It can strike unexpectedly. You’ll be going strong, writing, promoting, marketing, working all the angles. Then one day you wake up, and you can’t just start typing. You’re blocked, burned out, distracted – the cause and effect are different for everyone. So, how do you stay inspired and focused?
Okay, 19 tips to stay inspired and avoid blogging burnout.
Here we go.
It’s a great topic.
This will be easy.
Time to start typing.
Nineteen tips, here we go.
Come on, man.
Just start typing…
Ever been there? Are you there right now? You may have a case of blog burnout.
But the way out is the same for all of us. To stay inspired often means nothing more than getting out of our own heads. I have some tips for you that will make that impossible-seeming task easy, and maybe even enjoyable.
All of these tips aren’t going to resonate with you. But the reality is a single idea or activity is often enough to shake you out of the doldrums.
If you are looking for a way to stay inspired, read on.
Tip #1: Take a Day Off
All the way off. Don’t look at your blog statistics; don’t promote an older article. Step away from the keyboard.
Spoiler alert: a lot of these tips to stay inspired involve stepping away from the keyboard. When you’re burned out, stepping away for a day seems logical. But it’s also a good tactic to employ when you’re overwhelmed.
I know it seems counterintuitive. When you have too much work to do, walking away from it for a day feels almost blasphemous.
But guess what? There’s always going to be too much work to do. Try to put the guilt aside and forget about your blog for just one day.
These tips aren’t ranked in order of effectiveness, but if they were, this would still be number one.
Tip #2: Procrastinate!
When the well feels like it’s temporarily run dry, promote an older article.
Take some time to go through your body of work and identify pieces that are “evergreen.” Make a list of those articles and promote them when you don’t have anything new to put out there.
And as luck would have it, reviewing your body of work doubles as an excellent way to stay inspired. Seeing an overview of what you’ve already accomplished can be encouraging and downright motivational.
Tip #3: Go off the Rails
Not the “Crazy Train” kind of rails, but the rails that keep you on track.
If you’re doing blogging right, you are likely concerned with optimizing your work, writing for SEO, answering questions, solving problems, bringing in new readers or customers…
Not every article you write has to serve those masters.
It can be refreshing and liberating to write outside your box once in a while. Stay inspired by making a monthly post about some pancakes you ate or something funny your dog did. How much you dig your new shoes. How the mail carrier is always leaving the neighbor’s copy of The Reader’s Digest in your mailbox, and you hate bringing it over to the neighbor because whenever you do, she talks to you for half an hour about what she’s been reading in the political emails she gets from her son in Akron.
Your readers, even readers of business-oriented blogs, love to hear personal stories. Deviating from your norm gives them an occasional glimpse into that personal side, and it frees you from the constraints of your usual blogging rules.
Tip #4: Just Say No
And say it often.
When you work for yourself (and even when you work for someone else), you can feel obligated to do everything that you can to advance your position. Increase your profile. Grow your brand. And that can lead to saying ‘yes’ every time anyone asks you to do…well, anything.
Saying ‘no’ is difficult. It can feel like turning down an opportunity. And there’s a fear that if you say ‘no’ too often, people are going to stop asking for you. But that’s not the case.
There’s even a school of thought that maintains that saying ‘no’ can help define who you are.
It’s difficult to do if you’re used to saying ‘yes’ to everything. But it’s an excellent way to stay inspired, reclaim your time, and spread yourself a little less thin.
Tip #5: Ask Yourself Why You’re Here
Not here on earth, but here managing a blog.
It’s good to take stock now and then, and remember why you started your blog in the first place. As we become successful or more involved in what we’re doing, no matter what it is, we can lose sight of our reasons for doing it.
When you’re feeling burned out, remember why you started. Odds are you’ll find some new inspiration when you look back. Maybe you had goals that have fallen by the wayside.
With the experience you’ve gained, you’re probably in a better position now to achieve those kinds of goals.
If you look to the past, you can stay inspired by getting a glimpse of the future!
Tip #6: Fingers Are for More Than Just Typing
So do something else with your hands.
That something else can be anything else. If you want to know how to stay inspired, you can get a good start by working the non-writing parts of your brain and body.
If you like to do woodworking or oil painting or something fancy like that, it’s a great temporary respite from writing.
But there are plenty of non-fancy things you can do with your hands. Fixing that kitchen drawer, the one that falls out every time you open it too far. Cleaning all of those old boxes out of the garage. Baking some bread.
Then again, maybe baking bread isn’t such a good idea. It has a high failure rate. What with the yeast and the rising and the precise temperature requirements.
Then again, it’s not success we’re after. It’s activity, so forget what I just said. Go ahead and knead that dough. It may be right for you.
Tip #7: Take a Look at the Competition
What are the leaders in your field up to? What are they doing that you aren’t doing? Go find out.
It’s possible to gain inspiration from observing someone more skilled or more successful than you are. You can learn.
I’d wager that you can do a better job writing about a particular topic than someone who is supposedly “better” at blogging than you are.
That’s where watching the competition can benefit you. You can recognize and capitalize on opportunities to increase your relevance and expertise.
You might also check out writing blogs to stay inspired. They can offer up more than just artistic inspiration, but practical advice (hopefully you’re reading some right now).
One thing you don’t want to do is start comparing yourself to other, perhaps more successful bloggers. Things are not always what they seem. And what about every shortcoming, insecurity, or neurosis you believe that you have? Well, those successful bloggers have them too. They probably have more of them than you do.
So never look at the green grass on the other side of the fence with envy. Just work on growing your own.
Tip #8: Step Out of the Bubble From Time to Time
Again, if you’re doing blogging right, you’re probably a teeny, tiny bit obsessive about what you do. The best people in any field are usually enthusiastic and passionate.
To put it into polite terms.
But it’s essential to spend time with people who aren’t quite as enamored with your passions as you are. Or those who, dare I say, don’t even care about your blog. (Did you just shudder? I feel like you just shuddered a little bit.)
A friend of mine runs a successful airline blog. One of those weird, obsessive things where they’re always talking about points and miles and credit cards and routes and which planes have the best silverware.
He and his wife were in town recently, and they came by for an evening. As they were leaving, he pulled me aside and said, “This is the best night I’ve had in a long time. We didn’t talk about airlines once!”
Throughout the evening, I’d thought he was bottling up his passion and couldn’t wait to talk about planes. But the truth was, he was relieved to talk about anything but planes.
Everyone needs a break once in a while. And I’d bet that some non-plane-related topic we discussed sparked an idea in his mind for a plane-related article.
Tip #9: Just Start Typing
Ever heard of NaNoWriMo? That’s a really awkward concatenation and abbreviation of “National Novel Writing Month.”
Weird name aside, its fundamental reason for being is pretty sound. They encourage people to finish a novel by writing on a schedule, even if what you’re writing isn’t perfect.
As the name says, NaNoWriMo only happens one month of the year. But their concept is something you can put to work for yourself at any time. Focusing too much on getting everything right can stop us in our tracks.
If you permit yourself to type some junk, then at least you can get going or keep moving, and eventually, you’ll have what you need.
It’s not always easy to “just start typing.” But if you can get the hang of it, you can work your way out of a jam or a block or a moment where you feel a lack of inspiration.
Tip #10: Don’t Be a Slave to Your Inbox
If you’re a freelance blogger, there are a lot of pressures placed on you. But there are also a lot of demands we place on ourselves.
One of the biggest is email. There’s a sense of urgency there, that can send you scrolling through your inbox dozens of times during a working day. So I’m going to make a bold and ridiculous suggestion.
Only check your email once a day.
If you think that’s crazy, consider the fact that it takes most of us 25 minutes to get back into a task after we’ve been interrupted. My rudimentary math skills tell me that means if you check your email 20 times in a workday, you’re never really fully concentrating on anything.
If you check your email at the beginning of your day and respond only to what you really have to respond to, you’ll enjoy much higher productivity during the workday. This can have the added benefit of shortening your workday in the long run.
Tip #11: Don’t Be a Slave to Social Media
If we think we’re slaves to email, we might have to come up with a new word for how addicted we are to social media.
But some of us use social media as an essential tool in our marketing strategy, so it isn’t something that can be ignored, or even relegated to “check it once a day” status. But there is an effective way to take control of your social media workload.
Turn off notifications.
Notifications are time-sucking poison! They’re designed to distract you, to take you away from what you’re doing, and to reward that distraction.
You can stop notifications and still maintain a social media schedule that is ongoing throughout the day. The difference is you’ll be doing it on your time.
And personal social media during work hours is also a time-bandit and should be avoided. I know you won’t stop doing personal social media during your workday, but I have to suggest it anyway. 😉
Tip #12: Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
It’s a bit of a cliche, but the real message in that saying is things take time. And greatness takes even more time. So it’s in our interest to be realistic about what we can achieve in a single day.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of feeling guilty for not finishing everything on our agenda in a given day. But step back and take a look at that agenda. Chances are, it’s unreasonable.
Be realistic about what’s possible, stay inspired, and give yourself time to be effective.
Tip #13: Get Out of the House
Ever been in a 20 or 30 story building that doesn’t have a 13th floor?
Fear of the number 13 is called “triskaidekaphobia,” and I guess if you put a triskaidekaphobe on the 13th floor but call it the 14th floor, that satisfies them. But it’s still the 13th floor, right? There’s something kind of off about the whole thing.
But this is tip #13, and we’re just going to have to deal with it. The tip is, get yourself an office. It doesn’t have to be above or below the 13th floor. It just has to be somewhere outside of your house.
Working from home is one of the most significant innovations that the internet has brought to us. But working from home can become claustrophobic. You can get cabin fever if you don’t get out. If you have kids or other family around, they can be distracting and make work difficult.
Your office doesn’t have to be a space where you pay rent and share the cost of a receptionist. It can be a coffee shop. Your front porch. Your back yard. A bench in front of a Walmart.
Will they let you sit on a bench in front of a Walmart for hours a day using up the wifi? I don’t know, but you get the idea.
Tip #14: Outsource?
Usually, we’re talking about ways to offer ourselves up as guest bloggers. To increase our profiles or strengthen our stranglehold grip on our industry.
But what about the opposite? What about using blog writing services to fill some holes in your publishing calendar?
It’s not a solution that is feasible for every blog. But, if you could make use of paid bloggers to take some of the pressure off of yourself, it may be an option worth exploring.
Tip #15: Every Song Can’t Be a Hit
If you’re old enough, you remember listening to music on albums.
If you’re not old enough to have that frame of reference, the album experience went something like this: you went to a record store, bought an album, took it home and listened to it. Eventually coming to the realization that, even if it was a great album, some of the songs were not as good as others.
Thousands of bands and musicians made a good living producing a handful of good songs every year, along with a wheelbarrow full of lesser songs. They slept soundly, knowing that every song wouldn’t be a hit. That people all over the world would even skip some songs when listening to their albums.
Did that knowledge drive them into a crazed, perfectionist state where they stayed up for weeks at a time striving for consistent greatness?
No, it didn’t.
They accepted as a fact of life that when you produce something creative—and writing is creative, brothers and sisters, make no mistake about that—it’s not all going to be great.
So why, as bloggers, are we disappointed with anything less than perfection? Why is it so difficult to stay inspired?
I think some of it has to do with the constant measuring of everything. The metrics we’re surrounded by. “THIS didn’t do as well as THAT. How can we fix it?”
A wise man named William Bruce Cameron said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” Which is a fancy way of saying that statistics don’t tell the whole story.
Not every article that you write has to be your best article. Sometimes you write something that a lot of people are going to skip. But that doesn’t make it any less valid or mean that you shouldn’t post it.
Tip #16: Slow Your Roll
What does your publication schedule look like? If you’re like most of us, you’re aiming at posting multiple times a week. Maybe even every day.
A good way to stay inspired is to post less often. And yes, I know that flies in the face of general advice from most of the experts out there. But audiences are not machines. They are limited in the amount of information they can take in, and they will tolerate (and can enjoy) occasional breaks in a breakneck schedule.
Do your own experiment. If you post five times a week, try posting three times a week for a month. Then check your stats to see if there was a negative effect. You may be surprised.
Tip #17: Not Everyone Makes It to the Top of Everest on the First Try
This relates to tip #5 because it asks you to think back to when you started your blog. What was your definition of success? Did you even have one?
Sometimes our definition of success or our ultimate goals change as we go along. We learn things or have realizations that cause us to rethink what we’re doing.
If you haven’t given much thought to your definition of success lately, it may be time to do so. You may realize that you’re stressed or can’t find a way to stay inspired because you’re aiming too high. Or you are aiming in the wrong direction.
Stop, look around, and listen to yourself.
Tip #18: Patience Is a Virtue
Being successful at blogging is not something that is going to instantly happen. In many cases, it takes an incredible amount of effort and dedication to meet goals and objectives.
Blogging is a long-term commitment.
It’s possible to gain an audience for your blog overnight. It’s incredibly uncommon, but it happens. In a case like that, it doesn’t take much to stay inspired. For most of us, though, it takes years. You have to be in it for the long haul.
That may seem obvious. But if you think about it and accept it as fact, it can have a positive effect on your day to day life as a blogger. Setbacks won’t seem so tragic, and successes will be more measured.
Taking the long view can make you happier and more productive.
Tip #19: Get a Life
Outside of blogging, that is.
You can’t just think about aquariums all day every day. Or airline schedules or Korean food or wedding planning. I write about WordPress three or four days a week, but when I’m not writing about WordPress, believe me, I’m not thinking about it. That’s how I stay inspired; by having other interests.
It’s good for your writing, and it’s even better for your soul (if you believe in such things).
The most interesting people you meet are not single-minded obsessives. They’re the people who have a wide range of interests and experiences.
It’s cool to be an expert. It doesn’t matter what the field is. But what’s cooler is speaking to an expert in some area (or reading their writing) when they suddenly go off on an unrelated tangent that’s just as fascinating as their field of expertise.
Strive to be that person.
We may not make it. We may not ever become that multi-faceted, well-rounded person who also happens to be an expert. But it’s a good goal. And the act of working toward it makes us more interesting by default, so it’s a win/win kind of thing, isn’t it?
The Best Way to Stay Inspired
Tips and suggestions are helpful. But the best plan, as it applies to your blog, is one that you’ll stick to. So whatever you find that sparks or retains your excitement about your blog, stick to it. Find what works for you and wring every bit of value from it that you can.
When you burn out, as all of us do now and then, change things up and see what gets you back on track. It’s a very personal thing, and once you find your groove, you’ll be able to find your way back into it any time you need.