Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Using a blog hiatus to, well, blog

This will sound like a busman's holiday, but bear with me.

I took a blog and social media hiatus in the month of June, and one common reaction was, "Have a wonderful break!" or "Enjoy that long vacation!" But I didn't enter into it as a vacation. For one thing, I worked all of that month. I just didn't publish and didn't post on social sites, professionally or personally. But I did use part of the hiatus--a relatively small part, as it turns out--to get my two blogs populated for much of the rest of the year.

Wait, what? You heard me. I put in a small amount of time, and wound up being able to fill most of my blog schedule--two posts a week on one blog, three on the other--for the rest of 2017. As I came out of the hiatus, I had 109 posts either half set up or completely written on my two blogs, and that leaves just about two dozen or fewer posts to do for the rest of the year. A month after my hiatus was over, both blogs were fully scheduled with posts.

Here's how I tackled the task:
  1. I started with the highly formatted posts: I have two weekly features, one on each blog, that round up posts I've shared on Facebook and posts on those blogs. They each have a specific format, so I scheduled weekly posts; put in the shell text that's the same each time; found and added photos and graphics. Then I got into my Evernote notebooks for these posts and set up posts on each blog's Facebook page, with links to those articles in the shell posts. This was fairly mechanical, and therefore fast.
  2. I set up time-focused or calendar-specific posts: At the end of December, I do some "top 10 for the year" posts about the most-read posts on each blog. At Thanksgiving, I write posts thanking my clients and readers. Those are easy to set up now.
  3. I dug into my queue of draft post ideas and my Evernote story ideas file: I tag specific notes in Evernote as "story ideas," and I got in there and cleaned up that file, then wrote up the remaining ideas. 
  4. I got my virtual assistant to research missing pieces: Some of my posts rely on texts or transcripts of speeches, or videos of speech delivery, so I tasked FancyHands with running those down. Once available, I could write the related posts.
  5. I farmed out a couple of posts to my freelancer writer, and invited a couple of guest posts. Those went right into the queue when they were received.
  6. As new ideas popped up, I wrote them up. That's one of the luxuries of taking yourself off of a regular publishing schedule for a bit: You can get to the writing faster. This alone helped me fill up the queues for the blogs.
  7. I left some room for flex: I know I'll have more ideas in the next six months, and having the blog queues well-stocked helps me when it comes to doing of-the-moment posts that can't be planned--and I've already done some of those, moving the scheduled posts further out in the queue. It's a great mix of timeliness and planning.
If you're going to try this, it helps to understand the editorial plan for your blog. On my blogs, I know which type of post appears on which day of the week, what the format is for series posts, and the goals for each post. That makes it easier to understand the overall vision, and fulfill it. Recurring posts or a series may seem onerous when you are thinking them up, but if you set them up right, they are easy to put together.

I liked this catch-up approach so much I may try it again later this year. If I were just starting a blog, I'd hold off first publication while spending a month populating that blog for the next six months. Not having to worry about posts appearing currently freed me up to think more and better about the posts I was prepping ahead of time. Getting long-saved story ideas onto the blogs was a delight. And having it all (well, nearly all) prepped this far means my next six months will be that much easier...well worth the month-long hiatus.

(Creative Commons licensed photo by Anonymous Account)

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