How to Improve Your Blog When You Don’t Have Computer Access

Posted By Darren Rowse 8th of November 2008 Miscellaneous Blog Tips 0 Comments

Is your computer out of action? Use the time to improve your blog with these six activities as suggested by Ali from Alpha Student.

Even the most ardent bloggers will occasionally find themselves without computer access. If you’re just lacking an internet connection, you can at least write posts – but what can you do when all you’ve got is a notebook and a pen?

Whether you want to make use of your commute or lunch hour, whether you’d like to squirrel yourself into a corner at boring family events, or whether you’d just like to get a bit done towards your blog whilst standing in line at the post office, here are six computer-free activities that will help your blogging.

1. Generate Ideas

Have you been blogging for a while? If so, do you have times when you feel like there’s nothing new left to write about in your niche? That means you need to do some quality idea-generation. This method is incredibly easy – and it works:

  1. Write the numbers 1 – 50 down the side of your piece of paper (you may need several sheets).
  2. Set a timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Write an idea next to each number – before the time runs out!

Don’t worry if you have some ideas which are a bit similar, or some which don’t seem to be full posts. You might find that one idea will form a series – or that another can be a sub-point in a longer piece.

Once you’ve got your stock of ideas ready, you can…

2. Plan Next Month

Wouldn’t it be great to have a month of posts planned out in advance? If you normally write on whatever’s in your head and hit “publish” straight away, you may realise you’ve spent two weeks covering pretty much the same topic each day – and your readers are getting bored.

Sit down with a notebook, and work out how many posts you want to publish in the next month (e.g. about 13-14 total if you’re aiming for three a week). Now figure out a title or topic for each of those posts, using your list of ideas. You’ll want to consider:

The great thing about planning ahead is that you’ll start getting ideas churning away for some of those different posts. That means it’s time to…

3. Brainstorm A Post

Write the title of your post in the middle of a blank piece of paper, and start a spider diagram:

brainstorm.jpg

image by -nathan

This is a very simple and effective way to help yourself think laterally about the topic of your post. Jot down the main points that come to mind which you want to address around the central circle, then start thinking which points you could link together. If any points spawn new ideas, add those on. (Warning: depending on how in-depth you want your post to be, you might need a large piece of paper!)

When you’re back at your computer, you’ll find that writing posts becomes almost effortless when you’ve already set the foundations by figuring out a solid structure for your post. You may want to add a few extras to your piece, though, so how about using some computer-free time to …

4. Take Photographs

I tend to get my images from sxc.hu and Flickr, using the excuse that I’m a rotten photographer – but with great blogs like Digital Photography School out there, I know I’ve only myself to blame for not taking the time to learn!

So why not try snapping some of your own images for your blog? You might even want to get someone to take a few shots of you for your “About” page. (Readers love to see what you look like!) If you’ve got cute kids – or cute pets – you could include them too.

If you feel your head-shot would frighten readers away, then how about going back to that list of posts and figuring out what images you might need? For example, if you’ve got a post titled “My two cents on the state of the blogosphere”, you could take a snapshot of … two cents. Think laterally too; how about someone stirring a pan as a metaphor in a post about the process of letting ideas simmer into life? Outdoor shots – flowers, trees, landscapes – can make great all-purpose images.

If you’re bored of photography by now, why not …

5. Read A Good Book

Have you ever noticed that most bloggers cite examples and give quotes from other bloggers? It’s rare to see a book quoted in a post – yet, in any field, there’s a huge amount of in-depth, thoughtful and well-researched content in books. If you’ve fallen into the habit of getting all of your news, views and facts from blogs alone, try picking up a book or journal in your field. Every time I do this, I find a new idea to blog about.

Not all niches have a host of magazines on the shelves: if you’re blogging about something obscure or very new, you might not be able to find any related publications. Reading is still valuable: you’ll find inspiration in unlikely places. Titles and headlines – from mainstream magazines, not just niches ones – just might spark off a train of thought that leads to your next brilliant article.

By this point, you might be getting tired of all the idea-generating, planning, brainstorming, photo-taking and reading. If so, it’s time for the last non-computer blogger-friendly activity…

6. Have A Break

However passionate you are about your blog, there’ll be times when you get stale, jaded or just plain worn out. Everyone needs to kick back and relax: and yes, you do have time. Of course you want your blog to make it to the Technorati Top 100 – but you need to be ready for the long haul in order to make it there.

Blogger burn-out is no fun. Don’t run yourself, and your blog, into the ground. If you find yourself with an enforced computer-free day, for whatever reason, use it as a great excuse to unplug. Go to a movie, head to the park, prowl the mall, or whatever it is you enjoy. By taking some time out, you’ll return to your blogging refreshed and enthused. You’ll be looking forward to hitting that keyboard again!

If you’ve got a great tip for blogging without a computer, why not add it in the comments?

Ali is a postgraduate student and professional writer. She runs Alpha Student (grab the RSS feed), a blog which aims to help students get the most of their time at university.

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, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Great ideas here. This is quite strange because I wrote a headline draft before for a new article I was going to write which would of been very similiar to this.

    I think its important to have a structure for both online and offline jobs that you can complete to improve your blogs performance or growth. As you never know when your computer is going to die on you or when your internet is going to crash or when the electric is going to suddenly go off.

  2. Oh dear, more lists, more repeat content, more stuff we already know.

    from Darren: Hannah – seems like you’re not finding ProBlogger useful, this is the third comment saying the same thing in a row. While I’m happy to be critiqued perhaps you could be a little more constructive and tell us what you don’t know – what you think could be added to the post etc.

    Otherwise it kinda looks like you’re just commenting to get attention.

    Like I say – more than happy to be constructively critiqued but you’re starting to look like a troll and that’s not going to really do anyone any good.

  3. the first when i read the topic, I think very impossible…improving with no access pc. Then….yes after read till finish, absolute agree…..very nice posting, you are my best teacher online, thanks

  4. Great advice. I use my time away from the Internet to brainstorm my next post or theme of posts. For the last month I’ve taken every Saturday off from blogging. The break gives me time to reflect and strategize for the next week. During this time the number of visitors has increased and my subscriber count has increased by 30%.

  5. I read two business books a week
    (I speedread – a great skill to have)
    so I always quote books.

    The upside of quoting books
    is you’ll often get a link back from the author.

    Oh, and because you quote books,
    you’ll be sent free books from publishers and authors.
    A wonderful source of even more content.

  6. Yeah you don’t always need to have your computer. One day back in time ideas where generated on paper and large international businesses were born.

  7. I usually read books or play badminton to keep me engaged. But, In my opinion, the best thing to do is take a nap. :-)

    I liked what you wrote about brainstorming a post. And I agree, using pen and paper is the best way to generate some good blogging ideas, even business ideas too.

  8. oh god, this is good.

    i never think about this. good tips darren.

  9. A smart blogger will never be without a pc!

    Nice picture you had to add the apple pc in it huh. Great ideals regarding the brain storming. I don’t plan a day in advance especially not next month!

    Funny you mentioned reading a book. I’m currently reading the Rick Mercer book and it’s pretty funny but has nothing to do with my personal blog topics lol!

    Cool ideals but I would die without pc access…

  10. Reading a book about something I’ve been wanting to learn, or taking that much needed break is always worth the while.

  11. Love that “taking pictures” idea – that’s an interesting way to generate ideas, or even put together a photoblog post. I think a lot of new bloggers worry about the pace of generating interesting content, and there is certainly nothing wrong with mixing it up a bit and stepping outside the “350 word” box once in awhile.

  12. Its nerve wrecking to have a computer or power break down. I use the time for brain storming ideas or spend time with my family :)

  13. Last month I noted how I struggled to get through a 5-day vacation without the Internet, blogs, e-mail and my other daily informational inputs. I was both trying to see if I could do it and also giving in to the pleading of my family, who had been asking me to stay away from the Net and electronic gadgets for at least one vacation.

    Now I’m thinking about taking it a step further and experimenting with the idea of a “technology sabbath,” i.e., taking one day at week to relax and get away from technology to ponder or experience other things.

    Boy, I just don’t think I could do it. At least not on a set basis.

  14. Great post, a piece of paper can be always good to express your ideas…

  15. I often go with friends for a coffee or a walk when I’ve been in front of a computer screen too long. Get some fresh air and exercise.

    Sometimes I even get a few good blog ideas out of it :)

  16. When I started researching my blog and getting my idea’s in order I bought a notebook. Since my blog launched I keep that notebook handy. It’s in my office so if I have a post idea I can jot it down. During lauch I’ll often put the framework for a post together.

    I like tip #5, I think we all need to do that more often!

  17. Wonderful post. I tend to travel a lot and always have some spare time while riding in the car. I always take a notebook along to jot down some new posts ideas for when I get back.

    I think it is a great idea to right down 50 ideas and use them to brainstorm. It can really help when you have a day where you can’t think of anything to write.

    Also, taking photos is an awesome idea. I usually use all of my own work on my blog and it is always nice to have a bunch of new photos to use and compliments to various posts.

    Thanks!

  18. Actually, most of these ideas are good, even when you have access to a computer. Often, changing mediums will get the creative juices flowing, such as writing down post ideas.

    I also use a voice recorder when taking walks and doing things away from the computer to catch those ideas that so easily slip away.

    Good post — especially the idea about taking photographs.

  19. These are actually some ingenious ideas. I’m actually going to try that spider web idea. I’ve had this notebook I’ve been wanting to write ideas in, but I never had any good ways of actually displaying it.

  20. Good stuff Darren….I want to print this so I can read it offline and do your exercise but can’t find the printable version?

  21. Great post from a fellow student blogger!

    I’d suggest brainstorming blog post titles too, and keeping the list somewhere in sight so you’ve always got ideas for content mulling away in the back of your mind.

    I’d also say write down some goals complete with little check boxes beside them, that way you know your blog is always on track to getting where you want to take it. This can really help to prevent you feeling disappointed if an aspect of your blogging isn’t going so well (like your computer packing in!) because you know you’re taking the necessary steps to success.

    Adoration x

  22. When I am laying in bed at night I generate all sorts of ideas on how I can improve my blog and where I’m going to take my blog in the near future. We always have to have a game plan and that is what I’m doing when I am not on a computer.

    They always say you can remember anything if you think of it right before you fall asleep. It’s kind of the same way as if you would study before you go to bed you have a better chance to remember it the next day.

  23. very useful idea, but i dont think i will use this idea because u have 3 computer and my computer never out of action. ^_^

  24. Do something worth writing about – What is your blog about do some activity related to your blog or try putting into practice something that you have written about (could be food for a followup to that article)
    on my blog http://rideyourbike.us/ride.htm almost every experience is a post and http://kidzense.blogspot.com motivates me to get out and do things with my daughter which in turn provides me with activities to write about.

  25. I’ve seen these tips on quite a few occasions and written a post on blogging tips, but it’s still good to refresh the mind and think outside the box.

    I agree with Valeria and just can’t seem to separate myself from my Laptop. Burnout is a real dilemma for a lot of bloggers, i just hope i can keep the juice flowing.

    Cheers for the read (-:

  26. I am definitely with you on creating web-diagrams for brainstorming new ideas for blog content. You tend to be so much more creative when you aren’t constraining yourself to bullet points and lists.

    I really liked this entry, I guess I haven’t really spent that much time thinking about things to do with the blog without actually being on the computer. I’ll definitely be giving the idea you had on Tip #1 a try; it seems like a rapid-fire brainstorming session could be very helpful for generating some new ideas.

  27. Personally, I have struggled with planning my plan for how I want to blog and i personally prefer the on-the-spot writing, but agree that it can take me hours to write that one great post. So, as i begin to work towards a more managed system of attack, this list (though not novel in concept) will become my outline per se. I am a listmaker and like the ideas.

    Thanks. :)

  28. I have found that when I’m away from my computer and decide to work on my blog and brainstorm I can have my whole next month planned in 30min! Because there are no distractions of emails and msn.

  29. I loved this article, gonna print this one out, thank you so very much for the time you put into it and for the valuable insight. Here are the additional steps my incredibly addicted blogging self would take:

    I use any down time to network about my blog via telephone. Sometimes even friends need to be reminded to check it out on a regular basis, subscribe, etc.

    Local newspapers have always been easy contact points of folks who might have a need for content and its amazing how many blog posts can be adapted for print media, with a byline back to your website as an added perk!

    I also carry business cards, actually in my case I carry recipe cards, which have my blog’s address prominently featured across the top. I hand these out to anyone I come into contact with who might be interested (which is just about everyone, but I do wait for a conversation to start up beforehand).

    For every one person you get to visit your blog, it is a potential 100 people who might have otherwise not have found you (likely much more than that!).
    Remember, leads multiply. Some may be stabs in the dark but your chance of making valid and fruitful contacts multiply greatly if you make the attempt!

  30. Nice tip problogger just at time,im going to work to another country and the time i will stay there i wont have internet,so thats my escape to not sell my blog.

    Best regards
    Soares

  31. Good Suggestions. I like the idea of taking your own pictures. It never crossed my mind to start building my own image library. (I’m starting tomorrow!).

  32. It’s always a good idea to develop an article cushion. Write at least 50 articles and have ’em ready to go at a moment’s notice.

    You never know when life is going to make it tough for you to work on your blog. It’s best to be safe than sorry.

  33. I didn’t realize just how much time a blog can consume once you don’t have a computer. The one thing I have to say about this article is heed the sixth creed: Kick ’em up and relax.

    Take your unplanned separation form your circumstances a breath a little. The 13 days between the death of my computer and my purchase of a replacement did in fact help refresh inspiration and most bloggers will notice that in the absence of having a keyboard for instant access to your control panel, your brain automatically begins to generate ideas, almost by instinct.

    Just be sure to have a notepad and pen handy at all times.

  34. Great ideas! I always sit down and jot out my post ideas and organize them on a piece of paper first. It helps tremendously.

  35. Excellent idea on listing out 50 possible headlines. I’m going to try that one. I use a bubble chart all the time right now, it works quite well.

    Another great place to find a possible blog post is in comment sections. Many times people leave great comments on your blog and others which could easily be turned into a blog post. It’s always good to credit the person who gave you the idea (that’s what you’d want, right?).

  36. I use scheduled functions for my vacation and offline time

  37. I have similar approach but in programming. I normally go out and think on the programming part of my projects. :) I will try it out with blogging too :)

  38. I find that when I don’t have a computer around I do much better at brainstorming. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have all of the distractions that come with having the internet and various programs at my fingertips. Paper and pencil is the best.

    And if all else fails, there’s WordPress on my iPhone. *=)

  39. this is great, i absolutely agree with this idea, brilliant!!

  40. My place has been suffering from frequently power failure, and I am doing some of them. But I think I am now having arthritis, I can’t write long. So, my ideas are overflowing when the power resume.

    With this, I try to have time to promote by blog offline – to my friends, office mates (when I was employed) and relatives living far from us.

    Thanks!

  41. Just wanted to thank you all for the thoughtful comments, I’m glad my post was helpful!

    Like most of you, I too find it hard to break away from the computer, but my blogging’s always rejuvinated when I spend time away from the computer screen. For those who are really struggling to take a break from technology, like Valeria, maybe try one day a fortnight if a day a week is too much — or even half a day a week?

  42. It is good to step back, and plan for the future sometimes. Weekends can be used for planning maybe.

  43. I really love this post.
    The guidelines are really helpful and i took down notes :).

    Before i started out i was really confused on what to blog about until i “had a break” and had a rethink of what i really knew, what i’m good at and got to find out many people really need my skills or what i have up my brain.

    Blogging as been a sweet experience ever since and this post has added spice to my stew. Thanks.

  44. Newspapers rile me up to thinking.
    My photo site is set up to publish once a week out at least 2 months.
    My opinion site, about 3 months,
    My NASCAR site… eh, 7 days if it’s not a timely thing,
    The same with my entertainment critic site. Go out 7 days, then double up when I have more.

    This way, I can take a break every few weeks. I think. Oh, no, wait! My break is when I do maintenance and social hob nobbing. dang, no wonder I’m tired!

  45. That’s why I always have at least one usually two Moleskine notebooks (one is hacked into my regular wallet so is always in my pocket) with me at all times to record post ideas, overheard conversation and blog related material.

  46. Great tips. I definitely like to brainstorm with pen and paper because I don’t get distracted as easily as I would at the computer. Another thing that’s been helpful for me on more than one occasion is a tape recorder/digital voice recorder. This is great for when you’re away from the computer and when you’re not able to easily jot down ideas on paper. Just set up the recorder and brainstorm out loud during a commute, etc.

  47. AS always, excellent tips! Have a good day to All!

  48. Great post–and very timely for me! We lost power in part of our house, the side with the computer of course. I had to actually pick up that pen and paper and write down ideas. Imagine that! Thanks for the post!

  49. Some of my best ideas come to me when I’m not at the computer so yeah, great tips.

  50. @ Alex Fraser – Just do the notebook, however you do it. It will evolve and simplify as you do more of it.

    @ Voila Megan – Re brainstorm titles – absolutely. That’s the best part. But as I say above you save them as a draft. It’s hidden to viewers but sure helps you to come back to them later. Anyway that’s what I realized I’ve been doing, say so in my latest post. Works great!

    @j John Hoff – what’s a bubble chart? Is this like the PERT (Program Evaluation and Review Technique) and CPM (Critical Path Method)? The former being the visual display sequential events and time lines used to plan the Polaris Sub program and the latter the Apollo program. Or vice versa, I forget which.

    @ Ali Hale – maybe you shouldn’t schedule it. Just do it when you need it, just so you do give yourself a break.

    @ Mik – Re Moleskine notebook – I never had much success with electronic notebooks. I’m guessing that is what a Moleskine is (now I’ll have to goole it). Maybe I just never had a good user friendly one.