How To Blog: A Beginner’s Guide To Blogging
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Do you struggle with blogging consistently?
I know I do.
Come on, raise your hand.
You know you have what it takes to publish great content. The ideas. The skills.
You just don’t do it consistently.
Today we’re going to fix that by creating a daily blogging habit.
The results of this habit? For me: around 40,000 words so far this year.
For you: A novel? Two non-fiction books? 12 eBooks? 50 blog posts?
(my daily writing frequency in March and April this year)
The biggest challenge of blogging consistently
Thanks to Sue, you have all the tools you need to publish a great post.
She has shown you how to launch your blog, given you great tips on writing and SEO and even told you the best ways to promote your post with social media and roundup posts.
You really have no excuse NOT to publish great content – and sometimes you do.
But what do you do then? You stop.
Work. Kids. A big event.
2 months later you publish a panic post on your deserted blog.
No one reads it. No one cares. Except for you – because then you really want to quit.
What happened? You fell for tip #10 on Andrew’s recent list of tips you should have ignored.
“Blogging is easy.”
Producing great content consistently is the hardest part of blogging.
Note: Notice how I didn’t say “publishing” consistently. It doesn’t matter whether you post twice a week or once a month. The important part is to write daily so you can keep the quality of your content sky-high.
If you only write when you feel inspired, in the mood or find the time, you’ll never make it.
This is the true reason 90% of bloggers fail: they never make writing a habit.
They sure don’t use an editorial calendar or are consistent blogging. Writing is always an effort, a task on their to-do list, in short, it’s WORK.
And that’s never easy.
You know what’s easy? Habits.
You do them on autopilot.
Great writers know that:
I only write when inspiration strikes. Fortunately, it strikes at nine o’clock sharp every morning. – William Faulkner
Great bloggers do the same.
Nathan Barry made a commitment to write new content – 1,000 words a day. Keeping this habit for 365 days in a row resulted in roughly $250,000 for him. That’s $683 per day.
Not bad for a single habit.
Want to blog daily now? There are 2 phases of implementing this habit.
Phase 1: Plan your habit once through commitment, a list of action items and a trigger.
Phase 2: Execute your habit every day by cleaning your desktop, picking your action item and using the Pomodoro technique.
I’ll walk you through the process.
Note: I’ve compiled a whole bunch of bonuses to help you implement this today, including walk-through videos, alternative solutions, a free week of personalized writing coaching with a top-notch coach, and a simple acronym and checklist to remember all this.
Jump to the front of the line and get all the goodness right now.
How to Blog Consistently
Phase 1: The PLAN Phase
You only have to do this once. Once the plan is in place, all you have to do is execute it every day. Here are the 3 steps of a solid plan:
Step 1: Make a commitment
Want to know the difference between the top 3% of earners of the 1979 Harvard MBA class and the rest of their peers? They had written goals – which helped them earn 10x the money.
Here’s the best way to make a commitment: Go to coach.me and sign up (it’s free). Once you hit sign up you’ll get to your dashboard. Hit ‘Add a goal’.
Enter ‘write’ into the search bar. Hit enter, scroll down and pick one of the top writing goals. Click the goal, hit ‘join’ and you’ll be taken to the goal options. It’s important to set the right frequency and reminders. Set your weekly target to 7 and in the reminder section select all days and the time you want a reminder each day. Tip: The earlier in the day you write the better. I highly suggest writing first thing in the morning. Note: See the ‘Hire a coach’ option on the bottom? If you’re really lazy you can hire a writing coach for just $3.50/day to personally kick you in the butt to write each day. I recommend my friend Cecily, she’s one of the top coaches on the platform. I asked her and as a special bonus for Successful Blogging readers, she’ll throw in a free week of writing coaching for anyone taking action on this post. You can grab the coupon code from the bonus section I set up specifically for this post. Now your dashboard will look like this:
Once you’re done writing each day, you can hit the check mark (you’ll even get a high five on occasion). You can even ask the community questions, see who else checked in and enter how much progress you made. If you’re traveling a lot, you can download the coach.me app (iPhone/Android) and have your commitment in your pocket. Note: If you’re having trouble setting this up, I’ll walk you through the tech part in the video. I’ll even show you an alternative to coach.me if you don’t like signing up anywhere. Find that in the bonus section.
Step 2: Create a list of action items
Why do 92% of New Year’s resolutions fail? They’re either too generic (lose weight) or too big (write a GREAT blog post every single day). Whether you want to complete a project or implement a habit, you need to take small and specific steps.
If you want to write a new post every day, so that you can become a full-time blogger, the process is repeated. You need to come up with headlines, an outline, content, and so on for each post and then repeat. To know what you’re going to do, come up with a list of all the small repetitive tasks involved in writing your posts, none of which should take you more than 25 minutes. I call it a loop list.
Here’s an idea of what the loop list for creating posts in the style of this blog post could look like:
- Come up with 3 good headlines, according to Sue’s guide
- Create a blog post outline, complete with blog post ideas
- Start writing the 300-word intro
- Write out 1 step of solution (repeat until all steps are done)
- Write 300-word end-of-post summary
- Create a bonus PDF (500 words)
- Freestyle (250 words)
The loop list allows you to pick one action item for each day, complete that, and thus make writing a habit.
It’s not supposed to help you flesh out 3 articles a week, but to make sure you write every single day, so when you do publish, the quality is aces. You can go through it in order and then loop it in from the beginning once you’ve published your post. You can also just follow the process and when you get stuck you just pick another item from your loop list for the next day. For example, if you get stuck on Monday writing out important content, just come up with 3 new headlines for another post on Tuesday, or freestyle for a day (you could write in a journal, set up your publishing schedule, come up with a great email to pitch a guest post, or revamp your about me page) Just start writing!
Step 3: Set a trigger
A new habit (since it’s a new idea) needs a trigger that connects your commitment to an action. Every time it fires you will fulfill your commitment to action from the loop list. It’s hard to consistently do something, but it’s easy to set a consistent trigger, like a reminder in your calendar. A good trigger is both easy to set up and memorable and helps you step-by-step. You’ve already set a trigger when you turn on the notifications for your writing habits in coach.me. When you’re starting a new habit, though, it’s good to have more than one trigger.
Here are some examples of good triggers that you can put on autopilot for your content creation: A reminder in your calendar that pings you at a certain time to write. This sounds obvious, but hardly anyone schedules tasks like writing, as most people just reserve their calendar for appointments. Big mistake. Here’s a screenshot of my calendar:
If I didn’t write by 10 am in the morning, I’ll get a reminder each day. Another trigger is my desktop. When I open my laptop in the morning, I see this: This sticky note is the ONLY thing on there. (I’ll show you how to set it up in part 2.) The best triggers are time and context-sensitive. For example: If you want to write each morning when you have your coffee after breakfast, do this. Get your favorite coffee mug, a piece of paper, and a marker. Put the mug on the paper and circle around the bottom with your marker. (the only way I can draw a proper circle) Take the mug off and write the word ‘WRITE’ into the circle. Leave a piece of paper on your desk or coffee table, wherever your usual writing space is. Now, every morning when you arrive at your work space with your mug of coffee, putting the mug down in its pre-marked place will be your trigger to write. (it’s writing time)
Recap: How to plan your daily blogging/blogging schedule habits
Here are the 3 steps you need to take right now:
- Step 1: Make a commitment by signing up for a writing habit on coach.me.
- Step 2: Create a loop list of small action items that take 25 minutes or less each.
- Step 3: Set at least one memorable trigger.
Got it? Good. Don’t worry that it might be hard work. Let’s move on to phase 2.
Phase 2: The EXECUTE phase
A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week. – George S. Patton
Good job, you now have a great plan in place to stick to your daily blogging habit for new blog posts. Unfortunately, the best plan is useless when it’s not executed. That’s why I’ll show you the 3 steps you can repeat each day to make sure you execute your plan in not much time.
Step 1: Clean your desktop
Question: When does a successful day start? When do you arrive at your office? In the morning? Wrong. The correct answer is: The night before. None of this will work if you screw up the night before. Want to make sure you NEVER create a daily blogging habit? Stay up late, work and multitask like crazy until you hit the pillow, get way too little sleep, pick your tasks in the moment you want to start and oh, leave as many browser tabs open as you can, will ya? How your morning goes is only a result of how your evening went. The first step in the entire process of nailing the perfectly prepared evening is to clean your desktop. Here’s how: Set a time in the evening when you’re going to stop working. Any guesses what might help with this? Triggers!
(your two most important apps) I have two that both fire at 8 pm every day, one in my calendar, and one as a reminder. Why 2 at the same time? Because a single notification in the top corner of my screen is easy to ignore and push away, but when multiple things pop up and multiple sounds occur at the same time, that catches my attention. You could go as far as putting 10 triggers at the same time, just to get your attention. (how’s that for a clear call to action?) At exactly that time, Cmd+Q (the shortcut to quitting an application) will become your best friend. Close all tabs in your browser, save what you have to save and shut down everything. When you’re done, your desktop should look like this: Pro tip: Ideally, shut down all electronic devices 2 hours before you want to go to bed. If you have to keep working until right before bed, at least use f.lux. It’s a software that adapts the light of your screen to the time of day. At night instead of blue, energizing light it changes your screen color to a warmer, red color that helps your body wind down and prepare for sleep. Note: If you can’t follow through with this at all, there’s a more drastic solution to this that will force you to shut down your computer at a certain time each day. If you’re a real night owl, I’ll show you how you can do this as a bonus.
Step 2: Pick an action item from your loop list
Now, before you close your laptop and start the rest of your evening routine, you need to decide what tomorrow’s action item will be. That means looking at your loop list and picking what you want to work on the next day. This is a simple act called pre-deciding and like the commitment from phase 1, it helps you follow through. Have you ever bought tickets to a movie the day before? Booked a flight 3 months before the vacation? Rented a car in advance? This is the same thing. I bet you made sure to follow through on all of those. Pre-deciding is especially effective when you have to put money on the line, but the underlying principle is the same here. Here’s how to do it: Look at your loop list, whether you’ve created it as an Evernote note, hand-written on a post-it, or joined the coach.me plan I made for you. Pick an action item that you think will most likely move you forward tomorrow.
If you come up with headlines today, try outlining your new blog post tomorrow. If you write out the content for a step in your guide, pick the next step. If you got completely stuck and didn’t get anything done today, just decide to freestyle 250 words. Now all you need to do is pin it down the entire process and see where it jumps in your face first thing tomorrow morning. The easiest way to do this is to use Stickies. It’s an app built-in on Mac (in your “Other” folder in applications), but free for Windows as well (just google it).
Open Stickies, hit Cmd+N to create a new note (or just tweak the text in the note you already created) and then just type in your action item, for example: “Your MIT for the day”
Note: The term MIT refers to “Most Important Task” as introduced by Leo Babauta from zenhabits. If you want to extend using this concept for other projects, you can check out this guide. That’s it. Leave Stickies open when you power down your laptop and tomorrow morning your desktop will be nice and clean, except for this, staring you down: (alright, alright I’ll do it, stop nagging!) Okay, time to go to bed. (I bet he didn’t use f.lux)
Step 3: Use the Pomodoro technique to complete your blog content
I’m not a big fan of productivity hacks and gimmicks, but if 2 million people use one technique, there’s gotta be something to it. The Pomodoro Technique is as simple as cutting your workload into 25-minute segments with 5-minute breaks between them. You set a timer for 25 minutes, work on a single task, then set it again to 5 minutes in which you do something completely unrelated to work (stretching, push-ups, collecting dog poop in the yard, jumping jacks, cleaning dishes, eating a cookie). Rinse and repeat and you’ll stay fresh for longer. Remember your goal? Write blog content daily, consistently, for your own blog and for guest posts. With the help of the Pomodoro technique, you can knock out your action item first thing in the morning. That’s also why none of the items on your loop list should take longer than 25 minutes. I’ll show you how to do it (no, you don’t need to buy a tomato-shaped timer first): Fire up your laptop. Start a staring contest with Stickies. (damn this thing is tough) Lost after 5 seconds. Open Google. Type in “set timer 25 minutes”. Hit enter. (didn’t think it was that easy, did you?) Open a Google Doc or your writing software. And write away!
Note: You might have to change your Google language settings to English, as this doesn’t work when you type in English, but your language is set to German, for example. 25 minutes later you’ll have taken the single biggest step to becoming more successful at blogging. No matter what the rest of the day brings, you’ve now got a daily blogging habit going for you.
(didn’t think it was that easy, did you?) Open a Google Doc or your writing software. And write away!
Note: You might have to change your Google language settings to English, as this doesn’t work when you type in English, but your language is set to German, for example. 25 minutes later you’ll have taken the single biggest step to becoming more successful at blogging. No matter what the rest of the day brings, you’ve now got a daily blogging habit going for you. You will have a consistent posting schedule.
How can you start your daily blogging habit right now?
Phase 1 – PLAN
- Commit to creating a daily habit on coach.me (optional: hire Cecily for extra accountability)
- Take 5 minutes to come with your loop list of action items, which all take 25 minutes or less.
- Create at least one trigger, like a reminder on coach.me or on your calendar.
Phase 2 – EXECUTE
- Clean your desktop at the same time each day before shutting down your laptop (set a reminder for this).
- Pick tomorrow’s action item and pin it on your clean desktop using Stickies.
- Use the Pomodoro technique to knock out your action item early every morning.