I wrote my first blog post ever just over a year ago. Since then, blogging has become a major part of my life. In the past year I have met many amazing bloggers, connected with readers via email, shared my financial journey through monthly updates, and have even had some of my work featured on major news outlets.
I felt the first excitement of blogging in November of last year when Yahoo, CNBC, Business Insider, LifeHacker, and Rockstar Finance all featured my Early Retirement Grid on their sites in the same week, driving tens of thousands of eyes over to my site in only a few days.
I have also received plenty of love from my favorite personal finance site Rockstar Finance, who placed my blog on their Best Financial Blogs directory.
Most recently my Million Dollar Age Grid was featured on CNBC this past week.
And perhaps most exciting of all is that I have started earning some money through advertising and affiliate links on the blog, helping me net $644 this past month.
I spend quite a lot of time working on this blog, but it hasn’t always been this way. When I first started blogging, I would write sporadically, whenever I could find time, and I was often unhappy with the quality of the articles. I had no writing routine, which meant I spent too much time trying to motivate myself to write.
This all changed when I made two crucial decisions that have allowed me to write more.
1. I write at the exact same time each morning.
Each morning I get up at 6 A.M. I no longer debate when I should write during my day. I eliminate that decision-making process. 6 AM. Every morning. No questions asked.
2. I write at the exact same place each morning.
This habit might be unique to me, but I find that it helps to write at the same location each morning. Each morning I drive to Panera Bread before work, sit at the same table in the corner, listen to Noisli, and write for about two hours.
These two habits have helped me produce 185 articles in about a year.
The Art of Schedule Shifting
I have always enjoyed writing, which made starting a blog feel natural. But this is something I delayed for a long time. I constantly told myself I don’t have time to write, I should wait for a better time in life.
But I did have time in my day, I just wasn’t using it optimally.
My day used to look like this:
Each weekday I would get home from work around 5 and I had a whopping six hours of free time. I could easily carve out two of those hours for blogging, but I rarely did.
I wasn’t struggling with finding the time to blog, but rather finding the willpower. During this six hour stretch I would spend most of it aimlessly scrolling through my phone, watching a TV show I didn’t even care about, or just lounging around the house.
An important lesson I have learned in recent years is that humans only have so much willpower, motivation, and energy in any given day. Once that storehouse of energy has been depleted, it’s incredibly difficult to find motivation to do work or practice a craft.
So I made a decision: I’ll just grab two of those evening hours and throw them at the earliest point in my day. I’ll go to bed two hours earlier and wake up two hours earlier. This way, all of my fresh energy, ideas, and motivation I had in the morning could be put towards blogging. I shifted my schedule.
My schedule now looks like this:
I go to bed around 9 – 9:30 most nights and wake up at 6 AM each morning before I head to my 9-5 job. This has made a huge difference in how much time I can spend working on the blog.
Shift Your Schedule
Most people don’t like waking up early to crank out work, and that’s fine. Earlier this summer I posed a question on Twitter, asking other bloggers what time of day they prefer to write:
Clearly not everyone operates best in the morning. Some people do their best work in the evenings or even late at night. The key is being self-aware of when you do your best work and making time for it each day.
Maybe you’re not interested in blogging in particular, but what is it that you wish you had more time for? Whether it’s learning an instrument, picking up a new professional skill, building something in your garage, or starting a side-hustle, I bet you have more free time than you think. The trick is figuring out how to optimize that time.
Find out when your energy and willpower is highest throughout the day and block off that time to start doing that thing you’ve been putting off. This might require some experimentation. Try waking up earlier. Or maybe later. Trying working less, on different days, or at different times. Notice when you have free time throughout the day and try to chunk together a block at the same time each day to practice your craft, build that thing, or start that side-hustle.
Use the art of Schedule Shifting to help you find the time to pursue your true interests.
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12 Replies to “The Art of Schedule Shifting: How I Find Time to Blog”
Interesting post! I’m always curious when bloggers who have FT jobs do most of their blogging. I find that most bloggers also only push out one or two posts a week. I’m currently averaging three posts a week. I find that batch-writing has been really helpful for me. I have an arrangement at work where I work every other Friday. So, usually the Fridays that I have off, I’m able to write 2-3 posts. I also find that if I’m not too distracted by my partner, I can write a post when I come home from work! It’s always a balancing act though, since I obviously want to spend as much time as I can with my partner. I also wake up about forty-five minutes earlier before work to do some social media engagement and make sure my posts are automated to be released at a certain time.
I’ve never tried batch-writing although it sounds interesting. It seems like a great way to crank out a few articles in one day. I find that a morning routine works best for me because it trains my body to wake up at the same time each day and go through the same actions of getting ready, driving to Panera, and writing. It minimizes my decision making of when and where I’ll write.
Thanks for the feedback, Jen 🙂
Thanks for sharing how your schedule has evolved. Finding time to write is something that I struggle with. Is there a reason you write at Panera and not your home?
I find that when I take the time to drive somewhere other than my house that it helps me get into the mindset that I’m at that place to work, not goof around. Panera is just an arbitrary place that has free Wi-Fi. Starbucks, libraries, and Barnes & Noble’s are all great too. I’ve never been able to work well from home, but that’s just me 🙂
Great post, Zach! Congrats on all your early success with blogging. I’m sure you will have plenty more success to come. I think trying to wake up earlier to spend more time writing would really benefit me. Although I do usually spend an hour in the morning each day on the blog, it usually involves answering comments, reading other blogs, and scheduling content for social media.
I typically write posts during the weekend during my days off. But it can be challenging to have the pressure to write and publish posts during the weekend. I need to try setting aside a specific time each day to see how that impacts the writing.
Thanks for sharing Noisli too! As a person that struggles to focus in busy environments, this App looks like it could really help. Have a great week!
Thanks, Graham! I hear what you’re saying about the pressure to write and publish on the weekend. I think setting aside a specific day or even a specific time of day could definitely benefit you. And Noisli is fantastic, it completely drowns out external noise and helps you focus 🙂
Love how you incorporate your own custom images to tell a story or make a point. That’s no doubt a big reason why you’ve been featured in such big sites. You take the time necessary to produce great content.
Interesting point about Noisli. I prefer to listen to music myself, but whatever works! Also, there’s no way I’m going to bed at 9 every night. haha Way to commit though.
I appreciate the kind words, Patrick! Occasionally I’ll listen to the “Brain Food” playlist on Spotify instead of Noisli, but I find that constant background noise/white noise helps me focus the most. And 9 is super early for most people, so I can’t blame you man. I’m a bit of an outlier with my sleeping patterns.
Thanks for the feedback!
I’d like to echo the fact with the custom images, adds a lot of good content to the blog.
Zach – How do you make them? Are they screens of Excel spreadsheets?
Robert – I’m glad you like the visuals. They’re all made in Excel using graphs and shapes and I just use the Snippet tool to capture the screen. It’s pretty surprising how flexible Excel is at making different visuals.
I’m terrible at scheduling my blog activities and tend to go at it binge-style. Some days I’ll almost a whole day playing catch-up on writing, social media scheduling, and editing and then other days I won’t even look at it.
I really need to turn myself into a morning person but I have such a hard time forcing myself out of bed. I do think that time would be valuable though. I also work full-time during the day so that really just leaves weekends and I find it a challenge to write when my boyfriend is home. One of my goals is to get a backlog of posts that are ready to go, but I’m still almost always only a week or two ahead. You’re inspiring me though 😉
Not everyone is a morning person, some people work best at different times throughout the day. I’ve just found that the mornings are when I’m personally the most productive. It can be tough to find time to blog outside of work, that’s why I find a routine is so beneficial. Best of luck with your blog 🙂