Grab control of your schedule and productivity by creating systems for your blogs. You'll get more done, feel less stress and have more time to spend living your life.
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Remember the good old days of food blogging? You know... way back 10 years ago? You could put up a new recipe whenever you felt like it. The photos might be a bit orange and awkwardly styled but it didn't really matter. Facebook was around but not yet in its prime. Twitter was where people hung out and had actual conversations in real time. Pinterest didn't even exist yet. SEO was something your web designer talked to you about but you didn't really listen (that is if you actually spent the money on a web designer!). Ad revenue was spotty and we all got excited if a brand offered us free yogurt.
Well... that was 10 years ago. Just 10 years ago. My how things have changed! If you're running your blog as a business - either full time or part time, the list of things you need to do can now feel as long as your arm. And that's just the stuff you need to do to keep things up and running. It doesn't include staying ahead of the rapid changes that keep coming our way.
If you're lucky, you're earning enough to pay a VA to help you out part or full time. But a lot of you are still doing it all yourself and it can feel exhausting.
And that, my friends, is why it's time to put some systems in place. I know that sounds very corporate-y and kind of rigid. But here's a better way to think of systems: they're shortcuts.
Shortcuts to finishing your work day in time to hang out with your kids, have a date night with your partner, read a book, go for a hike, do whatever you wish you had more time to do.
And, even better, systems are what allow you to go on vacation. Actual vacations where you turn off your phone notifications and leave your laptop behind and completely relax knowing that things are ticking along just fine without you. Ah... bliss.
From a business standpoint, having systems in place also make your blog a more saleable asset should the time come where you want to retire from it or move on to something new. If you want to learn more about this we highly recommend the E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber. It's an excellent book on how to build your business so that it's ready to be sold at any time - whether or not you ever choose to sell it.
Speaking of moving on to something new, if you've got systems in place that allow you to take vacations without being heavily involved in your blog, those same systems can allow you the space and freedom to take on other projects you'd really love to do or have a baby and take a year of mat leave, or travel around the world for six months.
Systems give you options.
So... systems... they're sounding better and better right now aren't they?
Here are 8 ways to can systematize your blog and free up your time for other things... or just get a decent night's sleep!
1. Time Blocking and Batch Producing
Time blocking and batch producing are two different things but they go hand in hand! They're also what have kept me somewhat organized for the last two years.
Time blocking is where you assign certain parts of your calendar to specific tasks consistently. For instance, every Monday may be your bookkeeping and admin day where you send out all your invoices, remit any payments, follow up on client emails etc. Tuesdays may be your video filming day. Wednesdays may be your recipe testing day. You get the idea.
The key to time blocking is being consistent. Mondays are always your bookkeeping day - you don't shove that aside if something else comes up. You also don't make exceptions and do a single bookkeeping task on a Thursday. You save it all up for its designated day. This way your brain isn't switching back and forth between tasks - it get to focus on one particular thing during a designated period of time.
You can also do this by months or weeks. For instance, the first week of every new quarter is when you record all your podcast interviews or shoot all your recipes for the next quarter.
And this is where batch producing comes in. Instead of developing, cooking, testing, styling, shooting and writing up a blog post and doing a video for a new recipe every week and never feeling like you're getting ahead (Ack! I can't go away next week... I have to get another new recipe up!), you do all your cooking and photography for the next month on one or two days that are set aside just for that.
Time block email and social media as well. You don't need to respond to emails immediately. Set aside two blocks of time during the day that are just for email and be religious about sticking to them. It frees up so much mental energy.
By doing time blocking and batch producing you can actually get ahead of yourself - by a few days, a few weeks or a few months depending on how you schedule things. And that gives you freedom and choices - yes you can make a last minute decision to go away next week - your posts are already in WordPress and scheduled and your VA will take care of scheduling social media when it's live. Feeling a bit under the weather? Take a day or two off and let your body heal - you know your systems will keep things running while you take care of yourself.
You will need to learn to be fiercely protective of your calendar and learn to say no. If you don't say no, your shortcuts will disappear!
2. Use Social Media Schedulers
Use a social media scheduler. There are lots of them out there to choose from. Tailwind is best for Pinterest. Later is a great one for Instagram although more and more schedulers are now adding Instagram to their offerings. (as an aside Later also has a fantastic newsletter full of tips for Instagram) Co-Schedule partners neatly with WordPress. Meet Edgar allows you to build up libraries of content based on categories which means you can build a category for Christmas content and only add that content to your schedule in November and December. You can read our review of Meet Edgar here.
WordPress plug-ins like Export All URLs allow you to export an entire list of all your post URLS and titles to a spreadsheet, which make it easy to go through older content and make sure it's been scheduled to all the appropriate social media channels.
Don't forget to check in live on social media once a day and respond to any questions or comments. Scheduling your content will mean you can get your "hands on" social media time down to 15-30 minutes a day depending on how high your volume of interaction is.
3. Email Templates
Do you ever find yourself writing the same emails over and over again? Whether it's looking for invoice payments, answering questions from brands or pitching yourself, in all likelihood you're writing the same 5-10 emails over and over again with minor variations.
Creating email templates for yourself will save you from living in gmail. They're also great if you hire an assistant - you can give them the templates and let them respond on your behalf to all the routine queries that don't require a more personal touch.
If you need help with email templates or don't have time to create your own, check out the FBC Email Template Package - 22 email templates just for food bloggers that address all the most commonly sent types of emails we all handle on a daily basis. Now you've saved even more time!
4. Editorial Calendars
If you're not using an editorial calendar, this can go a long way to keeping you organized and ensure that when it comes time to do your batch producing you know exactly what you need to get done. Time block a day or two every quarter to sit down and plan out your content for the next 3 months.
It doesn't have to be exact and you can be flexible as things come up, but having at least a partial plan in place will help you keep things streamlined and moving and ensure you don't waste time on the days where you need to get the work done. The FBC Food Blog Planner can be a great tool to help you stay on track. You can also read more about editorial calendars here.
5. Have a Checklist For Publishing Content
Have a checklist for publishing all your different types of content. Not only is this handy for you but it makes it so much easier to hand off work when you hire somebody to help you. They have a system right in front of them and they can check off each step as they get it done.
Make sure you capture every task that happens for each type of content: recipe post, regular blog post, video content, podcasts etc. Everyone's checklist will be a bit different but you can refine yours as you go.
6. Use An Accounting/Invoicing Service
Using an on-line accounting service can streamline your entire invoicing process as well as your expenses, GST collection and paying your employees or contractors. You'll be able to see who owes you money and who, if anyone, is late on payments. Best of all it can make tax time a breeze - many software services will allow you to invite an accountant or bookkeeper to your account and provide all the reporting tools they'll need when they prep your taxes. They're also chock full of reports to help you ensure you're running your business effectively and managing your cash flow. They can also be much more user friendly than an excel spreadsheet.
There are lots of services out there but make sure you're using one that supports the country you're in. Some great ones to look at for Canadian bloggers are Quickbooks On-Line, Freshbooks (a Canadian company) and Wave (Wave has a free version for those of you who may not have large revenue streams yet!)
7. Automate Your Backup Process
You are backing up, right? Please tell us you're backing up!
Backups can be automated. There are lots of options out there. There are WordPress plug-ins that will do it for you on a schedule. You can tell them to backup your blog daily or weekly. You can specify if you just want a database backup or if you want a full backup with photos and theme files. They can backup to your dropbox or other cloud storage. You can also pay your host to back up at the server level for you.
There are lots of options out there. Some good ones to check out for WordPress included:
8. Record Screen Capture Videos Of Your Processes
If you are thinking of hiring some help, this one is a game changer. Start doing screen capture recordings of your processes right now and create a little mini catalogue of them. That way when you do hire somebody, you can give them access to the library of recordings to review and they can actually see how you do things.
Don't be afraid to talk while you do your screen capture, explaining what you're doing and why. I have done these for our VA before and it's super helpful because not only can she hear me telling her what to do but she can also watch it at the same time and she can refer back to it over and over again until she's got the hang of the process. Our web developer also records these little videos for me to show me how to do tasks on our site's back end. It's so helpful!
They don't have to be long videos - keep them short. Nor do they have to be professional looking. They just need to get the job done. Some good ones to start with are how you build your newsletter template, how you create pins in Canva, how you schedule a Facebook post etc.
These are especially great if your future assistant works remotely in another province or even another country. And even if you have a VA, they may not be your VA forever and how much less stress would you have if you know that when you hire a new one, you have a library of quick and easy videos they can watch and get up to speed with quickly?
This is also great if you selling your blog is in your future plans. It's great to be able to hand off the reigns to a new owner with video tutorials they can watch if they need help with something instead of calling you!
We hope you found these 8 tips to help you set up systems for your blog helpful. If you've got a great tip or system that you're using, please drop us a note in the comments!
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