How to build a blogging routine

I’m baaack!

When I became a dad, I put my blog on hold.

After almost five years of monthly posts, I’m saying goodnight to this blog. Maybe I’ll be back for more in 2021; maybe not!

Goodnight blog, July 2020

I’m indeed back for more in 2021.

If you’re like me, your blogging has been an off and on love/hate relationship.

I’m here to help you get a little more of that love and a little less of that hate.

Graph: Search interest over time of "blog" vs. "twitter". Blog was more popular from 2004 until 2010. Twitter was more popular from 2010 to 2021.
Also, if you’re like me, you refuse to believe that the personal blog is dead, even though it has been for a good a decade. But let’s not go there.

Why bother blogging?

During my six-month break from blogging, I missed it. If you’re an on and off blogger, you also miss it at times. Is it the rush of knowing that real people are benefiting from your work? Is it the way that writing forces you to learn deeper? How about publicly nerding out? Maybe even building a community?

The dopamine rush

A few weeks ago, someone shared an article I posted two years ago on Reddit. It made my day. I don’t know about you, but that feels much better than a re-tweet.

Learning by writing

Teaching helps one learn. Writing forces you to organize your thoughts. If I learn something and don’t write about it, I forget it. If I learn about something and write a blog post about… well, I still forget it. But slower.

A public record

I am considering moving my career towards quantitative UX research and/or data science. I feel like an impostor at times. But I shouldn’t. Because I’ve been into data visualization since I read Tufte in 2018. I’ve even had some good failures to learn from. And published a lot of cool data visualizations.

I’ve also been into statistics for a while. But I haven’t blogged about it, so I can’t prove it. See what I mean?

Build a community

I can’t say that my blog has any sort of loyal fans, other than my mom and dad. But many great books and huge online communities started as personal blogs.

I was recently listening to the Storytelling with Data podcast. They also have books, newsletter, monthly data visualization challenges, and more. I was shocked to find out that the Storytelling with Data empire started with a humble blog. But it makes sense!

The worst part about blogging

You hate writers block and procrastination, don’t you? You also hate the guilt that comes along with it, don’t you?

I do.

Up until my recent hiatus, I posted here once a month. Pretty much every month. I was proud of it. I even wrote about my routine a few years ago.

Every Thursday, I spend at least ten minutes writing. I call these my Thursday Tens.

Two years of blogging- a retrospective, November 2017

How this worked out in practice was:

  • Week 1: Ten minutes rambling
  • Week 2: Ten minutes rambling
  • Week 3: Ten minutes cleaning up one of my ramblings
  • Week 4: Several hours researching, writing, elaborating, editing, polishing, and publishing

In other words, I procrastinated until the last minute. And I hated it. My blog post was always in the back of my mind.

Regardless of whether you have a regular publishing schedule like me or you do it on an ad-hoc basis, you probably procrastinate as well. But there’s hope.

How to get into a blogging routine

Choose a publishing schedule. Monthly, weekly, daily, etc. Not “when I feel inspired”.

Four equal parts

Whatever that publishing schedule is, divide it into four equal parts. This will get that procrastination monkey off your shoulder by breaking down a big, daunting task into several smaller sessions. Here are the four roughly equal sessions that I’m trying.

  1. Outline: Pick a topic and put together a structure
  2. Brain dump: Get all your ideas down without worrying about making sense
  3. Trim: Ruthlessly edit your brain dump
  4. Finish: Polish then publish

Timing

If you publish once a month, work on you blog once a week. If you publish weekly, work four times a week. And so on. The four equal parts make it easier to spread out your effort instead of waiting until your “deadline”.

Effort before and after my new routine. Before, most effort was on deadline day. After, effort is evenly distributed.

Time-limited

Timebox each of these writing sessions. I set a timer for an hour. You might be quicker than that. Whatever the timebox is, this will reduce procrastination because if it’s less of a commitment. Sit down and get started; you’ll finish it before you know it.

Make it a habit

Choose a regular time that works for you, but try to make it regular so that it turns into a habit. Teach yourself that every Tuesday is blog day. Or every morning at 9am is your bloggin’ hour. No thinking required- just do it. I’ll be doing these tasks every Wednesday night after my little one goes to bed.

Theory vs. practice

This is my first blog post under this new routine. It sounds good in theory. I’ll let you know how it goes in practice.

Have you experimented with different writing routines? Let me know in the comments!

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