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How to be a Ruthless Blogger (and Become More Productive and Focussed)

Sometimes to grow your blog you need to be ruthless – otherwise you’ll become distracted, unproductive, lazy, unfocused and or lose your passion for blogging. Here’s 7 areas that I’ve found myself becoming more and more ruthless in in my blogging:


Image by LLimllib

1. Declare war on comment spam

Letting comment spam get ahold of your blog’s comments area can really hurt your blog. It has the potential to impact your brand and even how your blog ranks in Search Engines.

2. Set yourself deadlines

At the core of every good blog is regularly posted fresh new content. Sometimes it gets hard to keep yourself motivated so setting yourself posting frequency deadlines can help keep your blog ticking over. I don’t set myself deadlines for particular posts do have a posting frequency and some general times of the day for new posts that I aim for every day.

3. Develop an effective email system

As your blog grows you’ll get a more and more cluttered inbox. As a result it’s really important to think about how you’ll deal with it ahead of time. Develop a system of filtering unimportant emails, highlighting important ones and get a system in place to keep your inbox down. I’ve outlined some of my own email system here.

4. Develop default email responses

Related to managing your email is developing a system to answer the most frequently asked questions and requests that you get. I have 7-8 draft emails stored in Gmail that I am constantly opening up to use as responses to readers. Also helpful to cut down the number of FAQs that you get asked is to develop a FAQ page and link to it from your contact page. Even if people don’t use it before contacting you it’s a useful link to point people to.

5. Develop standards for guest posts

If you choose to go the route of featuring guest posts on your blog (or hiring bloggers to write for you regularly) it’s important that you set some guidelines in place to ensure that the quality of content stays high. This is something that you need to first work out in your own mind and then to communicate to your guest posters. The more guidelines you can give them not only about quality but also how you want posts formatted the less time you’ll need to spend editing posts. I have developed a page for my Guest Posters which has been very helpful.

6. Eliminate distractions from (and protect) your ‘Golden Hours’

I find that there are certain times in my day when I am more productive than others (for me it’s mornings). These times need to be kept as ‘sacred’ times that you reserve for those activities in your life that are core to the running of your blog. I reserve these times for writing the majority of my posts. In these times I switch off Instant Messaging, Twitter, Phone, Email and often get offline and out of the house altogether so that I am able to be completely focussed on the task of writing.

7. Take time off

Being a ruthless blogger is not all about driving yourself harder or making yourself more productive – sometimes it has more to do with when to take a break from blogging. Blogger Burnout is a problem that hits many bloggers when then immerse themselves in blogging. As a result it’s important to take time off. I like to attempt to do this on a number of levels including each day (I take time off for lunch, exercise and in the evenings for family), each week (I have a much much lighter weekend and attempt to have a complete day off on Sundays) and periodically (taking a week or more off blogging every now and again is where I find myself most refreshed).

Each of the above are about developing ‘boundaries’.

Boundaries about what you’ll do (and won’t do), when you’ll do things (and when you won’t) and where you’ll allow your blog to go (and not go). The purpose of the boundaries isn’t to make you more inaccessible or insulated but to make you more productive, focussed and to serve those your blog is for more effectively.

As I write this post I realize that there are plenty of other areas that this ‘ruthlessness’ is important in. Quality of posts, responding to comments/reader questions, spelling/grammar and even the topic of your blog (and when/if you’ll go off topic…. etc

What other areas do you think bloggers need to tighten up, establish boundaries in and become more ruthless in? What rules and practices do you work with in your own blogging?

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. Best thing you’ve posted in a while, Darren. I’m finding myself needing to focus on these points, myself. Congrats on the book, by the way! :)

  2. No. 2, 6 and 7 are really crucial for me!

  3. I really need to get an email system down. I check my email way too often. It’s getting there.

  4. You’d be surprised how much spam I get. I use to just leave it up but now I will delete them!

  5. After reading this I realize I do some and fail on others. I have to get all of the items on your list into my daily way of doing things. And time off, yes, yes, yes. We have to do that.

    I would love to see your default responses. I used a couple of those when I was using Apple’s Mail. Never thought I about putting them in the draft folder in Gmail. Thanks!!!

  6. Thanks for these tips, I’m hoping to get my blog back on its feet with me being busy a lot.

  7. Great Points Darren and to be honest , being a new blogger I am trying to follow most of them. However meeting a deadline seems to be a challenge for me now which I will have to work upon.

  8. I’ve started looking at my blog more and more from this perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the community around my blog, but it’s when I put them aside and write from the heart that things really start to take off. It’s also been true that when I write the truth without being afraid of who I’m going to offend that things tend to go well.

  9. I really like the saved drafts idea I’m going to do that now. Thanks!

  10. Great points. FAQ page does take care of a lot of emails.

  11. Good suggestions that not only starting a blog is important but keeping it alive for time is very much needed.
    A blog will be successful only when you keep on posting effectively.
    Good post and thank you.

  12. I agree with all of this. I especially relate to #6 and #7. I find that mornings are when I write best too. However, from time to time, I have a moment of inspiration and need to at least make myself good notes if I can’t immediately write distraction-free. For these occasions, I try to keep a notepad close by for copious notes. In addition, taking a break for even a couple of days helps me to clear my head and regain my passion. Great ideas!

  13. Well, I am relatively new to the blogosphere, so I’m learning to implement most of these on a daily basis. I certainly need to work on numbers 2 and 6. I am finding that tightening up on “pre-writing” is helping with saving time. If I take a Saturday and plan out that week’s or even that month’s post topics, I have a big head start. Great post! I have been a subscriber for a whole month now! I learn so much here! Thanks for all you do.

  14. Good advice. My only concern is to balance life with blogging. Still struggling. One thing I’m trying is to steal some time by waking up earlier.

    By the way Darren, I think your link “A Page For My Guest Poster” is linked to the wrong page.

  15. Hi Darren,

    This is my first comment on this Blog although I have been following it for a while now. This is a post that I thought I had to comment on and besides, I need some advice.

    Firstly, I commend you on this post. Excellent tips and I think that they are very true.
    Now for the question: I am a Blogger and I really love Blogging. I Blog on topics related to my country, the Sultanate of Oman. after a few months from starting my Blog (a year ago), I had lots of hits and comment from people from my country. I was very happy with how things were going but something happened since then. I am a student, so there are months when I completely stop Blogging or maybe post one or two posts per month. I usually announce that I won’t be posting for a certain amount of time to let my readers know. But what happened since then is a lack of hits and comments. Even when I write really heated posts that I know people would want to comment on, I don’t get the response that I would have got a few months back.

    I will stop posting on my Blog for the coming 2 months because of my exams and I want to do so without a worse catastrophe than before. I am planing to come back stronger than ever before as this is my final year of high school.

    What do you suggest? I really need help!

    Al Maawali

  16. I love the advice to “develop default email responses.” I typically receive the same four or five email questions each week and I have to either delete them or work up a custom response.

    Limiting distractions is also a big one. I have also learned the hard way to close out browsers, email clients and any chat tools while writing/researching or you are setting yourself up for constant interruptions!

  17. *forgot to subscribe via email. Feel free to delete.

  18. Bryce W says: 04/22/2008 at 1:31 am

    I have serious trouble with distractions while trying to blog. However, this helped me alot:


    Its called darkroom and its a Windows clone of OSX’s WriteRoom. It blocks out everything else on the screen (clocks, items in the taskbar etc) and the only thing there is you and the text. It even works on dual screens.

  19. Wow, being fairly new to blogging (although not writing) I gotta say, THANKS
    What a great post.
    In fact I want to visit all the links tonight. This one was like a meal for me.

    Working creatively for years, I have been very privileged. I teach, write, paint, speak and create strategies. It’s a rich existence, but at the same time, it can drain you unless you know how to re-fuel.

    I appreciate your comments about boundaries. I find short time-outs during the day for inner renewal can make a world of difference. Normally , I don’t point to my posts, but today it is absolutely a compliment to what you have written, well if you enjoy coffee anyway! :-)

    Thanks to all commenters on this site. I enjoy this community and benefit from each of you.


  20. How to be ruthless? Ruthlessly spell check your articles, don’t be a slacker – get in a routine. Ruthlessly rile yourself up – it will help you write better articles when you’re energized. And lastly, ruthlessly have a thirst for knowledge. We will never know everything, but the more we gain, the more intelligent our posts will become, and the better your blog will be.

    Thanks for your info, Darren!

  21. speaking of declaring war on comments spam…anyone on wordpress getting ther ‘new breed’ of spam where generic jane adams or mary smith is in the name field? using akismet and they’re ending up in my moderation queue in abundance

  22. Bloggertalk cites your blog as an example of a good blog, and I wholeheartedly agree. New to blogging, i’ve been realizing the need for ‘ruthlessness’ myself, and just as importantly, the need for a break from it all…you’ve got a new reader,Darren, and thank you for so much good information.

  23. I may be missing something, but I think your link to your page for guest bloggers is pointing to the wrong page. It’s pointing to your post about your email strategy.

  24. Excellent suggestions. Personally, being disciplined with posting regularly is one of the major challenges in blogging. In addition to this, getting the inspiration to write, as well as the need to write with concise, relevant and substance-packed content are also other challenges I face.


  25. Limiting distractions is the one I have to work on. I get too easy distracted reading others blogs instead of writing my own.

  26. I stopped blogging on weekends.

    I was very impressed when Eric Kintz said, “As for me, I will continue to post only when I have something to say.” Trying to do that too, instead of sticking to a rigid posting schedule.

  27. Some great points here, Darren. The best for me is assigning time windows where you do only specific things. That setting of priorities is crucial.

  28. I need to work on my inbox. Thanks for inspiration! The default answers to emails also helps me. I just started doing guest posts. Definitely going to check out your guidelines!

  29. I have been coming to the slow realization that these sacred reading times are more important than I used to.

    I find that when I begin a blog there is a lot of excitement and lots of new content and then over time I start to lose track of time and my post frequency and quality drop.

    Lately I am finding that if I have a post topic and have it sitting in front of me then I am fine but when I have a backlog of 20 or so topics I am starting to feel a little overwhelmed with the idea that I am falling behind instead of being excited that I have a lot of ideas for future content.

  30. I think i like the no.7, coz sometimes i really merely have to time to sleep where start blogging keep tracking the post and so on.

    True and agree with your post Darren.

  31. Thanks again, Darren! As a small time, beginner blogger I always get a lot out of your posts. This blog is one of the first I subscribed too, and the one I check in on daily. You rock!

  32. Really good information, I especially like the part about just getting away from it. I think we all get hung up in the whole internet system at times and forget that we need to have balance in our lives. Thanks for a great post


  33. Thanks Darren,
    This really hit home for me today. I haven’t posted in weeks to my blog mostly because of various laziness. Must remember to read your blog when I’m getting lazy :-)

  34. Blogger burnout – this might be good fodder for a future survey – what methods do bloggers use to avoid this? Do they schedule a regular “time-out”, turn off the computer, leave the house…?

    Another possible survey (unless you’ve already run it and I missed it!) might be about how often bloggers check email and if and how it impacts their productivity.

  35. The “page for my guest blogger” link is going to your email article.

  36. Reducing the number of blogs you read, and/or reading less frequently. That’s hard to do if the blogs are those of friends of yours, but there’s only so many hours in a day.

  37. Darren,

    Its been a long time since I commented on this blog. I totally agree with everything you say in this post. I would like to also add that getting “rid” of distractions is another thing to make you more productive. Here is a few tips that I have taken to “start up” my blog again. One I got rid of firefox, my reasoning is that you can add things to firefox all day long and get distracted. Number two I deleted all of my feeds in my feedburner. I now look at it this way if I can’t recall a websites url from memory I won’t go to it anymore. Third I got rid of Stumbleupon, the idea is great and all however I do not know how many times I sat there and clicked “stumble” for hours on end when in reality I could have just been researching a post for my blog. Four I started to use Microsoft Office 2007 for writing my blog posts. This new version of Office allows you to create blog posts with it and then publish it to different blogging platforms. Beside the fact that Office has automatic spelling and grammar correction functions it it too. Five I quit trying to keep up with the big boys in my niche. A lot of times bloggers get discouraged and waste a lot of time trying to “keep up” with the big boys like Autoblog or Techcrunch. Those blogs have multiple writers and there in no way to keep up with every story. Trying to keep up causes some writers to cut corners on the posts and thats when their blog looks more “spammy”. So you have to know how to pick the best stories to write about. Along those lines comes number six in my ways to be more productive. Using press releases is one of the easiest ways to find stories without trying to keep up with the big boys. Number seven is an interesting one because I used to do this a lot. Stop submitting every post you write to digg, reddit, propeller, stumbleupon, etc. It is a waste of time for you to do this and those sites reayy do not like self promotion. It has been shown across the internet that search traffic is still the best traffic around. Number eight I guess will make a few people mad, stop working on SEO so much. Jason Calacanis calls them Search Engine Spammers and in some respects he is right. If you are spending more time trying to manipulate the search engines instead of writing you already have a problem. Number nine is the last one, going to 100 different blogs and leaving comments is no way to garner readers. I used to do this too, however it got me nowhere and it was a big waste of valuable time you could be researching and writing your next post. Well thats my two cents on the whole subject, thanks for reading.


  38. ///Declare war on comment spam

    It depends on how one defines comment spam.
    Some comment spam can actually be entertaining and provocative.

    Having been a poster on a very popular SEO blog – although some of the other members were calling it spam – it ended up making the blog more popular and exciting to read.

    It boils down to whether others agree with what is being said and whether they like you are your tone.

    Being strict with comments can actually take away the personality from the blog

    Look at how successful The Superficial, PerezHilton and TMZ are. The spammy comments are just as exciting as the blog.

    Even on Mashable, they were funny.

    In the case of this blog, all the comments are polite and virtually all agree with whatever is being posted. – WHATEVER!

    They are sometimes boring because no one debates for fear of being ostracized and no one shows any ‘personality’ in their comments for fear of being labeled a spammer.

  39. I think that my biggest lesson to learn from this post Darren is the fact that I barely ever take any “offline” time for myself.

    I am ALWAYS plugged into my email/twitter/IM/etc/etc… Match that with the fact that I also have music playing, sports on TV, and who know what else…

    That is not very conducive to productivity.

    Very good points you’ve raised here! (as always)


  41. Checking my e-mail too often

    Guilty – Guilty – Guilty

    It’s time to get organized.

  42. Wow, great tips Darren! Thanks, I’ve bookmarked this for future reference & use.

  43. Hey Darren, I really felt the focus and passion in this post, IMHO I’d say this is one of the better ones you’ve written, highly enjoyable.

    For me, being ruthless and focused mean keeping my email closed and only opening it twice a day at most. It also means giving myself a schedule, something that I wrote for myself on Sunday. I didn’t totally stick to it today but I need to do this every night for the next day in order to have focus and stay on track.

    Something else that helps me stay on track and focused is keeping a time sheet. I’ve done this before, got away from it, and started back up with it again today. I log everything I do and keep checking in with it – it’s amazing how sidetracked I can get, for instance with checking stats, emails, comments, and a myriad of other things that come along. However when I’m logging my time, it helps me stay accountable and focused.

    Also, I like the idea of an FAQ, that’s something I’ve been meaning to do. Thanks!

  44. Darren, your secret is up! Now I know how you became a great Blogger! You been reading the writings on the bathroom walls. ;-) Confessions on Twitter by Problogger!

  45. Great tips Darren.

    I’ve recently installed Leechblock so that I don’t access my email from 9am-1pm, and I can’t access Facebook until after 5pm. It’s really helped me to be more productive.

    Anyone else using Leechblock?

  46. Hi Darren,
    thanks for your most inspiring article. I don’t know a German blog or website which deals with blogging in such a competent way, so I have been following your blog for a while.
    The most important advice for me is to put up deadlines (and to keep them!). I am blogging in my free time, and there is always the danger of having other important things to do. So I think i’ll have to set up a deadline which on the one hand guarantees continuous blogging and on the other hand is realistic.

  47. Once my friend’s truck broke down in the middle of nowhere, and I spent a few hours listening to an email management infomerical on the radio while we waited for AAA.

    It highlighted the same advice here, to come up with a dozen or so form letters you can reuse when needed. It also mentioned a rating system, where you can quickly glance over your inbox and determine what needs immediate attention, what needs to be responded today, this week, ignored, blocked, etc.

  48. Good tips. The distraction can really cause you problems because doing so many things in a single time like IM, email and watching online video can move your attention from your main work Blogging. :-D

  49. Good post, Darren. I’m a ruthless blogger, but not quite as ruthless as you. :-)

  50. Thanks for the warning. Im not here yet but its good to be prepared. Im not sure I want to use an online mail system again although the spam filtering would be a good feature.

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