Dave Pollard's chronicle of civilization's collapse, creative works and essays on our culture.
A trail of crumbs, runes and exclamations along my path in search of a better way to live and make a living, and a better understanding of how the world really works.



December 29, 2003

TIME-SAVERS FOR BLOGGERS

Filed under: Using Weblogs and Technology — Dave Pollard @ 10:46
save timeAs much as I enjoy blogging, there are times it becomes an ordeal, especially when I am plagued by deadlines or a heavy workload. As I’ve reported before, being an empty-nester and night-owl allows me to devote 2-3 hours per day to the hobby — most of the time. When I can’t, it shows. How can you maintain a good blog in less time? Here are a few ideas.
  1. Read less. Whether you use ‘push’ tools (RSS feeds) or ‘pull’ tools (browsing your blogroll), you’re probably trying to read far too much every day. How much of what you read, and see in the news, really matters? I’ve cut the number of periodicals I read by a factor of 5, and I rely on the people in my blogging and other communities to catch what little I miss as a result.
  2. Read what you do read less often. I used to scan 150 blogs three times a week, and now I read a selected few twice a week, and the rest only every 14 days. One day a week (usually Saturdays, when the blogosphere is quietest) I spend an hour serendipitously scanning my beloved Salon blogs (especially new ones) and specialized online journals.
  3. Filter your reading. Use news filters to capture only articles on subjects that are of particular interest to you. If that still produces too much, narrow the filters until you’re down to a manageable volume (for me that’s 20 carefully selected articles a day). A good way to tell if you’re filtering out important news is, after reviewing the news that makes it through your filters, check out Technorati’s Breaking News or Google’s Top Stories or the NY Times’ Most E-Mailed Stories. Eventually you’ll reach a balance between too much and too little, and you’ll no longer be a news junkie.
  4. Read faster. On average I read two books a week, and with practice I’ve learned to speed read. The key to this is focus — it’s said that our mind can process information at ten times the rate most people read, so you need to avoid distractions and mental wandering and ‘read with a mission’. And no, that doesn’t take the fun out of it — in fact because my comprehension is higher I think I enjoy reading more than I used to.
  5. Browse faster. Learn to scan through large numbers of articles, long reports and web pages to recognize the 10-20% that is actually worth reading. Use headlines, synopses and abstracts to decide what not to read, and be critical in deciding what to read. Once you know thousands were killed in the Iran earthquake, what further detail is really useful? Who cares what’s happening to Michael Jackson, no matter how lurid the headline? Why get worked up about the latest hysterical Code Orange alert? Instead, use the time to read analysis and background on stories that are unsensational but which have longer-term and more important implications for the world, and for you personally.
  6. Be more focused in your writing. Pick a few topics about which you are passionate, that you think others may or should be passionate about, and write mostly about them, rather than writing a little bit about everything under the sun. Evolve your list of topics over time. Be creative and proactive and attentive in what you write about, rather than being reactive so your blog articles are always ‘wrenched from the headlines’. That gives you more scope to differentiate yourself from the A-listers, who have the headlines covered, and while that may cost you Google hits it will ultimately draw a more faithful audience. And of course, as you learn in Journalism 101, write about what you know (or at least do your research).
  7. Write faster. Writing courses can teach you this. It’s a matter of discipline — using outlines, starting with your thesis and your conclusion and then logically filling in the rest, being organized, doing your research first, avoiding distractions and not over-editing.
  8. Write more concisely, and if necessary, less often. Tight writing can actually take longer than concise writing, but it will discipline your thinking, and when you get good at it it will save you time, and your readers will appreciate it too. If your writing is really good, you can write less often — every second or third day — without losing your audience.
  9. Tell true stories and provide live, first-hand reports. Write looser. That’s not a contradiction of #8. True stories tend to write themselves and require less discipline to recount, and they’re engaging to read and they’re unique — no one else can tell your story. (Invented stories are harder, however.)
  10. Split the workload with other bloggers. You can join a group blog like Radio Free Blogistan has become, or you can simply agree with some other bloggers interested in the same things that interest you, to focus on different aspects of the subject and cross-link to each others’ blogs. That requires you to write less and brings you readers from the other blogs.
  11. Narrow your audience. If you focus on a narrow group of potential readers, like those interested in Harry Potter or the South Beach Diet, you can develop truly rabid fans, and make it much easier to decide what to write about.
  12. Learn to type properly.
  13. Budget your time. If the time you’re spending (or think you should be spending) blogging has you stressed, maybe your blog has become a Quadrant III activity. Time to revisit the purpose, and budget time for your blog, so it either becomes more important or less urgent.
  14. Give yourself time to think, to experience offline, and to think creatively. This is the most important time-saver of all. Don’t just react to what you read and see in the news. Get away from reading and your computer and other media, take a walk, do things that stimulate your creativity and give you unique material to write about, talk to people to get different viewpoints and ideas, clear your mind, think about what’s really important to you, what you really believe, what you think needs to be done and said, and then write about that. The time you spend in unencumbered thought will be saved many times over in the process of reading and writing: You’ll know exactly what you want to say, your enthusiasm and creative energy will make your writing easier, faster and more entertaining and valuable to readers, and you’ll find it much easier to say ‘no’ to wasting time reading and writing about things that are suddenly much less important.

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