I’ve mentioned before how great I think this blogging gig is, and working from home in general. Really, I think that everyone who can string a sentence together should have a blog. Everyone has some knowledge or experience to share that would be valuable to other people and the time you put into a blog really can pay off in a lot of ways over time. Plus it can be a lot of fun!
There are a lot of bloggers who put countless hours into the work they do on their blog, but I’m not one of them. I really am inspired by all of those ambitious bloggers who work from dawn til way past dusk every single day, plugging away, learning, growing, and providing so much value to their readers. I even think I might like to be like them when I grow up. I’m totally someone who’s inclined to be just like them, only there’s just no way that’s going to work for me and my family right now. I’ve tried to squeeze in a little extra work here and there all day long, either while the rest of my family is out doing something together, or while they seem to be distracted enough for me to sneak off to my laptop, but I always end up feeling like I’m missing out on all the fun or worse, I feel like a terrible mother for getting annoyed when someone asks for a snack or wants me to come hang out with them. It just doesn’t work for us at this stage of life and I really need to be present for my family as much as I can, which is kind of why I stopped working outside of the home in the first place! Luckily, after a few years of doing this blogging thing, I’ve kind of managed to hit the nail on the head and provide a great experience and a lot of value for my readers while still pretty much living the “stay at home mom” kind of life that seems to work for our family.
So I’ve found a nice balance where I can get done what I need to get done, still enjoy some nice continued growth with my blog, without having to sacrifice any of my family time. I thought I’d share a little bit about what I’ve learned today in case it might come in handy to someone else out there trying to keep it all balanced between family, home, and blogging. I know almost all bloggers or home-preneurs experience some kind of struggle with keeping all those plates spinning at some point!
What is a successful blog?
So I guess if I’m going to say that I have a successful blog, we first have to determine what that means, exactly. There are a lot of different ways to define success, but for me, I consider myself to be a fairly successful blogger because I enjoy what I do everyday, this blog provides most of our household’s monthly income, and I continue to get countless opportunities for growth both personally and professionally, just from writing a few blog posts every month! Here’s how I do it.
I make a list
I always always have a list of the things that I’m going to do for work on any given day. I do think that non-structured, just hangin’ out online time is very valuable for stumbling across interesting tidbits of knowledge, but that’s something that really only happens for me every once in awhile, it’s not the way I go about my work day (OK, work hour) regularly. That’s more for once every few weeks on a Saturday night when I’m sitting in the living room with my family and they’re really into what’s on TV and I’m not. And all the housework is done. 🙂 Usually I make “work time” lists the night before so I can go into my 1 hour of work time completely prepared and they look something like this:
1)Work on book: 10 mins
2)Work on a blog post:10 mins
3)Email and comments: 10 mins
4)Post to Instagram: 5 mins
5)Take some photos for the next post/edit photos: 10 mins
6)Pop in to Facebook: 10 mins
Actually they look pretty much exactly like that.
Instagram only takes about 5 minutes a day, so that gives me a little bit of wiggle room. I usually come back at some point in the evening since I do most of my other work first thing in the morning, and do a few pins to some of my bigger group and personal boards since that’s the best time for driving traffic through pinning. Whatever I don’t finish on the post I was working on for that day just gets put aside and continued the next day. It sounds a little crazy to think that you can really get real, valuable work done in just 10 minutes, but that’s really all it takes if you’re really focused!
I do the same thing everyday
My lists and the time when I tackle them, stay pretty much the same, day after day and that really makes a difference. The more you do something over and over again, the better, and more efficient you get with it!
I set my priorities
You can definitely do everything in life and in work if you set your mind to it, you just can’t do it all at once. I usually pick 1 or 2 things to focus on and try to improve on at a time and don’t worry too much about anything else. Right now I’m trying to get more consistent at posting on Instagram, so that’s one of my few priorities, but at another time it was growing my Pinterest account and trying to get more followers, so I focused on trying to figure out what to do about that. Last year I really wanted to work on setting up my email list and creating a series of emails to go out to new subscribers, so for about a month, that was the priority over everything else, but now I can set that aside and focus on something else. Since this blogging game is ever-changing, you really have to just pick something, try it out, and see if that’s something that’s really going to help you achieve your blogging goals. There really is never a wrong thing to be focusing on since we’re all really still just making things up as we go along in this business. 🙂 It’s all about trying things out and seeing what works for you! But you have to pick something or you’ll be (digitally) running around like a chicken with your head cut off.
I only do the things that actually work
When I do find something that works for me, I make sure to stick with it, at least in some form. If after a short test period, I’m not seeing results, I drop it like it’s hot, move on and let something else takes its place in my list of priorities. You can always come back at a later time and re-test, but there’s no sense in beating a dead horse just because it works for someone else and you wish it worked for you in the same way. If I try out a new social media and it doesn’t start driving traffic or getting me some kind of results that are useful to my business, I just let it go.
I don’t over-complicate things
If you’ve been a reader of my blog for some time now, you may have noticed that I like to keep things pretty simple most of the time. I get to the point when it comes to writing my posts and I don’t fuss too much with my blog design or the way my pictures look in my posts. When I find a way of doing things that’s quick and painless and yet still provides value to my readers, I stick with that. A lot of my “tips and tricks” posts have very basic pictures that get the point across, but aren’t necessarily the most beautiful things ever. And my readers don’t seem to mind one bit, as long as the information that they’re learning is helpful and they enjoy reading the post, that’s all that matters! I save the the pretty pictures for the times when they really matter to the type of post that I’m doing. When it comes to writing, I don’t try to sound like a certain type of writer or worry too much about finding just the right words. I just type out whatever comes straight out of my brain, say exactly what I mean, and get to the point. It’s just really so much quicker that way, and if you write your posts that way too, you”ll end up with posts that are genuine and also done in a writing style that’s completely unique!
I don’t procrastinate
This is huge. I know a lot of people like to say that they do their best work when they’re under pressure. I’d argue that they probably actually do their only work when they’re under pressure. 🙂 If that’s the case, how do they really know that they’re doing their best work?
When you only work on a particular area of your business for 10 minutes a day, you do need to plan ahead and get started on projects well ahead of when you want them to be done. You don’t want to be just finishing up your Thanksgiving posts in February. It may seem overwhelming at first when you start thinking so far ahead, because there’s just so much stuff that happens in our lives in a month or two that it can be a lot to process mentally. The good news is, that it actually gets less stressful over time and you end up with much less to worry about because you always have the security of knowing that everything’s taken care of and ready to go well ahead of time. When you’re trying to keep a steady stream of blog posts going up on your blog, it’s nice to know that you have weeks worth of posts ready to go or even just almost ready to go. If life gets busy for some reason and you don’t have time for doing fun little projects to blog about, no problem! You’re all set. No all-nighters required!
I get help
I absolutely don’t do it all on my own. My virtual assistant (VA) is definitely and important part of the puzzle when it comes to keeping this thing up and running while I still manage to get a good night’s sleep. I don’t use her for a lot of things, but the things she helps me with go a long way towards making my life easier and my business stronger. I’ve had help with little things for different types of social media in the past, and sometimes even some help with getting my posts finished and posted, but right now I’m getting help where I need it most, which is with getting my live pinning done on Pinterest through out the day at different times. Although it doesn’t take much time, for me, remembering to come back to pin several times per day was just a big hassle and a distraction that was keeping me from thinking about the bigger picture and creating great blog posts. Having someone to help with that has really made all the difference and has even helped my Pinterest account grow and thrive in a way that I was never able to do on my own. If you’re a blogger, then you know how much traffic Pinterest can generate so having help in this one key area has really been worth it to me.
I take breaks
I have a life! There are days when working even an hour is just not going to happen, and I love that with my system, that’s totally OK. I’ll often take Sundays off completely just because the whole family’s home, or we’re working on a project for the house, or I’m just tired and want to have a day to relax and forget that I have a business that I could be working on at any given moment. It’s important.
If you find yourself feeling like you need to do more and more everyday just to keep up with the rest of the blogging world, I totally understand where you’re coming from. I still see clever things that other bloggers are doing all the time and I definitely have the tendency to think that maybe if I just got up a little earlier, or stayed up a little later to sneak in some extra work time, then I could be clever like them too, but that’s just a losing battle. Plus I have to remember that I’m already pretty clever in my own way. There will always be another new idea, another possible new income stream, another amazing project that your readers would love, but the best course of action, and the best use of your time, will always be to just carve out your own path, do things in a way that works for your life and your family, and just enjoy the success that it will bring you. And if that means only working for an hour a day, then so be it! 🙂
Other tips and tricks that you’ll love:
- How to start a blog so you can work from home
- How to accomplish big things when you feel like you have no free time
- 10 ways that you can work from home
- Tricks and hack to make you love camping, even if you think it’s “not your thing”
- The RIGHT way to mop your floors
- The best homemade ant killer recipe
- How to finally start line drying your laundry
Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.