As bloggers, our minds and bodies are our most valuable and vital assets in our business. So it's important to keep them in good shape. Surrounded by food and staring at devices all day can make that a challenge! In our Healthy Blogger series, Sondi Bruner shares information and practical strategies to keep you in top form. This month she shares helpful tips in our blogger's guide to managing your workload.
Bloggers have a lot on the go these days. Between writing, photography, social media, working with sponsors, juggling family responsibilities and more, there's a lot to handle on a daily basis. If we don't manage our workloads effectively, we often feel tired, haphazard and insecure.
By crafting a plan to manage your workload, you can feel fully equipped to handle everything that blogging throws at you.
Learn the Art of Saying No
Saying no allows you to set boundaries.
I'm putting this one front and centre, as learning to say no gracefully is an important skill that benefits your mental health, the clients you work with, your potential clients and your blog audience.
Saying no allows you to set boundaries. Even though the word "no" may seem limiting, turning down the projects, events or contracts that aren't beneficial actually frees you up to spend time on the meaningful work you want to do.
In the first few years of my business, I said yes to everything. This was for a few reasons and some of them might be familiar to you. Let's look at some of these reasons we say "yes" and why saying no might be a better choice.
1. You're not entirely sure what you want to do, and have multiple interests you want to explore
Often, what we want becomes illuminated through the process of discovering what we definitely know we don't want. Unfortunately, feeling beholden to do everything asked of us can breed frustration, burnout and resentment. If possible, set some limits around exploration — perhaps you will spend a certain number of hours per month trying something you're curious about, or work for free on a passion project, or take a look at your calendar on a case-by-case basis and see if a new project fits in with all of your current responsibilities.
2. You need the money
This is a stark reality for bloggers and entrepreneurs, especially when they 're starting out. And yes, sometimes finances are going to be the driving factor. Work isn't always going to be rainbows and amusement parks every second of the day, but overall it's important to believe in what you're doing and enjoy most of it.
When you take on projects solely for money — especially those that don't pay you what you're worth — those are the contracts that end up taking control of your work life. While some may say that you can't always get paid for what you love, I think the enormous success of so many amazing FBC bloggers is evidence that you can.
3. You feel really, really bad saying no, like you're letting people down
The people-pleasers out there probably relate well to this one. I am a naturally guilt-ridden person, regardless of whether I actually have a valid reason for feeling that way. I'd worry: If I don't write that blog post, how will this person get his or her important content written? How will my audience know what to choose/do/learn? Who will do that cooking demo if I don't?
When you think about it, though, most of the requests we get as bloggers aren't coming from really close personal friends and family. They're coming from businesses and professionals who are used to hearing people turn them down. If you say no, there are probably 5 or 10 or 20 other people on their list that they can approach to do the same job. That other blogger may do things differently from you, but that potential client will be absolutely fine without your services!
4. You worry you'll be missing out on something totally awesome and career-altering if you say no
Fear of missing out isn't just unique to blogging; it's pervasive in many career areas and in our social lives. FOMO is even in the dictionary now!
- What if that low-paying gig turns into a higher-paying gig in six months?
- What if writing that one article leads to a regular column?
- What if the small company that asked me for recipe development is highlighted in O Magazine and becomes a huge company?
- What if that TV appearance leads to an extra 5,000 hits on my blog?
What if, what if, what if...
Try not to make a career decision about whether to take on a certain project or client based on what you may regret in the future. Focus on the details of the actual work:
- Do you have the right skill set for the job?
- Is this a company or brand you want to work with because they share your values?
- Does the request for a sponsored post benefit your readers and what they want to know?
- Is this something you want to do? Does it fit in with your career goals and your niche?
- Are you being paid a fair amount for the work requested?
Also, don't discount your gut instincts and what they're telling you about a particular project.
In my experience, opportunities are like buses: another one is always going to come along. And when it does, you'll be ready for it, and you'll actually have the capacity to take on those opportunities because you've made space for them.
How To Say No Gracefully
There are a couple of ways you can say no.
1. The Definitive No
This is for when you're sure you don't want to do the work. I don't think you need to provide a ton of details as to why — the potential client doesn't need to hear all of the reasons. Keep it simple and thank them for getting in touch with you, but say you're unable to fulfil their request.
If possible, I like to provide a recommendation to a fellow writer, blogger or nutritionist who may be able to help them. While I'm being firm in my negative response, I'm still being helpful.
2. The No for Right Now
This is for when you're genuinely interested in a project, but don't have room for it in your schedule at the moment. In this case, explain by saying something like, "I'd love to do this, but I'm unable to take this project on until (date). Is that something that would work for you?" Then, the client can choose whether they'd like to wait or move on.
Please don't use the "no for right now" as a way to avoid saying a definitive no. If you're going to offer a client the potential to work with you in 30 or 60 days, carve that time into your schedule for later. If you really don't want to do a project, don't delay — use the definitive no!
Create a Workable, Realistic Schedule
Hopefully, by now you know yourself better than anyone else and how you're able to get things done. The important thing is to create a schedule for all of your projects, whether that's using a calendar or some other project management system, in order to plan to complete your workload. Some things to consider:
- If you work best in the morning, afternoon or evening, plan your day around this.
- If you work better in large chunks, set aside large chunks of time. If you're more effective working in short, creative bursts, do that instead.
- Schedule your most difficult, creative juice-zapping tasks during the time when you will be most productive. In essence, do the hard things first!
- Plan for family/social activities and appointments.
- Give yourself a buffer of time — schedule more time than you need to complete each task.
- Break up larger tasks into smaller ones to make them more manageable.
- Create a workflow for regular projects, such as blog posts, to account for all of the elements needed like writing, recipe development, food photography, editing, SEO, etc.
Work on Your Time Management Skills
One of the keys to managing your workload is having a good handle on your time. Becoming adept at time management for bloggers is an evolving practice and isn't something we can do once and forget about it. There are a lot of demands on our time and attention. Here are some suggestions for handling them.
Limit or Reduce Social Media
This is such a huge time suck, and the difficult part about social media is it's integrated (and necessary) for what we do as bloggers. However, I often convince myself that I'm on social media for work when I'm really going down a rabbit hole of watching cute dog videos or envying someone's awesome Instagram story.
Set time limits for what you spend on social media. By all means, use it for pleasure. However, if you're looking for some extra time in the day, reducing social media is often going to be where you can find it! There are lots of tools available to help you limit your time on these apps. Instagram even has a built in tool to help!
Consider what's distracting in your work life and how you can reduce or eliminate it. If you need complete silence, turn off the TV and put all of your notifications on silent. Leave your phone in another room if you need to! Email can also be a distraction. Instead of checking it every hour, decide to check it two or three times a day.
Work in a Dedicated Work Space
This might be a home office, or somewhere outside the home. Create a space for yourself that sets you up for success and gets you in the mindset to work. I don't have a problem working from home, and for many blogging tasks it's essential to have access to your kitchen, your tools and the right light.
However, if you're struggling with other blogging tasks that don't involve you being at home, perhaps you might be more productive going to the library or coffee shop for an hour, especially if you have a time limit and need to get home to relieve the babysitter.
Be Your Own Awesome Gatekeeper
Some people can be time vampires who drain your time and energy. Others may be well-meaning, and don't understand the full implications of what they're asking of you and how much of your time and expertise it takes to respond (for example, someone who emails you to ask how to become a great blogger or photographer).
If it helps, write up an FAQ section for your blog with some common questions and refer people to it. You can also do an FAQ for potential clients as well, to cut down on some of the back and forth.
Not everyone who emails you with a request deserves your valuable time. This was a huge "aha" moment for me when I recently read a book that included some tips on time management and boundary setting. It recommended not responding to emails when people ask you questions that take them 30 seconds to ask and 30 minutes of your time to craft a response (especially when that response can be easily googled).
This is a vortex I often find myself falling into … Place the burden on others to research the best online writing class or the most full-bodied olive oil!
We can't do everything all at once. Some things need to be done in sequence. Take a look at your schedule and prioritize upcoming deadlines (though I also find it helpful to carve out some time to work ahead, even if it's only some preliminary research).
Are You Really Too Busy?
I firmly believe that we have time for the things we make time for. Sometimes, the phrase "I don't have time" can be code for "I don't actually want to do that," or "I'm stressed and overwhelmed," or "I'm scared," or many other things. Dig down into the muck and figure out if you really have a time crunch, or are putting something off for another reason.
Take Advantage of Technology and Tools
I'm the first to admit that technology isn't my strong suit (my signature emoji on Skype is the dancing Grandma). Decide on the technology and other tools that are going to help you manage your workload. Remember, a piece of paper and a pen are technically tools! It can be as simple or complicated as you need it to be.
What you use will depend on the goals for your blog or business and what you need to do in order to accomplish your workload. You might find some of these top tools helpful. Try some things out and if they help you, great. If they don't, don't feel pressured to use them.
Ask for Help When You Need It
Don't feel shy about asking for help from other people so you can get your work done. You might need work-related or non work-related help, such as:
- Mentorship from another blogger or entrepreneur
- A mastermind group
- A virtual assistant
- An editor
- A graphic designer
- A web designer
- An SEO expert
- Family help with household tasks or chores
- Household help such as cleaners, plumbers, electricians, etc.
As bloggers, we often feel pressured to know everything and do everything. However, it's equally important to recognize what we're really, really good and is essential for us to do personally to ensure the success of our blogs, and what we can ask for help with to allow us to shine.
Make Time for Self-Care
Work, family, friends, pets or colleagues can leave us depleted, even if we enjoy what we do. That's where self-care can step in and help. Build time for yourself into your calendar. It doesn't have to be a lengthy amount; a few minutes of deep breathing, listening to music, having a cup of tea or whatever makes you happy is enough.
The more relaxed we feel, the more we're likely to feel creative, inspired and ready to tackle that workload.
Remind yourself that you're fully capable of what you've decided to do. Try not to live in fear of what might happen if the words don't come, the photos suck or nobody clicks. You've written great posts and cultivated great community engagement and shot drool-worthy photos before, so why wouldn't you be able to replicate your success for that new post or client?
- The Healthy Blogger: Eating Healthfully
- The Healthy Blogger: Creating Time For Yourself
- Blogger Health: Exercise and Staying Active
Sondi Bruner is a holistic nutritionist, freelance writer, food blogger and author of the Anti-Inflammatory Diet in 21, The Candida Free Cookbook and Action Plan, co-author of The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Action Plans as well as multiple e-books on healthy eating. She educates people who follow allergen-friendly diets about how to eat simply, deliciously and safely, allowing them to rediscover the pleasure of food. When she’s wearing her writer’s hat, she works with natural health brands to create content that will help their customers live fulfilling, healthful lives. Find out more at www.sondibruner.com. Or you can follow Sondi on Facebook or Twitter.