The ultimate guide to blogging when you don’t have time to blog

This is a blog post for anybody who has trouble finding the time to blog. In other words, everybody.  I humbly submit a few practical ideas to help you become a time-efficient blogger.

1)  Leap.I mentioned this in a recent post, but it bears repeating. The number one challenge most bloggers face isn’t time, it’s CONFIDENCE. Can we agree that you will take the leap? You will?  Good, I knew it!  You may proceed to item 2.

2)  Don’t be Chris.  Kids practicing basketball pretend they’re Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. They won’t be, but they can still have fun playing basketball.  When I first started blogging, I tried to be Chris Brogan, who writes at least one post every day. I nearly killed myself. The bionic blogger and has set the bar unbelievably high.  You can’t be Chris, but you can be YOU quite successfully.  That’s good enough.

3) Take a little bite. Take the pressure off yourself by setting a goal of writing just one 400-word essay a week.  Doesn’t that sound MUCH easier?  Bonus points: Long posts lose readers any way.

4) Set sacred blog time. How long will it take you to write that one short essay? Probably an hour?  Give yourself the gift of one quiet, undisturbed, productive hour each week to write.

5) Write lots of headlines.  It takes time to come up with ideas so write them down right when they come to you. Inspirations for blog topics are everywhere. When I see an interesting tweet or news article that could be a post subject, I go into WordPress and quickly write the headline for the essay. That way, when it comes time for my quiet hour, I have a whole list of  essay topics to choose from.

6) Stop second-guessing.  Go back to your essay a day or so before you intend to publish it.  Proof it. Tighten it up.  And after 15 minutes, stop!  You can waste far too much time re-writing and second-guessing yourself.

7) You don’t have to be profound.  Here’s a recent post from my friend Danny Brown.  He saw something interesting — a video demo of the electronic magazine of the future. He simply pasted the YouTube link into his blog, wrote a brief comment, and voila — c’est le post.   This was a fun, interesting article.   He did good work. How long did it take him to write it?  Probably 10 minutes.

8) Listen to yourself.  A lot of people tell me that my blog posts reflect questions and concerns they have but have never articulated. Why not?  When you have a thought, idea or rant — write it out at that very moment when it is fresh and you are full of passion. This is the most efficient way to write and it almost always results in a great post.

9) Leave the technical stuff to a technical person. Don’t spend your precious time trying to figure out why your blog widgets are haywire.  Pay an expert to figure it out, even if you like that technical stuff … especially if you like that stuff!

10) Try a video blog. I haven’t worked this area myself yet, but if you’re naturally eloquent, it might be a lot quicker for you than writing out a post. Best practice: Jason Falls.

11) Turn your comment into a post.  You probably contribute comments to other blogs. Why not re-use the time it took to write that comment? Copy your comment and use it as the seed for an original post.  Look at the comment section today. How many of these ideas could become a stand-alone article?

12) If you run out of ideas, see number 6. Repeat as needed. Seriously though, Google “ideas for blogs.” There are lots of lists of thought-joggers out there.  If you are having trouble blogging, write about it.  Seems like that would be the best cure.

I hope that gives you a practical framework to have some blogging success, even when time is tight. What other time-saving tricks can you recommend?

Other posts that might help:
Ten ideas for the beginning blogger
Can you out-source authenticity? (Great comment section!)
Successful business blogging in just one step
Blogging is the ultimate team sport
How to be a ghost blogger

All posts

  • Give yourself one or two regular features a week. E.g. Pic of the Week or The Friday Interview. Readers like familiarity and it can take the pressure off you having to come up with a new angle everytime.

    Then after six months or so you’ve got material for an E-book of interviews or themed posts.

    When ghostblogging for other people these kind of posts keep me more saner than normal.

  • Mark

    @Jon Outstanding ideas. Interviews are also really fun to do.

  • Thanks. I’m doing a guest lecture on this topic today. Think I’ll just send this link and go have a beer instead!

    While I agree with your advice in #6 about proofing and tightening after you publish, you may get some backlash from the 2.0 purists who believe once a post it up, it should remain in its original form — typos and all.

    To that I say, pshaw! We’re professionals, after all. But it is important that our editing and proofing not change the substance or tone of the original post, since that’s what the discussion flows from. If you have things to add, just mark them clearly as “updates.” Need a clarification? Insert it and label it as such.

  • Indeed. I am a blogger to be. The fright that scares — tech back end. So, has class on importing Word Press into self-hosted Web site. Thought I’d pass that along to those similar to me.

    Review past tweets. I know there’s a column or five within mine. Now just need to begin jotting the list of headlines just as my mentor has advised today.

    Thanks, Mark!

  • Mark,

    I read the title and thought you are going to talk about an automated software that can read my thoughts and post to my blog -> thus saving me the time 🙂

    I am slowing getting up and running again. Just thought I will say hi. Keep up the good work and flow of new ideas

  • Mark

    @Bill — Sorry, I was not clear! My intent was to advise that you proof and edit BEFORE you publish. Ironically, I will go back to the post and change it! Ha!

  • Irony is a great device and should be part of every blogger’s toolkit! But like you, I don’t see a problem with fixing gaffes after the fact. Like I said, we’re professionals here. We get it write — er, right.

  • Mark

    @Jayme — Of course I had you in mind when I wrote this post. If tech stuff is an obstacle to blogging progress (and in your case, this equates to business progress too) farm it out! I learned this the hard way and got eaten alive by trying to do the tech myself.

    @Nitin — I am so very glad to hear from you! We need you back in blogdom. Let me know how I can help.

  • Fantastic ideas and resources, Mark (and thanks for the shout – yes, about 10 minutes!).

    One of the things I’ll be starting shortly ties into your video approach. I’m messing around with Wetoku, which allows live split-screen video interviews right on your blog post or website. Then you can just embed the code and you have the recorded version for anyone that missed it.

    You can check them out here:

    Looks a pretty simple yet cool idea 🙂

  • @Danny,
    That’s pretty cool. Thanks for sharing the suggestion.

  • Another idea for the writing challenge (ah, that’s me) use Dragon to convert your thoughts to text. Or if the topic hits you while away from your machine, hit the record button on iPhone and email it to yourself. As long as it’s under 30 seconds, it will covert to text and viola! the white page isn’t blank anymore. You can begin by editing your thoughts.

  • Mark

    Wow. GREAT ideas coming through today! Thanks everyone!

  • I like to recommend tumblr as a “blog lite” tool—it’s a great way to get dip your feet in the blogging water, see if you like it.

  • @Michelle
    I’ve not really used Tumblr. Do you think it could be a useful microblogging channel as a complement to a more substantial blog / social media presence ?

  • I always had the problem of trying to “hit it out of the park” on the first draft of a post and writing it would end up taking hours. This was even with an outline.

    Then I tried just writing the damn thing once through without going back to revise. But I noticed the 2nd revision became MUCH easier to render the post the way I wanted it.

    Of course I still feel like a rookie blogger learning my way so one of your tips will surely help.

    Thanks for a great post Mark!

  • Mark

    @Michelle and @Jon I teach, consult and have a family, so one of the ways I try to keep it together on the social media scene is to limit the number of platforms I work in. I focus on my blog, Twitter and LinkedIn with a dash of Facebook, YouTube and Slideshare. I can’t handle too much more than that frankly, even if it would benefit me. How about you? Do you have the same kinds of limits or do you have time to dabble?

  • Mark

    @Johnny I’m so glad this was helpful to you. Thanks for taking the time to say so! That makes my day. I think it was Thurber who said there is no such thing as good writing, only re-writing, so your method is sound!

  • Jim LeBlanc

    My New Years Resolution was to start a blog. And that has been the problem. I’ve STARTED the blog, but have not had the guts to put it out there yet. This is the push I’ve needed. If it’s OK with you I will send you a link. Could you give me some feedback? Your work on {grow} continues to inspire me, Mark. I will DO THIS!

  • Mark

    @Jim Of course, I would be honored.

  • @Mark Like you I’m a busy guy. I work full-time as a consultant and do a fair amount of teaching and public speaking so that, plus the four basset hounds (yes, I run a small kennel too) and family keep me very busy. Speaking, my blog, and twitter (in that order) are what bring in the business. I use Scribd, SlideShare and YouTube often as part of my work and Facebook for keeping up with friends.

    I would say that of all the social media sites right now Facebook is the one clients contact me most about. Facebook Pages are great for building communities.

  • Polly

    Another great post … excellent suggestions, especially for those wary of jumping in.

  • Jenn Whinnem

    Mark always seems to read my mind, then post about what I needed to know. How does he do that? Is this a service he should offer?

    I’m in the process of convincing a client to blog, and these well-articulated points will help me do the job, I believe.

  • Mark

    @ Jenn — thank you for your kind comments. I don’t read minds, but I just step up and say what everybody seems to WANT to say! : )

    @Polly — Hey [email protected] Thanks for stopping by today Polly!

    @Jon — Damn. That’s impressive. And you blog more than I do!

  • Steve Dodd

    Well said, and an inspiration for many (including me) which is why you have 8000 followers….now if I could just get past #1. Commenting on someone else’s brilliance is easy….communicating your own (especially if you are challenged to feel you have any), well for many of us can be a challenge. Kinda why there are more people in audiences than on the stage.
    But, I’ve really gotta do this and so do so many others with so many important thoughts to convey. If people would just say what they feel, alot of the issues you have talked about for months could be resolved!

  • Mark

    @Steve I’ve enjoyed your passionate and well-articulated commentary on {grow} and look forward to the day you start blogging, if you decide it is something that supports your personal goals.

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  • Great post. Thanks. Just the inspiration and push I needed.

  • Mark

    @ Jim — Glad this was helpful. Let me know if you go for it. I’d like to see your stuff.

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  • Kathy Snavely

    Written just for me – could call it “Blogging for the Slow to Make Time for It.” Thanks for the encouragement!!

  • Mark W. Schaefer

    @Kathy. LOL! Glad this helped!

  • Hi Mark,
    What I find amazing is that my last blog post followed the Tip you mentioned on #11. Part of that post was to be a ‘comment’ on your post(Twitter snob). Then I sat down to think about it and realized that the intended comment could be a blog post in itself.

    Secondly, you put up this post just as I was delaying finalizing another post, thinking it was not ‘profound’ enough (your #7).


    In any case, I have to now thank you for two blog posts. This is it 🙂

  • Mark

    Oh Man you made my day Jacob. Seriously that is so awesome. Thanks for letting me know!

  • Jeremy Floyd

    Akin to number 11, Quora is a great place to troll for blog topics–especially threads that have lots of activity.

  • Very true. If only I could have predicted Quora when I wrote this in early 2010. : )

  • Mark,

    Okay, so this one is a little “gipper” for you, but my suggestion on top of this is don’t quit. When I started in 2009, there were at least two dozen other blogs that were focused on my industry. Within six months of starting, half of them were gone, and even today there are only a handful that are still committed – mine included.

    It took me a good year to find my voice and find a blogging rhythm – being able to do many of the steps above on a regular basis, and to develop my voice. But now that I have, it’s like a drug, and it’s really fun to write.

    All because I didn’t quit.

  • Anonymous

    Love the “bionic blogger” comment! And I think smileypoint8 is spot on. When we listen to our inner voice and acknowledge that what it’s saying is important, has value, and is begging to break free, that’s the time we should have the courage and conviction to write it down.

    Sometimes we might think it’s all been said before, what that voice is saying is too controversial or dangerous (yahoo!) or that the concept is too difficult to articulate…even more reason to go with it.

    Great guide: especially the tip to stop second-guessing. Kaarina

  • Sometime you gotta “just do it!” : )

  • “Listen to yourself” and “Make your comment a post” are my favorites. Will do!

    I am getting better!

  • Awesome! Good luck!

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  • I so need this one right now! Thanks for the reminder on twitter! See there is value promoting old posts.

  • Good ideas. My tip follows your ‘turn a comment into a post’ idea. I try to regard every retweet I want to do as a blog opportunity that results in a tweet to my own content. The originator will appreciate a link in a post more than on Twitter.

    I have a tablet with me at all times (Galaxy Tab makes a perfect portrait thumbing device.) which helps to note, store and share (WordPress app works great)

  • Carol Mast

    Those are great ideas!  I too, write “headlines” as soon as I think of an interesting topic.  Often I photograph what I’m making, or whatever is beautiful to look at  (my blog is more food/home decor/DIY related, so I use lots of photos).  I upload the photos right away, so I have visual cues that help inspire what I will write.  

    Ironically, you tweeted something today that inspired me to write a post (I’m quoting your tweet and using it as a starting point for a topic…hope that’s okay).  I’ll send you a link when that I post that one.

  • Hurray. I love when synergies like that occur. Can’t wait to see it!

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