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Three Thoughts on Sustainable Blogging Resolutions

How to set goals you’ll be more likely to keep.

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, writing-related or otherwise. Something about the ritual feels contrived and ineffective — possibly because I’m an undisciplined, chronic procrastinator who loves finding loopholes in self-imposed rules. As esteemed behavioral economist Dan Ariely said a few years ago, “If you don’t have resolutions, you can’t break them.”

And yet here we are, mere hours before ringing in 2016. You want your blog to shine next year, you want to feel productive and energized, and you might think to yourself that maybe a little champagne-fueled commitment can’t hurt. And unless you’re one of the writing 1 percent — that group of three self-satisfied people who think that “writer’s block” is an actual block on which you write, prolifically — you’re right. Ceremonial rituals can’t hurt (why would anyone ever get married otherwise?).

So here are three ideas to ponder as you make — or consider making — your blogging resolutions for next year. They’re tailored to the skeptics among you, though true believers are certainly welcome to adopt and adapt them as well.

Make it about process

Every year, there are people who set out to publish a new post every week or even every single day (if that’s you, you deserve a badge!). Some follow our Daily Prompts while others come up with their own ideas. I genuinely admire anyone with that level of commitment to anything, but I also recognize that we can’t all aspire to a goal as lofty as that.

By setting up circumstances so that the good decision is the default, it takes more work to slip back into old habits.
— Scott Huettel, Duke University Psychology Department

Which is why a great resolution to make is not “I will publish every X days,” but rather “I will build an editorial calendar and stick with it.”

How detailed a calendar ends up being depends on your own temperament — for some, a loose statement like “I’ll post a couple of new recipes every month” is already more than enough. Others might need more specifics, and opt for a list or a chart to shape the serial posts they’d like to write (and their frequency), strategize how to balance their blog’s multiple niches, or make plans for contributions from guest bloggers.

The idea, in other words, is to create a framework that helps you succeed, rather than obsess over a number which you might come to see as arbitrary or even counterproductive.

Take pleasure in connections

Most of us live in cultures that valorize things you can quantify. That’s probably why writing events (and writing resolutions) often establish some numerical goal to achieve: write X words in Y days, publish Z posts over the next month, and so on.

It would be nice to change the culture, but it might take us a while. So, why not stick with numbers — but attach them to different, less output-focused goals?

If don’t already have a network of bloggers you care about and aren’t sure where to start, join one of our free Blogging U. courses in 2016 — they’re the perfect setting for finding other bloggers to interact with (while also working on your blogging or writing skills).

Sure, you can commit to three posts a week or 5,000 words a month or any other metric you feel comfortable with. But consider adding other types of goals to your list: find three new blogs to follow every week. Once a day, leave a substantive comment on someone else’s post. Try out a different blogging event every month.

You get the idea — make resolutions that push you to connect with people. These connections and stronger sense of community will only make it more likely that you meet your other, publishing-oriented goals.

Find a penalty you love

Self-flagellation shouldn’t be part of the blogging or writing process — all of us have work, family, and other obligations to attend to. Our lives are complicated, which is why they’re interesting and worth blogging about in the first place. (It’s also why you should never start a post with “Sorry I haven’t posted in so long!” — see #2 here).

Instead of feeling bad for falling behind on your publishing, find a productive way to penalize yourself. I mentioned earlier my knack for finding loopholes within my own rules. These often take the shape of bizarre, convoluted negotiations with myself: “if I don’t finish this post now, I have to spend 30 minutes looking through my photo library for featured images for future posts.” And so on.

Tip: You can start a list of to-do items for your blog, from design elements to general maintenance. That way, whenever the muses are gone for the day, you have a solid plan B.

The idea is to establish penalties that aren’t too severe (but also not too much fun, or you’ll just intentionally skip your initial plans!) and that still serve a purpose in the grand scheme of things. Come up with a couple of “if… then…” scenarios. “If I don’t publish today, then I’ll audit my tags for consistency.” “If I don’t finish creating those custom Image Widgets I’d been working on, then I’ll come up with three post ideas to explore down the line.” Your “penalty” doesn’t even have to be blog-related. A 15-minute stroll through your neighborhood is a perfect way to not write — and might just inspire your next post. Or it might not. And that’s fine, too.

Whatever your blogging resolutions for next year may be, we can’t wait to see you here in 2016! Happy new year!

 

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    1. As am I! I’ve just started blogging and my family end friends enjoy it, but I’m also trying to figure out new ways to people from outside my friendship circle to read it.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I love blogging here on WordPress. I have my own schedule including your weekly photo challenge and stick to it pretty well. My big challenge for the new year is to find one of the WordPress Happy Engineers who will put my Header text (name of blog and summary) to “black.” The option to change header text color was available the first part of December when I changed it to a lovely Christmas green but now that I’d like it to go back to a boring black the option is gone. Any suggestions? No, I don’t write code, and it’s not on my list of things to learn. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judy someone answered this for you on the previous comment you made, on the Principle of Design:User Experience and it does work as I used it (with my blog address obviously) to change my header text. Just copy and paste (or you could click on it I suppose) the link they give you and you will see header text colour at the bottom of the page.
      Hope this helps xx

      Liked by 2 people

    2. I was just going to point you in the direction of Kjell’s reply from yesterday when I saw you’d already found it — glad you got that sorted out. Now you have to find yourself a new challenge — how exciting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Ben (and I really mean the “dear” because I enjoy your posts), your latest post is a tad self-contradictory. Badges for those who blog every day? How will they ever find the time to follow other people’s blogs? Or leave substantive comments? And how will other bloggers manage to keep up with them? Shouldn’t it be quality ahead of quantity?
    Cheers, and Happy New Year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d say that quality should always trump quantity, but amazingly enough some people manage to balance the two — including those bloggers who commit to a daily (or other regular) schedule. My colleague Cheri just published a piece on Discover focusing on four bloggers who’d taken up such a yearlong project (you can read it here: https://discover.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/2015-projects/). One of them, sketch artist Olena Bodnarchuk, said something that I really loved about her daily illustration she publishes:

      What I love about this habit is that quantity becomes quality. It feels like a tiny step I make each day, which then leads to my development in the long term.

      I know that I, personally, don’t have the mental resources to take on a similar project, but I also don’t think that keeping a certain (high) frequency of posting necessarily means the quality would suffer.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I totally agree with Olena here. I have realized that the more we write, the more the quality improves. First I started as an amateur writer. But now, having joined the blogging world has given me confidence to do more. I am now aware about where I am going wrong, where I need to work on, etc. But I also realize that waiting for that perfect quality of writing would not help me, but practicing to write to reach a certain quality shall help me to achieve it!
        My blog clearly shows my progress 😛
        https://theteekaytake.wordpress.com

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well said. BTW, I’m all for regular schedules, and also agree some bloggers can do both quality and quantity. But I often feel the Post-a-Lot message comes through more strongly than the But-You-Don’t-Have-To one. And the Take-Time-to-Enjoy-the-Work-of-Others message. There’s some truly amazing work out there.
        And even though I’m tempted to set up a second blog, I know I’d see even less of others’ work (and probably have less fun) were I to do so.
        Cheers again, and thanks.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Hi,

    It can be useful to choose a subject for different days of the week. You then have a lot less to think about. If it’s cooking on Monday, you can think about your post over breakfast and by the time you come to write it have lots of ideas.

    Happy New Year to all the world of bloggers, have fin writing!

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I think I will keep this handy somewhere and refer to it every now and then with the hope of meeting your suggestions. They sound quite creative. I love that a 15-minute stroll is a perfect way to not write! 🙂

    Thanks for your help and I wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Some excellent “Food For Thought” here Ben. I do try and make it a point to follow a new blog each week. I have heard about some bloggers being shut down because they follow too many blogs at once. Perhaps 3 a week is still okay.
    Love the term “substantive comment’. Blogging has been very therapeutic to me, and the comments back and forth I absolutely LOVE.
    Thank you for some great reads on The Daily Post. Wishing you a wonderful 2016! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I love how there are always new things to learn in WordPress!! I figured out how to do a poll and then asked readers how many posts they thought I should do each week. Wooboy!! Don’t ask a question unless you are ready for any sort of answer. They did NOT want me to cut back from 5 per week, so now the posts are big on brevity, but still almost daily 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Thanks for the useful ideas, Ben, and for the shot in the arm — after my most unproductive blogging year yet, I really needed that. But may I make a request for your next post? I’d also love some tips on finding loopholes in self-imposed rules. As a chronic wool-gathering procrastinator, I’m always looking for new ways to assuage my own guilt.
    Happy New Year to you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think the challenge for me isn’t finding the loopholes — I’m pretty good at that — but turning them into something interesting and/or productive. I’ll have to think a bit more about that…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Love what you said! I posted mine as NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS, but these are just the same as goals for me. I break my goals down into short term goals as well so they’re achievable. Going to big without a plan is another reason why people don’t achieve their goals. Good post! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I found “regular posting” goals useful these first 8 months (3 or 4 times a month), and commenting on other people’s blogs a good and motivating way of connecting to others and opening up new areas of interest. I don’t believe in penalties, no need to add stress to generally positive writing habits 🙂 Now though, some of your suggestions are just perfect for the way ahead. Planning for guest bloggers is a good one, as well as participating in a monthly blogging event. So thanks, wishing you an exciting and productive 2016!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think ‘penalties’ may be too negative a term for what Ben has described – whatever you call them though, I like the fact that what he suggested is a way to keep you connected to your blog even when you’re ‘blocked’ – who knows, those tasks that are ‘penalties’ may be just what’s needed for some fresh inspiration..

      Liked by 3 people

  10. Great post. I’ve been thinking about what I could do in 2016 to improve as a blogger. I was going to try and recommit to at least one post a week, but that’s an “always goal”. Plus, I know I can’t always do because life and other nonsense get all up in my way. But I can improve how I schedule my posts so that I don’t publish 6 in one week then go two months without a post. Thanks for helping me refine my goal.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Wonderful post. My goal is definitely to try and find a way to incorporate all three of these components in my blogging in 2016. I’m super new, and it’s easy to feel defeated early on and decide to give up, but my goal is to push through and better my blog and my writing this year. Thanks for sharing!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I’ve not just been thinking about resolutions, but I have been contemplating my guiding word for the year. The word that keeps coming to me is “courage,” and it fits some of your thoughts here. I need the courage to leave comments on people’s posts, the courage to follow an editorial calendar, or the courage to submit my work.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Great post Ben! I’m not big on ny resolutions but set goals year round and the same principles apply to them. This year my blogging goal was to interact more and make connections beyond just ‘liking’. Happy to have made some great connections including one that has led to a collaboration on a post about maintaining resolutions / goals . I’ll post a link once our scheduled post goes out. Happy New Year!

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