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The Essential Guide to Growing Your Blog on Minimal Time

Posted By Darren Rowse 7th of January 2009 Blog Promotion, Featured Posts 0 Comments

This is a guest post from Leo Babauta of Zen Habits, author of the new best-selling book, The Power of Less.

If you’re like most bloggers, you probably want to grow your readership as quickly as possible, but don’t have much time.

Unfortunately, blogging usually takes a lot of time — writing blog posts takes up a fraction of most bloggers’ time, as they also check their stats and earning multiple times a day, customize their blog design, try out new blog ad systems, comment on many different blogs, spend a lot of time doing email, and so on.

If you let it, blogging can become two full-time jobs. But get this: you can grow your blog quickly on very minimal time, by setting limits and focusing on the essentials.

I’m just one example: I grew Zen Habits into a Top 100 blog within its first year even though I was working a full-time job and doing free-lance writing on the side — giving me only about an hour a day to work on my blog, total. I probably could have spent more time blogging by working in the evenings or on weekends, but I have a family that’s more important to me than blogging.

So how did I grow Zen Habits so quickly on so little time? Well, I figured out through experimentation what grows a blog the quickest, and I learned to focus my time on those things. And guess what? Checking your blog stats and earnings — even though it’s the thing than many bloggers do most throughout the day — doesn’t really grow your blog, at all. What does? More on that below.


The key to growing your blog with minimal time investment is to set limits on how much time you’ll spend blogging. As I said, blogging can easily expand to fill your entire day, if you let it. In fact, whatever time you allocate to blogging is the time that blogging will take.

So limit your time to something manageable … for me that was 1 hour a day, for others it might be two hours or even three, and for still others it might only be 30 minutes. It really depends on how much time you have. Don’t spend less than 30 minutes on blogging, though, if you’re really serious about it. I’d say an hour to two is ideal. Any more than that and you’re not really setting limits.

So what happens if you set a limit of say, 1 hour? You could waste that hour by doing fruitless tasks, and then your blog will get nowhere. But if you’re smart, you’ll focus on the key tasks that will really help your blog, and nothing else. By setting limits, you’ll force yourself to choose only the most essential tasks.

If you gave yourself 4 hours a day, you could do a lot of tasks, but maybe only 1 out of 4 of those tasks would really grow your blog. If you gave yourself 1 hour a day, you’d have to eliminate 3 out of 4 of those tasks to fit within the time limit, and (again, if you’re smart), you’ll choose the most effective tasks.

Set a timer each day and work within the time limit. And while you’re doing so, be sure to do the most effective tasks first, and if you have time left, go to the next most effective tasks, and so on.


So what are the most effective tasks for growing your blog? It depends on your blog, your goals, your niche, your target audience, and other such factors, but below I’ll share the things that work best for me. Other top bloggers might have different findings.

Experiment to find your essential tasks, and once you’ve found them, focus on them completely. Here are my essential tasks for growing a blog:

1. Writing outstanding articles. This is the No. 1 essential, by far. If you only do one thing each day, this is it. A great post might take more than an hour — that’s OK, do half of it today and half tomorrow. The main reason people come to your blog, and the main reason they’ll keep coming back or subscribe, is because your content is amazingly useful (or interesting, or both). So focus on creating those posts they’ll really want to read. You should be coming out with outstanding posts, with catchy titles/headlines, at least once a week, and probably 2-5 times a week (I am for 4 these days but had 5-6 in my early days).

What is a useful post? Well, this post is an example, I hope — it contains a lot of valuable info and tips on something that people really want to do. Check out Zen Habits for more examples — I try to make almost every post an outstanding one.

2. Linking, and link-bait. This could fall under the same category as the above tip, but sometimes it gets overlooked. Linking to other blogs is a great way to help out your fellow bloggers, get them to notice you, and build up some link karma. You could do it with a daily or weekly links post, but too many of those can get tiring for readers, so I recommend you keep it to weekly at most. Instead, link to other blogs from within your useful posts, and sometimes you might consider doing “linkbait”-type posts where you do a really useful post that links to a lot of other bloggers — for example, my “Top 50 Producitivity blogs” post that I did more than a year ago … a lot of bloggers appreciated being in that post, and just as I sent a lot of traffic their way, they sent some back. Everyone wins.

3. Guest posts. If you’re not writing guest posts every week or two, on blogs that are bigger than yours (even just a little bigger is good, but the bigger the better), then you’re not really trying to promote your blog. In my early days, I did 2-3 guest posts a week on other blogs, and as a result I was everywhere. It’s the best way to promote your blog on other blogs, because you’re showing the other blog’s readers how good you are. Be sure to write your absolute best whenever you do a guest post.

4. Commenting. First, be sure to read through the comments on your blog and respond if you can — this could take just 10 minutes if you do it quickly. Second, spend another 10 minutes if you have the time to comment on other blogs — and don’t just spam them, but actually say something relevant, useful and interesting. It helps you get noticed, and helps you become a part of the network of blogs (especially in your niche).

5. Email and networking. It’s important to respond to reader email, and to network with other bloggers through email, IM, Twitter, etc. Networking helps you to grow, definitely, but if you let them, these connectivity tools can overwhelm your day. So put them last, and limit them if you can. If your time is limited, just do the emails you can process in 10 minutes. Increase that to 20-30 minutes if you have more time, but don’t spend hours on these tools.

Minimize Non-essentials

Just as it’s important to focus on the essentials, it’s crucial that you limit and try to eliminate the non-essentials as much as possible. While you have to work on these things a little, now and then, don’t let them fill your allocated blog time.

1. Blog stats and earnings
. Sure, I like to check my stats daily — but only once a day, and only for a minute or two to make sure everything’s OK. In the early days I became a little obsessive about checking blog stats and earnings, but after a little while I figured out that it wasn’t a smart use of my time. Blog earnings (from ad networks such as Google Adsense) are fun to look at, but if you’re like most blogs you won’t make a lot of money in the early days, until you have a lot of readers. So focus instead on growing the readers, and worry about the earnings later.

2. Ad networks. Many bloggers get excited about earning a side income (or even a main income) from their blog and throw every ad network possible on their blog — in fact, the ads often overwhelm the content. But that’s counterproductive — readers don’t go to a blog to read the ads, and if there are too many ads, the readers might leave or unsubscribe, never to come back. Instead, consider putting no ads, or as few as possible, in your early days … you’ll miss out on very little in terms of earnings, and you’ll probably grow even faster as a result. At any rate, fiddling with ad networks is very rarely worth your time — it does nothing to grow your blog.

3. Blog design. A good blog design can definitely help grow your blog — if it’s clean, uncluttered, attractive, and professional-looking, I think a lot of readers will be more likely to stick around. But spending a lot of time on your design when you could be writing great posts is not a smart use of your time. Instead, pick a clean, uncluttered theme, customize it as needed, and leave it alone. Maybe once in awhile you can remove a little clutter to make things more attractive, but most of the time. leave it alone.

4. Blog memes. As far as I can remember, I’ve only participated in one blog meme — those things where bloggers answer the same 5 questions (or whatever) and “tag” other bloggers to do the same. That’s not because I’m stuck up, or think these memes aren’t fun. They are fun. But they’re rarely of much interest to your readers, as they’re not that useful. Sure, they like to read a little about you, but too often and you’re just stroking your ego. Stay away from these memes if you’re looking to maximize your time.

5. Reading lots of other blogs. Don’t get me wrong — you have to read other blogs, especially in your niche, to stay on top of things. But if your time is limited, your reading time should be limited too. Reading 50 blogs instead of 10 doesn’t grow your blog any more.

6. Plugins and widgets. WordPress plugins and widgets, while fun to play with, don’t grow your blog very much, if at all. Don’t mess around with them too much. Focus on content.

7. Social media. Some bloggers spend a LOT of time on Digg, StumbleUpon, and other such social media. And while it can help tremendously to have a popular post on one of these social media, spending time on them isn’t the best investment of your time. Very, very few bloggers ever become a top user on these sites — it’s really hard, and worse yet, it takes a lot of time. A better use of your time is to write a Digg-worthy post, or a post that will spread like wildfire on StumbleUpon or Delicious — not because you’re friends with lots of the users, but because it’s insanely useful, interesting, controversial, or what have you.


Even if you’ve set limits and identified the essential and non-essential tasks, it’s easy to get distracted. It’s important that you learn to clear away distractions, such as email, Twitter, IM, social sites and even general Internet browsing, so that you can focus on the important tasks.

If you look at the essential tasks that I listed above, most of them are writing — which means you could do them with the browser closed, in a word processor or text editor (this post is being written in TextEdit, for example). This really helps you to clear away distractions and focus.

Once you’re done with the writing, you can connect and comment and do email, but even then try to stay away from the distractions until you’re done. Then if you have spare time, feel free to go wild.

Read more from Leo Babauta in his new best-selling book, The Power of Less: The Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essentials … in Business and in Life.

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. This was great information. I am finding myself consuming my time with my blog rather than writing good content. I am fairly new at this and trying to learn what I should be concentrating on. I also watched the first video and signed up for the second. this is really good helpful information.

    Thanks so much
    John http://www.jjbullard.com.

  2. Thanks for the very useful post (they always are!). Give new bloggers, like me, some focus.

  3. Thank you for this post. Focus is really the important thing, put your phone on silent mode, turn off TV etc. I usually schedule something interesting to do after blogging, that way you are enjoying mere the fun task at hand.

  4. It surprised me just how well linkbait list articles worked on my blog. However, it was a little discouraging to see that the surges in traffic come from posts that do not take as much thought, especially when there was a considerable amount of “higher caliber” content.

  5. What an excellent post. As a new blogger, I appreciate the tips on how to stay focused on the more important things and how to use my time more effectively.

    Sometimes I find myself spending more time reading about how to blog than actually sitting down at the keyboard and writing content for my blogs. I have set some goals for my blogs in 2009 and now I will put your advice to set limits and stay focused on the top of my list.

  6. Awesome tips! I am bookmarking this to save and read more of later. I really want to grow my tiny blog.

  7. Great post – I’m just getting started and I’m already making the mistakes you have pointed out here – this was a timely and useful blog article for me!

  8. Today was the perfect day for me to read this! I just started blogging a couple of weeks ago. I did not set out to do it for money, but quickly realized that if I want people to read my blog, I need to use the same SEO tactics that marketers use to attract readers. If I don’t have any readers, what is the point? The problem has been that in doing research about how to get going, I’ve been overwhelmed with all the tasks that other bloggers say that I need to do. Writing, researching, adding cool plugins, reading other blogs, commenting, social networking, etc. – I’m exhausted! I’m going to take your advice and start prioritizing things more carefully, starting right now with getting some sleep instead of reading anymore blogs!

  9. this all sounds great… i am definately going to apply some of these tactics, and some of them i already do… like stats, only once in a while, as i can tell how i’m dong by comments and inbound links.

    however, i think you are missing one huge point and time consumer and that is research. i cannont stress enough how much research plays into developing quality content. writing a post is no problem, but unless i’m writing random stuff out of my mind *which no one cares about* each post has research behind it. not to mention the time it takes for image sourcing, whether from creative commons or my own photos.

    i wish i didn’t have to do so much research, but unless i’m writing drivel, or stuff that everyone else has i’m going to have to do it. actually, i take that back, i like the research part, i was doing it anyway before i started my blog, in fact it was one of the reasons i started it.

  10. Thanks for pointing me out what I’ve already known but afraid to admit :)
    I definitely fall under those distractions more often than not, which obviously taking away my precious and already limited time to do what is the most important thing, i.e. writing great post.

    Cheers !

  11. Thanks so much! I definitely need to get started on guest posts. May I suggest adding a link to your “How to Get Guest Blogging Jobs” article to this post? When I saw your suggestion in this article, I immediately searched your blog for an article on guest posting, and found it very informative. As always!

  12. Good Article. Only at 4 I would not agree. I can’t comment many blogs within 10 minutes. I need the whole 10 minutes to read one article (if it is a good one, like yours)

  13. Very interesting article. I am in the process of starting to build a blog so I will keep these things in mind.

    At the moment it is growing quicker than I ever imagined but I worry that it will run out of steam too quickly!



  14. Excellent article. It can be hard to focus of the right activities and all too easy to get distracted by other stimilus on Facebook etc. that don’t really help your cause.

    Article writing also takes some getting used to but improves with practice in terms of quality and time taken to produce.

    PatB Photography

  15. As a new blogger, I really appreciate the points made in this post. This is GREAT information! I admit I have been in the “stat checking” mode in these first few weeks – definitely a time waster!

    Thanks for the advice and GREAT information! This will definitely help me in this new endeavor!

  16. I really enjoyed the post as well.

    However, do you all really think that commenting on other blogs is an efficient use of time?

    Most comment links do not count for SEO purposes, and the traffic from comments is low compared to other sources most of the time.



  17. I have found that another good thing to do is socialized with other people in your business or niche. When I first started on Linkedin I was a little skeptical that it would be worth it. It has helped me not only make contacts, but has helped with focusing my “position” in the market and given me article ideas.

  18. simple common sense really, but it’s always best reminded sometimes.

    yeah, i’m guilty on those stats and social media.

    blog posts should really come first.

    thanks for a great article!

  19. That’s really great advice. I some how realized that,, but wasn’t sure whether I’m finding reasons for not to work hard. An eye opener.

  20. NNNOOO!!!! EVEN AFTER ONLY A COUPLE HOURS, I am the 132’nd comment!! UGH.


    Anyway, great post.

    Have a great day! -Edward Brown


  21. I like blog memes too much not to do them, and I don’t get them enough to really impact my productivity. However, the other tips are right on the money. Great advice.

  22. Really useful post :) I’ll surely follow your advice but I think one hour a day is very little time for new bloggers as I am also a new blogger. Anyways thanks for such a nice article.

  23. Awesome post Leo! something clicked in my head after reading the “Limits” part… i’ve been looking at blogging the wrong way…

    BTW Leo, we have a mutual friend from guam…

  24. Once you add upgrading wordpress etc to the list, the amount of time spent messing with a blog can easily run into hours.

    I probably spent 2-3 hours on WP Super Cache alone this week.

    From now on I’m all about my tropical fish posts. :)

  25. Leo this is excellent. I will put this into action and watch my blog grow. Thanks for sharing your expertise.

  26. This is a great article and a timely one at that.

    I know I spend too much time looking at stats. I’m really trying to break that habit. I’ve also fallen into the social media frenzy where I spend a lot of time trying to promote my blog through social media while I would be wise to spend that time writing more quality content.

    I’ve written a few guest posts, but this article reemphasized the fact that I really need to key in on writing guest posts.


  27. I am still new to blogging, started in December (just last month) and trying to figure out my niche. I love to write and love helping others, but I would also like to tell others how successful I am in working from home. So I hope to find a new year with new focus. this post will be kept for me to read again as I do need to focus! I am looking forward to learning from others who are successful in blogging.

  28. I just read an article at Marelisa’s Abundance Blog that talked about “analysis paralysis”, which very much fits in with what you’re talking about. Sometimes you have to stop planning, thinking, researching, etc etc and just write!

  29. Good information…thanks for the advice…Mike

  30. Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated!

  31. At least I confess being guilty of checking the ad sense stats every hour. That’s insane, I admit. But in fact I’m happy to earn anything at all from two blogs that I spend about hour a day with.

  32. Great tips. I think a lot of us, especially those new to blogging, are easily distracted by the non-essentials. Checking stats and earnings can almost become an addiction. Its great to get a reminder on avoiding these distractions and focusing on the things that will help grow a blog.

  33. Very nicely done.
    I think we were writing at the same time:
    A little different perspective, more personal and ethics-centered but some of the same conclusions.

  34. Great article. I totally understand not having alot of time. I do so many things in short amounts of time. This article gave me a few tips I can use.

  35. great tips Leo, thank you! and congrats on your book!

  36. Great article!

    I find that many of us who have a main source of income blog as a hobby, and I am one of those bloggers. I do in fact try to monetize my blog, and have made some coin that bought me neat toys.

    If blogging was a living I would be a grunt and turn over every stone I could find.

  37. Leo that’s a bingo!

    I couldn’t agree more on the importance Guest posts. I really helps your reputation and gets you noticed fast. I try to do at least 2 to 3 per month when time permits, but hope to do more soon.

    Thank you!

  38. Leo –
    Wow, what perfect timing. Having been blogging for a little over a year, and hitting somewhat of a plateau, I’ve been searching for ways to increase traffic. I came up with a list of ideas, and half of them were on your “non-essential” list.
    I love your “one hour per day” and guest posts ideas. And most importantly, you’ve reminded me it’s all about great content. That’s going to ne my #1 goal for 2009.

  39. Well, for me these guidelines open my eyes a little more concerning to expose my blog which is also a Magazine and Radio Station. I find really hard to monetize my blog without the usual tools bloggers have to do it. I use the old fashion way of selling add space, to bands, promoters, record labels. I think extending even more my blog way down with more space ads would be a little too much for the blog itself. I hate ads, I don’t like to scroll down a page because of one or two ads, and I thing I’ll never do that on my blog.
    With so many blogs and websites on the WWW, every day is hardier to promote and expose our daily work.
    Oh, by the way, and maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I found my self as one of the few persons who write and try to promote music, bands and related subjects almost (well ’till today) for nothing. It’s a pleasure to write and help our Idols!

    Cheers all!

  40. thanks for remaind me, the useful guide…..with limit time …getting bigger result

  41. But if you don’t have anything to do, you can extend that limit or just consume that extra time on other tasks. But it’s good to set limits and pressure yourself. In reality, 2 hours is not enough if you want to grow your blog fast. :)

  42. Thank you Darren! Very informative and interesting. I didn’t realize how all the other distractions were limiting my focus and time. I would love to be a guest on another blog and am always open to having a guest on my blog.


    James Wicketts

  43. Great post! Definitely a lot of useful information and tips. I’ve been blogging for about 3 years, but only recently moved to proper host which allowed more flexibility and was wondering just how others do it in terms of their traffic flow etc.

    Some of the tips mentioned I managed to pick up from visiting other blogs, other tips I’d be sure to try out.

    Another thing I would like to know though, is the guest post, how would one go about getting into that? I’d love to do that, that would definitely love to get my writing exposed on a much larger scale.

  44. What a fantastic post and a great read for people who almost allow blogging to take over their life (me)! I do not actually count the number of hours I spend on my blog but I feel it is too much.

    Thanks for this post! I am very much enlightened!

  45. Amaziiiiiiiiiiing post. I could not think how much time and energy you invested in this post. I would take me a month to do so and the product might be much worse than this :-)


  46. A very good article and will figured out problems with a blogger. The main problem a blogger face is distraction which not make there blog grow fast.
    Focusing on writing great content is the most important part and most of the blogger fails in this part. In this article Leo Babauta has pointed how not to get distracted this is the advice I liked most.

    One more thing where are you Darren there are not much post these days from you. I am waiting for your post.

  47. Good guest post… learned a few tips from it.

    http://Buzvia.com – Where’s Your Traffic Going?

  48. thank for this useful information, i am just a new blogger and most of time i think i spent my night on what you call it Non-essentials.

    great advise,

  49. i love the advices and ideas you share to bloggers like me. i get lots of ideas that i would surely execute.. thanks! more powers!

  50. Great post Leo!

    Thanks for all the tips on focusing our efforts and drilling down to the bare essentials for what really grows our blogs.
    I have to admit I was guilty of spending way too much time on stats, plugins and site design. Thankfully I have been able to realize the precious time that I was wasting.

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