The Best Time Management Strategy for Blogging With a Day Job

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Making and taking time for blogging is a challenge for a lot of people. ConvertKit's own report revealed that one of the top challenges for bloggers was to have enough time to keep up with what they needed to for the blogs (and business in general).

I've been blogging for a decade and have run Productivityist full-time for over six years. Before I took my business and blogging full-time, I had to make it all work. I had to build up my blog while going through the following:

  1. Working part-time at Costco.
  2. Leaving Costco and going into a full-time sales position at an Authorized Apple Reseller.
  3. Leaving the sales job and taking on the demanding role of Operations Manager at my city's film festival.
  4. Learning how to be a father to my daughter over the same period of time.
  5. Working at being the best husband I could be.

And that's just scratching the surface of what I had on my plate. But I still got content written. I still got blogging done. In fact during all of that transition and turmoil, I wrote consistently.

Today I'm going to share with you how I did that while making the most of my time in the process. I still managed to have “free time” to enjoy other parts of my life, but I found a way to leverage every minute of the day without feeling ruled by it.

This one thing I started doing made a massive impact on my ability to give focus to my business – both building it and blogging for it – and I've kept at it (and seen it evolve) over the years.

Here's how this strategy came to be.

How to set up Time Theming

Since I couldn't work effectively on my writing during my 9-5 hours (and longer ones when I was part of the film festival crew), I had to figure out a way to make progress with my blogging business in some other fashion. I knew that if I didn't have some form of framework in place to govern myself outside of those static day job hours, I'd fritter away whatever time I had available.

I also knew I didn't want to use my calendar as a place to house tasks that were too specific. That also creates friction because I didn't want to feel forced into a particular task at a definitive time.

So I found a compromise—something that served my need for framework and desire for freedom of choice.

That's where what I call “time theming” came into play.

I worked from a “today first” approach for this process. What I mean by that is I themed my days first, then isolated blocks of time during the day for specific types of tasks (what I now call “horizontal theming”), and then ultimately started theming my months. I've also taken on “weekly sprints” from time to time, which is when I funnel my focus on one particular project, goal, or habit I want to accomplish in a seven-day span.

Here's a look at my calendar:

Mike Vardy Time Theming

At the top of the calendar is My Daily Themes. It's a separate calendar I created in Google (you could do so in Outlook or iCloud) and it shows me my daily theme for each day of the week.

I themed every day of the week because when I was working a day job I needed to give every single day a personal meaning so I could leverage it best. For example, Sunday has been my Planning Day for as long as I can remember (and it also marks the start of my work week). Saturday wasn't always my Family Day because my schedule at the day job didn't always allow for that. I was lucky that I usually had a static schedule, but unlucky in a way because my days off were rarely consecutive and never on the traditional weekend.

My Daily Themes have been switched and reconfigured over the years, but they've been the greatest part of my Time Theming process for over a decade. I have woken up with a mission every day: to give that day's theme my overarching focus. I know what day Monday is – it's my Admin Day. I know that Audio/Video Day always falls on a Wednesday, so I do all of my recording on that day of the week. And so on.

There's also Horizontal Theming illustrated in the above image. I've struggled with being consistent with exercise for years so I decided in order to make it stand out I'd put it in on my calendar. Leaving it on my to do list wasn't cutting it because it didn't attach any sort of agreed time to it there. I've played with where exercise activities should land on my calendar, but settled on following the advice of Dr. Michael Breus and aligned it with my chronotype.

In Dr. Breus' book “The Power of When,” he suggests times of day when different chronotypes – essentially your sleeping and waking rhythms – should tackle certain activities. According to Dr. Breus' work, I'm a wolf – or a night owl. This wasn't surprising to me in the least, but what was is when he suggested I exercise: between 6 and 7 pm. That's why I've earmarked rowing, running, and completing my WOD (from Dai Manuel's Whole Life Fitness Manifesto) for that time slot. There's a boundary set there now. I will make exceptions for when I will move that activity, but it's the exception and not the rule.

I've also horizontally themed my “Core Creative Time” in Dr. Breus' recommended time period for my chronotype. I've even started to mirror when he suggests I go to sleep and get up in the morning. It's not an exact cloning of the template he put in his book, but it's as close as I want it to be. After all, I've got a life to lead and want the calendar to be my overarching framework and not my overlord.

What you don't see on the above image is whatever my Monthly Theme is. I have a wall calendar (one I've actually co-created with the team at NeuYear) that puts those monthly themes on full display. Having a theme for every month allows me to move big projects and initiatives forward consistently.

For example, this month my focus is to fine-tune my speaking work. This includes the talks I want to do, the page where I showcase my speaking, and so on. So when Monday arrives – my Admin Day – instead of wondering what type of administrative tasks I should do, I push forward with ones that help me make progress on my speaking work. I do that every day of the month (although Family Day doesn't apply so much with this month's theme) and it keeps me moving ahead so the month's objective becomes realized.

How to make time work for you

“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don't have time,' is like saying, ‘I don't want to.”- Lao Tzu

I pushed back at that for years before I started finding joyful work outside of my day job. Then I stepped back and realized that if I really wanted to make this whole “online business and blogging thing” work, I needed to create a way to make time work for me and my new venture. I needed it to be simple enough to take hold over the long term, flexible enough to work within the boundaries of everything else I had going on in my life (like my day job), and durable enough to stand the test of time.

Time theming has filled that need for me. And it can do the same for you if you give it a chance to stick.

Mike Vardy

Mike Vardy is a husband, father, writer, speaker, and productivity strategist (or "productivityist" for short). In addition to being the founder and chief writer at Productivityist, he continues to contribute guest articles to several blogs on the topic of productivity, time, and task management, and has served as Managing Editor at Lifehack, and as an editor at The Next Web and WorkAwesome. Along with his written work, he has given talks on productivity and technology, and currently hosts The Productivityist Podcast, a weekly show that examines personal productivity and tactical approaches to work and life. Mike lives in Victoria, BC, Canada with his amazing wife, daughter, and son.

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