|Andrew Mason, via Flickr (CC license)|
|Yes, you can blog without all your time running down the drain.|
Recently a colleague asked me a question that I hear from many people: “How can I blog without making it a time sink?”
It seems to me that the key to blogging efficiently is this: DO NOT treat it like writing an article or report. That is, make blogging part of your ongoing processes for research, notetaking, and communication.
A blog post is not (or at least, it shouldn’t be) a writing assignment you must prep for and deliver as a finished package. Let go of the idea that you must have everything nailed down, organized, and edited before you publish. (A tough one especially for writers and journalists, I know, but consider it a kind of experiment or Zen exercise.)
Here are some specific techniques to accomplish that mindset and habit switch…
- Blog your initial brainstorming. At the point that you start to get intrigued by a topic or question, blog it. A post can be as simple as, “I’m starting to learn more about [X], and I’m wondering [Y]. Here’s why I’m curious about that. Do you have any information or views on this? Please comment below.” Boom. That’s a useful post — and potentially a good way to speed your learning curve and spark an engaging public conversation.
- Blog your research & discovery. Did you just pick up an interesting tidbit about a topic you introduced in an earlier post? Blog it. Cite the source, and say why you think it’s interesting, or why you’re skeptical or puzzled about it, etc. Link back to earlier relevant posts you’ve published, or use your blog’s categories to connect posts on a theme. Post done.
- Blog your interactions. Did you just have an interesting conversation relevant to a topic you’ve been blogging? Ask the person with whom you conversed if you can blog the relevant portion, and whether you can identify them. This is especially easy with e-mail or IM conversations, since you can just copy and paste. If they don’t want to be identified, you can just use the old anonymous-source trick, as long as the speaker’s identity isn’t crucial to the insight you’re sharing.Or, when you’re asked a question and the answer would be useful to many people instead of just one, blog your answer rather than merely communicating your answer privately. That way your answer becomes available and useful to all, permanently.
The clincher to all this is to use your blog as your backup brain — or at least as a public notebook. Why not get more mileage out of work you would have done anyway by changing your habits toward managing information and communication publicly? Instead of keeping your thoughts, notes, and conversations to yourself, post them.
The second advantage is that this information will probably become more findable and useful to yourself as well as to others. Ever tried to find that old notebook where you stored conference notes from three years ago? See what I mean? And, as I mentioned, adopting blogging into your existing processes can speed and enhance your learning process as well as increase your visibility and influence.
What do you think of this approach? Have you tried it? How might it work (or not) for you? Has it indeed lessened the “time sink” problem of blogging? Please comment below.
(NOTE: This post is a slightly adapted version of a post I published on Poynter’s E-Media Tidbits.)