Blogging smarter in 2016

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I have never been organised. Self-disciplined, yes. Efficient, nope. It’s a toxic combination that more often than not leads to late nights and needless stress. By the end of 2015, I’d worked myself into a muddle. I was behind with my reading, my reviewing and my writing, and putting a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself to catch up, which made me a super un-fun person to be around.

And that was silly. I started Lectito as a way to connect with other readers and fangirl about books. It was supposed to be a release, not some hulking leviathan that followed me around and made me feel guilty when I wasn’t giving it my full attention. I wasn’t naive; this isn’t my first foray into the blogosphere. I knew I’d initially need to invest a lot of time while I learned my way around the book blogging community. However, when I get excited I get ambitious, and I soon found myself trying to come up with meaningful content almost daily, hanging about on more social media platforms than I have fingers and following countless other book blogs via email, WordPress Reader, Bloglovin’ Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Meanwhile, ARCs started coming in faster and faster and I was scrabbling to keep track. Part of the problem was that my vision for Lectito had shifted, but mostly I just didn’t have systems in place to help me realise that vision, and the whole operation was fast descending into chaos.

So over the Christmas / New Year break I spent time setting up some basic systems to help me blog more efficiently and stay on track and organised. I know from speaking to other bloggers that I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed, so I thought I’d share my 2016 game plan, and if you’re one of those uber organised people who’s always three steps ahead, I’d love to hear your workflow tips.

Get a head start

I started the year by taking an extra week off from publishing posts. I spent that time writing and scheduling reviews for the coming weeks so that I’m now working ahead of schedule. It’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time, but in the past I’ve tended to get excited and given in to the urge to publish right away.

It’s a small thing, but knowing that what I’m working on won’t go live for a few weeks is a big load off. I can take my time, spend longer thinking about a book before I start my review, and if a piece isn’t working, I can redraft and polish it until I’m satisfied. Perhaps most importantly, if and when something unexpected comes up—a freelance gig, a blinding flash of inspiration for another project, a cold, a reading/blogging slump—I’ve got some breathing room and don’t have to resort to crazy juggling acts and sleepless nights to get everything done in the (usually ridiculous and unrealistic) deadlines I’ve set myself.

Pick the right time

Now that Lectito has been around for a little while, I’ve gathered enough stats to know which days and times are most popular among my readers. Unfortunately for me, I live in an inconvenient time zone and I’m generally asleep when my readers are online. However, blogging ahead means that I can schedule posts for times when my readers are more likely to see them.

Use a blogging calendar

At first glance, book blogging doesn’t seem all that complicated. You read a book, you write about it, drop the mic—BOOM. Except that there’s also a heap of planning, editing, administration, social media, etc. involved. I can’t multi-task to save myself, and trying to hold all the bloggy bits in my head leaves me frazzled.

Enter Google calendar. In December, I set up a calendar just for Lectito and not doing so earlier is probably my biggest blogging regret to date. (That and not investing in a premium Grammarly subscription from day one.)

I’m a visual gal, so I use a colour coding system to keep track: book publication dates in purple, scheduled posts in yellow, EDMs in turquoise and tasks (drafting, emails, social media posts, etc.) in blue. It looks like this:

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Having a blog calendar is a really useful way to keep track and get a quick visual overview of what I’ve got planned and what still needs to be done each month.

Keep daily and weekly to-do lists

I love a list and the tasks feature in Google calendar is fast becoming one of my favourite things. I use tasks to keep track of what I need to accomplish each day and week, ticking off completed items as I go. It’s immensely satisfying and calming.

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I particularly like using Google tasks because of how easy it is to add/delete/move items around—because when did anything ever go to plan?

Set up a reading schedule

I know what you’re thinking: way to suck the fun out of reading. That’s been my attitude for the past six months, too. But once I started requesting and receiving ARCs it became increasingly difficult to keep track of my TBR pile, especially given some books arrive months ahead of publication, while others just days. And then, of course, there are the already-published titles I still want to read.

With ARCs, I try to review them as close to their publication date as possible. When I receive a new title I plug the publication date into my calendar and this gives me a picture of what I’ve got lined up to read in the coming weeks and months, which is useful both when deciding what to read next and when requesting/accepting new titles for review so that I don’t end up with too much to read one month and not enough the next.

One of the things I want to avoid is being obligated to read titles in a set order. On Lectito, I mostly review literary fiction, psychological thrillers and YA. And I like to mix it up. Also, I’m far more likely to enjoy a book if I’m actually in the mood to read it. Keeping track of publication dates and working a few weeks ahead with my reviews allows me to manage my TBR pile while still giving me some leeway about which title I read next.

Get social media savvy

The big thing I’m cutting back on this year is social media. When I started Lectito, my plan was ‘try everything and see what sticks’. Much sleep deprivation ensued. I initially thought Twitter and Facebook would be my favoured platforms, but soon discovered that Instagram is really where it’s at for me (hola, #bookstagram). I love taking bookish pics and seeing how other readers visualise their love of reading. While I’m still posting on Lectito’s other accounts, my focus this year is getting more involved with the incredible community of book lovers on Instagram.

Put all the blogs in one basket

I love reading other book blogs and I follow a lot of them, but for a while there, I was missing a lot of my fellow reviewers’ content. The problem was that I was getting new post notifications from all over the place, and not always when I had time to read them. I also found that while WordPress Reader, Bloglovin’, etc. are excellent platforms for discovering new blogs, they aren’t so great (at least for me) for keep up with those I’m already following as I had to remember to check them and rarely did.

Now, when I want to follow a blog, I subscribe via email. All that content is delivered straight to my inbox to be read at my convenience.

Make contact

From following other bloggers via email, I know that looking after your subscriber list is key. But finding the best way to communicate with readers via email has taken a bit of trial and error. I post frequently, usually 3 – 4 times each week. But I don’t want to be emailing people that often—that would be super annoying for them and time-consuming for me (I’m not a fan of automated emails. I want to use my own templates, add personal touches and make sure messages look presentable before they fly). That said, I don’t just want to send my readers a bunch of links to recent posts once a week—I tried it and it feels spammy. I also don’t feel it matters whether readers read my reviews in an email on my blog (from a reader’s point of view, I’m happier when I don’t have to leave the comfort of my inbox). Ergo, when a subscriber receives an email from Lectito, I want them to know they’re going to find meaty content inside. So this year I’ll be sending an email every Thursday (and only on Thursday) with my latest book review in full and links to other posts from the week. You can sign up for that one here.

Plan ahead

In addition to cutting down on stress, a big motivation for getting organised is to make more time to think about where my blog is headed. I absolutely love working on Lectito and I would hate for it to stagnate. I want to keep bouncing around ideas and trying new things, but that takes time.

I have a folder of spreadsheets where I keep notes for upcoming posts and projects and this year I’m setting aside some time each month to look over my posts and stats from the previous month, as well as my ideas for the future, to see what I can learn and what I should try next.

How are you keeping on top of your blogging in 2016? Share your ideas in the comments below!

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