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Blogging advice for people who “have no time to blog”

on June 14, 2010

The social media world falls victim to an environment of “haves” and “have nots.” There are those people that are very socially connected. They’re on Twitter, Facebook, and they blog a ton. And then there are those others that look at the “socially connected” in either awe (“Wow, how do I get to be like you?”) or derision (“Who has time to do all this stuff?”).

I believe the problem for the social media “have nots” is that they haven’t figured out how to ingrain social media into their daily lives.  Because the most common complaint I hear from this audience is either “what would I talk about” or I “have no time to blog.” If you feel either way, let me reassure you that you do have plenty to talk about and you do actually have time to blog. The problem is you haven’t figured out how to register these “moments.” Finding stories to blog about and recording them effectively requires constant active thinking. Get good enough at it and it becomes second nature. You see good stories, and opportunities. The headlines jump out at you and the formation of the story immediately starts to gel, allowing you to quickly write and record the story.

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There’s a parallel in martial arts, where extremely well trained fighters simply can’t be surprised. They’re always at the ready to defend themselves. To find stories to write about and the time to blog means to know when a story appears and how it needs to be digested for your audience. It’s the job of a reporter or an editor, and everyone else can exercise these same mental muscles in our daily lives.

How to find time to blog

Blog - Photographer: Thomas HawkWhat do you want to be known for? – Often the reason people don’t start blogging is they don’t know what they want to blog about. The answer to that question can be found when you answer the simple end result question, “What do you want to be known for?” Once you know that, you’ll be able to form the editorial voice of your blog.

Think in headlines – What ideas and opinions do you have? You’ll want to formulate them as headlines. Look at the type of headlines that catch your eye and how the same structures could be used to be the framework for what you want to talk about. Popular headline structures include numbered lists, how to’s, best practices, and what not to do. How can your stories be formed in these headline structures?

What do you keep repeating? – We all find ourselves repeating the same personal anecdotes or explanations of our business. In person, or over email. Every time you find yourself in one of those “I’m repeating one of those stories again,” write a quick note to yourself. That story will be your next blog post. And the next time someone asks you that same question, instead of repeating yourself, just send them a link to that post.

Look at your sent email – Go through the past couple of weeks of sent emails and see if you had one of those “I’m repeating myself” moments or maybe you just wrote a long email to someone. Take a look at that message. Would it make a good blog post if you did a little editing? If so, do it.

Blog about a great conversation – Conferences, trade shows, and dinners are where you’ll engage in great conversations. Make a note of the conversation and immediately write something about it when you get home when it’s still fresh in your mind.

Tell personal stories – My most popular articles are actually based on real stories that happen to me or other people. People can relate to the stories. Also if the story happened to me, I can pretty much guarantee that no one else wrote about it.

Keep a “what to blog about” file – Ideas will pop into your head all the time. When you’re out and about talking to people or browsing online. You may not have the time to write the entire post at a given moment, but you will have time to make a note about it. Keep a file of just headlines on your computer, and another one in the notes section of your mobile device.

Videotape moments and interview people you meet – If you’ve got an iPhone, Flip camera, or similar device, you’ve got an easy to carry video camera that can go with you everywhere. But just because you have the tools to record video doesn’t mean you’re going to use them. Most people don’t ask for interviews or record “in the moment” events because of fear of looking awkward or fear of how to approach a person for an interview. If that’s you, recognize it and just start doing it. Start by interviewing a friend first before you interview a stranger. For more of my tips on video blogging, see the interview and article Sharon Vaknin wrote on Socialbrite entitled, “Create video stories for your nonprofit in 6 steps.”

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Always be on alert for stories

The reason people don’t think they have time to blog is because they’re not consciously always looking for blog post opportunities. Successful blogging that doesn’t eat up your time requires you to consciously thinking about all of these things and know when to capitalize on them. You’ve already made the time for the stories by telling them in emails and conversations. All you have to do is transfer the existing publishing platform (e.g. email application or telephone) to a blogging platform.

Creative Commons photo attribution to Annie Mole and Thomas Hawk.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

StephenPickering June 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm

I love this post. You articulate here succinctly, some of the feelings I've been trying to communicate about blogging to others, but couldn't get across so clearly.
This really resonated with me. I emailed it to my sister and niece. I got my sister blogging last year. She's passionate about food, cooking. She's done really well, but I can tell she's still reticent. What to blog about? And what's interesting is that we'll have these phone conversations and the content within them, if I could only tape them, could make a podcast or 3 or 4 good blog posts. Because she's relaxed during those conversations, the stories flow, and reflect her personality and point of view. I think people approach it too formally, get tightened up, and so a mask goes up, and their true point of view gets cut off.

As for me, you know, just this comment could form a blog post. People put thoughts into comments, they're obviously interested in the subject, so just like emails and phone calls, their comments on other sites could turn into blog posts.

Sometimes, I see something neat and I just want to remember it. So I put it in the blog. So the germ is I'm just trying to archive some interesting thing for myself, but usually when I ritualize it by blogging it, I'll expand on it, add some photos and links, and then before I know it, it becomes of value to someone else.

If I find a solution to a problem or a new way of doing something, obviously that begins with a self serving interest, but if I document it by blogging, then it may help someone else too.

I think the biggest hurdle is to get over that need for formalism, as if you are writing for print and can never iterate. And additionally, people respond to you more when you are being yourself, being real.

I heard this guy Lockhart Steele, who is a pretty well known successful blogger, say last year, that when he brought in magazine type writers into his blogging organization that the hardest thing he had to teach them was simply to be able to hit the publish button! I got a kick out of that. That really sums it up well. The internet is about getting that spontaneous idea out there instantly, and then iterating, editing, and making it better later. Just the opposite of how are brains were trained growing up.

David Spark June 14, 2010 at 4:47 pm

Stephen, great response and I like your comment about the need to get over formalism. But like you also described with your sister. She can go off with a very passionate response on the phone and not recognize that all of that should be a blog post, a podcast, or a video. I have the same issue with a friend of mine who can talk non-stop about the real estate market so eloquently and with strong conviction, but when it comes to writing about it or talking in front of a camera, she freaks out and doesn't know what to do. They think they need to perform differently when it actuality that's the last thing they should do. They should perform exactly the way they have been performing.

I think it's more than how are brains were trained to grow up, it's what we were taught in school and at our jobs. A blog experience requires a different kind of thinking and publishing. Good response.

StephenPickering June 14, 2010 at 10:39 pm

Yeah, it's like when you look at these elegantly produced cooking shows on cable. They're great and all, but just like other TV, there's that sort of off putting “veil” between the viewer and performer. I contrast that with Leo Laporte. He's himself, says whatever he's thinking, and even though he's got thousands of viewers, its like you're there with him 1 on 1. There's more of a bond there. New media feels like its about transparency and a warmer relationship with the audience. It's like people bond with you more when you are yourself, mistakes and all, because they can relate and appreciate the effort. Sometimes with his shows I learn more in between the shows when he and his guest say something “off the cuff” I live in Arkansas, and I remember once before a Twit broadcast, Dvorak launched into this really informative bit about Arkansas wines of all things! I always thought Arkansas wines must be total crap, but he said quite the opposite, how great many of them were, and gave detailed reasons. I wrote it up mainly because I wanted to remember the points and the specific brands. And what's interesting is that it was a spontaneous few moments of programming which he hadn't “planned” on talking about. Something someone else said had “sparked” (no pun intended!) him into that little conversation. That's really the jist of it, the unexpected value that comes out of spontaneous documentation of what folks are saying and doing.

David Spark June 15, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Well, many would argue that we're actually losing a lot of serendipity (what you described with Dvorak and the Arkansas wine) with new media because people are so geared towards ONLY looking at the stuff that they're predisposed to. We only set up our RSS feeds for our interests and therefore that's the only information we see. But with a paper newspaper you're exposed to other information as you physically have to flip through it.

But as you described with the Dvorak example, that CAN happen with new media, but it's actually up to the content creator.

BTW, tune into Cranky Geeks with John C. Dvorak tomorrow as I'll be one of the fellow cranks on the show.

StephenPickering June 15, 2010 at 9:54 pm

Yeah, that's a good point. I hadn't thought of it that way. It's been so long since I've perused a physical newspaper! Oh yeah, I will. That's how I originally came to know who you were by seeing you on Cranky Geeks. I'll be sure to tune in.

Frank June 26, 2010 at 12:56 pm

I suppose there are several ways to look at it. Firstly if you don't think that you have any time to blog then don't even consider setting up a blog in the first place (although with Wordpress, a wide variety of free blog themes and free plugins being so easily available it is not that difficult to do so). Having said that if you do go to the trouble of setting up a blog then it is reasonable to assume that you will have or will be able to make the time to actually post to it

You may well post very regularly in the early days with all the enthusiasm and exhuberance that a newly found pastime/business/hobby brings with it. As time goes by that enthusiasm may wane so I guess the question may well not necessarily be whether you can find the time to blog but whether you can find the enthusiasm to blog. If the enthusiasm does disappear then a lack of time may well be given as the perceived reason for diminishing blog posts. Only the blogger or blog owner will know the true answer to that.

On the other hand the enthusiasm may well be burning as strong as ever and time is truly of the essence. A way to possibly overcome this is to make a list of priorities. Clearly on days that you do not have access to the internet then no posts can be made so this is a problem that cannot be avoided.

However if you do have some “internet time” but it is restricted then you will have to think about disciplining yourself. If your “internet time” includes checking emails, surfing for information on your favourite music band, favourite actor, favourite sports team, checking for the best supermarket deals, finding the best money saving tips, checking sports results, gambling….etc…etc…AND finding time to post to your blog then clearly you will need to prioritise because with that little lot it may be that not only blog posting misses out.

To keep it simple, if you regularly receive many, many emails then leave checking emails until after making your blog post. It may be, for instance, that on a particular day you receive so many emails (many junk maybe but you still take the trouble to read them all) that everything else goes by the wayside, including of course your blog posting. If you expect so many emails then leave checking them until after your blog post. Then if and when you do check your emails and you are pleasantly surprised with a smaller number than usual then by all means check out all the spam emails as well.

If an important internet task is checking out the latest sports results then maybe consider having the most important ones sent to you by SMS text message. If you are anything like me when I check the latest football results on the internet I will not only check the score but also take the trouble of reading the in-match commentary as well. And what about the latest score that would not be of interest in the place but by its very nature causes intrigue. Now I don't support either team but if I saw a latest score of Arsenal 5-5 Chelsea with ten minutes to go then I would feel compelled to read the report as well.

You find a really good energy saving website and find some really good deals. Ah….but wait a minute….. what about all those attractive looking advertisements running along the sidebars. They are worth checking…aren't they?

All in all only you will know what is of the utmost importance for your internet experiences. If included in these preferences is a well documented, up to date blog then why not try posting your blog comments first as a priority. If, for some reason, you see that as a chore or “work” then maybe you should first ask yourself whether blogging is really for you or, alternatively, see that getting “work” out of the way first will give you the necessary satisfaction to reward yourself with some “me time” internet surfing.

Hopefully, these comments will help you re-focus or consider setting priorities or disciplining yourself so that you get the most from your blog. In any case enjoy your blogging experience and “Happy Blogging” to one and all.

David Spark June 28, 2010 at 12:54 am

I'll summarize your great response with one word: “Prioritize.” And you can find time if you “prioritize” blogging over the other duties that aren't having as much an impact on your career.

Peter Hirshberg July 8, 2010 at 5:09 pm

I love the thread between pickering and spark on formalism. Several years ago when I was at Technorati and Lisa Sugar was starting her blog (thats since become sugar media), Brian Sugar looked at me and said to me: “What are all those essays on your blog? Thats magazine stuff. Where all the immediate reactions and observations…” One of the reasons i live facebook is its short but not too short (twitter is too much work) and i feel a very direct connection to a specific audience. I also resonate with all of daves points: the fascinating stuff of life is all posts, but for capturing it all and the publish button….

David Spark July 8, 2010 at 7:58 pm

Thanks Peter. There's no doubt that the stuff that happens to me in real life that I write about gets the most attention. When I just comment on other stuff it gets a fraction of that kind of attention.

I need to get out there and have more experiences. But now with a five week old son, I may not be getting out as much as I used to. :)

pamelabiery July 9, 2010 at 12:36 am

Especially like 'what do I keep repeating'….this is something that I'm looking at more often as I encounter the same questions.

Juhana Lampinen August 16, 2010 at 7:31 pm

I agree with Dave. I actually wrote a blog couple of days about priorities and time management. I personally use a fairly simple system for setting the priorities. It works perfectly for me. Of course you have to know what is generally important for you or what you want to achieve on long term. If you are interested about the details take a quick look at my blog on rework365.

AriesGDIM December 23, 2010 at 1:49 am

I remember when I first started blogging for my business and for clients I didn't think I could do it. What would I write about, how would I keep the information fresh, would people really be interested. I can honestly say that when my clients has a product or service of interest or that is unique it makes it a lot easier. Blogging on current events and things of interest to your clients / users / followers makes the Blog Life a lot easier. This article has a lot of good tips for helping your find topics to blog about and keeping it interesting.

David Spark December 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Thanks. You should read the response of the CEO of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I interviewed him a year and a half ago and I asked him why he started blogging. He said just to brag, and honestly he didn't know what he was doing when he started. He figured it out soon enough. He OWNS the space of “running a hospital.” See full article and audio interview here:…/

AriesGDIM December 23, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I will do that. thanks.

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Steve Kovsky July 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

Jewels! Thanks, David.

Tammy Lam November 12, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Solid, encouraging advice. Just shared with my writers!

David Spark November 12, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Let me know how it works out. :)

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