Blogging ain’t easy. I think that’s something a lot of people don’t realize until they try it. Starting a blog may be easy, but that’s usually just the tip of the iceberg.
Who’s going to create consistent content?
Who’s going to market it?
Who’s going to come up with post ideas, connect with other bloggers, and do about a million other things?
If you’re like me, that’s going to be you. You’re the boss of your very own one-man-show. But guess what? You don’t have the luxury of spending all day doing those things and enjoying the benefits of your hard work.
You need to pay the bills. And paying the bills with a blog usually doesn’t happen for a long time.
For me, this means having a steady day job – one that demands my attention for 40 hours a week. During this time, I have other things that need to get done. The rest of my life, including my blog, must be put on the backburner if I want to survive.
So how does one do it? How can you maintain your job and your blog while also trying to have a life?
Your boss needs you to perform. Your audience wants consistently awesome content. And your spouse needs you to perform 😉
As you might’ve guessed, the best way I’ve found to juggle the three is better time management and better planning.
How I Started My Blog
I spent most of 2015 in wantrepreneur mode. I read all sorts of blogs, listened to podcasts, and read books about entrepreneurship. I became a big fan of people like Lewis Howes, Pat Flynn, and Ramit Sethi.
In December that year, I decided to join Ramit’s course Zero To Launch.
I’ll be honest, it’s a great course. It gives you all the tools and a roadmap to follow for a successful online business. But starting out was far from easy.
I built one website – a blog about success. Ironically, there was nothing successful about it. The target audience was far too broad, I published posts sporadically, and I only worked on it when I felt motivated, which wasn’t too often with my day job in the way.
I shut that project down after a couple of months then pivoted. This time, niching down and focusing on something a little more specific: using habits to achieve goals and a healthier well-being. Thus, The Monk Life was born in April 2016.
Beautiful, ain’t she?
With the new blog, came a new mindset and a different approach. Before, I had looked at my job as being in the way – something that I needed to ditch before I could ever consider having a successful blog. This didn’t do me any good. I knew I couldn’t quit, so I was going to have to make it work for me rather than against me.Use your day job to fuel passion and energy for your blog.Click To Tweet
Fast forward about 7 months, and here we are today. I publish a new post on my blog every week like clockwork. Guest posts usually get published once a week, though this is harder to gage since I’m not in full control. Also, traffic and subscribers are consistently going up.
I haven’t stared monetizing yet, and that’s OK.It's ok if you don't make money right away. Focus on quality content and growing your audience.Click To Tweet
Slower progress is expected with a side hustle. The important thing is that I’ve finally found a system that works for me that leverages my full time job.
Want to know how I did it?
Let’s jump in.
1. Plan Out A List Of Your Core Tasks Ahead Of Time. Be Very Specific.
Let’s face it. Some tasks are going to be much more important for growing your blog. If you have a limited amount of time to work on things, you damn well better know what the most effective tasks are. For me, and for many of you, that’s content creation and marketing.
Taking a look at those two main goals, it seemed like writing was the most important task. So that’s what I needed to hone in on and execute.
Side note: Writing was hands down the most crucial habit I needed to grow my blog. The big reason I failed before was because I couldn’t write consistently. If you need help developing your writing habit, I’ve got an epic guide here for you.
Previously, I’d find myself sitting down to work on my blog, only to mindless check Facebook, Twitter, my email, and end up on the 10th page of Reddit. I finally kicked my bad habit by becoming very clear on what needed to get done.
You can do this by creating what I call a Writing Cycle. Your Writing Cycle (or whatever you choose to call it) is basically a list of the core tasks that you need to successfully get work done. Here’s an example of what one might look like:
- Brainstorm 4 good headlines
- Create an outline
- Write an introduction
- Write out 1 section of your post (repeat until each section is finished)
- Write a summary/conclusion section with a clear call-to-action
- Edit your post
- Reach out to other blogs for guest post opportunities
The Writing Cycle takes away all distractions and narrows your focus on one, simple action to complete.
I’ve found — especially for beginners — making the tasks incredibly small eliminates the friction of starting.
Your list may vary depending on your level of expertise. I personally use a similar Writing Cycle to above and knock out several in one sitting, but I’m always deliberate on which tasks I’m doing. Which leads me to my next point…
2. Schedule Your Blog Time
The good thing about having a steady day job is just that – it’s steady. You might not know when you’ll have time to blog during the work day, but you know what your time looks outside of that block. That’s why we’re going to schedule our Writing Cycle activities when we can focus on them 100%.
By scheduling your blog time, you give it a place to live. You also make your actions intentional, which means you’re much more likely to follow through. Take a lesson from habits expert James Clear:
“A study in the British Journal of Health Psychology found that 91% people who planned their intention to exercise by writing down when and where they would exercise each week ended up following through.”
You already have a list of tasks that you could be working on, now you just have to block time off in your calendar for them. Here’s an example from a day in my own calendar:
You’ll notice that this was from a few months ago. Since then, I’ve honed my writing skills and can usually bang out a full article in the morning.
During my scheduled blog time, I make sure I only work on the core tasks from my writing cycle. These are the ones I’ve identified as most important, so it’s critical that I use this time for those only.
You’ll also notice that at 3:30pm, I put a soft schedule reminder called “Potential time for blog”. This is the hour during the day that work usually winds down, and I might be able to get some extra stuff done for my blog. I don’t bank on this time, but I’m prepared if I can use it.
3. Make Another List Of Tasks That You Can Do If Time Permits
If the gods are in your favor while you’re at work, and some time has opened up, it’s important to be able to utilize that window to your advantage. My suggestion is to have a separate list of tasks (so two lists total) that you can pull from in case the situation arises. I typically will not write during this time for a couple of reasons:
1. I’m usually too burnt out from the work day. Without having a relaxation period or a full night’s sleep, my creative juices are depleted. I choose not to write during this extra time because I don’t want to sacrifice the quality of my work for the sake of getting something done.
2. There’s still a decent chance I’ll be interrupted at work. Just in case I do find myself “in the zone”, I’d rather not risk being interrupted by a co-worker or something urgent from my boss.
What I personally do during this time could be any of the following:
- Blog and market research. This means getting ideas from other blogs in my niche, writing down new blogs that I find, and jotting down potential articles.
- Pitching guest posts.
- Commenting on other blogs.
- Being active on social media.
These activities are still semi-important to growing a blog, but they aren’t the core tasks that I need 100% of my focus for. This time is considered bonus time anyways, so anything I do is really a win-win.
4. Write Down Everything and Organize
If you’re like me, you have this constant stream of ideas swirling around for your blog. If you don’t, then read. It helps big time.
Anyways, it’s important for me to be able to stay focused on work while I’m at work, but I also need to save those super awesome ideas for blog time. I use Evernote to jot down anything that comes to my mind. Getting it out of my head and onto paper saves myself a lot of headache and missed opportunities.
Here’s a snapshot from my Evernote a couple of months ago. I write down EVERYTHING. Even stupid ideas.
Got an idea for a blog post? Whip out your phone and capture it in Evernote.
Come across a great site for doing market research? Write it down.
Now here’s where things can get really messy. Evernote is great for writing things down on the fly, but it tends to get scattered quickly if you don’t do anything with it. I personally used to have hundreds of notes in there that I just completely forgot about and never used. When I found them, I was like “Oh !@#$, this stuff is gold!”
What I started doing was putting a plan together in a Google Spreadsheet in Google Drive. I’m talking everything from blogs for market research, guest blogs, contacts, emails, post ideas, keywords, everything.
My playbook now has all of that PLUS a schedule for posts on my blog and guest posts.
Every Sunday, I schedule 30-60 minutes on my calendar to update my playbook. During this time I migrate all of my Evernotes into that Google spreadsheet. It’s incredibly easy because I use hashtags and certain keywords so that I can find my blog notes.
Rather than having to spend a metric TON of mental energy thinking about my blog, now I write everything down and know that past Jason has done the planning to make future Jason’s problems almost non-existent.
5. Don’t Dismiss The Weekends
I love the weekends as much as you do, especially after a long week of work. But my blog is important to me. If I want it to grow and thrive, I’ve got to water it each day. This was the biggest struggle for me in the beginning. I didn’t have a consistent habit of writing. Now, even during the weekends, I make time for it.
I enjoy getting up and banging out an article or two before the rest of the world wakes. It makes things easier on me during the week, and I can relax the rest of the day having felt accomplished.
Weekends used to be my biggest crutch. I would tell myself I deserved a break after a long week of work. Then, I would usually go out drinking with my friends, have a great time, but make myself even more miserable the next week. Talk about counter-productive.
I have a whole new mindset on my life now. I know what my goals are, and I know what kind of person I want to be. That’s why I don’t mind putting in a few extra hours on the weekends to make progress on my goals. It’s important to me, and now I have fun doing it. Who says everyone has to only “relax” on the weekends, anyways?
Take a couple minutes and reflect on yourself as a person. Ask yourself “why do I do what I do on the weekends?”
Seriously. It might sound stupid or silly, but ask yourself that. As a young guy who loved to party, I reached a point in my life where I finally took a step back and asked “why am I doing this?”
That’s when I realized that weekends were mine to do whatever I wanted with them. And that’s when I started making more progress on my blog.
Go Forth And Conquer
So we’ve gone through a lot today. Your new Modus Operandi when it comes to your blog should be to think first, execute second. The plan is to:
- Come up with a list of specific, repeatable actions that you need to do
- Schedule those actions as blocks of time during your day
- Have a sub-list of actions handy just in case any spare time arises during the work day
- Get everything out of your head and onto paper, as much as humanly possible
- Don’t forget about weekend time
That’s how I do it. And it keeps me pretty sane (most of the time). My blog means the world to me now. It’s not just a side hustle, it’s my eventual ticket out of a 9 to 5 life. It’s my way of providing value and giving back to as many people as possible. To sharing my voice, my beliefs, and my experiences. It’s my way of sharing with the world my unique gifts. If I can help even a handful of people to avoid the major pitfalls I’ve had in my life, or at the very least, comfort them while they go through their own journey, then I’ll have succeeded.
What’s your side hustle mean to you? If it’s important enough, I know you’ll make the time for it, and I know you’ll crush it.
Are you working and blogging at the same time? What struggles have you faced? How have you overcome them? Do you have any tips or questions? Let me know in the comments below.