A few weeks ago I eavesdropped on a Twitter conversation between Nymeth (@Nymeth) and Aarti (@aartichapati) where both were concerned about how they’d fit blogging into their schedules after they start grad school in the fall.
I started my blog just after I graduated from college and immediately started grad school in the fall, so in the almost two years I’ve been blogging I’ve been a student pretty much the whole time. I started thinking about how I’ve managed to do it, and came up with these tips about how to make it work.
1. Set limits for yourself.
I generally have a limit of three posts per week – one book review, one personal reading post (usually The Sunday Salon), and one “other” post. The most helpful limit for me is the one review a week because with school I don’t read enough to post a review more often than that. Knowing that I’m only “obligated” for one review a week lowers the pressure I feel to read and review as many books as possible.
2. Plan ahead.
I like to know at the beginning of the week what blog posts I’m going to try to write. This helps me think through my week, plan when I might write them, and know I won’t have gone too long between updates.
3. Write in batches, or blog as a mental warm-up.
I tend to write my blog posts all at the same time because I get my brain into blog-mode and find it’s easier. I also will sometimes write drafts of blog posts as a warm up for when I need to write papers for class. I always go back and edit those warm-up posts before putting them online, but usually they’re pretty good.
4. Stop messing with your template.
The biggest blogging time-suck for me is getting bogged down messing with my template, changing my color scheme, or something equally annoying. Avoid wasting time on background blog projects and instead focus on content – changing the banner or creating a new review archive can wait until you have vacation.
As a bonus tip, keep yourself away from social media like Twitter when you’re trying to work. Twitter is probably the biggest time-suck because seeing I have new tweets to read pulls me out of whatever school-zone my brain was in and I struggle to get back. Trust me — there isn’t anything happening on Twitter that’s so important that you can’t catch up on later.
5. Set time to respond to comments (and leave comments).
I try to respond to all the comments left on my blog, but with school it sometimes takes a few days. I tend to respond to comments in batches to keep the task from distracting me during busy times. Knowing I’ll get to it when I can rather than feeling like I have to respond right away helps me.
I also tend to read blogs in batches. I have a few folders in Google Reader that I try to check every day, and others I check more randomly. This sometimes gets me behind and I comment on posts a few days old, but hopefully no one minds. And I guess if they do, too bad for them.
6. Give yourself a break.
How busy you are as a student tends to come in waves, and there will be weeks when blogging just isn’t in the cards (midterms, finals, other times at random). When those weeks come, just take a break. I’ll sometimes post a note that I’m on hiatus, other times I just let the blog rest for a bit. Either way, your dedicated readers will understand. When you get back, don’t spend time apologizing for being gone, just get straight back into it.
So what’s the bottom line? Blogging and being a student can be a challenge, but I wouldn’t give up one to have done the other, and with a little work it’s possible (and most definitely worth it) to work at fitting blogging into an otherwise crowded student schedule.
If you have any other tips, suggestions, or questions, feel free to leave them in the comments!