PE #5: How to create a blogging workflow that rocks! [Workbook + Infographic]

Productivity Elements - Workflows

Welcome to WAHD Productivity Elements (PE for short). This is a seven part series related to different productivity elements that are important to internalize and apply in every work at home dad’s (WAHD) daily life.

Each part of this series focuses on one important element (nutrition, systems …) that is needed in order to keep a WAHD as productive as possible.

Every post focuses on one certain WAHD group and contains an interview regarding that particular group member.

Not only is it important to understand these elements, but it is also important to realize how these elements are used in real life scenarios.

 

Previous posts on this series:

 

The week has come to an end. You have already completed 3 blog posts and you have started to feel overwhelmed, stressed and confused by this whole blogging thing.

However, it’s not the writing that is bugging you. Rather, it is all the writing-related tasks that come along with it.

Then, all of a sudden you realize … maybe things don’t have to be like this. Maybe there is a way to make the blogging process a smoother experience while saving time to dedicate to other valuable things instead.

Why do happy bloggers become overwhelmed and tired?

When I started blogging, I was very passionate and full of enthusiasm. I loved to write and do everything myself.

Bit by bit things started to change. Although I still was (and I still am) thrilled to be a blogger, some minor things started to bother me; I was spending too much time on trivial things that:

a) I shouldn’t be doing
b) Could be optimized
c) Could be eliminated altogether

It was these small things that started to eat up too much of my time and energy. I soon realized that writing one single blog post spanning into a two-day mini project as a person who has a full-time job and family was simply too much.

Ultimately, writing blog posts started to stress me out; I felt unorganized, tired and overwhelmed, because I knew that I had to take the same tedious steps with each blog post – again and again.

I knew things had to change.

I was doing it all wrong!

Even though I consider myself as a productive and an organized person, my blogging activities were not as optimized as they could have been. In fact, I realized that there was one huge piece of the puzzle that wasn’t quite right: My unorganized working methods.

Sure, I was producing content on a frequent basis like clockwork, yet the way I worked was the part that was causing me unnecessary stress.

So no matter if I was  persistent and consistent, executing a blog post writing project with unorganized working methods was a surefire way to stress myself out!

It’s the workflows …

Now it is quiz time: What is the similarity between an airline pilot, a software developer and a surgeon? They all have a series of steps they follow when they execute their tasks.

This way they can ensure that the work quality is top-notch, that nothing essential is forgotten and that the work gets done – effectively.

If you are a blogger and you have already defined a blogging workflow, then I want to congratulate you!

You are doing things the right way. I bet that your way of working has cut down some extra steps, thus saving time on your blogging.

Although creating a workflow may sound difficult, it’s just the standardized way of executing your work – planning, implementing and marketing your blog post can save you valuable time.

I can imagine you saying: “But I have never designed a workflow before! I don’t have any idea how to do that!”

Well, don’t you worry … It’s very easy.

What does your workflow look like?

I’m showing you how to build a simple workflow so that you can bring the fun back to blogging again. So even if the word “workflow” may put chills down your spine, the whole thing is much simpler than what you think.

In order to create our little blogging workflow, we need to do the following:

Step #1: List all the steps needed to complete a blog post in one big list
Step #2: Put the steps in the correct order of execution
Step #3: Figure out if there are steps that can be removed
Step #4: Figure out if there are steps that can be outsourced
Step #5: Figure out if there are steps that can be optimized
Step #6: Track your time (OPTIONAL)
Step #7: Set deadlines (OPTIONAL)
Step #8: Make it compelling (OPTIONAL)
Step #9: Review the steps on a frequent basis
Step #10: Take it even further

In order to demonstrate the actual workflow, I’m showing you my own so that you can then implement  it to fit your personal needs.

But before we start, I’d like to point out two things: First, I’m showing the workflow as un-optimized at first. I iterate through the different steps and as a final result you can find my completed and revised workflow (after step #9).

Also, I’m talking about proofreading my posts. This is of course a good practice to include to alongside your blogging.

However, if you are a native English speaker, then this part is much faster for you than it is for me. In my situation, I either send the post for my wife to proofread or to an external outsourced proofreader.

So, let’s get started!

Step #1: List all the steps in one big list

This was the complete list of tasks I took originally (Note: This was BEFORE optimization):

  • Brainstorm for ideas
  • Outline the post
  • Move the proofread and edited post to WordPress; schedule and configure the post
  • Write the post by using Word 2010
  • Find the appropriate image for my post
  • Proofread once (by me)
  • Upload the post to Google Docs and share with my wife, notify her (or an outsider proofreader)
  • Write promotional material for the publishing day (for social media + e-mail list)
  • Submit the promotional material to social bookmarking sites and e-mail list
  • Proofread a second time (my wife or an external proofreader)
  • Promote it further

Step #2: Put the steps in the order of execution

This list presents all the tasks in the order I do them:

  • Brainstorm for ideas
  • Outline the post
  • Write the post by using Word 2010
  • Proofread #1 (by me)
  • Upload the post to Google Docs and share with my wife (or an external proofreader); notify her
  • Proofread #2 (by my wife or an external proofreader)
  • Move the proofread and edited post to WordPress, schedule and configure the post
  • Find the appropriate image for my post
  • Write promotional material for the publishing day (for social media + e-mail list)
  • Submit the promotional material to social bookmarking sites
  • Promote it further

Step #3: Figure out if there are steps that can be removed

When I took a look at my blogging process, I could spot the following items that could potentially be removed:

  • Brainstorm for ideas

I used to have separate brainstorming sessions for each of my upcoming posts. Nowadays I seem to get writing ideas all the time, especially when I exercise, read or even when I’m at work.

These ideas pop into my head – but only if I’m doing anything else rather than just sitting in front of my computer and brainstorming.

Just be ready to have a idea capturing device (iPad, pen and paper, smartphone …) available when the idea pops into your mind.

  • Outline the idea

After the brainstorming session, I would normally outline the post. Not anymore.

Although I still do some occasional outlining, it is not a separate session anymore; now it is tightly integrated with my writing (aff-link) part.

  • Write the post by using Google Docs and share with my wife (or with an external outsourcer), notify her

Another small tweak here: Instead of writing the post first on Word 2010 and then separately uploading it to Google Docs, I switched my writing completely to Google Docs!

This combines two steps in one thus saves a bit of my time, every time. Besides, since my documents are stored in the cloud, I can access them whenever I have an Internet connection available.

Step #4: Figure out if there are steps that can be outsourced

After taking a critical look at my workflow, I was able to spot steps that could be outsourced to someone else:

  • Proofread #2

I have already “outsourced” this task to my wife or for an external proofreader.

My tip to you is: Try to find if there are any family members or friends that can do some of the tasks you require.

  • Submit the promotional material to social bookmarking sites. Promote it further.

Yet another step that could be “family-outsourced”, but this is something that I’m doing myself for the time-being.

In fact, thanks to John of TentBlogger, I realized that I was doing my social sharing all wrong.

Instead of logging to every social bookmarking account separately, I promote the post by clicking the the left-hand vertical bar (Digg Digg) buttons on the blog page. This saves my time and makes the sharing process much smoother.

After the initial promotion is done, I still tweet my post (by using BufferApp browser extension) with couple of tweet variations. This should bring more visitors, re-tweets and other mentions on my post

  • Move the proofread and edited post to WordPress, schedule the task and configure. Find the appropriate image for my post.

These steps are the only ones which are not outsourced. However, I’m considering this work to be done either my family members or a virtual assistant at some point.

Step #5: Figure out if there are steps that can be optimized

It’s time to finalize this workflow by tweaking it a bit:

  • Find the appropriate image for my post.

Are you ready for some parallel productivity?

It’s just an effective way of handling two or more things at once (simultaneously). However, this is not multitasking.

For example, if you are cleaning your home, you put the dishwasher on. So instead of doing the cleaning first and the putting the dishwasher on, these two processes are executed at the same time.

This works the same way as in our blogging workflow example. As soon as I have submitted my post for proofreading, I might do something else blogging related (like hunting for the image needed for my post).

Although this was a very simple example, you should try to find as many tasks as possible that could be executed in parallel, not sequentially. This speeds up the blogging process, since you can move on two fronts at the same time.

  • Write promotional material for the publishing day (for social media + e-mail list)

This was yet another tweak I made for my writing methods: Instead of proofreading the post (by me) and then creating the promo material separately, I combined these activities into a one session.

This is yet another way to save time. Also, it gives me a chance to send all the text for proofreading at once (not separately as I did earlier).

Anyway, you may be wondering what the particular promotional material I have been mentioning is.

Well, it’s nothing more than just the descriptions/comments I want to display with each of my social sharing services. For example, I might have a little bit different text for Google+ than I have for LinkedIn.

Step #6: Track the time (OPTIONAL)

If  you want to plan your blogging tasks in a more detailed manner, you can measure how much time each task will take. This will help you to set the appropriate deadlines for your tasks and plan your week ahead of time.

For example, writing a post takes approximately 1-2 hours and the proofreading part at least one hour. This information helps me to decide on which day I write them (before the publishing day).

Step #7: Set deadlines (OPTIONAL)

Although this step is not mandatory either, setting deadlines may give you a boost doing blogging related tasks in a productive way.

The parts that are scheduled are the following:

a) Writing

b) Proofreading by me (happens one day after writing the post)

c) Move the proofread and edited post to WordPress and schedule the task; configure

d) Find the appropriate image for my post

e) Write promotional material for the publishing day (Social media + e-mail)

f) Submit the promotional material to social bookmarking sites

g) Promote it further

An example of this could be a post which goes live on June 5th:

  • May 25, 26: Write the post
  • May 27th: Proofread it and edit it (by me)
  • May 27th: Write the promo material (for social media, e-mail list)
  • May 27th: Send the post for proofreading
  • May 28th: Schedule the post on WordPress and find an image for the post
  • May 28th: Update the auto-responder with an e-mail message; schedule it
  • June 5th: Promote the post
  • June 6th-7th: Promote it further (for e.g. alternate tweet texts …)

Step #8: Document the whole process and make it compelling (OPTIONAL)

The idea is to have all the steps in a one document and make sure that it pleases the eye too. This makes the whole process easier to understand.

For example, it would help your potential virtual assistant to grasp the workflow faster if you decide to outsource parts of the process to him/her later on.

Step #9: Audit the workflow on a frequent basis

To maintain your blogging workflow remains as optimized as possible, it is important to audit it on a frequent basis.

This ensures that you are not doing any extra work and that your system is as fluid as possible.

I audit my processes on a continuous basis, but I try to do it at least once per month. In order to remember to do this, I have scheduled this task (the last Sunday of every month) on my task management tool (Nozbe – aff link).

Step #10: Take it even further

Once you have optimized your workflow as much as possible, the next logical step is to outsource it to an external person (excluding the writing part).

That’s why it is important to document this whole process well. This way, the external person is able to understand what to do when you hand over your documentation to him/her.

My final workflow (optimized)

Here is my final workflow, both in text format and as an infographic version:

1.     Record the new ideas from your smart phone/notes to Google Docs Spreadsheet

        a)    Alternatively you can update your idea list directly if you have a working internet connection on your device

2.     Write the post (in Google Docs)

3.     Proofread and edit the document (by me)

4.     Write the promo material for social sharing and for the e-mail list

5.     Send all the written material for final proofreading (done either one of these persons):

         a) By my wife (share the documents with her on Google Docs)

         b) By an external proofreader (submit post to him in .doc format)

6.     Find appropriate image for my post on DreamsTime

         a) Find the image which costs the least amount of credits possible, but which suits the post the best

7.     Get the proofread documents back and update my auto-responder (Aweber) with an e-mail message, notifying followers about my latest post

8.     Schedule the auto-responder e-mail

         a) To be published on Tuesdays (bi-weekly), 1 PM Eastern

         b) Test the message by sending it to myself first

9.     After the post goes live, promote the post on Google+, Twitter (by Buffer), LinkedIn and BizSugar

         a) Use the pre-written promo texts for the promotion

         b) Share the posts by using the on-page sharing bar

10.   1-2 days after the post has gone live, promote it again on Twitter (by Buffer)

 

Resources

Conclusion

Although this post was a bit long compared to my normal posts, hopefully it helped you to understand the importance of workflows and why you should create one for yourself.

When you put all the steps in a document and start tweaking it further, the whole process is likely to become faster to execute as unnecessary steps are optimized, outsourced or even removed.

This way you can focus on the essential part of your work that every blogger should be focusing on: The blogging.

Over to you: Have you defined workflows related to your recurring tasks? Do you have a blogging workflow?  Share your comments in the comments area.

Finally, if you liked this post, please share it or opt-in to my e-mail list for updates and future articles.

About Timo Kiander

My name is Timo Kiander aka Productive Superdad.

I want to show you how to improve your productivity when working at home and find time for the fun stuff in your life!