The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers (Plus: Video of Me Kissing a Hairy "Coo")

75 Comments

Greetings from a jazz bar in Sardinia, Italy! If you’d like to see what I pack when I also hit cold weather like the pelting rain of Scotland — while still keeping it under 20 lbs. — check out my recent post on Gadling here.

The Monica grape wine here is excellent and a new taste for me. In the spirit of trying new things, I wanted to share a few tips for the would-be bloggers/writers out there (that’s you at some point). Here are five timesavers to save you grief and suffering:

1. Decide how you’re measuring success before writing a post. What’s your metric? Form follows function.

Is it Technorati rank? Then focus on crafting 1-2-sentence bolded sound bites in the text that encourage quoting. Quotes can be just as important as content. Alexa or other traffic rank? Focus on making the headline and how-to appeal to tech-oriented readers on Digg, Reddit, etc. Number of comments? Make the topic either controversial or universal and end with a question that asks for opinions (slightly more effective than asking for experiences).

2. Post less to be read more.

No matter how good your material is, too much of it can cause feed-overwhelm and unsubscribes. Based on input from close to a dozen top bloggers I’ve interviewed, it takes an average of three days for a new post to propagate well in the blogosphere. If you write too often, pushing down the previous post and its visibility, you decrease the reach of each post, run the risk of increasing unsubscribes, and create more work for yourself. Test posting 2-4 times per week — my preference is two — and don’t feel compelled to keep up with the frequency “you have to post three times before lunch” Joneses. Quality, not quantity, is what spreads.

3. Define the lead and close, then fill it in.

This is a habit I picked up from John McPhee, a master of writing structure and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize. Decide on your first or last sentence/question/scene, then fill in the rest. If you can’t decide on the lead, start with the close and work backwards.

A good formula for the lead, which I learned from a Wired writer, is: first sentence or paragraph is a question or situation involving a specific person, potentially including a quote; second paragraph is the “nutgraph,” where you explain the trend or topic of the post, perhaps including a statistic, then close the paragraph explaining what you’ll teach (the “nut”) the reader if they finish the post.

4. Think in lists, even if the post isn’t a list.

Separate brainstorming (idea generation) from synthesis (putting it all into a flowing post). I generally note down 10-15 potential points for a post between 10-10:30am with a double espresso, select 4-5 I like and put them in a tentative order from 10:30-10:45am, then I’ll let them marinate until 12am-4am, when I’ll drink yerba mate tea, craft a few examples to match the points, then start composing. It’s important to identify your ideal circadian schedule and pre-writing warm-up for consistent and reliable results.

5. The best posts are often right in front of you… or the ones you avoid.

Fear is the enemy of creativity. If a good serious post just isn’t coming, consider trying the obvious or ridiculous. Obvious to you is often revelatory for someone else, so don’t think a “Basic Confused Terms of Blogging” or similar return to basics would insult your readers. Failing a post on something you take for granted, go for lighthearted. Is this self-indulgent? So what if it is? It might just give your readers the respite from serious thinking they secretly crave. If not, it will at least give them an excuse to comment and get engaged. Two weeks ago at 3am, I was anxious because the words just wouldn’t flow for a ground-breaking post I wanted to finish. To relax, I took a 3-minute video of me doing a few pen tricks and uploaded it as a joke. What happened? It promptly hit the Digg frontpage the next morning and was viewed by more than 120,000 people within 24 hours. Don’t take yourself too seriously, and don’t cater to readers who have no sense of humor. If blogging can’t be fun at least some of the time, it isn’t worth doing.

[Originally posted late last week at Problogger.net]

If you didn’t like this post, perhaps you’ll like this video of me kissing a hairy “coo” in the Scottish highlands:

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Posted on: September 26, 2007.

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75 comments on “The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers for Bloggers/Writers (Plus: Video of Me Kissing a Hairy "Coo")

  1. Always one to set the record straight even on blogging, thanks for the tips there Tim. I always heard you traveled light and by the looks of what was in your bags I would say that that can now be confirmed. Happy travels and brainstorming as you travel.

    Regards.

    Oh yeah, that is one sexy coo!

    Like

  2. You are so right about post less to be read more.

    When i first started blogging daily I thought that is what people wanted, but now I get better results with one post a week.

    Like

  3. Dear Tim

    Really enjoying your blog! Thought you might like to see a little video of us enjoying your book – which stars about half way through – while taking a short trip to Pisa, then Florence, from the UK, to see our sister singing Bach in Pisa Cathedral, with the Montiverdi Choir. All three of us were able to take the time out for this family trip, because we are all devotees of the Four Hour Work Week, even before we knew what it was. I filmed this on a Flip Video, edited it roughly on the fly with Windows Movie Maker and uploaded it from our boutique hotel, straight to Google Video. What fun!

    Like

  4. Good post…I am reminded of the KISS principle. Keep It Simple Stupid. Good points. Sardinia is a good time but Sicily can be better. I am on my way to run the budapest Marathon this weekend otherwise I would host you to some good Italian vino and Pasta. Sicilian wine and olives are some of the best in the world. Pistachio (sp?) spaghetti is a nice way to start the Sicilian marathon of eating.
    Ciao for now, G

    Like

  5. Tim,

    You are an inspiration.

    Do you use any seo technique when writing? If so, what do you use?

    Joe

    ###

    Hi Joe!

    Thank you for the kind words. I don’t currently use any SEO (Search Engine Optimization) technique when writing, but I’m open to suggestions. Any good methods you or others have found to work without messing up the composition of the writing?

    Cheers,

    Tim

    Like

  6. I think the most important thing is getting enough ideas out there and whittling those down to only what is good.

    “If I had more time I’d write you a shorter letter.”

    Like

  7. As always intersting post Tim. Checking your packing items, you might want to switch to an iPhone. Now that I successfully unlocked mine, I can use it with any provider. You can then eliminate the ipod and voice recorder. There is a voice recorder that can be installed as a third party app. Less to carry!

    Safe Traveling,

    Chris

    Like

  8. See your technique was wrong. You had to hold it’s hoof for at least one date before you kissed it.

    You do a great job on your posts. They are concise and usually humorous. Keeps me coming back.

    twist

    Like

  9. Tim,

    That poor coo had to first stick the tongue out to catch the biscuit… It wasn’t a “kiss” yet…

    Don’t be so sensitive… give the pet a kiss! Common!

    And around the mouth wasn’t that hairy, kid!

    I see you’re having great times! Enjoy it and thanks for sharing with all of us!

    Inspirations for me and all, thanks again.

    Do you like maybe a try with bull/horse bareback riding? See my picture linked … ;-)

    Cheers!

    Like

  10. I’m far from convinced about SEO techniques, particularly on blog posts.

    There are a few obvious ones, of course – make sure your Title attribute is useful and informative, assign Alt tags to images – but the fact is that a lot of SEO for blogging is either stuff you should be doing anyway (like informative and useful titles, standards compliance, blah), or borderline black-hat attempts to “game” Google/MSN/etc. Which don’t work because a) Google is, collectively, smarter than you, and b) said techniques also tend to have negative effects on your content by making it less readable.

    PageRank is by far the most important metric, from what I’ve seen, for Google rank, and the best way to get that is to get lots of incoming links. The best way to achieve that? Get great Digg/Slashdot/Reddit/Del.icio.us karma. In other words, it all comes back to the social media, the linkability, and just being readable and interesting.

    IMO.

    BTW – Tim, hope you enjoyed Edinburgh. You weren’t training with Rick Young whilst you were here, were you, by any chance?

    Like

  11. Just when I was wondering what guidelines you followed for your posts you post this!

    Did you adopt the list approach for your book?

    Have you ever used mindmaps for your writing? I’ve used them before. For complex writing sometimes they help in ordering your thoughts.

    A

    Like

  12. Hi Tim, I’ve printed out your 5 points and posted them on my wall. yep, they’re that good!

    question: the Invent Right ad. Did you choose to display it, or it’s automatic based on keywords? Curious to know your experience with the company if any and if they helped you with Brain Quicken.

    ~V

    Like

  13. See what you’ve done?

    “Hi Rick,

    Thank you for your interest in Getfriday services. We can handle what you have asked for.

    I am afraid that the deadline is too nearer and we couldn’t handle the task. Due to a sudden increase in business, we currently have a 3 (three) week waiting period between the receipt of your membership form and the start of service. I apologize for the inconvenience this may cause.

    Regards,
    Kumar
    Support team.”

    Like

  14. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for the blogging tips. I’ve just began my adventure into the world of blogging and these tips will sure help me move forward. I’ve began paraphrasing articles/books/etc that I read onto one or two pages. That technique really helps me to remember and get a good understanding of content.

    Question: It seems as if you interview a lot of people to find the secrets of life. What techniques do you use to prompt interviews? Would you feel comfortable providing 3 tips that would help me (and others) get started?

    I hope you’re enjoying the trip. Thanks in advance!

    TJ

    Like

  15. “Post less to be read more”. How true.

    I have just recently got into reading blogs and one thing that’s starting to annoy me are bloggers posting daily when they have nothing of significance to say. They are wasting their time and mine and just encourage me to unsubscribe from their feed.

    Post less – post the best.

    Like

  16. It’s a shame that they’ve put slightly higher fences up, i’ve been very nearly gored by that very same cow when trying to rub his nose. (He’s in the trossachs, northwest of glasgow i bet)

    I hope you enjoyed the Trossachs, i personally consider it to be a -most- beautiful area.

    Like

  17. Great post. I need to learn some of that stuff. Especialy no2 – I put myself under pressure to post lots of stuff and the quality of is oftern crap.

    BTW I recognise that cow! I live in Edinburgh and it looks to me like a cow in a field just outside Callander?

    ###

    It’s Hamish! I don’t remember exactly where he lives, but he’s up near Loch Lomond. Great coo :)

    Ta ta from Bratislava,

    Tim

    Like

  18. Hey Tim,

    Whatever happened to the winner of the essay contest? Did you meet with him?

    -Ari

    ###

    Hi Ari!

    Roger is alive and well… and off to Japan within two weeks for his first non-native language adventure! Just left him a voicemail, in fact… More to come as Roger should hopefully be recording some of the craziness as he moves along in the land of the rising sun.

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  19. I was going to send an email but this seemed like the best way to get in contact Tim or others equally or more capable of answering my question.

    While thinking about ways to automate income via Muses I happened to win a small lottery that will pay out about $800 every month for the rest of my life. Less than I can live on (in America) for the rest of my life without working but just enough that some serious investing can have drastic changes for me in the near future.

    This is not stab for hot stock tips. I want to know, if you had $800 a month for the rest of your life, how would you use it?

    Like

  20. I loved the book – help me, here’s what I know: insurance. Wow, so boring it seems (home, auto, life and investments). It makes a rather nice living. But I need any ideas you can offer as to how I might market such a trade. Got anything?
    Thanks,
    Jim

    ###

    Hi Jim,

    I definitely recommend you jump in the reader-only forums on the main site (www.fourhourworkweek.com in “resources”), and that is where you will probably find a good amount of help with this. Also revisit the first “muse” chapter in the book for thoughts on converting this expertise into something that allows you to separate time and income.

    Good luck!

    Tim

    Like

  21. I read a comment here and have a question to Chris on #17

    ***Chris Says: …[an iPhone. Now that I successfully unlocked mine, I can use it with any provider.]…

    Chris, could you give me any information how did you get that? Link? Was it an on- or offline service?

    Thanks,

    Lou (ise)

    Like

  22. Lou,

    Just when I posted my comments Apple released an update to the firmware (1.1.1) This successfully disables any unlocked phone. My phone is still working fine, because I have not updated the firmware. There are several iPhone dev. hacks examining the update and they hope to come up with a solution.

    If your phone still has version 1.0.2 and you want to unlock it. Follow the instructions to install the program installer app. on your iphone:

    http://iphone-mods.org/?p=34

    From there you will find the program anySim located in the list of programs. Pull your sim card out and let it run. It worked great for me.

    Regards,

    Chris

    Like

  23. Tim,

    I want to read your book, 4hww, so I went to a few of the local bookstores today. They all had it, (and I perused and loved it) but only in hardcover form. I am traveling around Europe in a couple weeks (with plenty of your packing tips, tyvm) and want a good book to read but I am not going to bring a hardback. Any plans to publish a paperback? Second question: any plans such that I can get it in my hands in the next two weeks?

    ###

    Hi Ben!

    Not in the next 2 weeks, but you could download the audiobook (www.audible.com) or ebook (www.powells.com) in time. Have fun!

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  24. to #36

    Chris,

    Ha! :P I got it… and many thanks, but no I do not own an iPh, just interested in the specific techs …

    Anyways, enjoy freedom of monopols! ;-)

    Cheers!

    Lou

    Like

  25. Thanks for the great tips. Looks like you follow your own advice in this post – nice!

    I totally agree re: blogging frequency. I limit myself to one/week, and try for solid (if a bit long) original content. The only way “link blogs” (vs. “think blogs”) work is if the author’s information tastes are *very* close to my own. If found, this form of collaborative filtering is valuable. It’s rare, though…

    Like

  26. Thank you so much for this post -especially tip number two. I just started my own blog and feel pressured to post a lot of stuff on it right away to build up content. I’d rather just post good articles a 2-3 times a week.

    Like

  27. Another great timesaver is to let others synthetise your ideas and finish the articles for you. Usually I write a quick synapsis and put down the key elements and I have others finishing it up, then sending it over for approval/more changes. It is a great time saver and allows me to focus more on the people and core ideas. Check out the results in our life insurance tips section.

    Like

  28. Hi Tim,

    When I first came across the knowledge of your book via Mercola.com I thought, “wow that some interesting stuff, I gotta get it.” Months later when I actually got my procrastinating butt to barnes and noble to read it, my mind was blown. Finally. Some Truth in the world! “I’ve been waiting for this for a long frickin’ time!” So like everyone else, I immediately loved it and couldn’t put it down. Your book excited me tremendously, I mean i was preaching to my mom and my wife etc. It just fit perfectly into my life as I needed it. Everyday is a gift and we need to live like thats truth. The only other book that had an awakening effect in my life that i’ve actually read is the “natural cures they don’t want you to know about” book. But yours is way better because I find it is more impactful, applicable, and exciting.

    Anyways I have a question, enough ass kissin’. I’m 22 years old, my wife is 26 and she happens to have $150,000 worth of school debt. Go University of miami. woo hoo. :/ I have a little bit too, but my main concern is hers. What did you do for your school debt? did you have any? and what advice could you give as to tackle it or at least take care of it so we can get the heck out of this slavery. Anything would help. Thanks -Chris

    Like

  29. Tim,

    I have a question.

    I want to be like you, ultravagabond. But I have a problem. It’s my girl friend. I feel lonely traveling alone. But I don’t want to travel with girl friend:)

    How do you manage relationship being an ultravagabond?

    Ken

    ###

    Bud, that is one of the big questions! You really only have two choices: get a girlfriend who likes to travel (and with whom you like to travel), or travel single and get more ambitious in meeting people. The latter is easier if you stay in one place for 1+ months. The former is easier for shorter periods, as one of the two of you usually have a 9-5.

    Good luck!

    Tim

    Like

  30. Hello, I have to hand it to you that it takes a lot of guts to feed to our dear friend like that. I have just started my business not too long ago, and reading your book is just want I needed since I often feel guilty for not working a 9 hour day! Now I don’t, I really believe in working smart.

    Have fun traveling…

    arigatou gozaimasu!

    Like

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  32. I always feel like I am wasting time in the afternoon when feeling unproductive. I end up surfing more than working. But somehow Tim makes me feel better. I am going to try his approach.

    I always find that I am very productive in the morning. Have no intrest of working in the afternoon, and then productive again in the evening just before going to bed.

    I think we all have a natural work cycle or circadian schedule as he calls it. If we pay attention to it we can get far more done with more productive time.

    Thanks Tim

    Like

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  35. As a newbie blogger, I found your tips very insightful – thanks! Will take note. Wouldn’t mind if you experts took a sneak peak at my posts and commented!

    BTW Tim, loved the hairy coo..soooo cute!

    -Monica

    Like

  36. RE: SEO for blogs

    I have just started experimenting with this. So far, I’ve experienced the least amount of frustration in writing my articles first, and then picking out the naturally occuring keywords from the article. I put these into a WordTracker seed list, and see what comes up. I sort based on KEI, and then often am able to replace words and phrases in the article with my SEO results without disturbing the integrity of the article at all.

    I’ll probably have more to report in the upcoming months as I’ve just inadvertently landed a full-time writing gig for an architectural lighting design company. I wrote a sample piece depicting a chandelier as a seductive woman and it got me the job. I’ll be re-writing all of the firm’s existing web content to establish a single, sophisticated corporate voice. After that, I’ll be blogging and maintaining microsites, forums, etc. for them.

    After years of being self-employed as a yoga teacher and designer, we’ll see if they can keep me happy at 40 hours a week. I’m not thrilled to give up so much control in my life, but I’ll be apprenticing with an eCommerce expert on staff. So, it seems like a strategically sound choice for now. Plus, segueing into life as a writer isn’t such a bad thing, right Tim?

    ###

    Not a bad thing at all :) Thank you for your thoughtful posts — I’ve been noticing and appreciating them.

    All the best,

    Tim

    Like

  37. Oh, and I meant to recommend some island hopping for your next trip to Scotland if you didn’t have a chance in your recent travels. I especially recommend taking the ferry to the Isle of Harris. As you approach the island, the starkness of the landscape is striking. It almost resembles the moon (at least as I imagine it to be) because it is rocky and there is next to no vegetation. Supposedly, park swings are locked up on Sundays because the island community observes its religious beliefs so strictly. It makes me ponder the connection between landscape and social psychology/religious observances.

    BTW… Will you be speaking at any conferences before SXSW?

    ###

    Hi R,

    Thanks for the tips. I will be speaking before SXSW and more to come in a post next week :)

    Tim

    Like

  38. Tim – Great book – thank you. As an idea and suggestion, is there any chance your team might be able to compile all of the invaluable website address links to various resources mentioned throughout the book into 1 Adobe .pdf document for reader download? Thanks for the consideration.

    ###

    Hi Mike,

    The “Tools and Tricks” resources should be available on the reader-only section of the http://www.fourhourworkweek.com main site. Thanks!

    Tim

    Like

  39. see, I needed that. I struggled with my crazy blog all day today. The suggestions are very helpful – thank you.

    By the way, I just found your website – my brother suggested I check it out – and I feel like my brain is going to explode now.

    You are a very rare species indeed.

    Like

  40. Thanks Tim,
    Great post. I agree, sometimes my best hours are in the wee hours of the morning. Thanks for sharing your tips on creativity. I also am finding that listing information helps me when I begin to craft a post or write a column, book, etc. Peace,
    Roy

    Like

  41. Hey Tim!

    Brilliant and hilarious video of you and Hamish. When were you in Scotland? I just returned from Scotland myself and met Hamish too. Did you take MacBackpackers? I did and it was magnificent — including swimming in Loch Ness!! It’s owned and managed by true Scots, and it shows. I highly recommend it if you ever find yourself wanting to explore the Highlands again!

    Cheers,
    Matt

    Like