This is a guest contribution from ProBlogger Expert Kelly Exeter.
It was the toaster that did it in the end.
I’d been juggling work around school holidays. I had a book in its pre-launch phase. I was trying to figure out in which of my already tight days I could record four podcasts. And I was on deadline for two guest posts while trying to figure out what I’d write about for my own website.
And then it happened.
I was making toast for my son’s breakfast one morning. Or rather trying to, because the lever on our brand new toaster refused to stay down. After forcefully pressing it down 200 times (give or take) only to have it pop straight back up each time, I did what any normal person would do.
I burst into tears.
Welcome to Overwhelm Town. Population: Me.
Here’s the problem: When you’re a blogger, and you hit Peak Overwhelm in your life, the first thing anyone suggests when you mention it to them is to ditch the blogging stuff.
‘It’s just a hobby. I’ve never understood why you spend so much time on it in the first place.’
‘It’s clear you have too much on your plate, and blogging is what’s tipping you over the edge. You should cut back.’
‘I mean, it just seems like you spend your whole day on social media.’
Isn’t it interesting that when a passionate (but recreational) golfer hits Peak Overwhelm, you don’t hear anyone telling them, ‘Hey, it’s definitely golf that’s the problem. Maybe you should take a break from it for a while’. If anything it’s more like, ‘You need to relax. Time to hit the driving range’.
Just as golf should be prioritised because hobbies are good for us, you should be able to prioritise blogging when life gets crazy.
Now we’ve got that straight; I will acknowledge two inescapable truths:
- Yes, blogging (and all the things that go with it) can contribute to life overwhelm.
- Yes, it does feel like we should always be doing a million things to grow our readership, increase engagement and forge a path towards eventually monetising (if that’s what we want to do).
So whenever I find myself drowning in overwhwelm (the life AND blogging variety) here’s what I do.
1. Remember that consistency always beats the cute stuff
I learned this one from ten years of competing in triathlons. All my good results came from the fact that I never missed a session (i.e. consistently turning up every day), as opposed to any of the killer sessions I ever did.
The same applies to blogging. When life gets overwhelming, don’t worry about the cute stuff. You know what I’m talking about:
- Spending an hour creating the perfect flat lay for Instagram.
- Agonising about choosing the right image for Friday’s blog post.
- Trying out 30 different fonts for a quote you’re posting on Facebook.
Instead, get back to basics.
Forget about trying to make everything amazing all the time, burning out, and then not posting anything for a week. You’ll get far better results from just showing up each day and delivering something good enough for your readers and followers.
2. Focus on the endgame
You’ve probably heard this before: Blogging is a long game. If your goals are to go stratospheric in three months and then cash out, then… umm, you might need to find another game.
But if you’re like most bloggers, and are in it for the long haul, being hit by overwhelm is a good time to focus on where you’re going.
I’m quite lucky in that I’ve been working towards the same goal for the past six years—having my books make enough of a side income for me to step entirely out of my business. So whenever I start feeling completely at sea, I remind myself of that big goal. Then I focus on doing only those things that will definitely take me closer to that goal. If anything is a 50/50 chance at best, I’ll happily let it fall to the floor.
Not sure what your endgame is? Focus on a shorter-term goal instead. The same principle applies. The antidote for any feeling of overwhelm is prioritisation. So, look at your to-do list, zero in on what you know will take you closer to your goal, and ditch the rest—at least for now.
3. Remember that just because it works for someone else doesn’t mean you have to do it
A large part of overwhelm, both in life and in blogging, comes from friends telling us about something that worked a treat for them. It might be going Paleo, some killer new Instagram strategy, or joining a particular Mastermind group.
It’s great these things worked for our friends. And while they’d probably work for us too, it doesn’t mean we’re obliged to do them.
There are lots of strategies/approaches/mindsets out there that ‘work’. And part of being a functional adult is choosing the ones that work best for us within the constraints of our time, family, finances and lifestyle goals.
Okay. Enough mindset stuff. Let’s get practical.
I recently surveyed my readers and found that most of them (well, the ones who took the time to fill in the survey!) had been reading my blog for less than two years. I suspect yours might be in the same boat. (Most blog readerships seem to turn over every two or three years.)
When I find myself so overwhelmed that I can’t think of anything to write about, it’s time to recycle. I find an evergreen type post that’s 2-3 years old, update it if necessary, and then re-publish it. For the more recent readers of my blog it’s completely new material. And my long-time readers generally appreciate me re-visiting the topic.
5. Go the fallback option
Recycling isn’t always an option for overwhelm-induced bloggers block. And that’s when we need to have a fallback option.
6. Take a break
It may seem like I am contradicting myself here, but let me explain. The point I was making at the beginning of this piece was how annoying it is that the first option anyone offers when we’re overwhelmed is, “Take a break from blogging”. But if you’ve tried everything I’ve suggested and you’re still struggling to get on top of life, then it’s totally fine to take a break.
And that’s what’s so great about blogging being a long game. If we’re generally consistent over time, taking a month off here and there barely causes a blip on the radar.
And a break doesn’t always have to mean dropping everything anyway. Earlier this year I stopped writing my weekly blog post and sending out my weekly email for two months. But during that time I kept on podcasting.
You might stop writing on your blog but keep posting stuff on social media. It’s up to you.
Whatever you decide, experience has taught me that readers are very understanding when you take a break. And they’re always there when you get back.