There’s nothing like the dawn of a new year to get the adrenaline pumping, the motivation at DEFCON level, and the desire to do everything right like a new year’s resolution on steroids when it comes to our blogs. Maybe this is the year we get our big break if we just work hard enough!
I like to do somewhat of a spring clean of my blog at the beginning of the year, while I’ve got a bit of time over the holiday break, and also while I’m in the mood. If you’ve done your end-of-year blog audit, you’ll be in an even better position to kick-start your best year yet, so make sure you’ve got that sorted before you go through this list – it will give you a fantastic indication of where you can improve and what bits need working on the most.
I’m excited, and I know you’re super-keen to get moving, so these are my top tips for getting your blog in tip top shape for 2017. Go get ’em tiger!
1. Dream a dream
This is the bit where I like to go to a coffee shop, get a cup of something nice, and daydream. Where do I see myself in five years? How will my blog help me accomplish that? Where do I want my blog to go? What would I do if money were no object? What would I want to do if there was nothing to hold me back?
Think about where you’re headed – not in a practical sense, but in an anything-is-possible sense. Write it down. Mull it over. Brainstorm for a while. See what your heart desires for you and your blog. The answer might surprise you.
2. Make a plan
Now is the tricky part. How much of those dreams can you accomplish or work towards this year? What is going to be achievable on a practical level?
Write a list of all the things you’d really like to see yourself getting done this year.
- How many posts you want to write
- What kind of topics you want to explore
- What kind of posts you enjoy writing and want to do more of
- How many readers you’d like to end the year with
- Ideas about growing your social media
- Random thoughts about moving into video, podcasting, eLearning, freelance writing, writing a book
- Places you’d love to get a guest post published
- Who you’d like to collaborate with
- Brands you’d like to work with
- How much money you’d like to make
- What you want your blog to achieve
- What kind of products you’d like to create
You get the picture! Write down the things you really want to get done this year, and then jot down next to them three concrete steps you can take this year to work towards that.
If you want to get even more technical, break the tasks down to monthly/weekly/daily and make sure you set aside some time each week to review how well you are sticking to your plan.
3. Set a goal
This can be big or it can be small, it all depends on where you’re at in your blogging career. You can have one goal or you can have five (just don’t have too many, trust me!).
Goals are excellent for giving us purpose and driving us forward, and also giving us some parameters within which to work so we can decide whether opportunities or projects that become available to us are actually worth our time. Does it get us closer to our goal? Do you really want to do it for another reason? No? Well, “no” is your answer!
But I digress.
Think of a goal or goals and work out step-by-step how you’re going to get yourself there. Keep yourself accountable and review often. This advice will get you straight on the path to goal-achieving success:
- How to Set Blog-Changing Goals for the New Year
- Setting Goals: Why You Need Them, and How to Write Them
- Blogging in Brief: Goal-Setting … and Reaching!
- Long-term Goal-setting for Successful Bloggers
4. Nail that editorial calendar
I’ve said over and over again that this was finally the thing that helped me get more done because with a schedule, I was no longer wasting time. Well, I was wasting less time! I could plan out a content schedule, make preliminary notes and ideas for images, and do prior research when I could, so when I would sit down to write there was no faffing about – I had the bones of a post right there in front of me, and I knew when it was due – it felt like the work was already half done. It did wonders for my motivation, too.
Blogging spontaneously is fun. I like it. I always keep spots available for when I want to write off the cuff. But when it comes to keeping continuous, excellent content on my blog, an editorial calendar is MAN-DA-TO-RY.
If you chafe under such restrictions, think it hampers your creativity, or just need a hand getting started, then you might want to check out these posts:
- Creating a Blog Content Plan for 2017
- How to Create a Successful Editorial Calendar
- Mapping Out your Promotional Calendar
- Develop an Editorial Calendar (and How to Do So!)
- 10 Ways to Prepare Your Holiday Blogging Schedule
- Behind the Scenes – My Low Tech Editorial Schedule
5. Set a schedule
Speaking of schedules, I like them for all things – my blog work, my freelance work, my work here at ProBlogger, my housework, our meal plans – all sorts of things! I find they take the stress out of making decisions on the spot, and it allows me to get a head start on things I know are coming up. Everything from dinner to blog post ideas.
You can get all my secrets here: 3 Ways Scheduling Will Make You a Better Blogger, and you’ll find yourself with more time than stress this year. I promise.
What can you lock into your work week that you can then plan around? Make a note of these.
6. Ditch your bad habits
Oh my hand is firmly up here when it comes to doing things the wrong way. But as I said to a bunch of newbie bloggers recently, I think you sort of have to go about things the wrong way to start with, in order to find out what works at what doesn’t. You almost have to get to burnout stage before you make changes that will ensure you’ll never find yourself back there ever again.
Laziness and poor time management were my biggest bugbears before I got them straightened out. Assuming things will work themselves out was another problem vying for the top spot in Dumbest Things I Did While Blogging. Thankfully I took a good, hard look at how I was spending my time and what good habits I had to cultivate to make sure I was making the most of what I had and learning to cut away what no longer served me. You can read about that and get some tips for yourself here: Say Goodbye to Bad Habits: Five You Should Ditch in the New Year.
What are your bad habits? What do you know you need to reverse or alter before the new year starts in earnest? Be honest, now! It’s the only way!
7. Be more productive
It’s everybody’s dream – in the short hours we have to blog, we’d sit down at our computer, and churn out exactly what content we need to, without a wasted moment or an unnecessary break. We’d blog, ninja-style with no human desires to hold us back.
Wellll, we are human, things go wrong, we spend 45 minutes on Facebook instead of writing that post we were going to write, the cat is hungry, our mind wanders, we half-write a post and then go off on a tangent with something else… all too often, we get distracted.
I’m here to tell you that productive people aren’t accidentally productive. They’ve done things to optimise their environment, manage their weaknesses, and give themselves incentives for staying on task. There’s no reason you can’t do the same!
If 2017 is the year you’ve sworn to be more organised and less flighty, we’ve got the goods to help:
- 2x Your Blog Writing Productivity and Reduce Your Stress by Single-Tasking
- How Working Fewer Hours Can Increase Your Productivity
- Applying the Pareto Principle to Increase Your Productivity
- 5 Ways I Use Habits to Stay Creative and Productive When Working From Home
- 7 Productivity Tips for Bloggers
- 10 Ways To Stay Productive as a Work-at-Home Blogger
- 15 Quick and Easy Productivity Super-Hacks for Busy Bloggers
- 7 Ways for Bloggers to Be More Productive
- Want a More Productive Week? Clean Your Darn Desk!
I mean, it’s a hot topic, right? None of us are born knowing how to blog efficiently! It’s like the blogger’s great white whale.
8. Let go of self-doubt
“Despite a lack of natural ability, I did have the one element necessary to all early creativity: naïveté, that fabulous quality that keeps you from knowing just how unsuited you are for what you are about to do” – Steve Martin.
I love that quote – it sums up a lot about what it takes to make it in any creative endeavour. Hard work and no real idea what you’re up against. I think success is a curious mix of a willingness to have a go, and a lack of self-consciousness. Everything worth doing is hard, and there are too many people out there doing everything anyone would ever want to do. That doesn’t mean there isn’t any room for you.
I’ll bet you’ve heard again and again that nobody can write your story but you. That you have something special the world wants, whether it’s whittling spoons or writing the next Great American Novel. You have every right to follow a passion and see where it leads, regardless of how good you think you are at it. We all start from zero.
- Feeling a Bit Lost? 4 Ways to Boost Productivity and Motivation on Your Blog
- Is Your Self-perception Killing Your Blog?
- How to Blog Without Comparing Yourself to Others
- New to Blogging? Ditch the Fear of Judgement
Honestly, blogging is on 24-hour time, and can’t (and shouldn’t want to!) be on call that whole time. We need blogging to fit around our life, not the other way around, and that means automating what you’re comfortable with. From blog posts to return emails, socila media, mailouts, anything that can be automated without pissing your readers off, should be automated.
Just please – PLEASE don’t do auto DMs on Twitter or bot-like comments on Instagram. They’re obvious, and they’re a turn-off. Don’t farm out your authenticity, sense of community, or personality. Automate everything else.
Need some ideas?
- The Top 7 Email Marketing Automation Lifecycle Triggers Every Blogger Should Implement
- Could Marketing Automation Be Hurting Your Blog-Reader Relationships?
- How I Use Edgar to Increase The Effectiveness of My Social Media Strategy
- 10 PBEVENT Speakers Reveal their #1 Life Hack
10. Find your creativity
I always feel a bit wrung out at the end of the year, like a limp rag that has nothing left to give. Therefore, I spend most of my Christmas break reading widely, looking at beautiful, inspiring things, and letting my brain have enough time to daydream and imagine.
I think it’s so important to tap into that part of you that creates ideas and fill it to the brim with thing that will spark it up again. Get back to enjoying the things you love and let it naturally seep into your creative side.
11. Batch your tasks
When it comes time to sit down at your desk and crack open your laptop, you’re going to want to put your newfound new year motivation to good use. Write big lists for every aspect of your blog of things you need and want to do this year, and then batch similar tasks together.
Using the schedule you created earlier, see where these tasks can fit in to your day. Say Monday is a writing day, Tuesday is photography, Wednesday is editing, Thursday is scheduling social media, that sort of thing. Doing like tasks together helps you waste less time and uses less brain resources than flitting between tasks, or doing different sorts of tasks all day long.
- The Science and Art of Batching to Increase Your Productivity
- 5 Reasons Batching Your Blog Content Can Improve Your Productivity
- 5 Tips to Blog Faster
- 3 Steps to Saving Time by Writing Social Media Updates in Batches
- 5 Ways to Make Your Blogging Life Easier
12. Improve your writing
If you’re feeding your creativity before you get started blogging this year, as I recommended earlier, then one of those things you should be doing is reading. Read anything and everything that you think will help you master the craft of writing. Read classics, re-read books you love, read blogs by people you admire, read writing that sparks emotions in you.
Then write. Fill up journals with anything, have a go at different styles, tinker around with how you can make your own writing more emotive. Maybe even take a short writing course, there are plenty to choose from online.
No matter how much blogging and social media changes, the ultimate way we connect with our audience is storytelling. Practice the art of it.
- Five Quick Grammar Tips to Improve Your Writing – Plus Free Cheat Sheet
- Blog like Hemingway: 5 Writing Tips to Improve Your Blog
- The Stephen King Drawer Method for Writing Better Copy
- NEVER SAY NEVER: Do You Always Have to Follow Writing “Rules” to Be a Successful Blogger?
- 7 Small Ways to Be a Better Writer
13. Take better photos
Now also is the time to practice taking photos for your blog. Often if this isn’t where our talent lies, we’re too busy taking care of our to-do list to work on the photography aspect. If you’re still on a break, or you’re in planning mode for your blog, take advantage of these extra minutes to read up on great technique and words of wisdom of those who make excellent photos look effortless.
But more importantly, practice! Make time to really get to know your camera, understand lighting, and play around with composition.
You can find endless amounts of tutorials and guides over on Darren’s other blog, Digital Photography School.
14. Level up your Social Media
It’s time to get your game plan on! This is the year you’re going to share excellent content with regularity. Now, how are you going to do that?
What I would do if I were you is to make a list of all the sites I like to go to for inspiration and information. Maybe put them in a Bloglovin’ or Feedly reader so you can keep tabs on what they produce so you can share them with your audience.
Then I would mine my archives for blog posts that need to be shared again with my audience.
After that, I would have a look for a couple of funny things that my readers would like that suit my brand and personality.
Then I would write up a schedule for when things are going to be shared (take a look at your insights to see who’s on your page and when, and work around those times for sharing).
And above all of that I’d be thinking of how I could serve my readers the best on social media, and how I can allocate my time responding to them and engaging with them. How can I show my personality and be fully present when need be?
- Our Top Tips on Social Media
- How to Make Your Social Media Strategy More Effective for the New Year
- The Step-by-Step Method to Making Your Content Shareable on Social Media
- How to Rock Instagram to Promote Your Small Business
- Why Boosting Facebook Posts Is Not So Bad After All
- 10 Tips and Strategies for a Better Facebook Marketing Campaign
- A Quick way to Get More Facebook Likes for Your Facebook Page
15. Write a Mission Statement
I think if you haven’t already, now’s the time to sit down and write down in a nutshell what your blog is and what it stands for. What you hope to achieve with it, and how you want people to receive it. It only needs a few lines, but it will the the guidepost and the framework from which all your blog decisions will come.
I think one of the best posts about blog purpose or mission statements comes from The Nester, so I’ll let her explain: Why Your Blog Needs a Purpose.
And I wish you well on your new year blogging journey! May you begin it feeling positive, and may the good vibes continue all year long.
What do you like to do to ensure your blog is in tip top shape for the year to come? I’d love to hear!