A few posts back I went into detail about what automation is and how you can use it to your advantage as a 9-5 employee that also blogs on the side. Automation saves you time because it steps in when you don’t have the time to step in yourself. Of course EVERYTHING can’t be automated (boooo!!)...you still have to be involved in your blog processes at some point. The best way to be involved and stay on track is to streamline your process then establishing workflows as a result. Streamline things that you can’t automate so that you can use your time more efficiently on the things that you have to touch. Then when you add Workflows into the mix, it turns into the productive trifecta! I consider Streamlining the fraternal twin of Automation because they are both cut from the same cloth (saving time), but they look a little different.
Streamlining is to improve the efficiency of a process, business or organization by simplifying or eliminating unnecessary steps, using modernizing techniques, or taking other approaches (credit). This means to determine the best way to complete a task and stick to it if it’s giving you the results that you want. If you’re constantly tweeting but aren’t seeing any traction from it, remove it from your process and put that extra time into something that works. Once you have streamlined a process, you begin putting each piece together to create a workflow. A Workflow is like a recipe. You can have all of the ingredients, but without the instructions you won't have a meal. Once you establish your workflow, you are on the road to consistency and we all know that consistency is one aspect that contributes to growth.
So how exactly can you streamline your blogging process? Here are 6 things that you can do to get it together:
1 / Keep notes for brain dumping in Evernote
Notebooks, while cute and fun, are not as effective as a digital note system. I used to be a huge advocate of writing in notebooks to keep all of my thoughts together, but the problems came when I was unable to find a particular note that I had written some time ago. Flipping though pages and pages of notes to find one things is just not feasible. While I still have a physical notebook, I rarely use it because my digital note taking system got my life all the way together! I use Evernote for all of my ideas whether it’s blog posts, products, services, course ideas, email ideas, or even goals. I love using a digital note taking system because I can easily organize all of my notes into notebooks AND I can do a keyword search if I’m trying to find a specific note.
So with this, brain dumping is now awesome. Brain Dumping sounds like a huge mess (I mean, a dump is a place where a bunch of crap collects, right?), so bring some method to the madness by organizing the proverbial dump. Group all of your ideas into categories and keep them nice and organized so that you can easily reference and find them in the future.
Pro Tip: If you still like to write notes or for some reason are unable to access your phone to add a note, you can always write them down then take a photo of it to upload to Evernote at a later time. I do this as well and it’s just another way to keep all ideas organized. Add a tag to the photo note so that you know what it’s about and can easily find it with a search.
2 / Create + follow Workflows in Trello
I’m late to the Trello train, but better late than never, eh? Trello is a web and Mobile App that you can use to create and organize workflows. You can also create checklists, schedule due dates and invite people to join your boards (great for collaborating on a project!). Before using it, I had a general blogging process, but I would still forget to do a few small things (like create new tweets for blog posts in advance, plan out Instagram stories content, etc.). Now that I have created a workflow, there is no excuse why I would forget a step in my blogging process. If you don’t currently have an official blogging workflow and have no clue what all you should be doing before, during and after a post is live, I have created a done-for-you Trello blogging workflow that you can use to get some clarity. Click below for those gems!
If you know your workflow, there is no excuse for skipping steps. This doesn't just go for bloggers. If you have a business, you should also be following a workflow. It’s only going to make your life easier. The other great thing about establishing a workflow is that if you ever get to the point where you are hiring help, they will be able to follow your workflows which makes training and process replication much easier.
3 / Add tasks and subtasks to an Editorial Calendar
Rather than just adding tasks to your calendar for the day that you want to have them complete by, you should really be scheduling all of the steps that it will take to complete those tasks. This is so you know what you need to be working on to get a task done rather than just knowing when it’s due. Don’t just schedule the end, schedule the process. In order to get the best grip on your time, you need to plan what you are going to do from beginning to end. For example, you may want to post your blog post on 11/10, but when are you going to type it up? When are you going to take and edit your photos? Asana is the free calendar tool that I use to keep my tasks to do each day organized. One of their best features is that you can schedule subtasks to accompany one main task, this way you can truly keep an accurate schedule. In the example below, the task with the large checkbox is the main task and the tasks under it with the smaller checkboxes are the subtasks.
Scheduling tasks and subtasks will help to streamline your process because you will know what you need to be working on each day. Schedule each step of your workflow to stay on track.
4 / Batch Processing
Batching (aka Batch Days) may be something that you have heard about around the internet a lot lately. Well there’s good reason for that because it can save tons of time. Batch Processing is when you dedicate a certain block of time to work on one task. For example, when I schedule my tweets for the week, I sit down and dedicate 20 minutes to nothing but scheduling the twitter content. Another example is that I stockpile photos for Instagram, so I dedicate a block of time over the weekend to only take various pictures to post on Instagram in the future (oh, you thought Instagram was instant? Nope, not so much anymore). A few more examples of what you can batch is creating blog posts, planning out your IG feed for the week (I use the UNUM app for this), creating freebies, creating email marketing content, etc. Rather than spending time doing these things randomly or at the last minute, work on a chunk at a time and be done with it for the week/month.
5 / Create templates
There are certain tasks that you do repetitively when it comes to your blog. When it comes to design elements, this is something that you shouldn’t have to create from scratch every time. You should make a template of your designs and use them over and over again. Create 4 variations of a template layout so that you can keep it consistent across the web and social platforms. For example, create templates for blog post graphics, IG stories graphic, social media graphics, etc. If you currently have a design program on your computer, awesome! Make the templates using that. If you do not have your own program, I recommend using Canva. This is another web/mobile app in which you can create various types of graphics for free.
Pro Tip: I own design programs and use them to create my templates, but I still use Canva as a backup just in case I want to post something but cannot access my laptop. Just create a Canva version of your templates so that you can access them on the go.
6 / Create a FAQ page rather than answering the same questions constantly
You know those questions that people always tend to ask you on your blog comments, Instagram, wherever? Rather than giving the same spiel to everyone, why not create an FAQ or similar page answering all of the questions? This way, you can direct the inquirers to your website which in turn means more traffic added to your numbers!
You may be thinking, “I have no questions from readers/followers”. This may be true, but your NICHE has general questions that people tend to ask. Let’s use a food blogger for example. Maybe they don’t get questions in their blog comments, but they know that people want to know the best knife set to purchase on a budget, or how to sautée vegetables properly. Frequently asked questions that people want to know related to your niche can also appear on your FAQ page. No clue what the popular questions are? Use Google Trends to get some ideas. Creating a FAQ page will save you time because your response to their questions going forward will be something like “Hi! Please check out my FAQ page for a detailed response to your question” rather than cutting into your time to reply to emails using the same general response. Typing emails can take a while especially when you’re trying to be helpful and provide specific details.
I hope some of these ideas resonated with you! Saving time is something that I love to teach individuals how to do. Now go ahead and start saving some time!