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How to New Blog: Make a blogging habit. Not just make a new blog.

I just started this new blog a month ago.

While my memory is fresh, it would be a good idea to write down the basic steps for starting a new blog. Usually, I suffer from the curse of knowledge and end up writing stuff meant for beginners in a way that confuses more than helps. This gives me a great opportunity to write a post that works while remaining accessible for beginners.

The Pyramid of New Blog

I have 9 main points in this post about how to create a new blog.

  1. Don’t just make a new blog. Make blogging your new habit.
  2. Think total costs and benefits. Costs is not just money. Benefits is not just readership.
  3. Focus energy and time in writing and sustaining the blogging habit.
  4. Pick a good regular writing time slot and venue.
  5. Avoid dread.
  6. Use your name for the domain.
  7. Follow the crowd. Pick popular choices for hosting, software and theme.
  8. Write about yourself in an about page and then publish it.
  9. Bookmark your blogging editor in your phone. When you have an idea for a post, create a new draft and write enough notes to jog memory later.

The same 9 points are also structured in this pyramid to help you recognise which are the more important parts and which are those that you have more room to change as you see fit.

 

The bottom layers (red and orange blocks) are the more strategic choices I’ve made. Those nearer to the top (green and blue blocks) are more tactical in nature which you have more room to disagree and adjust according to your needs. Because the bottom layers are more fundamental decisions, they will affect the kind of tactics I consider on the higher layers.

In other words, if you disagree with the more fundamental choices, then you find yourself having to change more of the blocks in this pyramid.

Don’t Make New Blog. Make New Blogging Habit

I have started blogs here and there and abandon them after some time. So my biggest problem is actually   sustaining the blogging habit. I’m sure I cannot be alone with this issue. Here’s an excerpt on a New York Times article:

According to a 2008 survey by Technorati, which runs a search engine for blogs, only 7.4 million out of the 133 million blogs the company tracks had been updated in the past 120 days. That translates to 95 percent of blogs being essentially abandoned, left to lie fallow on the Web, where they become public remnants of a dream — or at least an ambition — unfulfilled.

Yup, 95 percent abandoned. So the true enemy of blogging isn’t the complexity of the software, or the writing techniques. It’s simply sustaining the blogging habit.

I summarise my thinking regarding blogging habit simply as:

  1. My biggest problem is actually to make writing blog a habit and sustaining it.
  2. Therefore, sustaining a writing habit requires me to reduce friction as much as I can.
  3. Which leads to simplicity as a core value.

Think Total Costs and Benefits

There are many options when it comes to setting up a new blog. Therefore, I need to make decisions about what option to go for. When it comes to decisions, it boils down to two basic key concepts: costs and benefits.

Boiling down decisions to just costs and benefits may seem obvious. What’s NOT obvious is what costs and benefits consist of.

My costs are not just money. They include money, energy, attention, cognitive load, and time.

When a choice results in the total benefits outweighing total costs (i.e., money, energy, time, etc), I will take that choice. When they do not, I refrain.

The choice to consider costs such as energy, time, attention on top of money is important. It helps prevent overthinking and spending too much time tweaking silly technical stuff just to save a few dollars.

Benefits: Not Just About Traffic

Similarly, we need to think more broadly when we think of benefits. The benefits of blogging are not simply about traffic. I consider low-hanging fruits as benefits as well. I use following questions to help me think more broadly in terms of benefits and goals:

  1. Am I even getting blogposts out on a consistent basis?
  2. Does this hosting/software/whatever operational choice make my life easier?
  3. Am I even enjoying blogging?
  4. Does this decision help me move closer to my goal?

Considering all kinds of victories help sustain the habit. If we only consider blogging a success or fun provided we have crazy traffic, the habit will not last. Here’s another excerpt from the same New York Times article I quoted earlier.

Judging from conversations with retired bloggers, many of the orphans were cast aside by people who had assumed that once they started blogging, the world would beat a path to their digital door.

“I was always hoping more people would read it, and it would get a lot of comments,” Mrs. Nichols said recently by telephone, sounding a little betrayed. “Every once in a while I would see this thing on TV about some mommy blogger making $4,000 a month, and thought, ‘I would like that.’ ”

Don’t do that. Consider total costs and benefits in your decisions for blogging to be sustainable.

Focus Energy to Sustain Blogging Habit

Now that I have covered the 2 key strategic choices regarding starting a new blog, I am about to go into the slightly more tactical aspects. I’m a data engineer running my own firm. So even the tactical choices I make  need to be engineered to save time and efforts.

With that in mind, I am going to recommend that you commit at least 2 blogging sessions. The rest of this post will cover the details of what you do in the first 2 sessions. Each session should take no more than 2-3 hrs each time.

The Session 1 and Session 2 actions are:

  1. Pick a weekly time slot to move the needle for your blog
  2. Choose your domain, hosting, software, and theme. Then move on
  3. Pay for a SSL cert and move on
  4. Write your about page and publish it
  5. Have a permanent bookmark on your mobile browser to write down your blogging ideas

Actions that should take place between Session 1 and Session 2:

  1. Put your ideas directly into the blog whenever inspiration strikes

Pick a Regular Writing Time and Venue

When you finally get down to creating a blog, you’re probably carried by emotions. You may be excited, and thinking of the various possibilities your blog may become. Or your head is full of article ideas.

The excitement and positive emotions are great. Let’s use them well. At the same time, don’t let your excitement drive you towards spending 10 hours on finding the perfect theme on your blog.

Harness those positive emotions in the right way.

I will direct your positive energy in the following tactics the moment you decided to build your blog.

Which is why I want you to start by picking a weekly time slot to move the needle for your blog.

Of all the tactics, this is the most important. In fact, I recommend picking your Session 1 to take place at the same time and place. That way, you are training your brain to remember, “At this time and place, I’m going to go there to work on my blog.”

Essentially, you’re building a ritual for blogging. Rituals are like a special tool to help you stick to your blogging habit. I suggest picking a weekly time slot at a specific place for a specific length of time of between 2-3 hrs.

Now, you can actually tweak these blogging settings. Frequency, venue, and time per session. But before, you go crazy with adjusting these, I want you to know my golden rule for tweaking.

Avoid Dread

I call this the Dread Rule. If you experienced dread 2 blogging sessions in a row, you need to change something. So long as you keep the dread at bay, you can tweak as much as you want against the tactics here.

If you read from some famous bloggers write how daily blogging changed their lives, and you are inspired to do the same, go ahead. Remember the Dread Rule. If halfway, you start to feel like dragging your feet about blogging, you can lower the frequency.

If you have never kept to a writing schedule before, which is true for my case, I suggest starting with a weekly schedule. Once you get to some level of consistency with a weekly schedule, and you still want to try the daily blogging, you have room to step it up.

Being consistent about the length of time and venue is to reduce friction. If you automatically go to the same place and devote the same amount of time writing consistently, your lifestyle will slowly and steadily incorporate this new habit.

First, your new blogging habit fits into your lifestyle. Then your lifestyle will fit around your habit.

How I implement the weekly time slot

I will write a little bit more in-depth about adopting a regular writing time and place because it may make-or-break your blogging habit.

In my case, I pick every Saturday morning before lunch and blog at my nearest MacDonald’s outlet. It’s only 5 mins of walking away from where I live. I even have a favorite table and seat for blogging. There’s no specific start or end time.  I don’t track exactly how much time I spent. Though I’m pretty sure I spent on average 2 hrs per session. The key point is to do enough to avoid dread and reduce friction.

I don’t think about finding time to write. Willpower is not an issue because I enjoy watching families have breakfast at the outlet. I look away from my laptop every once in a while and see happy people having breakfast. There’s always some white noise that keeps some part of my mind from getting bored.

Only when I travelled overseas, does this consistent blogging habit get affected. Because I no longer can easily access this particular MacDonald’s outlet. When I am back in town, the habit just automatically restarts without much conscious effort on my part.

Precisely I pick the right frequency, time slot, venue that fits right into my current lifestyle.

Remember: First, you conform your new habit to your lifestyle

Blogging becomes part of lifestyle

A new development is that I now have a new habit of charging my laptop full charge on the Friday night. Because I want to write on a fully charged laptop on the Saturday morning.

Recently, I’m experimenting with fasting for 24 hours starting 2pm once a week. Guess what I did? I picked the Friday 2pm to Saturday 2pm as my fasting period. So instead of thinking about food, I used my blogging habit on the Saturday morning as a way to distract myself and achieve my aim for fasting.

Remember: Then your lifestyle will conform to your habit

Now, that we have covered the most important Session 1 Tactic. The rest are pretty trivial and I can go through them fairly quickly.

Use Your Name for the Domain. Use Popular Tools

Just to recap the Session 1 tactics.

  1. Pick a weekly time slot to move the needle for your blog (I’ve covered this)
  2. Choose your domain, hosting, software, and theme. Then move on
  3. Pay for a SSL cert and move on
  4. Write your about page and publish it
  5. Have a permanent bookmark on your mobile browser to write down your blogging ideas

For tactics 2-3, they can be summarised as pick something and move on. My suggestion is spend about 5-15 mins for each of these deciding your choice. By default, pick the most popular choice in that category. The key point is to realise that these decisions can be changed later.

You want to pick your battles. I rather you spend more energy getting your unique voice down on a post and up on the internet. Your success as a habitual blogger is not dependent on how perfect your choice of the blogging software.

If you do things well, you’ll eventually outgrow your initial choices. Then, you change. No need to obsess over the perfect choice that never changes. If you never have to change any aspects about your blog, chances are you’re not growing.

How I made my choices and moved on

Domain? Just use <firstname><lastname>.com. See my about page how I spell my name.

Hosting and software? I’m very familiar with namecheap.com as a domain registrar. So right after I bought my domain simkimsia.com, I simply took up their WordPress hosting service.

Theme? I just picked the first one that caught my eye when I was browsing in the theme marketplace in WordPress.

Get a SSL cert. Google Chrome, the most popular browser, will start showing websites as Not Secure for not having a SSL cert, starting July 2018. For the technically trained person, they will probably want to get a free SSL cert. That’s bad decision-making. Recall, I mentioned earlier that I don’t just consider money as the only form of costs. It’s worth it to spend a bit of money to get the SSL cert setup quickly.

I admit I did spend about 1 hr trying to see if I can get a free SSL cert. After an hour, I realise I was making the mistake of spending too much energy and time being my own technician. I dropped that idea and simply paid for a SSL cert also from my domain registrar and ask for their help to install.

The SSL cert was up in 20 mins right after I purchased. And it costs me about the same price as the domain.

Write your About Page and Publish it

If you reach this point in your first blogging session spending less than 2 hours, congratulations! You have avoided the pitfall for most new bloggers. That is, spending too much energy and time on things that don’t matter as much.

Now to continue your momentum, I want you to write something simple and publish it immediately. My pick will be the about page.

Every blog, every website has an about page. Your about page is simply about you. You can write an epic essay about your life story. Or, you can list out your career achievements like your resume. The point is, you won’t be stuck for ideas about what to write. This is mine.

Writing about yourself is the one topic with the lowest barrier to getting started for any blogger.

Do it. Spell check it. Then publish. Don’t sit on it too long. Again, if you want to update it, you can come back to it later.

Bonus tip: You can also write a now page if you feel like writing more.

Bookmark Blog Editor on Mobile Browser

Now we are almost done with your first blogging session. Your blogging habit is yet to be established. So any thing you can do to make it easier to write in your subsequent sessions, you should do it.

In the past, I used a notebook to keep track of article ideas. I will write down quick notes whenever I have an inspiration for a blog post in my daily life. When it comes to writing time, I had to go through this long chain of steps.

  1. I opened up my blog
  2. Then, I had to find my notebook
  3. Now, I transferred whatever sketchy details I had from the notebook into the blog

Too much friction.

Now, I keep a permanent bookmark to my blog editor page on my mobile browser. Whenever I have an article idea, I’ll just take out my phone and create a new draft for that idea right there right then. Maybe, I will write a bit more if I’m feeling particularly inspired. But, never the whole thing.

But that’s it. No more issues with finding my notebook. No more transferring notes. The notes were already there as drafts in my WordPress editor.

Conclusion: Going to Session 2

Let’s recap the key points for starting a new blog.

  1. Don’t just make a new blog. Make blogging your new habit.
  2. Think total costs and benefits. Costs is not just money. Benefits is not just readership.
  3. Focus energy and time in writing and sustaining the blogging habit.
  4. Pick a good regular writing time slot and venue.
  5. Avoid dread.
  6. Use your name for the domain.
  7. Follow the crowd. Pick popular choices for hosting, software and theme.
  8. Write about yourself in an about page and then publish it.
  9. Bookmark your blogging editor in your phone. When you have an idea for a post, create a new draft and write enough notes to jog memory later.

These are the exact steps I employ to get my blogging habit more integrated into my lifestyle. Right now, I have about 6 drafts (barely any words in them) and published another 7 pages including the about and privacy policy page. I am currently into the first month of my new blogging habit, and my plan is to continue covering the topic about sustaining a new blogging habit.

One last tip: track your compliance. I started sometime in the late June. I note that as the 25th week of the year. Since then, I have been writing at least once a week for about 5 weeks now. Here’s the latest progress spreadsheet I use to keep track of my progress.

Experiment with whatever other tactics but bear in mind 95 percent of total blogs are abandoned. So whatever your tactics you choose, choose those that help sustain and strengthen your blogging habit.

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