I have gradually evolved a system for writing this blog that separates out the creative aspects (coming up with topics) from the productivity aspects (actually getting to a finished published blog). I thought I’d share it as many people have roles where they need to be creative and they need to get things done.
My Bullet Journal is the backbone of my productivity system. I use it to balance all the asks on my time and all the goals I want to achieve so it is natural for my blog process to be in my journal. I started with a journal page per topic. Every time I thought of a topic for a blog I’d write the title on the top of the page and start a mind map or jot down some bullets.
To reduce the number of nearly blank pages with just a title and a few bullets I introduced an ideas page which had just a couple of bullets to describe a future post. This was handy for ideas I wanted to capture but did not want to flesh out at that time.
I soon had many pages of partially complete posts along with the ideas page. Due to the non-sequential nature of a Bullet Journal, these were spread out. So I created a blog post tracker. The tracker is not only useful for overcoming the fact the journal is not sequential but it also helps me monitor the state of various ideas. The tracker is not (yet) kanban as many ideas are in different stages and I don’t want to put a work in progress limit on my ideas – this is about being creative not procedurally efficient.
I thought the challenge would be coming up with ideas. It’s not. The two challenges are structuring the ideas and getting posts finished.
Most ideas get fleshed out in the journal either a series of key points or a mind map. Some go straight to Scrivener – but these can sometimes lack structure. Scrivener is a writing app, designed for writing books, that lets you have a workspace with topics/chapters (folders), note cards (overview of content) and then within a note card the actual text. I quickly found that a word document per blog post was a nightmare to manage as the number of ideas increased. My blog is not a book or a screenplay but I find the organisation tools of Scrivener handy.
I get ideas from many sources. Some of the posts are on topics I frequently mentor on. Books and podcasts spark ideas. Occasionally I’ll wake at 3 am and need to capture something – these can be really insightful powerful ideas (or complete rubbish) – either way capturing it means I can go back to sleep.
Some provoke research and fact checking. This can deteriorate into a multi-hour deep dive and divergent research on the web. I find uncovering new insights and techniques in such research fun, though it can distract me from what I am trying to blog about.
Sometimes a title is not enough to capture an idea, sometimes a title does not remind me of what I wanted to cover. So I also now have a page of potential ideas which are a few sentences capturing something I want to blog on but can’t quite articulate in a succinct title (a bit like the original ideas page).
Some posts are stuck at an unstructured mess stage causing deeper reflection – what is the point I’m trying to get across? What am I trying to say? Eventually (hopefully) these evolve over time into posts.
When my draft is complete I copy it into Grammarly to check for spelling errors. Then it goes into WordPress and hunt for images begins. I originally wanted to use all my own pictures and possibly doodles too. However, I quickly gave up on this idea and got some credits on a stock photo site. The WordPress dashboard has a plugin which gives me SEO information and readability stats. Not surprisingly for a dyslexic, my readability stats are poor, but I’m working on it. I don’t do much with the SEO – just enter a title and a keyword and ignore the red traffic light.
As a result of blogging, I’ve spent less time on CandyCrush. Reflecting on what I share with the people I mentor and forming it into blog posts has helped me focus on just getting across one point at a time. This is a little different from my normal style where whilst of on a tangent I can go off on another tangent almost recursively before (hopefully) returning to the point I was trying to make.