Nearly every blogger has had this experience. You fall ill, go on vacation or otherwise miss a day or two of posting and then come back to a serious mess. With so much to catch up on, only 24 hours in the day and a workload that could crush any mortal, many either just give up or cut corners.
The problem is that, as bloggers, we tend to expect too much of ourselves, we anticipate being able to run at 100% all of the time and, when we can’t for whatever reason, we put ourselves in a position where we have to do more than is physically possible to get caught back up.
This leads to a case of blogging overload, trying to do too much with too little time and too little resources. It’s one of the most avoidable crises in a blogger’s experience but one of the more deadly. After all, when one finds themselves in a situation where they have to do more than is physically possible, they have to make sacrifices that will negatively impact their writing in one way or another.
And these are sacrifices no blogger should ever have to make.
There’s a natural tendency for all bloggers, once things begin to take off, to want to more and more for their sites. This becomes even stronger when bloggers begin to take on guest blogging or even recurring writing spots at other sites as they start to add more and more to their weekly writing load, perhaps more than they realize.
The problem is that, while we all know about how long it takes to write a blog post of X number of words, there are two things that are easy to overlook:
- Not All Posts Are Created Equal: You might be able to knock out a 1,000 word post in an hour, but what if it requires research or doesn’t come together on the first draft? An hour-long post can easily become a three-hour monster, something that happens semi-regularly to even the best blogger.
- Life Gets in the Way: What happens if you become sick and can’t write for a few days? What if you have a family emergency and are unable to blog for a while? There are no easy answer to these questions, especially if you have booked up your schedule as far as it can go.
When one does find themselves pushed past the blogging breaking point, something has to give. There are three viable solutions at that point:
- Skip Posts: This may not be possible, especially if one is on a rigid schedule with other blogs, but many bloggers simply have to skip posts and fall out of schedule.
- Cut Corners: Many bloggers just spend less time on each post, usually sacrificing on editing and revision work, resulting in lower-quality writing, weaker ideas and generally worse posts.
- Personal Sacrifices: Finally, bloggers can cut other areas out of their lives to make up for their missed blogging time including sleeping less, spending less time with family and so forth. These sacrifices can cut deep, especially over any long period of time, but may be a way to relieve some of the pressure from the overload.
Of course, one can use any combination of these three solutions, but the result is almost always the same, poorer quality writing, missed posts and/or missed opportunities in life.
In short, nothing good can come of blogging overload as it forces a blogger to make painful choices, all of which have dire consequences. This is the kind of stress that makes many bloggers quit, making this one of the most important, and fortunately easiest, pitfalls to avoid.
How to Avoid It
Avoiding this pitfall requires, more than anything, honesty and planning. Knowing what one is capable for a week or two and knowing what one is capable of over the long haul is two very different things.
The first thing that you have to do is understand as much as you can about your blogging process as you can. How much do you research? How much time is needed for editing and how many posts? And how much time per week can you realistically dedicate to blogging without sacrificing other elements of your life?
Once that’s done, it comes time to create a realistic plan to prevent yourself from walking into this trap.
- Calculate How Many Posts You Can Write Per Week: Using the information above, figure out how many posts you can do, theoretically, in a week.
- Set Your Schedule at 50% of That: For your first month, plan on doing half that many posts. See how it works out in reality as opposed to theory.
- Make Adjustments: If you find that you have a lot of free time left with such a light schedule, add new posts a few at a time but don’t exceed about 80% of your estimated load. If you reach that, and still have a lot of time, you may need to repeat the first step and recalculate how much you can take on in a week.
The goal is to never completely max out your workload. If you’re doing it right, you should always have at least some “free” time in your writing schedule. However, this isn’t to be confused with downtime or idle time. Rather, this is time that can be used to either write future articles and get ahead, thus providing a buffer against any problems in the future, brainstorming or doing research for future articles.
Any of these activities will help ensure that you don’t run aground later and find yourself playing catch up. However, if you do for some reason, the fact that you only use a percentage of your schedule should give you a chance to get caught back up without making too many sacrifices in your work or life, letting you return to normal more quickly.
In short, by building buffers into your schedule and working into the future during your downtime, you can greatly mitigate any problems that you might have and, more importantly, prevent them from happening in the first place.
The big problem with blogging overload is that it has a tendency to creep up on us. We often find ourselves in schedules that, while maintainable most weeks, only become overloaded after life creeps in.
It’s important to remember that, even if blogging is your business, that life trumps blogging and that things like illness, family and time off will get in the way.
If, despite your best efforts, you do find yourself in a situation where you can’t possibly keep your schedule and finish all of the writing before you, the best thing I’ve found to do is to simply skip the posts you need. It may mean apologizing to blogs you write for or skipping a week on your site, but doing that and coming back fresh and with a clean slate is much easier and better in the long run than cutting corners or losing sleep.
In short, as important as it is to make your deadlines, it’s better to miss one, with notification, than it is to do poor work. But, if it does become a recurring problem, you may need to scale back your schedule on a more permanent basis, either by dropping sites or doing fewer posts per week.
That may be painful to do, but if it becomes necessary, it is almost a matter of survival.