Earlier this week I wrote a post: Se7en Tips for Coping with the Swathe of Social Media… and it was really the theory behind keeping a realistic perspective and a balance between our time online and actual living. This post is the follow-up and really the practical and realistic side of how I spend time online, the when, the where and the how. Keep in mind that I am no organising expert or master of time-management… not to mention that I just love the internet and have been active on it since before the internet was the internet.
I have to say that I really don’t want to be the mother who is always looking at a screen and I am very conscious of making sure that for school time, story time, the great outdoors and so on… I am just not in front of a screen. That being said, there are times in our day when everyone is busy and working on their own thing, my own thing from my kids perspective is: “blogging and other online stuff…” I am available if they need me, and yes my kid’s play is their work. If they are building lego’s or building a fort, that really doesn’t require my intervention and they don’t expect it, I won’t interrupt them. Similarly, I don’t expect them to interrupt my work either. It is pretty organic, I can see that they are busy and they can see that I am busy… so no closed doors, no large signs saying: “Work in progress or Keep Out”… there are the occasional “No brother’s allowed” and “sister keep out”… but I think that may be a whole ‘nother thing.
Actual Screen Time of a Busy Blogger
- Consistency is Key: In an ideal world I would get up three hours before my children, catch up on my emails, grind the corn to make the bread for breakfast (just checking if you are still reading!!!) and dive into school, fresh and breezy and ready for the day when they wake up. Truth is I wake up about the same time as our kids and if I go near my email or just quickly finish off a blog post them I can literally toss our homeschool day out of the window. Those quick little tasks at your computer are attention drains. If you are replying to a business email then you cannot do it while helping someone with fractions – just no. The fractions will suffer, but worse the recipient will receive a very strange email, and it may not be quite representative of the image you are trying to portray. My kids are not aloud online during school time and I apply the same rule to myself. I am pretty much not near my laptop before lunchtime… ever. However, not all screens are laptop screens…
- Not all Platforms were Created Equally: I never use my phone as an actual phone, I may occasionally message with it… I do however use it for most of our “social media-ing.” Different platforms, like twitter and instagram, have very different audiences. If you post the same posts on every platform you can expect your followers to be ever so slightly yawning. Honestly, there is fine line between loyalty and devotion and being good to your followers is an important part of maintaining your following. I do not expect our instagram followers to follow our blog or twitter feed, and only occasionally invite followers to take a peak across different media. I have three main areas that are not our blog, where we can be found online:
- Instagram:I post about two to three Instagram photographs everyday. I scroll through our Instagram feed, and comment on other photographs whenever I post a photograph. I can and do do this while we are living. Instagram for me, is a mini-blog post, I can share what we are up to, so in order to post we have to be up to something… this is a good thing. There is only so much lying around and reading of books that you can share before you have to get up and actually DO something. This takes about five minutes three times a day and I consider it my “tea break.” I get a lot of encouragement from our Instagram followers and lets face it a mother needs all the encouragement she can get. (Total time: 15 minutes a day).
- Twitter: I am not on twitter 24/7 by any means, I actually use twitter to share other folks content far more than our own. I engage brands on twitter more than anywhere else and have made great connections over there. I like looking for interesting things that our followers will enjoy. I know you can prepare and schedule your tweets over the day, but I have found that being present when I tweet really ups our engagement. So I don’t schedule tweets, I prefer to check our twitter feed after most meals before I clean up, and to mentally I reward myself with a five-ish minute twitter spell. I check to see what our favourite brands have posted first and then scroll through our twitter feed looking for about three things to share… before tackling the kitchen clean-up. (Total time: 15 minutes a day).
- Pinterest: And then there is Pinterest, which can quickly become the greatest time vacuum of all. Here is a little secret about Pinterest, you can batch pin and your readers will keep on growing while you are not looking. I probably pin for about twenty minutes one evening a week. I only pin things that I think our readers will like. Please note: Just because I pin a cool kids bedroom doesn’t mean I will be redecorating, just because I pin a cool craft doesn’t mean that I will be hauling out the empty toilet rolls any time soon. I have a board called recipes to try… I don’t feel any guilt that I have only tried about five of those recipes ever. It is stuff I like to see and stuff I think our readers would like to see. Think of Pinterest as a museum of eye-candy and you will be fine, as soon as you think of it as a list of things to do or to get done… you are sunk. (Total Time: less than 5 minutes a day).
- That Pesky Newsreader: Reading and commenting on other blogs takes up a large chunk of my online time, it is how I stay engaged with a lot of our online friends. Usually after the kids are in bed, this is my first port of call… I scroll through my news reader and open in a browser the posts that I either want to link to in our fabulous fun posts, or those that I want to comment on. I know some folk split their news reader into categories like crafts, kids, design and so on… but I have organised my feed reader into categories like: Read immediately, must comment, highlights, and so on… I spend about half an hour reading my news, it is my transition between the day and blogging. When I am finished reading the news and I have read all my “must read” posts… and most of the others… don’t faint: I clear my reader, always. That way I know anything I am reading is current, there is some much stuff on the internet that even if I was on it 24/7 I would be missing something. I feel no pain about setting my newsreader to zero… it is just saying “That was enough internet for the day and my bucket is full.” If my kids have a late or sleepless night then I skip the newsreader for that day… think of it as forgetting to buy the newspaper, the world will keep on spinning.
Once I have closed the newsreader, I head into my browser and start sorting posts that I opened up. Some are things that spark an idea… I drop them in Evernote. Some post I think our readers will love, I pin them. And I just close the tabs as I go. I know, comments are fading away into oblivion, but I love commenting and I want to let folk I follow know that I appreciate their work. So this is when I will comment and then close the tab. By the end of my fist chunk of time at my computer for the day I will have opened a number of tabs and then closed them again. (Total time: 30 minutes on weekdays).
- And then there is Email: I get a ton of it. I ignore a heap of it. I am just not concerned with having a zero inbox… it is of zero consequence to me. Yes, I feel people shuddering as they read this. Email is pretty much like a telephone to me, there when it is useful and otherwise I tend to ignore it. I do read emails throughout the day… but hardly ever reply instantly. If an email is important then I pop it into a folder called action. During the day, I am juggling far too many things to necessarily get out a coherent email. The emails that I do reply too I consider too important to waste with a shabby reply, when I cannot pay them the due attention they need. Generally email can wait, and it does, until I can give it my full attention. By the time I get round to replying, ideas and decisions have been made and emails take about five minutes to tackle. Anything longer, a reply to a question for instance, is a potential blog post and I put it onto my list of potential posts. (Total time: 5 minutes).
- Totally Not Screen Time: My best blogging happens away from my screen… preparation is key. I have two really good times for working in a day. After lunch everyday we have a rest and a read, everyone reads their own books. I have to read then, I review books and by the time the kids are in bed I am too tired to read with any sort of intelligence. Immediately after our rest, the kids tend to get into the heart of playing and I tend to be at my most mentally energetic. I work away from my computer then, wherever I find myself, creating lists for list posts, doing any research, creating photographs… planning what needs to be written and popping ideas down onto paper… by the time I get to my computer after bedtime, the post outline is pretty much written.
- The Evening Lull: Here’s the thing… once my kids head for bed I very often take a nap alongside them and wake up later to work. If I don’t take a nap… then my brain is not at it’s fighting fittest. I kid you not. This is a good time for me to sort, edit and generally manage photographs. Once I have read my news for the evening I usually head for Lightroom and spend a fair amount of time sorting out photographs… editing, tagging and so on… before sending them up to flickr. I have to do this part first… because it takes an age to load photographs up, remember bottom corner of Africa… internet is not always at its best. Very often the reason I don’t get a blog post out is because it has taken far too long to load the photographs… and I then leave the post until the next night and head for bed while the photographs load. I’ll say it again… sometimes you just can’t post the post you want to post. When I started blogging I would become so disheartened, now I would rather wait until the photographs are ready and the post is all sorted. I am (fairly) confident that our readers will be there to read the next post when it heads out. (Total Time: 30 minutes a day).
- Actual Blogging: My second good brain spell of the day is at about midnight. This is the last thing that happens on any day in the life of inter-netting… and forms a fairly small part of my screen time. By the time I sit down to blog I will have usually have a se7en+1 point list, outlining the post I intend to write. Certain posts have templates up and running and good to go. I love a good template and use them a lot for any kind of post that is likely to have the same style again and again: Recipe’s, Week that Was, What we are Reading Right Now,… I am sure our readers would like me to spend time on creating content, rather than re-inventing the wheel. For all the planning, I have yet to discover the quick post… it takes ages to create a blog post, that is the nature of blogging.
Otherwise I have a blog schedule, it is not as strict as it once was… but there is still a certain rhythm to our posts. I tend to blog outings on the weekend… those are photo rich and I pop the photographs into the post and then start writing. I only have one or maybe two opinion piece posts a week and they take longer to write. I get at least an outline of our posts away from the screen on a piece of paper, before actually sitting down and typing them in. I have a mailer that mails posts out to readers in the early hours of the morning, if i am not finished a post by then and I know there will be nothing to send out then I leave it for the night and I won’t look at the post again until the next evening. I have this idea that some posts are worth waiting for and I value our readers time enough to let them wait a little longer and have something worthwhile to read… I have a feeling that we won’t be losing valuable and engaged readers if we take an extra day to write a good post. However rushing a post, just to have one, could well turn readers away. (Total time: At least 1 hour a night depending on the type of post).
- Half an Hour of Planning: I have to spend half an hour on a Sunday evening planning the week ahead… it is a lose plan. Just the days of the week in a piece of paper and what I intend to blog about on that day. Very often the plan changes as I go along. But if there is no plan then the wheels simply fall off. It is vital for our blog that I plot and plan… opinion pieces need a couple o f days worth of ruminating, craft or recipe posts need to be created, books need to have been read, outings need to have been gone on. Quite simply if we haven’t done something offline first, then it is never going to happen online. (Total time: less than 5 minutes a day).
And the se7en + 1th time…
Turns out I spend great chunks of time on what I love the best… blogging, and a lot less time on social media than folk probably expect. I do take about two nights a week off from blogging and one or two days off twitter and instagram completely. I always return eager and ready for more, I firmly believe a break is as good as a holiday.