How to Write More Content with Time Chunking

What do I do as a content marketer and creator? It would probably be easier to tell you what I don’t do, since that’s a much shorter list! I bet that you feel the same way, especially if you’re part of a small team or work on a contract basis for several clients.

With an ever-growing task list, it can feel impossible to make headway. Have you ever gotten to the end of a day and thought, “Man, I worked so hard today, but I don’t know what I accomplished!” – because I know I have!

The solution – and the very best way to create more content – is to “chunk” your time.

I’ve been chunking my time for years. I guess I’m a natural chunker. But the first time I ever heard this term was from John Lee Dumas, creator of the podcast Entrepreneur on Fire. His claim to fame is that he releases a new episode every day. Every day. And we’re not talking 5-minute sound bites. He does high-quality interviews with some of the top entrepreneurs in the world.

When he first came up with the idea, some of the most influential podcast instructors were naysayers. They’ve all had to admit that they were wrong, since his podcast is a smashing success! But what eludes most people is the understanding of how John creates so much content.

How does he record, edit, publish, and promote hundreds of episodes every year?

How do I (and many other bloggers) write, edit, publish, and promote hundreds of blog posts every year?

How do we still have time for a life or…sleep!?!

The answer is time chunking. Essentially, time chunking is grouping like tasks to make them go faster.

Let’s think about this on simpler terms to illustrate how it works. Imagine that you’re an executive assistant for a high-powered CEO, sitting at your desk, and he gives you a list of five things to do:

  • Pick up my dry cleaning.
  • Drop off a batch of files with the secretary.
  • Call a cab for my 3 PM meeting.
  • Take my wife to the airport.
  • Read over the speech I’m delivering next week and make recommendations for changes.

He tells you that since it is Friday, you can leave when you’re done with these tasks.

Now, would you do these tasks one at a time, in the order given to you? Or would you try to “group” tasks in a way that makes sense? Let’s say that you just run down the list. Your steps would go something like this:

  1. Walk downstairs to parking garage.
  2. Drive to dry cleaners and retrieve items.
  3. Drive back to office building
  4. Walk upstairs to office and hang items in closet.
  5. Pick up files from your desk.
  6. Walk to secretary’s office and give her files.
  7. Walk back to desk.
  8. Call cab company and schedule pick-up.
  9. Walk downstairs to parking garage.
  10. Drive to airport with wife.
  11. Drive back to office building.
  12. Walk back upstairs to desk
  13. Read over speech and email CEO your recommendations.

Finally done – you can drive home! Depending on traffic, it might take you all day to get these tasks done, and your feet are probably sore.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to do things this way:

  1. Call cab company and schedule pick-up.
  2. Read over speech and email CEO your recommendations.
  3. Walk downstairs to parking garage, dropping off files on the way.
  4. Drive to dry cleaners and retrieve items.
  5. Drop wife off at airport.
  6. Drive back to office.
  7. Walk upstairs to drop off dry cleaning.

You just went from 13 tasks to 7 tasks – a reduction of almost 50%. Instead of working all day, you get to leave at lunchtime, simply because you re-organized tasks in a way that made more sense.

Most of us do this automatically without realizing it, but it often pays to consciously think about how to organize your day, because you can find ways to be even more efficient.

Chunking your time isn’t just about organizing your day more efficiently, though.

It’s about looking at the bigger picture and organizing your entire week – or even your entire month. As you’ll notice in our example, most of the extra time that can be cut out of the executive assistant’s day is spent walking or driving from one location to another. Your brain has to make this kind of mental “walk” every time you switch tasks. So, even if you’re doing the same number of tasks, reordering how you do them can cut time out of your day, since you don’t have to wait for your brain to “walk” to the next task.

Can you guess which list of tasks would take you less time to do? Is it this list:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for Post #1
  2. Write Post #1
  3. Edit Post #1
  4. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #1
  5. Brainstorm ideas for Post #2
  6. Write Post #2
  7. Edit Post #2
  8. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #2

Or is it this list:

  1. Brainstorm ideas for Post #1
  2. Brainstorm ideas for Post #2
  3. Write Post #1
  4. Write Post #2
  5. Edit Post #1
  6. Edit Post #2
  7. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #1
  8. Publish and schedule promotion for Post #2

If you jumped to say the second list, you have great instincts, but the right answer actually depends on what you’re writing about. If you’re writing two posts on similar topics, it might make sense to stick to the second task list – do all of your brainstorming, then all of your writing, then all of your editing, then all of your publishing and promoting. When you’re in writing mode, don’t jolt your brain out of it. Write, write, write!

However, if you’re writing on two very dissimilar topics – say, content for two different clients – it is just as hard for your brain to make the topic switch as it is for your brain to make the task switch. In this case, it might make sense to stick to the first task list, where you do all of the work for one client first, then all of the work for the second client afterward.

So what’s the catch?

The downside of chunking as a content marketer is that clients/employers are often not used to freelancers and consultants who work in this way. It makes them extremely nervous to see no movement on projects for days at a time, even if you know that you have your entire Thursday, for example, scheduled to work on their content.

When I start working with a new client, I like to explain this system to them and schedule time to start working on their project the very first day we start, even if it means rearranging my schedule a little. It puts people at ease to see that you’ve started working, even if you then don’t work on the project again until next week.

My best advice? Work with clients who “get” you and always remember – you are a contractor, not an employee. If a client starts demanding that I keep certain hours or work on their projects in a way that is counterproductive to the way I work, I remind them, politely, that I’m not an employee with benefits and an office. Don’t be afraid to part ways with a client who treats you like an employee, but refuses to actually hire you as an employee. Be accommodating, but firm, and schedule your time in a way that makes sense for you, while still allowing you to hit your deadlines.

5 Basic Writing Tips to Help You Start Blogging Today

Blogging comes naturally to me. I kept a Lisa Frank diary when I was a little girl, and had a LiveJournal as a teen before moving to the world of professional blogging. I do recognize that blogging isn’t an easy task for everyone, though. And okay, I’ll admit it: sometimes I stare at the computer screen and wonder what to write.

Which isn’t quite as bad as those moments when I stare at a post I’ve already published and wonder why I thought it was worth publishing. Hey, it happens to the best writers!

Today, I wanted to go over a few basic writing tips that I’ve learned over the years. These tips can help you improve your blogging skills, but remember: the very best way to improve is to actually start writing. Practice, practice, practice, and you’ll be better at anything!

5 Basic Writing Tips to Help You Start Blogging Today

Without further ado, here are my best basic writing tips.

1. Be ready to write whenever the mood strikes you.

As I’m writing this post, it is 1:30 AM, and I need to be up in *number of hours redacted because it is way too depressing* since I have family coming into town tomorrow for a long weekend visit. As much as I need sleep right now, however, I couldn’t stop tossing around this idea for a blog post. And so, I’m sitting at my computer, typing away, and jealously listening to my boyfriend snore.

Even if you don’t go as far as getting out of bed to blog (hey…I don’t have a problem…I can stop at any time…), at least keep a notepad or a phone with a notepad app or a Lisa Frank diary by your bed and with you when you travel. I saw a great quote once: The greatest lie we ever tell ourselves is that we’ll remember something for later. Jot down the basic outline so you can go back and write it later.

Similarly, when you aren’t feelin’ it, step away from the computer screen. If you force a post out of yourself, it won’t be your best work. It’s always better to publish fewer high-quality posts than more mediocre posts.

2. Outline your thoughts before you start writing.

Any writing task won’t seem quite so gargantuan if you break it down into smaller chunks. I like to use this template for an outline:

  • Opening paragraph with thesis
  • Story
  • Supporting point
  • Supporting point
  • Supporting point
  • Wrap up

So, let’s say that I was writing about the best way to treat hairballs in cats. I might outline it like this:

  • Why hairballs suck – and how to fix
  • Story about my cat’s problem with hairballs
  • DIY solution
  • Why DIY is better than medication
  • What to do if DIY solution doesn’t work
  • Call to action to buy my book about cats

Then, I would write a paragraph or two about each. If I asked you to write a 900-word post about cat hairballs, you would probably groan, even if you happen to love talking about cat health. But if you write just 150 words in each of the above sections, you’ll hit your 900 words easily. Eat every elephant one bite at a time.

3. Speak your posts.

My boyfriend is not a writer, and whenever he wants to send out a professional email, he asks to advice to make sure it sounds okay. I always say to him, “Well, tell me what you’re trying to say.”

He can’t write the email, but he can speak it to me.

If you find writing to be a total road blog for you, dictate your blog posts. You can invest in software that will transcribe your spoken posts, or you can send audio files to a VA for manual transcription. Either way, you’ll likely have to do some tweaking to the final project, but this can help you get away from the mental challenge of writing.

4. Write your title first.

I find that new bloggers tend to jump around a lot in their posts. Sometimes it works, but more often it does not. By writing your title first, you know the true goal of the article, and you can make sure every sentence you write relates back to this topic. For example, this post is about basic writing tips to help you start blogging, as I’ve mentioned in the title. I’ve already scrapped a few sections that were more about starting a blog (but not writing) and more about writing (but not about blogging). I’ve also deleted some sections that were a little too advanced to be called basic.

As you write, always keep you title in mind. Be brutal with the red pen to ensure that your posts have a clear topic and point of view. Remember, you don’t have to create comprehensive posts about broad topics. Focus on sharing a single thought with the reader, relating back to your title.

5. Keep your paragraphs short.

Long paragraphs – ugh. This is one of the biggest mistakes I see new bloggers making.

Each paragraph you write should only cover one idea. If you are covering several ideas in a single paragraph, you need to split into two paragraphs, even if that means your paragraphs are very short. It’s better to have shorter paragraphs than longer paragraphs. Remember, writing for the web is not like writing for print sources. If you’re still abiding by the writing rules you learned in college, it’s time to update your style.

In addition to short paragraphs, make sure your blog posts are visually appealing by adding images, bullet points, headings, and other “breaks” in the text. This makes the post more easily scanned, and because it looks less intimidating, more people will stop to read it.

Okay, what are you waiting for? Stop reading and go start blogging!

One Easy Change You Can Make TODAY to Improve Your SEO

Whenever  I start talking about SEO, people’s eyes glaze over.

I get it: SEO isn’t sexy or fun, and more bloggers would rather hide their heads in the sand, chanting, “The best SEO tip is to write good content!” While I do believe that good content is extremely important when it comes to SEO, there are some other easy things you can do make sure your content gets found, by both by readers and search engines. You’d be a fool not to spend five extra minutes on your post if it means reaching more readers.

Today, I wanted to remind you of one of the best and easiest changes you can make to your blog posting procedures to improve your SEO: internal linking. I already touched on this tip in my massive linking earning resource and on my recent post about the only three things you really need to know about SEO, but it deserves a post of its own!

One Easy Change You Can Make TODAY to Improve Your SEO

What is Internal Linking?

There are two different types of website links that you can include in your blog posts: internal and external. Most bloggers who care about SEO concentrate on external links, or getting other websites to link back to you. However, you should also care about internal links, which is when you link to your own blog posts from other blog posts.

For example, this is an internal link leading to my post about negative headlines. On the other hand, this is an external link leading to my friend Ian Cleary’s extremely useful post about video marketing tools.

External links matter because that’s how Google knows whether or not other people find your content helpful – or, at least, it’s one of the ways. Internal linking, on the other hand, gives people and search engines a way to navigate your site to find more information.

Does Internal Linking Really Help SEO?

Yes! But you can’t think about it in the same way you think about external links.

You can post a link back to a specific post on your website from every other post on your blog, but Google doesn’t really count those links as “votes” that this post is good. Of course you like the content. You wrote it!

Instead, internal linking is about:

  • Telling Google what your content is about: When you link to related pages, Google is learning that there’s a similarity. Google looks at your anchor text and other context cues to help understand what other pages are about.
  • Helping Google find content: If a page on your website isn’t connected through links in any other way, linking to it can help Google find it so it starts ranking.
  • Encouraging people to read more pages and spend more time on your site: Google likes to see low bounce rates and high time-on-site numbers. Links give people a natural next step that isn’t clicking on the back button.

Internal Linking Made Easy

Internal linking is pretty easy, even if you have thousands of posts on your blog and, like me, often forget about what you’ve written. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Link to every post at least 3 times over the first month after it is published.

I keep a running spreadsheet of every post I write. When I link to a post once, I color it blue. When I link to it twice, I color it red. When I link to it a third time, I remove it from the list. That doesn’t mean I’ll never link to it again, but at least this way, I know that every post gets at least three links. It also helps me fill out my editorial calendar, so I always have great content ideas waiting to be written.

  • Keep a list of your top ten best posts.

I keep a second spreadsheet with posts that I’m extremely proud of. Of course, I do my best with EVERY post I write, but sometimes, I write an epic post that is 5000+ words and an amazing resource not found anywhere else online. I call these “hub” posts because I link to them often. It’s a hub for links, with the other posts linking to it being spokes.

  • Link to posts already performing well on Google.

Lastly, once or twice a month, I check Google Analytics specifically to look at the posts that are already bringing in the most search engine traffic. If they aren’t already on my “top ten” list, I make sure they get another internal link or two over the next week so I keep encouraging traffic to this post.

Even if you think you don’t have time to organize this kind of internal linking strategy, here’s what you do: simply ensure that you add at least two or three internal links every time you write a post. It’s that easy to get started. There’s really no excuse not to!