If bloggers have one universal complaint, surely it would be, ‘We need more time!’ And I think that’s particularly true of book bloggers. After all, in addition to the usual bloggy bits, we also have to find the time to read in order to have something to write about.
As a book blogger, I’m always looking ways to save time, and today I thought I’d share six tricks that work well on their own and will save you hours when combined.
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m easily sidetracked while blogging. I’ll sit down to write a post and two minutes later I’m browsing Net Galley, scrolling through my Insta feed, or adding titles to my ‘Want to read’ list on Goodreads. Two hours later, I’ve achieved SFA.
However, while I’m happily idling away, I kid myself that I’m still ‘working on my blog’ because these are *technically* blogging-related activities. If there’s a sure-fire way to cure procrastination, I haven’t found it. But one trick that helps me minimise brain drift is to think consciously about what I’m doing and why. In business speak, I’m talking about Return On Investment (ROI).
For example, if you invest in refreshing your stats page every five minutes, what does that give back to your blog? Nothing. The answer is nothing. Stop doing that. Whereas, if you spend two hours writing a blog post and that post then brings you a bunch of readers over the coming days, weeks, months and even years, then full steam ahead.
If there’s a blogging activity that takes up a truckload of your time, but it doesn’t deliver much in return, drop it, or at least revise your strategy. This particularly applies to social media. If you’re spending hours a day on Twitter or Instagram, but very few people are engaging with your posts, a) you ain’t doing it right and b) is it worth it? Instead, concentrate on what is working. For example, I suck at Twitter. It took me a long time to accept this. I spent ages agonising over the wording of my tweets and trying to find the best times to post and engage with other users. But it always felt like a chore. It’s just not my platform. So I stopped stressing about it. Now, I don’t spend more than 30 seconds to a minute tapping out a tweet. If people engage with it, awesome! If not, no biggie. Instagram is a different story. It’s my happy place. 🙂 It also brings more readers to my blog than any other source, except for search engines. So it’s worthwhile for me to invest a little extra time in each post.
You might also find it useful to rank all of your blogging activities according to their ROI and use this to help with your planning, by prioritising tasks with the highest value.
Map your blogging month
To get the most out of your blogging, you need to be organised. Knowing what you need to do and when to do it will save you a whole lot of faffing. It also allows you to work on a larger scale and be more strategic about what you post when. For example, if you know that World Pretty Book Cover Day is happening in a couple of weeks (it’s not, but stay with me), you might schedule a post featuring your favourite covers, or arrange to interview a designer, etc., rather than getting to the day of and thinking: crap cakes, I should have organised something.
Towards the end of every month, I sit down and make a plan for the month ahead. I think about what goals I want to achieve and how they support my overall blogging mission. Then I make a reading list, nut out my key content and draft a posting and social media schedule.
Obviously, it helps to be flexible, but starting the month with a game plan will save you a lot of scrabbling and stress and help you maximise the value of each post.
Plan your posts
If you create a new post and just wing it, chances are: a) it’s going to read like word vomit and b) you’re going to have to spend a whole lot of time cleaning it up before hitting publish.
Save yourself a world of bother and confusion by having a brainstorm and making a plan before you start writing. Ask yourself: what is the overall question or idea you want to explore in this post? (If you’re writing a book review: what was your overall reaction to the book?) Then use your body paragraphs to start breaking down that question or idea. Think about the point you want to make in each paragraph, how it contributes to the larger purpose of the post, and what examples you might use to support that point. That way, when you start writing, everything is already neatly mapped out and (hopefully) you won’t lose yourself on a tangent or have to spend too much time editing.
Invest in an editing tool
Speaking of editing, it’s time-consuming AF. And, unfortunately, it’s going to show if you skip it. I’m the first to admit that I’m the Actual Worst at spelling and grammar. I can structural-edit the crap out of anything, but ask me to proofread something and I’m utterly hopeless. My eyes glide right over typos, and deciding where to put commas sends me into a cold sweat. I hate those little f#*&ers.
When I first started blogging, I spent ages editing each post, only to hit publish and instantly find a gazillion errors. Or worse, have other people find them. I started to get really down about it. Then I heard about Grammarly, which is like spell check but way more advanced. It’s especially useful for bloggers as it works through your web browser, allowing you to edit as you go.
In addition to spelling and grammatical errors, it tells you when you’re repeating words, using informal language, writing in passive voice and a bunch of other things besides. In some cases, it’ll even suggest better word choices. Like any editor, it’s not perfect. I still occasionally pick up things that it has missed when I do a final read through before posting, and I sometimes ignore its advice (e.g., I’m writing in passive voice for a reason). But I’m always surprised by how much it does pick up. If you’re interested, I include a count of the critical and non-critical errors it detects at the bottom of my reviews.
Grammarly helps me polish my posts, but it also significantly cuts down my editing time. I still edit each post myself as well, but there’s less to do, and I feel more confident knowing Grammarly has caught a bunch of mistakes that I’d likely miss. You can check it out here.
Schedule your social media
Ah, social media, A.K.A. the Great Time Suck. Ideally, you want to be posting multiple times a day across two or three platforms. Which would be fine, if you had nothing else to do. But for most of us, periodically dropping everything to promote a blog post just isn’t an efficient way of doing things. Also, if you live in an awkward time zone like I do, you’d have to be up at all hours to post when the bulk of your audience is online.
Scheduling your social media allows you to organise posts in bulk and stagger them over the coming days and weeks. It means that you can post often and at peak times, thus maximising your ROI for each post without being glued to your devices.
There are a bunch of paid and unpaid tools you can use to schedule your social media posts. And it’s worth doing a bit of research to see which ones are right for you. Facebook already allows you to schedule posts (thank you, Mr Zuckerberg), and for Twitter, I use Tweetdeck, which is free. Instagram is a little trickier. I haven’t been able to find a free option I’m satisfied with (taking suggestions), but Lucy over at The Unlikely Bookworm recently recommended the Plann app, which has a relatively inexpensive one-time fee.
Get more bang for your buck
You spend a lot of time crafting your content, and repurposing it across multiple platforms isn’t cheating; it’s smart. For example, if you spend ages crafting the perfect bookstagram shot, why not reuse it as a featured image in a blog post? Or if you’re really proud of something you wrote in a review, use it to promote the post on social media (in my reviews I typically include a sentence that summarises my thoughts for this exact purpose). Even something as simple as saving your frequently used hashtags to cut and paste into your posts can save a few minutes here and there, leaving you more time to focus on the bigger things!
I hope these tips help you shave some time off your blogging, and if you have tips of your own to share, I’d love to read them in the comments below!
— Margot xo
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