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How to efficiently come up with topics for your blog

How to efficiently come up with topics for your blog

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Day 2 of the Challenge – My brain is tired. I didn’t sleep very well – I kept waking up, maybe too much excitement from Xbox session with my friend Tauras in the evening. I taught him how to play NHL, then we played some football and in the end some first person shooter.

What do you do, when your brain is tired to think and create?

Some immediately say “coffee”. Nope, wrong answer. Coffee screws up your metabolism, it provides a steep rush, and then even deeper crash. We don’t want that. We want constant, sustainable energy outtake throughout the day.

How do you concentrate without using addictive substances (e.g. coffee)?

You push your brain a little bit, with Focus@Will music – Uptempo. It’s better than coffee, it brings up brain waves that help you concentrate and perform.

Now, when settled here we go …

Coming up with the epic topics for your pillar posts is not easy.

What are pillar posts you ask? Pillar posts, that are also known as Pillar articles or Pillar content, are based on the definition by Yaro Starak, posts that create the foundation of your blog.

This content is why people come to your blog in the first place. Yaro lists this content to be evergreen, bringing constant traffic, can be repurposed and has a lot of actionable value for the followers. It can take the form of:

  • ‘How to …’ post
  • List (e.g. Top 10 …)
  • Technical blueprint
  • Definition of some interesting topic or
  • Your strong opinion (goes well with politics)

I am strongly apolitical, so I will stay away from the last one.

Coming back to the pillar posts topics. Most efficient is to start thinking about the most important variables:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What topics are the most important for the audience?
  • How much am I able to create in less than 4 weeks?
  • What is my goal for this challenge?

The simplest thing here to do is to ask the audience.

I have a couple of ideas in my mind, but I am not writing for myself. I am writing to provide value to you, the readers of this blog and I need to serve you.

This brings me to a very important question 🙂 I think you already spotted it as well … Who do I think is my audience? (I told you I will keep adding important things as I go along – important is to start, everything relevant will show itself along the way).

My audience can’t be everybody. At least not in the beginning. As Steve Job used to say (paraphrased): “If you focus on everybody you end up pleasing nobody”.

I need to choose a niche.

I have been in the community of startuppers/business founders for more than 2 years, so logically it’s the best audience.

Or is it? … Let’s think about it …

Startuppers / Entrepreneurs are people who take the leap towards creating something from scratch, without knowing if it materializes, their only driving force being strong belief. They breathe their idea 24/7, never stopping to think how to turn it into a viable business.

When you have your own business, you have to do everything. It’s not like when you sit in a company and you have specified job role.

In a startup, you have to do everything from product to sales, to marketing, to administration, to HR, to operations, to logistics and this is just a tip of the iceberg. On top of this, the founders have to deal with their personal lives, emotional stress, work-life balance (which in this case is more of a life balance). And yet again this is just a tip of the iceberg.

The founders actively look into how to make their days more efficient, how to be more productive, how to achieve more in less time. They know that their ideas are like their babies and they need to be in the best mental and physical capacity to bring them to fruition.

What is more, founders hate mundane tasks and that’s why I think they are the perfect target audience.

Selecting the topics

I just wrote the below email* (*Update 1.4.2017 – since then I ‘rebranded’ to Efficient Daily Habits to make it easier to pronounce and remember) to a couple of people, starting with Michael. Let’s see what they come up with.

EHD_call for feedback

All of them are startup founders/entrepreneurs who are very busy so I need to give them up to 72h turn around time.

What to do in the meantime?

I can contemplate on the topics I have in mind:

  • Sleeping & waking up – I find this topic very interesting in connection with efficient habits. If you get enough quality sleep, waking up is easy and you have enough energy throughout the day to do everything with a breeze. Do the opposite and on top of the gloomy shadows under your eyes, your brain doesn’t deliver to its fullest
  • Procrastinating on mundane tasks (chores) – something like paying bills late can have severe consequences on your existence, but also things like expense reports, or things like late receivables (payments to you). You can’t cover everything, so as Tim Ferriss (famous author of 4-Hour Work Week) says, you need to let small bad things happen. However, you need to be strategic about what you let slip and what you grab. My philosophy is to take care of everything that endangers personal relationships and either generates or eats money.
  • Motivation – you know that feeling, you are all hyped about your newest idea or your New Year’s resolutions. You throw yourself into the activity, doing it to its fullest. And, surprise, surprise, few days or weeks later you don’t even remember what was it. The most important thing to get straight in your head is ‘Why’ … Why did you decide to do it in the first place? What do you want to achieve? How does it influence your life? Once you have this cleared, any means will do.

Update after 72 hours

I was lucky to receive feedback from 5 people and researched topics that other blogs about efficiency write about.

All of the 5 people are startup founders/entrepreneurs. The majority of them were quite specific, some provided me with general advice that I can use as well.

Many of you might say that feedback from 5 people is not enough to evaluate the topics. You might be right, but I have a time constraint here – 4 weeks. Ideally, I would talk to 100 people in a qualitative way, discussing in an informal atmosphere, digging deeper. This would, however, take as much as 4 weeks of the time.

I have to be efficient.

What helps is to go with my gut feeling, too. I have to lead the way to make the way. Turns and shortcuts will show themselves later.

What did the audience say?

The overarching topics are:

  • Exercise, in particular, how much exercise is most efficient?
  • Diet, in particular, how to eat healthy in the most efficient way?
  • Sleep, in particular, how to fall asleep and wake up in the most efficient way?
  • Admin side of their business, in particular, how to set up your business most efficiently?

The great thing is that on top of these overarching themes, they briefly provided me with what they already tried and what works for them. This gave me an idea for another topic – Interviews with Startup Founders about their habits. Why not make an interview/podcast about this? 🙂 Noted!

Researching what other bloggers write about efficient lifestyle gave me another idea. Pinpoint down some kind of Manifesto of Efficient Daily Habits. You can check it out here: http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/efficient-habits-daily-manifesto/ 

There is one another topic I almost forgot about …

The trend is evident. There are more and more people having their own ideas for a business.

I tend to go to 2-3 meetups per month to meet like-minded people, exchange ideas and network. There are more and more of them who say, I have this cool idea, but I have a job.

There is also a little bit of ‘fad’ in there. After all, everybody who is in some kind of business is talking about startups. TV shows like Shark Tank or Dragons’ Den help to make this cult even more prominent. When you see entrepreneurs pitching in front of the shrewd investors in TV, you say to yourself: “If they can do it, I can do it as well”. Well, of course. If you are smart and efficient about it, sure you can.

Then, the last topic I need to consider for this challenge is “You don’t need to quit your job to start a business.

How much content am I able to create in less than 4 weeks?

The question is not really how much content, but how much quality content.

If I went on a writing spree, I could write easily 1000 articles. Yep, you hear that right. I shut myself at home, take care of food, water and off I go. However, will this be the content that anybody wants to read? I don’t think so. The most important point here is quality – in terms of helpfulness for the audience … and applicability. It’s not the most efficient to only read about it 😉 You gotta walk the walk.

I think I can publish 4 high-quality pieces in 4 weeks. 1 per week. I have other things to do as well, so this gives me a good portion of time to create quality, helpful and actionable content.

What is my goal for this challenge?

This is actually a very interesting question that I should have answered already yesterday, before starting to work on this challenge.

Obviously, the goal is to launch … but, I mean … I launched yesterday already.

The goal is to provide content that will make the audience crave for more. Is that it?

Based on the SMART goals framework, your goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-based.

  • Time-based is done – 4 weeks
  • Relevant – yes, I have gone on a journey of applying learnings from Smart Passive Income to create a Passive Income “Imperium” so this challenge is perfect for it
  • Attainable – yes, I think so, Point 3 of this exercise answers it in more detail
  • I am missing Specific and Measurable.

The essential ingredients of a blog are content and audience. My SMART goal has to be built around these two ingredients then. I discussed the context of the content earlier in this post.

In regards to the audience … What type of audience? I think it should be an audience that likes my content, engages with it, shares it with their network and regularly comes for more.

How can I measure that I have reached this type of audience in 4 weeks?

I think I have few vehicles to judge if the audience is engaged – they comment and they subscribe to join the community.

To be measurable, how many comments and subscribers do I want to gain?

Let’s say that each post should ‘provoke’ at least 2 comments from two different people and at least 4 people will subscribe to join the community. Is it too little? Is it too much? I don’t know, this is not set in stone. It’s more like a line in the sand so depending on how it develops, I can adjust. This should, however, be a very good ‘gauge’ of assessing the success.

“My SMART goal for this challenge is to create 4 pieces of pillar content and engage in a min. 2 comments per post, attracting min. 4 subscribers to my blog.”

The outstanding task is to select topics that will help me to achieve this SMART goal in the most efficient way. I need 1-2 days to think about them.

What did I learn from writing this post?

Lesson 1

The analysis doesn’t mean paralysis if you know your ‘WHY’ … Why am I doing this?

Lesson 2

Giving a little bit of time to other people (= patience) means that you can get quality responses.

Result

I have a SMART goal and a selection of topics that I can write about during this challenge.

What comes next?

Next is all about writing pillar posts about the topics. I will start with the topic of Sleep as that is the core of everything. Human brain and body need quality sleep to perform at the most efficient level.

Resources and tools mentioned in this post

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How to efficiently set up a blog

How to efficiently set up a blog

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Based on the challenge from Michael that I described in my first blog post, I didn’t have much time to lose. I had to start making it happen immediately.

This blog is about efficient habits so I decided to create the blog and its content in … surprise … efficient way! What’s that, you ask? This blog post explains it in details.

Today, I will describe, how you can easily setup a blog on WordPress in less than 3 hours, with a good looking theme (*flirting whistle*) and with the most important plugins. Then, I will show you how to decide on the best Blog post structure in order to automate the writing process.

I am using Trello for tracking my To Dos and work progress with Momentum dashboard for the task of the day.

So, here we go …

1. Choose a domain name – 20 min

I assume that you already selected topic of your blog. Some bloggers call it ‘your niche’. I chose to write about efficient habits because it’s my obsession. I hate mundane tasks – but I am great at doing them efficiently, so I get more time for doing things I like. It’s kind of like a curse, because when my lazy boss in previous work discovered about it, I had ‘the best time of my life’, NOT!!! 🙂 In any case, choosing a domain name is all about your brand.

Why “Efficient Daily Habits”, you may ask?  

A short Google Keyword Planner search reveals that people tend to search for topics around habits – good habits, bad habits, how to develop them, how to get rid of them.

And ‘daily’? As my girlfriend said, it sounds actionable … ok, efficientdailyhabits.com it is. A quick check on godaddy.com revealed it was available.

Don’t forget to search for some promo codes to get a discount. Select ‘privacy’ to avoid spammer’s attention and buy the domain. It will be assigned to your account immediately.

2. Grab Social Media profiles – 20 min

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

YouTube

3. Select hosting – 20 min

I recommend getting shared hosting where everything is managed for you and you have customer service available. Make sure the hosting service provides you with:

  • Control Panel – also referred as cpanel – this is like an operating system
  • Mailbox setup – this will allow you to create email address with your domain name, e.g. yourname@yourdomain.com
  • 1-click WordPress installation & automatic WordPress updates – this will reduce WordPress installation to 5 minutes
  • Basic monitoring abilities – logs visits, stats, downtime
  • Fast downtime resolution – if your website stops working, you can demand quick turnaround

Risks of shared hosting

As its name explains, you share your hosting with other clients. It means that your website sits next to somebody’s else. If they overdraw the capacity, the whole server can fall and your website with it as well. I wouldn’t worry about this too much, though. Nowadays, the customer service at hosting companies is pretty good, so they will try to help you asap. 

Recommended

4. Install WordPress – 5 min

You already chose shared hosting with the Control Panel (cpanel) so you should have automatic WordPress installation at your fingertips. 

Find the ‘WordPress installation’ text or WordPress icon and follow instructions on the screen

5. Setup Mailbox – 5 min

Find the ‘Mailbox/Email’ set up text or Mailbox/Email icon and follow instructions on the screen

Set up two email addresses in your cpanel

  • hello@yourdomain.com – for all accounts with digital service providers
  • yourname@yourdomain.com – for your communication with other bloggers, partners, and community

6. Find and install a theme – 20 min

WordPress theme or a template is all about how your blog looks to the audience. Try to find something that looks good and is free. Once you start earning money you can switch to a premium theme, but if you are just starting, it’s not needed, especially for a blog where you have just standard features set. If you, however, insist on getting something flashy, try the Template Monster which features huge database of premium templates – http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/templatemonster

How to find a free theme? Use keywords like ‘free WordPress theme’

My criteria were – minimalist, free, responsive blog, so I was searching for ‘free minimalist responsive WordPress blog theme’.

I found these useful sites:

I chose a theme named Sparkling in the beginning but didn’t like it at all. Themes always look different on your blog compared to the demo site, and this one looked extremely bad.

No worries, installing and activating a new theme in WordPress is a matter of 2 clicks. I browsed some more and chose a theme called Nisarg. I like how it looks and it’s easy to play with. 

7. Style your theme a bit – 5 min

Another great thing about WordPress is that it allows you to customize the layout, colors, fonts and other simple design elements of the website. Just press the Customize button and there you go. For this exercise, I will not look into extensive setups. I will just change the site name & icon, tagline, and the header image. 

Where to find ‘Customize’ 

edhabits.com - customize link

Where to setup Header Image

edhabits.com - header image

Where to upload the Site Icon

edhabits.com - site icon

8. Install and activate necessary plugins – 30 min

Plugins in WordPress are small features that fulfill big tasks, like tracking your visitors and their behavior, helping you optimize your SEO, empowering the audience to share your content or sign up for your Email list.

The basic plugins I recommend are:

  • Akismet – pre-installed with every WordPress – protects your blog from spammers. All you need to do is to activate it. 
  • Google Analytics – tracking visits, page views, visited pages, time spent on site, etc.
  • Prettylink – makes your links look more readable – for example, you have an affiliate link that looks like this affiliatesite.com/?affid=xyz, you can change it to yourdomainname.com/affiliate
  • Disqus – modern and most popular commenting system with related posts
  • Yoast SEO –  this plugin with put your SEO on steroids
  • AddToAny Share Buttons – adds share buttons and allows the audience to share on social networks, like Facebook, Instagram, etc.
  • SumoMe – suite of tools that allow you to create popups for Email list signups – the best feature is the sign-up box that shows while you are scrolling down on the page
  • Mailchimp forms by mailmunch – allows you to collect email addresses for your Mailchimp list
  • Yet another recommended posts – this nifty feature creates links at the end of each post linking to related posts

9. Install Email Optin Box – 15 min

Collecting Emails from the beginning is one of the most important things you have to do when starting with your blog. People who sign up for your Email list will turn to gold later in the process (literally). You are able to reach them 1 by 1 in personal tone and develop a relationship to build the community.

You should choose an Email service provider.

  • The most well-known provider among the Passive Income community and the one Pat Flynn recommends is AWeber http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/aweber. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a FREE option. The quality and feature set is outstanding, though. If you have money to spend, go for it. If not, then there is …
  • Another one is Mailchimp http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/mailchimp. It is free for the first 2000 subscribers. Once you get that many subscribers, you should be already earning a bit of commission so it makes sense to switch to AWeber.

10. Setup Yoast, Google Webmaster, and permalinks – 20 min

Next come small optimizations like configuring Yoast SEO, setting up Google Webmaster tools and setting up Permalinks.

Yoast SEO – follow instructions in the dashboard

edhabits.com - Yoast

Google Webmaster tools – this is mandatory to allow Google to find you and index you in the search results. You need to have a Google Account. Click on “Add property” and follow instructions on the screen. Make sure you submit the sitemap that Yoast plugin will generate for you. 

edhabits.com - Google Search Console

edhabits.com - Google Search Console menu

Permalinks – permalinks are all about how your blog post URLs will be shown. Select yourdomainname.com/postname structure to help the organic searches

edhabits.com - Permalinks

11. Decide on Blog post structure – 10 min

The blog post structure is important to automate your writing. It decreases the time you need to think about every single blog post because it provides a framework for you to write within. I learned this from the great guide from Nik from “Four minute books” – page 21 from his guide. Once you have the structure set up, writing is a breeze. Keep in mind that even if your structure is not perfect in the beginning, you will improve it through constant engagement with your community.

My structure for the blog posts looks like this:

  1. 3 points Summary of what you will learn
  2. Favorite quote related to the topic
  3. Personal story/stories
  4. Solutions explored
  5. Lessons learned
  6. What comes next?
  7. Resources and tools mentioned
  8. Let me know
  9. Related articles

12. This is it

You are ready to go! Remember that this setup is not the perfect by any means. But that’s OK, starting is more important than perfecting something which will never see the light of the day.

http://www.efficientdailyhabits.com/

Setting up blog is a mundane task

But, I had to do it. The best solution that always works for me is “just do it”. No distractions, focus music and here we go. I have the challenge going on, so I can’t slack.

You say that I have the motivation and that helps me not to procrastinate?

Yes, you are right! That works the best – external accountability. Having an external challenge helps, but imagine if I had a family to feed or debts to pay. The motivation would be even higher.

Many people find a lot of excuses.

This video shows why you shouldn’t have excuses at all.

If you are afraid of a big task, break it down to small parts and make the first step, then make the second step…

It’s like a child learning to walk, the moment it does the first step, second has to follow, otherwise it falls. Falls happen, but each fall brings the child up to try it again and again … it’s evolution, there is no way back. So just try it – step by step you get there.

So just try it – step by step you get there.

What didn’t go as planned?

The site crashed while I was working on point 11 – Blog post Structure – fortunately, I worked on it in Google Docs so nothing is lost. I have no idea why the site crashed. The downtime lasted for ca. 15 minutes which is kind of unacceptable in case you have a big community following you. To know if it crashes in the future, I am setting up the Uptime Robot to track the downtime automatically. 

What did I learn today?

Lesson 1

I am able to have basic WordPress blog setup done in ca 170 minutes, which is 2h and 50 minutes time. I used the Pomodoro technique to work on it – 53+7 minutes, with taking short water and bio breaks. I remind you that I have experience of setting up my shared hosting and also a VPS and dedicated hosting. This makes it more efficient. However, if you follow the guideline and checklist in this post, you are on the best way as well.

Lesson 2

There is always something that breaks or something you forget. You can’t predict what, but you should be prepared and plan for it in regards to time allocated. The best way to improve is to start doing it, in my case blogging. While I will be blogging, the ideas will come naturally and I will keep adding plugins or customizing the theme. Best case scenario is that nothing breaks and you can use that saved time for doing something nice.

Lesson 3

If you do setups and want to write about it at the same time, it takes more than 2x the time to finish up everything. That’s why, while doing it, I decided to drop the writing and scribbled just notes. Tomorrow, I will write down the details together with the screenshots, and who knows, I may also record a video. These are the basics of effective work – focus on one task at the time. If you try to multitask, it will take you longer.

Result

170 minutes / 2h and 50 minutes spent on basic setup of the blog.

What comes next?

Tomorrow, my plan is to finish up this blog post about Day 1 and come up with the topics for following days. I want to publish quality pillar blog posts before 16.02.2017 that will capture the essence of Efficient Daily Habits. The content needs to be epic and actionable, so when Michael reads it he will crave for more. Challenge accepted!

Resources and tools mentioned in this post

Let me know

Please let me know if you have any comments, suggestions for improvements. I am especially interested if have better ways how to efficiently set up a blog even faster.

Thanks for sharing!

High five through the screen

-Marian

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