the morning and grabbing my first cup of coffee before the rest of the house has woken up. I love sitting in silence, contemplating new ideas, and planning out the day in my mind without any interruptions.
Of course, if you live alone this might not be so important to you. But if you've got a spouse, a kid or two, or heck even if you have some needy pets, starting off your work day while everyone else is still sleeping can be one of the best things you do for your business (and your sanity).
9. I Drink A Big Cup Of Coffee When I Start Working
Did I mention that I like coffee? I love coffee. A little almond milk, a dash of stevia, and my brain is roaring. I think it's a Pacific Northwest thing.
10. I Use A Content Strategy To Maximize Every Post I Write
This is one productivity tip I am super passionate about.
If you don't have a content strategy in place for you blog, you are effectively wasting a ton of time and effort writing your posts. Trust me, you need a content strategy.
Here's the big mistake that a lot of bloggers make.
They burn themselves out writing post after post that ultimately gets them nowhere.
We hear over and over about how content is king and you need tons of epic blog posts, and that's true to an extent.
However, it is totally demoralizing to write post after post after post and have almost no traffic to show for it. That, my friend, is a great way to convince yourself to give up.
Thankfully, there's a much better way!
It's called a content strategy, and it's going to save your business. Here's what I mean.
For every post I write, I use pieces of that content to either repurpose or use as inspiration for other pieces of content.
For example, as soon as I write a new blog post I then format it and post it on Medium. Then I will compress the post down into headlines and bullet points and share it as a presentation on SlideShare.
Then I will create a pin for the post to help spread the word on Pinterest. Next, I will create a second pin if that post has a content upgrade. After that I will add these pins to my group boards and Tailwind tribes to create a buzz about my new post.
The next step is to choose a quote from the post and schedule it on Twitter. Then I will also create an email newsletter that links to this new post to help draw fresh eyes.
Do you see what I'm getting at?
This "content waterfall" as Gary Vaynerchuk likes to call it, is a brilliant way to re purpose a single, well thought out blog post into 10 or 15 other small pieces of content that help draw in readers from various different platforms.
This method not only helps you gain a tremendous amount of traffic from every post you write, it also helps prevent you from getting business burnout.
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Phew, this post was crazy long!
I hope you got some amazing productivity tips here that you can use to spend less time working and create more super useful content in your online business. I've just got one question for you.
Question: what productivity tip or hack has made the biggest difference in your online business? Let me know in the comments below!