Who Else Wants to Up Their Blog Game?

I have a confession.

I’ve had my blog for just over seven months and I only have four subscribers.

Four. That’s not great.

I’m not surprised by the lack of interest. I’m only averaging about one new blog post per month. Typical recommendations are to post at least once a week, especially if you are just starting out.

And if I’m being completely honest, I actually didn’t post AT ALL in September or October.

Ah well. That’s what happens when you don’t have a plan to accomplish your goals.

So it’s time to turn over a new leaf. Here’s my plan to create and track a new writing habit—and then use that data in a viz!

The Plan

Step 1: Develop a list of blog topics

First I have to figure out whether I even have anything of value to share. The good news is that I have all sorts of ideas for topics.

  • #MakeoverMonday: my behind-the-scenes decisions for the viz I made that week
  • Mentorship: what I’ve learned about having a mentor
  • Social psychology + data viz: how to influence behavior with data viz
  • Effective presentations: how to prepare for talks
  • The natural world + data viz: compilations of data viz examples about animals and plants
  • Recap of progress/lessons learned from viz projects

Step 2: Decide on and commit to a minimum word count for each day

This is important because SMART (Specific, Measureable, Assignable, Realistic, Time-related) goals can be tracked. Tracking will enable me to celebrate my small wins—and that will keep me motivated.

For the month of December, I’ll commit to at least 250 words every single day. I’ll be happy to go beyond that if I’m in the zone.

Step 3: Figure out how to automatically track how many words I’m writing each day

I wondered: “Is there a tool out there that tracks word counts AND has a feature to export that data?” Turns out that there is! It is called Scrivener.

Here is a screenshot from the Writing History feature in Scrivener:

word history

(I just love data, don’t you? Especially data about myself.)

In January I’ll export my Scrivener data as a CSV file and pull that data into Tableau for some sweet, sweet data viz action. More on that in a bit.

And if word count feature in Scrivener wasn’t already helpful enough, I discovered that I can also use it as a virtual binder for my ideas, resources, and images.

Scrivener: Y'know, for writers.

Scrivener is $38.25 with an educational discount or $45.00 without. There is a free trial version too, just FYI. (I am not being paid to endorse this product. I just really like shiny, new productivity tools.)

Step 4: Decide on and commit to a time to write 

I know I have to make writing a priority. The best way to do that is sit down and write first thing in the morning. This might hurt a little, but I’ll commit to 6-6:30am. I can do 8-9pm too.

Step 5: Decide on and commit to a blog schedule

A few days ago I had this crazy idea to publish a new post for each day in December. I planned out 31 posts. But that’s bonkers, right? I’ll commit to publishing (at least) each Sunday and see how it goes.

Step 6: Turn the larger project of “blog post” into smaller tasks 

Breaking a blog post into these smaller tasks gives me a concrete to-do list. I can see exactly what the next step is and feel good about completing one of these smaller tasks in one sitting.

The smaller tasks are

  • Do research/compile supporting information
  • Write a headline and first paragraph
  • Find image(s)
  • Write an outline of the blog post
  • Fill in the outline and add a discussion question
  • Post the blog and share it with others (e.g., via Twitter and LinkedIn)
  • Respond to comments

Step 7: Create a data visualization from December’s data

I’ll combine the data from Scrivener and WordPress. I’ll have word count, number and which days I’ve written, number and which days I’ve published a post, number of blog visitors, number of blog subscribers, and number of comments.

If nothing else, I’ll be able to see whether I met my goals and how often. Who knows, maybe my number of subscribers will increase! We’ll see.

At the end of all of this I’ll publish my data viz to Tableau Public and then write a blog post about the whole experience. So meta.

Question: Do you have any other tips for establishing a writing habit?

Blog post photo by Garrhet Sampson on Unsplash

3 thoughts on “Who Else Wants to Up Their Blog Game?

  1. As the resident hippie/artist, schedules are very bad for me, so I set very forgiving goals. I also had a “Publish by” date, so if Tuesday came and went and I had nothing, I didn’t beat myself up about it. I’ve probably been too lax as of late, but I’ll get back on it. I also limit how much I monitor my own stats since my blog is in addition to a regular job. For me, I try to measure if I laugh at least once during a post (with very few exceptions, this is a requirement to post) and celebrate when I see a random tweet stating one of the posts is helpful. Ken Black has done a stellar job documenting how he approaches data with his blog and his “experiment” overall – https://3danim8.wordpress.com/blogging-experiment. Cheers to a successful 2018 and beyond. I know I personally am most excited about the social psychology piece – yes kids, I’m going to use that behavior piece as much as possible. (Insert evil grin here)

    1. Thanks for the tip about Ken Black’s blog experiment. I hadn’t known about it before writing this post, but I’m also not surprised that someone else wrote about tracking their blog data and visualizing it with Tableau. I did spend a good amount of time reading about his experience doing that and his lessons learned. Certainly no one else has analyzed 1.5 years worth of data like he has–that’s admirable!

      This blog will be a work in progress and I’m sure and I’ll adapt and learn what works best for me and my schedule.

      I’m looking forward to sharing the social psych/influencing behavior change info. In fact, I just listened to the storytelling with data podcast and Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic mentioned exactly that point: it’s important for data visualizers to explicitly tell people both what insights we’ve learned from the data AND what actions people could/should take.

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