If you're struggling to find time to work on your blog, there's a really simple way to fix that. In fact, you can use this method to find time in your day for anything you want to make a priority.
Here's the trick: build it into a daily habit.
Habits are activities we do without thinking about them. If you brush your teeth before bed every night, that's a habit. If you whistle in the shower every day, that's a habit. If you say "like" four times in every sentence, that's a habit.
In fact, studies have shown "approximately 45% of everyday behaviors" tend to be habitual.
But we can control our habits—they don't only occur by accident.
You can purposely create a habit of something you want to do regularly. By carving out time for it in your day, and building it into something you do without thinking, you can get more work done on your blog without the stress of "trying to fit it in".
Since willpower is a finite resource, you don't want to rely on it to get your blogging done every day. Let's look at how you can make it easier to blog every day until it builds into an automatic habit.
Do it early
You don't have to get up at 6am to write every day (though it doesn't hurt). Whenever you do get up, it's a good idea to work on your blog as early as you can. The earlier you get it done, the less your day can interfere.
Writer Jamie Todd Rubin kept up a writing streak of 373 days, partly by making sure he wrote early on the days his schedule might get in the way.
If I get the writing done early, I don’t stress about it. — Jamie Todd Rubin
If you work on your blog right after breakfast, for instance, apart from an emergency, breakfast is the only part of your day that can hold you back from blogging. By the time you start work, your writing is done, so no matter what happens for the rest of your day, you can't not do it.
Making blogging part of your morning (or wake up time, whenever that is) routine also makes it a priority. You start your day by working on something important to you, which influences your outlook for the rest of the day.
If you're not a morning person, or you're just not into routines, you might be thinking it sounds painful to make yourself write every morning. But you can make it easier. And in fact, that's kind of the whole point. The easier it is to work in your blog, the more likely you are to do it—and the more you do it, the faster it becomes a habit. You'll also be more likely to work on your blog if you make it hard not to.
So you can approach this from two directions—and doing both at once will make you more successful.
When you hit your desk in the morning, you want it to be so easy to start writing that it's a no-brainer. One of the biggest hurdles for me is knowing what to write about. So try choosing your topic the day before. When you finish work, or before you go to bed, choose what you'll write about tomorrow.
If you need to, set an alarm on your phone to remind you, because this is important. You're setting yourself up for success.
The night before it's easy to imagine the victory of your successful tomorrow self, but when it actually comes time to roll out of bed and hit the keys, you might not be quite so confident. So give yourself a leg up by choosing your topic the day before. If it helps (it definitely helps me), plan an outline for your blog post the day before as well. Even if it's just a few notes or a couple of subheadings—the less blank the page is when you sit down tomorrow, the easier it will be to start writing.
So you've made it pretty easy to get writing. You've already got a topic, you've got some notes or an outline, and you can just sit down and start typing. Now we want to come at this from the opposite direction: make it hard to not do it. Or, in other words, make it hard to do anything else.
This might mean leaving the file open on your computer, in full-screen, so when you get to your computer tomorrow all you see is that flashing cursor and an outline begging to be fleshed out. By doing this, you've put a hurdle in the way of doing anything else on your computer. It's not a huge one, but it's enough that you consciously have to close or move that post to get to your inbox, or whatever else is begging for your attention.
I find writing on my iPad often makes it easier to focus, because multi-tasking on an iPad is such a pain compared to the fast cmd-tabbing of my Mac. If you feel the same way, you could use your iPad, or even a paper notebook, to make it harder to be distracted by other sites or apps while you're supposed to be writing.
And if it's chores, or other things around the house that are distracting you from sticking to your blogging habit, you can put your notebook, iPad, or laptop somewhere you can't miss it. Maybe that's on your bedside table so you see it when you wake up, or on the kitchen bench, so you think of it when you start making breakfast. All of these approaches put your habit front and centre in your mind, making you take extra conscious effort to ignore it and do something else.
Set a schedule
There's nothing like setting a schedule to keep you on track. Some people hate schedules (maybe because they don't like staying on track?) but I find them incredibly useful.
When you have a schedule, it actually matters whether you're blogging regularly or not. It means something if you don't blog this week. Or next week.
A schedule adds a bigger purpose to your everyday habit of blogging, and gives you a reason to continue, beyond the daily focus of writing, but still more immediate than the long-term goals of fame and fortune.
Choose a reasonable schedule. There's no point aiming far beyond what you can manage, because you'll only get discouraged when you fail to keep up. Once per week is a reasonable starting point, but it's most important to find a schedule that fits your workload.
What you don't want is to always be behind your schedule, and constantly missing your deadlines, or publishing content that's not polished just to meet the mark.
Choosing a reasonable schedule will you give you some breathing room so over time you can get ahead of schedule. Then you can relax in those weeks when the words aren't flowing, or other responsibilities take away your writing time, because you can use your backlog of writing to stay on top of your publishing schedule.
Create a trigger
A trigger helps you kick off your habit. When you're creating a new habit, you want to find a trigger to attach it to that you can rely on. For instance, if you brush your teeth before bed every night, your trigger might be changing into your pyjamas. That's something you'll do pretty much every night, so you can rely on it to remind you to brush your teeth.
A trigger needs to be something you already do, since you're relying on it happening every day as a reminder to work on your blog. Here are some common habits you could use as triggers:
- Making coffee
- Starting your train commute
- Sitting at your desk in the morning
- Brushing your teeth
- Cleaning up after breakfast
Apart from a single trigger, there's one other approach that works especially well for me: the habit stack.
Stacking your habits together makes them each behave as triggers for the others. My morning routine is a habit stack that works like this:
|Wake up||Make coffee|
|Finish making coffee||Practise French|
|Finish practising French||Read for 30 mins|
I start with one regular, reliable trigger: waking up. This kicks off my habit stack, with the end of each habit triggering the next one.
If I didn't do these in order, or I got interrupted as I worked through them, I wouldn't get them all done. I rely on the triggers not only to remind me what comes next, but to get me into the right frame of mind for each habit, too. I don't feel like exercising as soon as I wake up, or right after I've had my coffee, but by the time I've practised French and read a book for 30 minutes I'm ready to get up and move around.
Blogging could be part of your morning routine, or you could create a habit stack to kick off your work day.
Try to make every habit in your stack clearly defined. For instance, if you make checking your email part of your habit stack at work, set a time limit, or a limit to the number of messages you'll work through, or inbox zero if you can manage it. Any of these works, because the end point is clear. If you just have a habit of checking your emails, you won't know when you're done, which is the trigger for the next habit in your stack.
Setting a minimum time investment is a good way to ensure you spend some time on your blog each day. I use a timer on my phone to tell me when I've been working on a habit for long enough, so I always get at least that minimum time investment done.
Start small and work your way up. 15 minutes is better than nothing if you can manage to do it every day. I started practising French for only 5 minutes every morning, but it's such an ingrained habit that I enjoy now I've moved up to 15 minutes.
Leo Babauta suggests starting small as a way to overcome the resistance that stops us from building good habits:
My daughter wants to work out more, but she has a hard time forming the habit (many of you might be familiar with this problem). From having to get dressed to go to the gym, to actually going to the gym, to the thought of a hard workout … our minds tend to put off the habit.
The solution is exceedingly simple: just do 3 pushups. Or tell yourself you have to walk/jog for just one minute.
Make it so easy you can’t say no.
Keep in mind that habits take time to form. One study found that, unlike popular culture will tell you, most people take longer than 21 days to form a habit. In fact, the time it takes for an activity to become so natural you do it without thinking is different for everyone. So don't expect it to fall into place immediately, but try following these steps to make it as easy for yourself as possible.
A useful tool to keep you on track is 750 Words, which helps you build a streak of daily writing and rewards you with badges as your streak grows.
Over time you should find that writing becomes more automatic, until it starts feeling weird when you don't do it every day.
Image credits: 750 Words screenshot via 750 Words.