A list of tools and techniques that increased my productivity by 400% last month.
Conciliating a passion and a job is not easy.
Even if it gives you much satisfaction, sometimes you need to put your passion aside because you are too tired, without motivation, or just emptied by work.
I had to give up my writing routine and my blog many times. So many that I felt like I betrayed it, and I started to doubt my love. But then, I came across the words of a great philosopher, Jean-Paul Sartre, who said:
We must act out our passion before we can feel it.
From that moment, I understood that I cannot wait for motivation anymore. So I had to set up an effective blog plan to guarantee productivity and high outcomes from my passion.
Until then, I kept blogging every day, and I never doubted my writing skills ever again.
How to set up an effective blog plan
Blogging is not only about writing, and I learned it the hard way.
When you decide to open a blog, you also need to think about editing, creating content, making SEO, and promoting your work. Some of these skills you may know, some others you may have never heard about, like me.
So the first step I always take to set up an effective blog plan is to split the activities into macro categories. This allows me to concentrate purely on one task at a time without getting too distracted (basically, deep work).
For blogging, I split my activities into four categories: writing, editing, making graphics, and scheduling and promoting.
Let’s analyze each of them in-depth.
1 — Writing
Unexpectedly, writing is the first part of the plan. And even if it seems logical, many people do not realize the importance of creating a time frame for writing to achieve the right mindset.
For my blogging plan, I scheduled four writing sessions on the first two days of the week. But since my schedule is challenging, when it is time to write, I need to deliver, or I could ruin an entire workweek. So there are a few things to consider.
Choose the right timings.
Scheduling the writing session is one of the main problems of an effective blogging plan.
If you don’t work, you have plenty of free time, so you can shape your day as you wish. However, if you have a 9-to-5 job, as most people do, choosing the right time frame becomes relevant.
For my blogging plan, I decided to plan 4 hours a day for writing. The first session is from 6 to 8:30 a.m, while the second is from 7:30 to 10 p.m. This way, I can write before work without the stress of the day. Also, I can take a break between my workday and the second writing session in the evening.
Have an inspired mindset.
If on Monday morning I am not excited, I miss the most productive session of the week. So I need to mentally prepare for the task the day after.
On Sunday and Monday evenings, I define the outline and research the articles I need to write the following day. This kind of activity is not that demanding and helps me slowly charge up for the task. I get excited by the argument I want to discuss, and I get into the right mindset for doing it.
Also, I always have a couple of articles that I could write, so if I notice that one of them does not work as I imagined, I can switch to another without losing too much flow.
For this reason, I created two buffers of articles. The first one contains the ideas I am excited to write, for which I reached the right mindset. The second one instead includes the articles I discarded or new ideas I still need to research.
Set the correct environment.
Different from other activities, writing requires a higher level of concentration. For this reason, I need to set up the correct distraction-free environment.
The first few days I was trying this plan, I noticed how my phone was continuously distracting me. And whenever I accessed it, I could not focus on writing for at least half an hour, so two interruptions would already cost me half of the session.
So I decided to disable all notifications from my phone, PC, and any other digital device that could distract me. When I wake up, I take a shower and then jump right into writing.
I also keep my desk as clean as possible, with a couple of post-its to take notes and the laptop on standby. This setup allows me to start writing and enter the right mindset in only a couple of seconds.
2 — Editing
Some time ago, I was writing and editing my articles on the same day. I was eager to finish the entire article and publish it right away, but that changed after I noticed some still had problems and errors. So I read a couple of articles on how to edit efficiently, and I discovered it is much better to leave an article rest between the writing and editing process.
So I had two choices.
The first one was to use mornings for writing and evenings for editing something I wrote on the previous days. The second one was to split completely writing and editing.
Both options are optimal and make you achieve the same result. However, I choose the second one since I prefer having more time for writing the same day. This way, if I cannot close out an article in the morning, I still have some time in the evening to finish it.
Also, from reading other opinions on editing, I discovered many more tips which I used to set up my effective blog plan.
Reading aloud spots structural errors.
There is a reason why they taught us to read aloud when we were young — it helps us spot structural incongruences much faster.
Hearing your voice interpreting a sentence makes you realize if you wrote it correctly or if it is incomprehensible. Also, you can detect repetitions, unfitting words, and even punctuation errors much faster.
One edit is not enough.
I used to edit my articles once and then consider them ready for publication. However, if I read some of them now, they seem inconsistent.
When you edit a piece of work and correct the errors, you also transform parts of it. But since you are so focused on fixing singular sentences, you tend to forget about the context and introduce repetition of words or even concepts.
For this reason, editing twice or even three times the same article is better than a single pass. On the first pass, you could reshape inconclusive or difficult-to-read sentences. On the second, you should focus on repetitions and lastly on punctuation and grammar.
Use an external support.
Reading aloud is helpful, but it is even better if you pass your text through a grammar app first, so you can easily spot most of the incongruences and concentrate on the subtle ones.
In my experience, the best apps are Grammarly, ProWritingAid, and Hemingway. The first one is mainly for grammar and punctuation, while the other two are for the structure and length of the sentence.
3 — Making Graphics
Customized graphics have become a must for a broader chance of success with an article.
In the social media society, you have to catch the reader’s attention right from the start, or you will lose them. For this reason, you have to strike the sensible part of the brain, which is that of videos and images.
I try to put at least one infographic in each article to summarize or explain the content. This way, I avoid misinterpretations, and I also have better chances of engaging with the attention of my readers.
What if you are not good at graphics?
Even though I studied graphics at university for 2 years, I didn’t know anything about 2D, and I had to train. So I took a couple of Udemy courses and, once I understood vectorial images, I started designing my graphics.
If you want to add them to your articles, you can use free or paid software. For starters, I would suggest Canva, which is the easiest and does not require installation. Then, once you gain some graphical taste, you can try vector imaging software. You can start with something free like Inkscape and then upgrade to Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer.
Do your homework early.
Since I can only use Fridays for graphics if I want to remain on schedule, I have to do my homework and prepare a couple of ideas for each article. For this reason, during the writing sessions, I highlight the best places to introduce an infographic. Then, while editing, I analyze those ideas and keep the useful and understandable ones.
Also, if there aren’t any specific ideas I need to show with graphics, I just summarize the article for the skimmers. This way, I have more chances of catching their attention and making them turn back at the beginning and read the entire article.
4 — Scheduling and Promoting
On the weekend, I schedule my articles and promotions. Usually, one of them comes out on Saturday because people are freer to read it, and I can interact with them more effectively. I automate the others to get published throughout the week without needing any additional attention.
Take care of SEO.
When scheduling an article, I make sure it uses the correct SEO rules, so I paste it on my WordPress account and analyze it with Yoast. Also, to write catchy headlines, I installed on my browser the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer.
After using both services for a while, you will notice some common words that give your titles more power.
If you want to use more powerful words, you can use the premium version of the analyzer. However, if you cannot afford it, you can always create your own words library. The headline analyzer will show you which words are less or more powerful, so just write them in your library for future usage.
Below, there is an example of part of my library.
Also, you can download the printable version if you want to create your own by subscribing to The Challenge.
Where do I promote?
Twitter is the best promotional tool for writers. On the sky-blue platform, you can build a following and have a closer connection with your readers because they can interact with you in real-time.
However, there are other platforms worth using to promote your articles. For example, I publish all my infographics on Pinterest. Also, I discovered the power of headlines and created a graphical template to link my articles there.
Here is an example of one of the posts I have published.
Your promotional plan can include different types of communication. You can create videos on Youtube, record audio versions of your articles, or even use Facebook and Quora. However, you should avoid too many promotion platforms. Even if this multiplies your possibility of receiving exposure, it will also subtract time from your writing.
This is how to set up an effective blog plan that allows you to achieve high productivity each week.
From the moment I started, 3 weeks ago, I consistently wrote at least 4 articles per week, while before, I was writing the same amount in a month.
The main reason behind this upgrade is the scheduled time I take before work. In the early hours of the morning, I can write most of my articles. The silence surrounds me like a protective bubble, so I can think only about writing without getting distracted by anything else.
Also, being aware of each work session helps me a lot. I know when I need to write, edit, make graphics, schedule, and even promote. Nothing is left to chance because chaos ruins my productivity, and yours too.
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Article first published on Start it up.