Introduction: It’s that time of year again…
Logging into WordPress a notification popped up to inform me it was my eight year blogging anniversary.
Eight years maintaining a regular blogging habit, being driven to keep going, and having the mindset to push through difficult times, where my vision has given me purpose to keep on blogging.
Not bad to say it all started from the simple goal to “start writing again”, a desire that has made me greater – giving me a platform to talk about what I love and finding a new hobby that would change my life forever.
Blogging is a fantastic pursuit, but it’s not always been easy, there have been times I’ve lacked motivation to keep up a regular blog schedule, reasons ranging from doubting my writing ability, feeling unloved from lack of validation, to getting distracted by other projects and life.
Although I’ve been at this game for nearly a decade, that time hasn’t gone without breaks, where I’ve lacked desire to keep a regular schedule going.
My last break was about four years ago following the birth of my daughter, and made me question if I had any reason to continue.
It was during that last time on my return I found most of the small loyal audience built had disappeared, moving on with their own lives away from blogging, or because they’d figured I was inactive and stopped following.
This brought my comeback to a demoralising start, but was a lesson learnt to never do a long term pause like this again and swore no matter what happened in my life, I would keep a regular weekly flow of content.
This guide has been written to share tips to keep you motivated so you too can maintain a habit to keep blogging for years to come.
Before we move on: guidance for readers
This post was written as a comprehensive guide to help you build habits to allow you to maintain a long term blogging habit.
Because of it’s length, this post is designed to be a reference that you can keep coming back to, therefore to get the best out of this:
- Add the post to your favourites so you can keep referring to the advice.
- Download the free ebook of this post to enjoy at your leisure.
- Read the content in one whole sitting, or speed read through and focus on particular sections of interests.
- Keep checking back!
To ensure your blog becomes a long term habit ensure you:
- Understand and follow the key steps to turn your blogging into a habit by making it obvious, attractive, easy and satisfying.
- Utilise good strategic planning, including the use of scheduling tools to manage workloads around busy times and ensure your blogging is a realistic schedule around your life.
- Undergo continued self-improvement to keep blogging challenging, non-routine, so that you keep undergoing improvement.
- Have a clear why – something that motivates you to keep going beyond validation and shallow metrics. A passion you could easily talk to a stranger about while waiting for the bus, or write something for your own enjoyment, knowing no one will ever read your words.
What does this all mean? Let me explain…
Make blogging a long-term habit: 4 Laws of Behaviour Change
“The key to creating good habits and breaking bad ones is to understand this fundamental law as and how to alter them to your specifications. Every goal is doomed to fail if it goes against the grain of human nature.”James Clear, Atomic Habits
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits states your life today is a sum of all your habits.
Therefore, to get into an ongoing blogging habit it helps to understand the steps to help you establish changes in your behaviour, so you will be able to take time to write without having to force yourself.
Clear breaks this down into four stages:
- Cue: something that triggers your brain to initiate a behaviour.
- Craving: a motivation or desire that inspires you to take action.
- Response: the actual habit performed.
- Reward: the outcome satisfaction we from doing the habit.
This is where the 4 Laws of Behaviour Change come in, levers that influence human behaviour to create good habits, and remove bad ones.
To increase the possibility of your blogging habit sticking, seek levers to help you get the job done.
Clear identifies the levers as:
Avoid distractions by implementing positive and obvious cues.
For example when you open your computer, you load up a word processing application with intent to put words on a page.
Implement tactics to make what you do attractive, that you crave the need to do it everyday.
For example attraction to blogging can come from the desire to create something and share your ideas with the world.
By making something obvious and attractive, you then need to be able to respond to these desires. Making it easy to take action will help carry out the habit.
For example having a notebook to hand makes it easy for you to record ideas and write out more comprehensive drafts.
Carrying out the habit will give some sort of benefit or reward. If you find the outcome satisfying you are more eager to keep pushing through the hardwork.
For example the process of writing about a topic you are passionate about is rewarding as you apply your knowledge and turn it into a finished article.
How To Start Habits That Actually Stick
If you want to see James Clear’s approach to habit building, check out the post How To Start New Habits That Actually Stick.
Now let’s look at the approaches to take, to help you build a regular blogging habit…
Part One: Strategy
“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”Toni Morrison
If you want to build your readership and get better at your craft, taking a strategic approach has an advantage.
Even if your blog is just done for fun (rather than with intent to make money), taking a professional approach will allow you to understand your vision, objectives and who your target audience is.
By having this purpose, you make the habit of blogging more attractive, maintaining focus and longevity.
Strategy comes from having a vision, but also planning out the actions you need to take:
Make a plan
An important part of blogging is to make a plan – utilising some sort of tool whether it’s an Excel spreadsheet or a pen and pad, both will allow you to set a schedule of what will be published when.
Having a plan does seem over the top if you are a “hobby blogger”, and it was something I avoided, because as a project manager, I know the risks of over planning can lead to procrastination at the expense of action.
But there are many benefits of having a blog plan, you can:
- Look at what you want to write in advance.
- Avoid being reactive.
- Have a list of topics you plan to write about, establishing cues for when you need inspiration.
- Plan posts around the season or events related to your blogs niche.
- Spread out posts so they are diverse, ensuring you have a mix of short and longer reads, and a split of different topics being discussed.
- Work blogging around your personal life – identify time when you are busy and schedule posts to manage this.
The rookie mistake all bloggers have made at some point when posting…
Do you follow any blogs where the creator always posts in clusters?
Maybe you are that person?
A cluster poster is a blogger who doesn’t publish anything for ages, then within the space of a week they publish nine articles.
Publishing this way results in the same outcome:
- A slew of poor produced blog content.
- Over saturation of content.
- Not allowing time for new posts to breath and be seen by a wider audience because the next new thing comes along.
- Annoying your readers.
It’s a bit like someone who sets a new year resolution to get fit. They join the gym in January and start going six days a week taking part in marathon long training sessions.
Because they do too much, too soon, the enthusiasm dies off and then they stop.
This stop-start approach is not a good method for habit building, when writing and publishing it’s better to have a steady routine writing 200 words a day than 5000 words every four months.
Using the schedule button to manage time and build habits
If you aren’t already doing this, start using your blogs schedule button, as it is one of the best features you’ll ever get to plan and manage your time in an efficient manner.
Scheduling contributes to blog planning, as you can write posts in bulk when you have more time and fit into your publication schedule.
Have a publication schedule
Habit building is about routine doing the same things at the same time, so ensure when you write to stick to a publication schedule – the day(s) of the week that you blog page has new content added.
A trick to use is imagining your blog is your job, with deadlines where content needs to be sent to the editor. Even though the editor is you, this helps add a professional approach, making you accountable for turning your work around.
Having this agreed publication schedule contributes towards your planning, and you can use the schedule button to get weeks (months) ahead.
- More time to work on big “meatier” posts.
- Time for other writing projects.
- A safety net not needing to write if your personal life gets in the way.
Part Two: Personal growth
“As there are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up the pen to write.”William Makepeace Thackeray
An excellent way to ensure good blogging habits is to have some sort of ambition and goals to help you grow your skills and abilities as a writer and blogger, along with working towards mastery on your blogs niche.
This will add a form of reward, as you establish satisfying ways to challenge yourself, and measure your growth.
You can establish various methods to get better at your craft:
Set challenging blogging goals
One of the first things to look at is set goals around what you want your blog to achieve.
Bloggers often will set something around increasing site view, and I’m going to explain why this is wrong.
I’ll admit site visits are a useful metric to illustrate site growth, and show what posts have greater mass appeal, allowing you to learn what content is reaching a wider audience.
But your page views aren’t everything, and shouldn’t be a measure of your self-worth and whether you are a “success” or “failure” as a blogger.
The flaw with metrics like page views is they are just a number that can be manipulated by going on social media, or influenced by trends going on in the outside world.
I’ve had lots of experience following the tired old advice that every blogger should use social media and make sure to comment on lots of blogs.
This is useful advice from the perspective of engagement, building relationships and finding other blogs in your niche, but is terrible if you think it’s going to sustain long term page views.
You’ll find statistically speaking on average for every 100 percent of effort, you get about 5 percent return (if you’re lucky!).
As your site grows the greedy validation monster in you wants more and more visitors, and you become consumed in a task that feels like a fulltime job often taking away from writing.
You can learn other tricks to make your traffic organic without constant effort such as search engine optimisation (SEO), but this does sometimes feel like the luck of the draw based on:
- How popular is the topic?
- What search terms people use?
- Who is your competition?
It can be tricky to “get” SEO, I’ve done a bit of research on the topic, but still am in a situation where my two most popular search engine posts were written within an hour in my lunch break, with no thought on key words, backlinks or other jargon to get that traffic.
The lesson is clear – if you base your improvement on how many page views you get, then you’re going to get demoralised and quit, therefore it’s not ideal to set site visits as a primary goal.
What are good blogging goals?
For longevity there are lots of alternative good blogging goals. Look at:
- Aiming to become a better writer.
- Learn how to make your posts more visually appealing.
- Challenge yourself to write different styles of post.
- Work on sourcing and writing guest post opportunities.
- Receiving comments/emails suggesting you’ve made someone’s life better.
- Improve your writing habit including effectiveness producing content
- Research and learn new ways to improve your blogging/writing skills
Ways to improve your skills
When you setup a blog it seems as simple as thinking of ideas, writing and posting. But as you get more into it, you read other blogs and realise how much work you need to do to improve your craft.
Therefore, always have some sort of goal to become a better blogger.
Below I provide a list of various ways you can develop your blogging skills. I won’t explain each one as I don’t profess to be an expert in any of them. Start by doing your own research on Google:
Techie Blog Stuff
- Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
- Web design
- User Experience
- Affiliate Marketing
- DA Score
- Social Media
- Insights and analytics
Grammar, Language and Communications
- Business Writing
- Passive Voice
- Different writing styles
- Different post types (Lists, “Answer posts”, “Response posts” etc)
- Human Psychology
- Understanding/identifying your target audience
- User stories
- Heading setup
- WordPress Blocks
- Canva creation
- Professional Photography
- YouTube/Video Creation
This isn’t a definitive list and I welcome any other suggestions in the comments below.
Once you have picked an area you want to focus on, making it into a goal and spend time developing your expertise in this area.
If you need some help turning your blogging objectives into a goal, check out my post How To Set Your First Goals
Although it sounds obvious, the best way to ensure a habit is absolute love for what you do – this will satisfy you and inspire you to keep getting better.
Love doesn’t always start at the beginning, like all hobbies blogging is something you try without knowing if it’s going to stick.
This is why it’s worth remembering to treat it like you’re a paid professional – dedicate a few times a week when you are focusing on your creating and have a set day when you publish.
To help build this habit, the ten-minute rule is useful.
The ten-minute rule
When you want to start your habit allocate ten minutes of time to write. This functions as a cue to initiate your brain into action.
How to follow the ten-minute rule:
- Set a stop watch for ten minutes.
- Start the count down and start writing on pad or computer about anything.
- If you have struggled to write much after the time has elapsed, give yourself permission to stop.
- If your mind is flowing with ideas to put on the page keep going as long as possible.
The good thing about writing for ten minutes is you can do this in short bursts to fit around your life.
And if I don’t love the blog creation process?
You’d be surprised by the number of bloggers who find the writing process tedious.
My view if you feel like that is why do it? Quit and find something else to do with your life as there is no point spending your free time on something you dislike.
If you have a creative itch, there are load of alternatives from video production to podcasting, from painting to pottery.
One final benefit why writing is great…
By maintaining a blog, not only will you experience personal growth in your writing and creative skills, you’ll also develop yourself through the act of putting pen to paper.
That’s because when we write things down:
- It’s a great way to learn.
- Helps us absorb what we know.
- Reflect on situations in our life.
- Learn what we would do different in future.
- Give a written account of thoughts and ideas for us to reflect and improve.
Part Three: Mindset
“Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean your purpose, cause or belief – WHY does your company exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?”Simon Sinek, Start With Why
To be consistent with your blogging you need to develop that determined mindset to keep publishing every week, regardless of what life throws at you.
As I mentioned in the introduction, I lost most of my readers after taking a long break – it was frustrating to see that I couldn’t pick up years of work where I left off, and I did think whether it was worth it anymore.
But something made me persist – and that was a deep connection understanding why I blog.
Why do you blog?
This was the question I asked in the self-titled question post Why Do You Blog?
So… why do you?
Understanding your why was something I learned from the author Simon Sinek in Start With Why, a book focused explaining what make successful leaders in business, but from this book you see it has many application in life, including blogging.
Every blogger knows WHAT they are doing.
Some bloggers know HOW they are doing it.
Few bloggers know WHY they blog.
Understanding your why helps move you beyond blogging for validation, or because you read an article that told you blogging was a good way to make loads of money.
WHY is about pure love of the game – the vision to share your beliefs to make a difference to someone’s life with your words.
The benefit of understanding your WHY makes your blogging habit both attractive and satisfying, and helps you be resilient in overcoming challenges.
Reframe your mindset
A common questions that leads bloggers to my post How Do You Get Someone to View Your Blog is
“How do I get someone to view my blog?”
Really, this the wrong question, what they should be thinking is
“How do I create a blog that people really want to read?”
Reframing your attitude from entitlement, to always thinking about how your work can make someone’s life better.
By taking this people focused approach to blogging, you will start thinking how your work adds value to your readers life. When you add this value your work becomes more desirable to check out.
The Three E’s
To add value, remember the three E’s
When you think about good content, they all possess one of more of these qualities
Apply this simple model next time, you post ask
“Is my post going to entertain my readers?”
“Are my readers going to learn something and be educated by my words?”
“Does my post encourage them, or inspire them to take action?”
If you answer ‘no’ to all three, think again about what you’re publishing.
Don’t be desperate!
When you obsess over the wrong things like page views, this can make you appear desperate as you focus on trying to reach the latest vanity metric.
Instead of adding value you find yourself posting worthless comments on other people’s blogs asking them to come check out your blog.
If you look at the most successful people in your niche, they never display signs of desperation, quite the opposite – people seem to come to them.
There is an element of social proof – people see popularity and want to absorb a bit of that, but for us journeymen bloggers – those of us who grind away week in week out, it’s not as easy, but that doesn’t mean we need to put out tweets begging our followers to give us more views – that just annoys people!
Remember the difference between contributing value to the blogging community and what is just blatant desperation for attention.
Ways to add value:
- Only provide useful comments that add further insights into a blog post or offer the blogger constructive feedback.
- Share other bloggers posts on your social media.
- Don’t spam the ‘like’ button if you haven’t read the post.
- Write high quality posts that people want to share and comment on.
- Only share posts on other people’s blogs if invited first.
And the most powerful way to reframe your blogging mindset…
The greatest way to have a mindset shift is to have an absolute passion for the subject matter that you write about.
You know if you have this love if you:
- Want to talk about it all the time.
- Think it would be great to do a job in that area (and would be willing to take a pay cut to do).
- Could talk to a stranger on the bus about it.
- Write your thoughts down, knowing no one will ever read it (and not mind!).
I’ve written about topics I’ve found a snooze fest because previous posts on a similar subject have done well. This goes against the 4 Laws of Behaviour Change as writing this type of content was neither attractive nor easy and was the worst thing to do to kill my writing habit, due to lack of interest in the subject matter!
In this guide I introduced you to the 4 Law’s of Behaviour Change, a theory by James Clear in his book Atomic Habits.
Understanding these principles is a useful approach to enable the work you put into your blog to become a habit, by:
- Having cues that encourage you to write.
- Motivation that makes blogging desirable.
- Making it easy for you to take action.
- Making the act of blogging both a rewarding and satisfying experience.
Taking a strategic will help with long term aspirations, allowing you to map out your vision and take a planned approach to the content you produce.
You can also encourage habits by making the act of blog creation rewarding – setting personal goals to develop your craft, and undertaking time to invest in life-long learning to improve your knowledge and skills to be a better blogger.
As a final lesson, remember the importance of having the right mindset – understanding why blogging is the format for you to create and spread your ideas, along with asking the right questions to ensure you are doing all this for the right reasons without appearing desperate.
This brings this mega post to an end – as some final advice remember to:
- Be patient, there is no such thing as an overnight success.
- Work on always putting out top notch content that adds value to the reader.
- Enjoy the process, you’ll find reward from realising how far you’ve come in your progression.
Wishing you the best in your success.
To the next eight years!
James @Perfect Manifesto
Thank you for reading this mega-post guide. I wrote this with the intent that this would be my annual “blog advice from experience” article, what started as a few ideas turned into this mega-post.
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