Today on the blog we have a case study from one of our readers. Or rather one of our podcast listeners, as it was a tip in a particular podcast that spurred on today’s guest author to make some significant changes to her blog over the course of a year. I hope you enjoy Kelly Dunning’s story, and her insights and advice on how she has made the most of one simple habit to banish the guilt of not posting and rediscover her passion for her travel blog Global-Goose.com.
My blog used to make me feel sad and discouraged.
I loved working on it, but I rarely ever got around to it. I’m a full-time freelance writer with a travel blog as a side project. I spend a lot of time on the road. Like many bloggers out there, my blog is often sidelined by my full-time job and other commitments.
By the time I finished my freelance work at the end of the day, I was tired and wanted to get away from the keyboard.
I made this excuse for years, and while I always got my freelance writing work done my blog was embarrassingly neglected. Sometimes I wouldn’t write a post for weeks, and if I did it would be a small one just to remove the guilt of not posting.
This made me feel awful. I’d started the blog as a passion project. Traveling was the pivotal decision that changed my life.
When I hit the road for the first time, I felt so empowered and excited. I started my travel blog because I found a love for traveling that I wanted to share with others. Unfortunately, I wasn’t doing it as much as I wanted to because I couldn’t find the time. (At least, that’s what I told myself.)
I never struggled to think of things to write about. In my head I had an almost infinite list of blog posts I wanted to write. I just wasn’t making time to write them.
Finally, after a lot of stress and procrastination, I found myself in a rare moment of honest self-reflection. I realized I was just making excuses. Have you ever heard the saying, “If you argue for your limitations, then surely they are yours”? I was definitely guilty of arguing for my own limitations.
I had to get around this “limitation”, and figure out how I could write for my own blog in my spare time after writing all day as a full-time job.
One simple thing completely changed blogging for me.
I decided to spend 30 minutes on my blog every day, before my workday even began. Yup, just 30 minutes. I figured it was small, but it was better than nothing.
That was a year ago, and what a difference it has made.
“It’s Just What I Do”
The idea of a 30 minute per day blogging habit was inspired by one of Darren’s ProBlogger podcasts – “3 Productivity Tips to Help You Build Healthy Habits.” Darren says that when he’s forming a good habit he tells himself, “That’s just what I do.” There’s something very powerful about this. It works as a convincing mantra to help you instil a habit until it becomes something you do without even thinking about it.
So, I started setting a timer first thing in the morning and working on the blog for 30 minutes. Now it’s just what I do.
I started this habit in November 2016, and I’ve kept it up ever since – a full year now. This habit has allowed me to transform my travel blog, and I’ve published more high-quality posts than I ever had before.
Why This Works For Me
Working on my blog every morning for 30 minutes a day has been an effective strategy for me because:
- It’s a small amount of time that I could always squeeze in, no matter how busy my day was. That’s 3.5 hours per week (14 hours per month) of steady work – certainly more than I was doing before.
- I would have never been able to carve a 3.5 hour chunk out of my weekly schedule. But 30 minutes per day is always possible. I do it first thing, before any other distractions creep in and take over.
- With a 30-minute timer ticking down, I use my morning blog time very efficiently and get a lot done in a short amount of time.
- Since I’m working on my blog a little bit every day, it’s often on my mind and I think of ideas and ways to improve it around the clock.
- I often find I keep working once the timer rings because I’m engaged in what I’m doing, and want to keep going until I finish that particular task.
- Working on the blog for 30 minutes in the morning also gets my creative juices flowing, makes my other writing better, and puts me in a great mood.
- Beginning with a solid 30-minute session of working on the blog means I’ve already accomplished something I’ve set my mind to before I even start my workday. This boosts my confidence, and gives me a great start to the day.
How Has It Made a Difference?
Thirty minutes a day may not seem like much. But it has made a huge difference to my blog over the past year. Looking back on the past 12 months, this is what I’ve achieved:
- Published 51 blog posts, which is almost one a week. I’ve never managed to maintain the habit of blogging consistently for that long before. And many of these have been long, in-depth, evergreen posts.
- Updated/improved/fixed errors in countless other posts. I notice these areas for improvement more often because I’m looking at my blog every day.
- Improved the quality of my blog posts due to the increased practice.
- Completed a 23,000-word travel guide for my website that I started writing years ago but never finished.
- Thought about the “Why?” of my blog so I can define exactly how I want to help readers, and then implemented the changes.
- Increased my Facebook page fans by 1,269.
- Increased my Twitter followers by 1,570.
- Increased my blog traffic by 24% (comparing October 2016 to October 2017).
- Created a user-friendly “Start Here” page to organise my content and help readers find what they’re looking for.
- Started and maintained a Pinterest Account, and designed beautiful pins to promote my posts.
- Made a page and a Google Form for guest post submissions, and worked with guest authors to create blog posts.
- Wrote several guest posts that were published on relevant websites in my niche.
I’m not saying this is miraculous. Some blogs have certainly grown faster than mine. But I’m proud of what I’ve achieved in the past year because without this simple habit I wouldn’t have done nearly this much.
Yes, I could have done a lot more if I’d been working on my blog full-time. But that just wasn’t realistic for me with my full time job. With this habit, I could make it work around my other commitments.
I work on a blog post nearly every day, and it usually takes me several days to to complete one from start to finish. Sometimes it takes a while because I’ve created some long and in-depth guides that are 3,000-5,000 words long. (I’ve learned that juicy, detailed and helpful blog posts give the best experience for my readers, so that’s what I’ve been focusing on.)
One of the most important differences is the way I feel about my blog. Instead of making me feel embarrassed, futile and frustrated, my blog makes me so happy right now. This habit means my blog is no longer a side project I feel guilty for neglecting, but rather an active, thriving blog with a steadily growing readership. Every day when I get up in the morning, I’m excited to work on it.
A couple of weeks ago one of my readers emailed to let me know that one of my posts had been incredibly helpful for them, and was the inspiration for them to travel abroad for the first time. Knowing I made a profound positive impact on someone’s life is such a rewarding feeling.
Plus, my blog now serves as a much better showcase of my writing skills, and is a more effective portfolio when applying for freelance writing jobs. I’ve been getting more and better writing projects in the past year, and I think there’s a direct correlation.
What If I Miss a Day?
Now before you assume I’m some kind of super-woman, I admit I don’t do this perfectly. I don’t always achieve the 30 minutes every day. Sometimes I wake up late. Sometimes I’m not feeling well. Sometimes I’m lazy. And sometimes I’m sleeping under the stars in the Australian outback with no computer.
But the habit is ingrained now, so if I miss one day I’m usually right back on it the next morning. After all, it’s just what I do. I’ve decided that it’s unrealistic to expect I won’t miss a day every now and then. That’s fine with me. But I make sure that missing days is an exception and doesn’t happen that often.
I’ve found that achieving success when working towards a long-term goal (like building an awesome blog) depends more on cumulative habits than what you do on any given day. It’s kind of like living a healthy lifestyle. If you have a long-term habit of exercising regularly, and you eat healthy food on most days, treating yourself to a double-fudge brownie every now and then won’t make too much of a difference because it’s the exception rather than the norm.
How I Make The Most of My 30 Minutes a Day
I’m often amazed at how long 30 minutes can actually feel. When I’m focused, I can get a surprising amount of work done in this time. I can usually write 600-800 words in a morning session. Then, when I finish a post, I use the next couple of 30-minute sessions to work on uploading to WordPress, formatting, adding images, publishing, promoting on social media and all other follow-up actions.
Here’s how I make my 30 minutes really count:
- I put my phone away so I’m not distracted. If I whittle away the 30 minutes checking Facebook notifications, I won’t get another chance to work on my blog until the following day.
- I listen to classical music on my headphones because it tunes everything out and helps me stay focused.
- I use Trello to organise everything I’m working on for the blog. I have separate columns for Blog Post Ideas, Blog Posts in Progress, Miscellaneous Tasks to Complete for the Blog, etc. It helps me see the big picture and figure out what needs to be done next.
- I have at least two different blog posts on the go at any given time, so if I’m not feeling inspired to write about a particular topic that morning or if I hit a block, I can spend the time working on something else.
- I have other blog-related tasks for the days when I want to take a break from writing. This includes scheduling social media, uploading blog posts, adding photos, creating Pinterest graphics, reaching out to influencers, etc.
This simple habit has helped my blogging enormously, and might help you if you’re busy and struggling to find time to blog.
I challenge you to find 30 minutes in your day to work on your blog, whether it’s in the morning like me, at the end of the day, or whenever works for you. It may not seem like a lot, but it really does make a difference.
Kelly Dunning is a Canadian freelance travel writer. She lives a nomadic lifestyle with no fixed address, working from the road since 2011 with her partner Lee, a web designer from England. They’ve traveled to more than 50 countries, and offer travel tips, stories and inspiration on Global-Goose.com.