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GTD and Blogging

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  • GTD and Blogging

    Okay, I love reading blogs and I love writing so it would make perfect sense that I would have a blog of my own. However, every time I try to post an entry, I end up spending massive amounts of time writing the post, then going back and editing it, and so forth. Which leaves me wondering...the people who post in their blogs every day, is that all they do?

    Is there some way that I could use the principles of GTD to write quality content in my blog without spending massive amounts of time doing it? Any bloggers have an @Blog context where they sketch out ideas so they can spend more time writing and less time thinking when they actually sit down to write? Any other suggestions from a GTD perspective? I am sure there has to be a way to have a blog without it consuming one's life.


  • #2
    What a great question. I too wonder about serious bloggers, i.e., those that can post one or more posts per day. I find that I really enjoy blogging, but it takes away from my productive time - I consider it more of a hobby. I do it in a GTD context though. For example:
    • I have a @blog category in Outlook. I realize that it's not really a context, but I find that I need to keep it separate from my other Online context because otherwise, I get distracted by the blog entries and skip the real work.
    • In my @blog context, I put NAs for easy/quick blog posts that I have an idea about. When I have downtime, or feel that I haven't posted in quite a while, I'll surf through there and look for something that tweaks my interest and post about it.
    • Sometimes I read or do something that just *needs* to be blogged, and I tend to do that right away. Takes me 15-30 minutes per post. I try to limit these "must posts" to one a day. If I get more than one "must post" idea per day, I'll save it as a draft.
    • I have a recurring task that reminds me to post twice a week. Before I instituted that, I found I actually went several weeks without posting because I was trying so hard to get some work done.
    • Finally, there's a recent post on my blog you might find interesting. It talks about a backlog of blog ideas and how I used mind mapping to wrangle them into cohesive thoughts. It did take a couple of hours to do the mindmap, but now I have ready made "story lines" for when I want to post again.


    • #3
      Be an expert.

      Originally posted by pageta
      Is there some way that I could use the principles of GTD to write quality content in my blog without spending massive amounts of time doing it?
      I think the key issue is to be an expert in the area you are writing (blogging) about. The quality content is already in your head and in your notes so you can easily post current comments about the topics in your area. And it is worth reading for others.


      • #4
        How much time do you consider "massive amounts?" Blogging, like any writing, does take measurable amounts of time. However, the nature of the medium is that it is more conducive to lots of short (say, 300 words or less, usually much less) posts than to fully fleshed out articles. The medium also favors informality and a casual, less polished tone than most other writing. I rarely spend as much as half an hour on a post.

        I think you may be going at the question from the wrong direction, though. What's the successful outcome of your blog project? Do you want to chat with friends? Establish yourself as an important information source in your field? Build a regular audience for your site? (And who would be in that audience?) Different goals require different approaches, and different amounts of time.

        Personally, I do a certain amount of web browsing anyway, especially reading news and doing research in my field. Most of my blog entries are just a few sentences calling attention to interesting tidbits that I find. A few are longer, either summarizing a conference, pointing out a recent trend, or commenting on something I've observed. (My blog is at if you'd like to see what I mean. Entries have been sparse lately as I've been out of town.)

        Following the two minute rule, I don't create NAs for most of these, since it takes longer to create the NA than it does the entry. Instead, I block out a certain amount of site maintenance time every morning.


        PS Some blogs, especially the well-known ones, actually do consume the authors' lives. Which is okay, if that's the outcome you want.
        Last edited by kewms; 12-08-2005, 06:40 AM.


        • #5
          "Massive amounts" of time would be like spending all day (from when my dh left for work at 7:30 until I stopped to watch Oprah) on one horrid entry that I'm still not happy with. My toddler took care of the housekeeping (probably safer to just let your imagination fill in the blank here), and I didn't have a very good answer for what I did with my day when my husband came home. Ugh!

          I actually have two blogs. One is for family and friends and entries usually take less than fifteen minutes and revolve around pictures I download from my camera. So those entries really aren't too hard, though I don't do them as often as I'd like, especialy considering how much my family enjoys them and how easy they are to do. My family lives in a different part of the country, so they love having the connection my blog creates.

          My other blog is a business blog intended for other people in my business (not customers). I've been in this business for ten years and there are a few things I've learned along the way, such as GTD, that I'd like to share and that I'm sure other people in my business would find interesting.

          I think the main problem that I had yesterday was that I needed to narrow my topic and just speak from the heart and not worry about whether I am covering all aspects of a topic in one entry. I certainly have an audience, a purpose, and a gift for explaining things so it really should not be difficult. I think simply spending a few moments every day working on it is a very good suggestion.

          I think where I was thinking GTD might come in was with the flurry of ideas I have running around my head for topics to post on and things to say. I no longer spend my time thinking about what I need to do, thanks to GTD, but my mind is now filled with things like ideas for posts in my blogs. Somehow I need to figure out how to channel all that chatter into constructive entries. I don't know if that means I need to go as far as having different topics started with notes containing ideas I've had so far, or if simply writing on a daily basis will take care of that.

          I don't drink coffee, but I seem to have the most ideas in the morning as though I did drink coffee. If I could just get them down on paper, I could quit thinking about them and actually get some work done. And doesn't that sound like the classic problem GTD is so good at solving? I've always been an idea person. I love working out, but one of the main reasons why sometimes I don't do it is because I just get more ideas while I'm doing it and it gets to where I start to go crazy. Writing down the ideas always helps, which is one of the main reasons for why I think blogging is a good idea. But I probably need to just focus on recording the ideas in tidbits rather than writing an entire expose in one sitting. It's a blog entry, not an article. If I really want to write articles at some point, I can use my blog entries as resource material.

          Thanks everyone for the great ideas so far...and keep them coming!


          • #6
            I've found that the best approach to anything I'm not ready to write about right away is an idea file outside of GTD. I've got enough writing ideas to last several lifetimes, and would quickly overwhelm my GTD system if I tried to bring them into it. I currently have several different paper journals, plus a freeform electronic notebook (WikidPad, to be precise).

            I've found, though, that the best ideas tend to recur without my writing them down. My subconscious works on things, and eventually comes up with something interesting and clearly defined enough to be a GTD project or NA.

            Blogs in particular I think are very conducive to thinking out loud, by which I mean posting things that don't claim to be authoritative, and asking for reader input to help you refine it further.



            • #7
              some people pay others to blog for them

              I am not suggesting you do that but perhaps some elements of the creative process that a friend of mine who writes for money uses would work for you (I will describe it below). I have a friend who has a standing freelance writing gig. 300 words for 150 bucks.
              Every week she has to submit a blog-style entry on an aspect of a certain product. It is the same product each time and one we all know well. It is something you can buy in any pharmacy. She sends this on to someone who who in turn enters it in into one of several blogs of real and imaginary people related to the company that markets the product and that perosn does something to create some degree of continuity with previous entires if needed. Part of what she is doing is to make sure that as google changes so do her key words. She has created a list of ideas, words, uses, examples, issues, characters, etc. related to the product and she recycles these and substitutes new, fresh language and examples each time. She writes for 10 minutes on whatever she feels the most fluent thought is going to be on the product that day, real or imagined. And then she revises and checks grammar and spelling for 10 minutes. If she is on a roll, she will write several entries, again using 10 minutes to draft and 10 for polishing. That way she has some in reserve and many appear to be sequential. Some of her examples are invented "I meet a lady at church this morning who told me that she solved her problem..." . Others are real such as "I remember when I was 4 years old and when my grandpa came over he always smelled like peppermint candy. I am simply awestruck that product X has that clean, crisp fragrance". Sometimes it barely seems related, such as "Last night we finally got our tree up, we had a fire in the fireplace and the funniest thing happened to disturb that quiet moment. Our dog, Maggie, came running into the living room but instead of curling up by the fire, she whined and tugged at me. Finally I got up and followed her to the bathroom and sure enough a few things had been knocked off the sink, including my dop kit. Among the glass bottles, only one had broken and thankfully, because the lid for Product X is self-closing, not a drop of that X spilled. This is not the first time that Maggie has summoned us to a scene that needed our attention. At some point in the future I will tell you about our neighbor who feel into a snow drift and was stuck there overnight. Maggie saved his life but it is not as you might think". If she stumbles on an article related to the product or sees it used in a movie, she will write about that. So, if your blog is to promote your business, perhaps you might want to use my friends method. I suspect that your time-demanding blogging is a much more genuine analysis or deeper, reflective piece of work. Perhaps you can eventually go in that direction and still write quickly but for now you may need to force it into little tiny bits.


              • #8
                re: idea jars and ideas staying on my mind

                an idea file outside of GTD
                I do something similar, using a simply-formatted text file plus some Emacs macros to make capturing fast. I wrote about it here if anyone's interested: Pickle jars, text files, and creative idea capture.

                "I've found, though, that the best ideas tend to recur without my writing them down."
                I've had this happen too, but I actually thought it was an indication that I'm not a GTD "black belt" yet (see READY TO TEST FOR YOUR BELT?). I'm struggling a bit with this. For example, when I'm riding my bike home past the drug store, I remembered to pick something up. At first I thought "Great! GTD is working." But I think others might say that it's still on my mind, so I'm not a black belt...

                Finally, thanks for the great posts, Katherine.



                • #9
                  Originally posted by cornell
                  I've had this happen too, but I actually thought it was an indication that I'm not a GTD "black belt" yet (see READY TO TEST FOR YOUR BELT?). I'm struggling a bit with this. For example, when I'm riding my bike home past the drug store, I remembered to pick something up. At first I thought "Great! GTD is working." But I think others might say that it's still on my mind, so I'm not a black belt...
                  That's not what I mean. Remembering to get groceries may be important, but it's not one of my Best Ideas (tm).

                  I'm referring more to ideas for major projects, whether personal or work-related. As a writer, the best ideas are the ones that won't go away until I act on them, the ones that keep surfacing, sometimes over a period of years.

                  It seems to me that the whole point of GTD is to encourage that kind of creative ferment. If being a black belt kills it, count me out.



                  • #10
                    Yeah, GTD clears your mind of the clutter of other things so your mind can ferment ideas. The ones that are really good stay with you and develop into even better ideas, and the others drop by the wayside.

                    I do find that sometimes it is helpful to do a braindump of the ideas running around in my head in order to clear them out so I can move on. When I review them later, I am often better able to tell if they are really good or not.

                    I do think it boils down to the question of whether GTD can help with the creative process by recording ideas or if it helps the creative ideas by clearing the slate of other things so that there is room for the creative ideas to grow and flourish. I'm leaning toward the latter, though there are times when the former is true as well.