Growing Your Blog & The Great Juggling Act

January 6, 2012

Greetings all and happy happy weekend!  I’m sitting at my desk looking back on this week and feeling so grateful that Nester, Sarah, Jen, and Marian were a part of this series:

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The final topic is finding balance as home bloggers or what I prefer to call it: The Great Juggling Act.  How do you decide where to spend your precious time when you have a family and relationships or another job and a life and you still want to grow your blog?

Last month I invited four bloggers I greatly admire to be a part of this series to kick off the new year, and I need to publicly thank them for their enthusiasm to sign on.  These four seasoned bloggers have been pulling it off for a long time with style and grace, and I think we all want to know their secrets.  So let’s hear what they have to say on these questions and then I’ll offer my two cents.

What are the ways you manage the responsibilities of home life and blogging?  What time management tips can you share?

 

 

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{Nester}: The more Nesting Place has grown, the more help I have. It’s as simple as every day math–if I add something in, I have to take something else away. So, for our family, in this stage of life it means that I do my grocery shopping online and then pick it up, I have a housekeeper twice a month to do all the stuff I neglect, my husband stays home one day a week to help homeschool our boys ages 10, 11 and 14 {they are in a University style school where they are home two days a week}. I can only do that because Nesting Place makes enough money to justify all those things. Two years ago, I couldn’t spend as much time online because I had to clean toilets and grocery shop and homeschool younger boys and procrastinate billing people. My family knows that Nesting Place is a business {that I LOVE} and my husband is my biggest supporter and encourager.

I also have an assistant who is Nesting Place’s ad manager/president of giveaway day/organizer of Nest Files/conference companion. Without Caroline, I wouldn’t be able to focus on the stuff I’m good at and love to do as much because I’d be busy avoiding billing people for their ad space. I wish I would have hired her years ago. I’ve also written a few posts at (in)courage about how my husband encouraged me to follow my passion {you should follow yours too} and how I use my 12 work days per month if you’d like to read more. And for laughs, here’s a fun In Her Shoes post I wrote for Effortless Style about a "typical" day in my life.

 

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{Sarah}  “When you start out blogging (whether writing one or reading them!) it kind of sucks you in…you’ll sit down at the computer and then find you’re still sitting there two hours later. :) If you aren’t careful it can really affect your productivity and family life. I figured out how to balance the projects, the blogging and the business side of everything with some time (and a supportive spouse!).

You know what, scratch that. I still don’t have it figured out. It’s just more figured out than when I started.

I feel like a slacker when it comes to my blog more often than I’d like to admit. I often feel like I need to post more, but I just don’t make the time. My kiddo only goes to preschool a few hours a week, so until he goes to kindergarten next year I want to dedicate as much time to him as I can. But blogging is my "job," and the best job EVER. I love it, so I dedicate time to it and my projects as often as possible. I don’t follow a particular schedule — I just work on projects when I can and I pretty much always blog at night. I’m a late owl so that’s my time to get work done on the computer. And I cannot express how much my iPhone has changed my life — it sounds silly, but I can get SO much done at random times, even at home. It’s so much easier to answer emails, jump on Twitter or check out a few blogs here and there throughout the day.”

 

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{Jennifer}  I have found that it’s very hard to balance a blog, particularly a creative blog based on tutorials, with family and personal time. There’s always more I could be doing to make my blog better, answer emails, improve a project, etc. A couple of years ago I kind of burned myself out, working non-stop, and that was before I was making anything at all from my blog.

Now, I have found a few ways that have allowed me to keep my sanity and remain married. (1) I’ve organized my to-do list for my blog by time of day – I do certain things during certain times of the day. I check my email early in the morning. I do all of my projects during the day and take pictures in the afternoon. Then, when my kids are home from school, I take time off until they go to bed. At night, I edit my pictures, write my posts, and do more email. (2) I’ve also found that having a blog calendar is super important. I plan my months in advance. That way I can buy the supplies for many projects in one trip. I’m not scrambling for last-minute projects. (3) Also, if you can get ahead in your blog, spend one day a week writing your posts, and then set your blog to auto-post them. For social media, tools like HootSuite can schedule your Twitter and Facebook posts in advance – you can queue them for later posting.”

 

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{Marian}  “This is a constant struggle for me, as I’m sure it is for all busy people. I try to use every minute to the fullest and constantly check my priorities versus how I’m spending my time. I wrote a post last year where I shared all of the keys to my productivity.  It all boils down to the fact that I love what I do, I can do it while I’m home with my kids and all of the hard work is paying off, so I find a way to make it work. It sometimes means the laundry is a little out of control or we order takeout for dinner or I’m up later than I should be, but most of the time it’s manageable. I think the best time management tip I can give is to say “no” when you need to and let go of things that are sucking up your time and aren’t worth it.”

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Wow ladies, it seems we all suffer from that same struggle to juggle it all and your insight is so encouraging.  Just about every day of the week I feel just like this gal:

 

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If only I had more arms like her… then I could do it all!  Do you find yourself saying that?  If only I had what she had, then I could do it all too.  That’s a misconception.  Truth is, no one person can do it all, we all have limited resources and only 24 hours in a day.  That’s why I love these four ladies, they’re so honest about the fact that we all struggle to try to do as much as we can in the time we have and they’ve made some very smart choices that work for them. 

Jennifer is right, there is always more we could  be doing, but should we?  No. Like she said, it leads to burnout when you take on too much.  I love Nester’s tip about getting help if the budget permits, and how important it is to have a supportive spouse. Sarah’s smart phone is a major time saver for her and I agree, it’s a helpful tool for hopping onto Twitter, Facebook, or returning quick emails.  Marian impresses me too, with her abilities to manage home life and all of her growing opportunities.  Accepting a little chaos in our lives, and letting go of perfection is so important. 

When it comes to my own juggling act, I basically stick to these five rules.

1.  Prioritize.  The most important thing in my life is my family and my relationships.  I believe my blog should always come second, so I schedule meaningful family time every day.  Like Jen, I take those hours when the kids are home from school in the afternoon to be with them, get them started on homework, start dinner, and if time permits, use my phone to catch up.  I don’t sit down on the computer until after dinner and usually after the kids go to bed.  It’s important to pinpoint your priorities and focus your time there.

2.  Know when to say No.  Think about what you want for your life and your blog and stick with that plan.  Don’t say yes to every opportunity or social media outlet just because it sounds good at first glance.  You’ll spread yourself too thin and then you’re no good at anything.  Like Julia, resist the pressure to do what other bloggers are doing.  You don’t need to follow the pack, you set the rules, you budget your time, you decide what works best for you.  I agree with Marian so much on this point.  Not every opportunity that comes your way is meant for you and knowing when to politely say No is so key. 

3.  Develop a system.  Find a way to be organized that works for your lifestyle. I put together a Command Central binder so I have all my household information in one spot. I also find it’s helpful to plan your projects and posts ahead of time and to use an editorial calendar. Keep drafts of a few ideas stored in your blog so whenever you blank or have no project in the works you can turn to those.  

4. Set Your Pace.  Writing a blog is a more like running a marathon, not a 50 yard dash, you must set your pace, whether it’s one or five posts a week. I wrote a little more about my choices and daily schedule in this article on balance and blogging last year, and still follow those guidelines.

5.  Take care of yourself.  Get a good night’s sleep, daily fresh air, and feed your body well.  Get your hair done, go to the movies with a friend, and live a little, it enhances your life and often gives you stuff to write about you wouldn’t ordinarily find if you were sitting in front of your computer all day.  When all else fails and you do feel overwhelmed, take a nap, a hot bath, check out for a day, go exploring, and come back when you’re ready.  One thing I’ve realized is that readers are patient and understand that you are human.  You will get tired and you will run out of creative ideas, but that’s okay.  Inspiration and energy will return only after you’ve cleared your mind and rested your body.  The readers will wait for your next post whenever that may be. 

One of my favorite authors Shauna Niequist puts it even more succinctly, we just need to make these choices:

Present over perfect.

Quality over quantity.

Relationship over rushing.

People over pressure.

Meaning over mania.

 

To read the four previous posts in this ‘Growing Your Blog’ series follow these links:

Authenticity at Nesting Place

Making Money Blogging at Thrifty Decor Chick

Building a Community & Social Media at Tatertots & Jello

Photography & Styling at Miss Mustard Seed

 

What about you?  Do you share the same struggles to juggle it all?  What tips can you share for better time management or finding that balance we crave so much?  And did you enjoy this series?  I’d love your feedback.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend, get out and spend some time with the people you love in your favorite places eating your favorite food. 

Cheers,

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