5 ways to cultivate a terrific blog in half the time

You’re probably wasting hours and hours racking your brain for ideas or doing research to answer daunting questions. Try these tactics to become a much more efficient blogger.

I stumbled around and fumbled around for a long time after I started my blog.

For the first nine months I was inconsistent and confused. Then I realized how many great business benefits I was realizing through the blog and decided I’d better get serious about it.

I became more dedicated and disciplined, which paid off, because the only way you’re going to get good at blogging is to practice.

Without question, my biggest obstacle to consistent blogging was time. It still takes time, of course, but today I can deliver a lot more content for a lot less time than I did a few years ago.

Here are some ideas you can use to cut your blogging time in half:

1. Never face a blank screen.

Here’s the most important thing you must do to cut your writing time: Never, ever face a blank screen.

Your biggest time-waster is deciding what to write about or wasting time writing something mediocre and then scrapping it. You have to eliminate that waste, and it’s easy to do.

You must be disciplined in two areas.

First, you have to be continually collecting ideas. Think in terms of story ideas as you live your life. Is there a headline, an article, a question, a news story, a joke that can be twisted in a way that would make an interesting and entertaining blog post? Be on the lookout for these ideas everywhere, and write them down.

Second, commit to blocking out two solid, continuous hours to write every week. No interruptions, no email, no text messages.

If you can stick to this regimen, you will be amazed at how your productivity will improve, because you’ll never be looking at a screen with zero ideas again.

Time saved: 50 percent or more

2. Try video blogs.

I can make a higher-quality video on my smartphone today than I could on an HD video camera five years ago. Making a simple three-minute video can be done in a fraction of the time it takes to write and edit the same material for a written blog post.

Once you create your video, upload it to YouTube and follow these steps to include it in a blog post:

  1. Find your YouTube video.
  2. Click the Share button below the video.
  3. Click the Embed button next to the link they show you.
  4. Copy the iframe code given and paste it into the HTML of your Web page.

So simple, and voila! You have a great blog post.

Time saved: 70 percent

3. Get a little help from your friends.

Here is an amazing way to efficiently create great content with fresh ideas.

Let’s say there’s a question on your mind that would make a great post but you don’t know how to answer the question. Why not pose the question to your social media friends and get some help?

Here’s an example. It occurred to me that there are certain websites out there with content so amazing they really don’t have to worry about SEO. They simply attract views because of their greatness. This might be easy if you’re representing a big brand, but what about if you’re touting your small company or your personal brand?

Where would I start to find examples of this? I asked my friends on Facebook.

Within one hour I had lots of amazing examples—a chef in France, a handmade-tool company in Latvia, a site with nothing but data visualizations. I looked through these sites and created one of my all-time favorite posts: 10 soul-grabbing brands that prove you don’t need SEO to succeed.

My friends essentially did the research for me, saving me hours of hunting online, and they were happy to be acknowledged in my post.

Time saved: 25 percent or more

4. Ask a question instead of providing an answer.

I’ll bet this has gone through your head more than once: “What could I write about? What value can I possibly add to the conversation?”

Sometimes the best blog post doesn’t have the best answer; instead, it has the best question.

It takes a lot of time and research to provide a conclusive answer to an issue, but interesting things happen when you simply ask the right question.

I often end a blog post with, “What do you think?” because I honestly don’t know.

Here’s a little secret. Probably the most popular post I ever published, Content Shock, was a question, not an answer. I observed that it was getting much more difficult to win at the content marketing game because of the explosion of information density on the Web. I suggested that content marketing was not going to be sustainable for some businesses. What do we do about it? I did not offer a solution, but it spurred 1,400 comments.

Of course I eventually answered that question in a book, “The Content Code: Six essential strategies to ignite your content, your marketing, and your business—but that’s a story for another day.

Time saved: 25 percent

5. Copy and improve.

All of us consume a lot of great content. Part of the value you can provide is exposing readers to others’ new ideas and then improving upon them.

I was recently reading about the “flow state” of peak performance and wrote down an idea about how this could be applied to content creation. (See? I follow my own advice.)

I then “copied” key ideas from a book on the subject (with attribution and a link to the author) but then added my own interpretation along with comments from friends who had experienced flow. (I posed the question on Facebook and used their answers in the post.)

This turned out to be a great piece. It was an original idea, but I adapted the great thinking of others for the core idea.

Here’s an example of how you can do this. Are there some time-saving ideas I missed in this article? Write your own post, and start by summarizing my points. Add your own spin to the foundation I built. A piece of cake, as they say here in America.

Time saved: 50 percent

Well there you have it. What other ideas do you have for saving time on your blog? Please leave a comment below—or, better yet, write your own great new blog post about it.

A version of this article originally appeared on Mark Schaefer’s blog, {grow}.

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