I travel a lot. It’s not unusual for me to skip town for a week to cover a conference, to chat with potential clients, or, sometimes when the rainbows and unicorns come out, even for a little rest and relaxation. And while it’s fun to pick up and hit a new city for a few days, it also means a lot of work. Because blogs don’t sleep when you leave town. Like annoying children, they sit there waiting and demanding food and attention. And that means doing some planning ahead of time. Or at least hiring a trustworthy babysitter. Or kennel.
I’m asked somewhat frequently how I manage to keep up with my blogging while on the road. And seeing that I just came back from a conference, now seemed like as good of a time as any to tackle the question.
So, here are some tips on how to leave your blog for a week…and then come back to it.
Create Your Plan Of Attack
Rhea came over recently and forced me to take a personality test. The results told us something we both already knew – I am extremely right brained. This means I have lists everywhere – on Post-Its, on my whiteboard, the corkboard and even in old school notebooks. And that’s just for a normal week. Weeks when I’m planning to go away make my apartment look like I’m a candidate for TLC’s Hoarders. There are lists EVERYWHERE!
My process looks something like this: Two weeks before I leave town, I make a list of everything that is due the week before, of and after I’m about to go away. [This is especially fun when I have more than one trip planned in a two week period.] I make a note of all content that is due (blog and client), scheduled freelance assignments, and all the people I need to get in touch with during that time. I then create a map that plots out how I’m going to accomplish everything on my plate. I create all of this in a Google Docs spreadsheet that lists out the blog name, what’s being published, on what day, at what time, and when the content will be written. It’s a travel editorial calendar. I use Google Docs so that I can access it anywhere.
With map in hand, I’m ready to continue.
Create A Travel Editorial Calendar
This may mean writing new stuff, pulling together posts from guest authors, opening the blog up to the community or creating a Best Of series that will highlight some of your most popular old content. Obviously, the work load here will vary depending on the method you take. I’m a big fan of writing content in advance simply because I have control issues and am really bad at delegating. ;) That said, I’ve used guest authors a couple times in the past and have been really happy with the reaction from the community. Sometimes it’s nice to spice things up for your readers while your butt is planted in a pub in Ireland. The folks at Bruce Clay are really good repurposing old conference coverage when their office closes down during the winter holidays. Just because you’re not at your desk, doesn’t mean your blog has to go silent or that you can’t give old content new legs.
Many bloggers will also opt to write fresh content from the road. To be honest, I do a pretty sucky job at this. I tend to immerse myself into whatever is going on (liveblogging, family time, drinking, whatever), so it’s difficult for me to step back and provide worthy content while traveling. This is why I’m so crazy about mapping it out beforehand.
Let People Know You’re Going Away
Others may disagree with me on this, but I think you need to let your community know that you’re hitting the road. Even if you’ll be publishing new content, you’re still not going to be running business as usual while you’re away. You’re going to be slower to respond to comments (if you’re responding at all), you’re not going to get to community email as quickly, and you may need them to notify of you if something breaks out (whether positive or negative). I know some people like to keep the illusion that they’re always at their desks plugging away but, I don’t see the need to fake an appearance. It’s not like my Twitter account won’t give it away anyway.
I also try and let the blogs I freelance for know that I’m not sitting at my desk. For example, I blog three times a week as a contributing editor at SmallBizTrends. Even though I make sure all that content is written and ready to go before I leave, I still try and give them a heads up that I’m not around. The same applies for the other blogs I contribute to. Even if I don’t expect there to be any mishaps, you want someone covering your butt just in case.
Have Someone Responsible For Checking In
Even if you decide to be an All-Star and create a week’s worth of content before you leave town, you’re still not off the hook. There will be comments to moderate, people to respond to, potential fires to manage (though please don’t post anything inflammatory if you’re not near the keyboard) and other wonky issues that may come up. You want to put someone in charge of handling them. If you’re smart phone-enabled, it’s easy enough to download the WordPress app (Blackberry, iPhone, Android) for your phone to help you manage your blogs, but that’s only if you have full administrative privileges to do so. If you don’t (or even if you do), you still want someone on the ground who can keep an eye out and keep things running smoothly for you. I typically call this person “Rhea”.
Give Yourself A Recovery Day
You know what you really don’t want to do the day or so after you get back into town? Work! It’s often really hard to get back into the grind after you’ve been away on vacation or on business. Your head just isn’t there. Up above I mentioned that I try and map out what’s due the week AFTER my trip. This is so I can make plans to get that done before I even leave. This ensures that I always have content ready to go the first day or two after I’m back. If you have clients, sometimes it worth it to tell them you’re back a few days after you really get back. Buffers are nice and you’ll be way more friendly after a couple of days.
Also, because you’re NOT scurrying to get content up that first day, it means you can use it to recover from being out of the office. For me it means responding to the thousand or so emails I left pile up, going through liveblogging coverage (if I was at a conference) to pull out potential follow up posts and just getting caught up on what happened during the week I was gone. The world doesn’t stop because you were away. You’re expected to know what you missed. Take a day to get back into it slowly.
Get Back Into Your Groove
You get 2-3 days max to “ease” back into the process before you need to hop back into the grind and get back to your good working habits. Hopefully, you’ve done enough pre-planning and taken enough of a buffer that the process won’t be too difficult. Hey, you may even be excited to get back! :)
That pretty much outlines my process for writing for multiple blogs while on the go. What does your process look like?