Blogger Burnout and Ways to Prevent it

Blogger Burnout? 6 Ways to Prevent it

Guest post by Jennifer Gresham

Imagine a blogger’s dream come true: you have a horde of engaged, enthusiastic readers, your posts regularly garner hundreds of responses, and everyone wants to talk to you. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? That’s what Justin Hall thought too – until it actually happened.

Hall started blogging in 1994 and was dubbed by New York Times Magazine “the founding father of personal blogging.” He was the youngest person to brief the Rand Think Tank, he was invited to speak at the Sundance Film Festival and South by Southwest. Then, by his own admission, he had a bit of a breakdown in 2005. If you want to know what happens when blogging takes over your life, watch his last vlog, which he titled Dark Night. I’ll warn you, it’s disturbing.

Most small businesses know you have to develop a strategy for success that’s scalable. What works when your blog is small may not work well when it gets big. The scalability problem most bloggers worry about is the capability of their servers, but it’s how they spend their time that should be at the forefront of their strategy. To make sure you aren’t the latest victim of blogger burnout, take heed of these 6 potential pitfalls, and the strategies you can implement to navigate blogging success:

1. When social networking becomes a social nightmare. When your blog is small, you need to spend a fair amount of time promoting posts through social networking in order to get page views. But blog promotion through social networking can easily eat up as much time as you’ll give it. Between online forums, Twitter, Facebook and email, you may not feel like you have enough energy to actually write.

When success really hits you can probably cut back on the blog promotion, but untangling yourself from the networks you’ve established may not be so easy. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk, who has over 850,000 followers on Twitter alone, left a message on his Twitter page warning followers he doesn’t respond to direct messages.

The solution: Make a note of the purpose of joining each network and the value it provides. Make a prioritized list, so when you have to cut back, you know just where to start (and the impact it will have on you and your blog). And make sure some of the networks you keep just bring you joy. Remember Jack Nicholson’s line in The Shining about “all work and no play”?

2. When guest posting is the only posting you’re doing. In a recent interview, Leo Babauta described his meteoric rise to blog fame by using the strategy of guest posting. He was able to develop a writing schedule that allowed him to write 3-5 guest posts per week while posting every day on his own blog, working full time, and taking care of his six children.

But as Jon Morrow, Associate Editor at Copyblogger, will tell you: most of us aren’t Leo Babauta. Some bloggers focus so hard on guest posts they end up neglecting their own blog. This is counter-productive.

The solution: Try Morrow’s more reasonable guest blogging schedule, laid out in his article The Three-Step Guide to Getting More Traffic by Writing Less.

3. You’re reading, but not responding. One of the biggest complaints of big blogs is the authors no longer respond to comments. But you can see why: with posts garnering anywhere from 40 to 80 responses or more, you could spend all your time just answering the mail.

So how do you decide which posts to answer, if any? Some bloggers respond by simply turning off the comment feature (like Seth Godin), but I think there’s a better solution that still allows you to engage with your readers.

The solution: The key is to focus and there are two ways to do it. You can spend your time answering really thoughtful comments that made you see the blog topic differently. Or you can focus on your regular readers, those thoughtful people who come back again and again to encourage you. There ought to be some reward for that.

4. You’re paranoid about privacy. Of all the issues you deal with as a blogger, privacy is the one you should think about first, because it’s so hard to go back. While it’s not impossible to change your strategy, it is virtually impossible to go back in time on the web. You also have to balance sharing personal details and taking potshots from nasty netizens, which is sadly par for the course as you become popular.

There’s no right answer here. Many people will tell you to keep your personal details to yourself, but in many ways, blogging is all about the personal. Moreover, you’ll be hard pressed to earn loyal followers without revealing something of yourself. But a story that may seem perfectly acceptable at a cocktail party with friends (small blog) might feel really weird at a packed auditorium (big blog).

The solution: Write every post as if you’re addressing a large audience that not only includes your mother, but the rest of your friends and family as well. Beware of sharing personal details about those around you without their prior permission. You might gain followers, but lose friends.

5. Your real life is suffering. Lisa Romeo, a freelance writer and blogger, is going through a personal crisis. As she said in a recent post, “when my father was dying and I was worried that my writing output was declining [writer Richard Hoffman] advised me Life first, writing second.”

The solution: Even if you aren’t experiencing a personal crisis, it’s important to maintain a “real life.” In order to be an effective writer, you need to have experiences to write about. Think of time spent away from the computer as feeding the muse. Where else are those endearing anecdotes supposed to come from? And when life really calls to you, like the death of a loved one or a crisis at work, don’t worry for a second about taking a blogging break.

6. You’ve lost sight of why you started blogging in the first place. Many start a blog because they love writing or connecting with new people. But ironically, as your blog grows, you spend less and less time doing the very things you enjoy, as Gina Trapani describes in her farewell post at Lifehacker.

The solution: Even if your blog is an extension or the primary source of your business, the key is to stay focused on the imporant, not the urgent, to take a line from Trapani. Don’t let success dictate how you spend your time. Otherwise, the platform you built for opportunity can become more of a pirate’s plank.

Of course, even the best strategies can fail. Despite your best efforts, you may succumb to blogger burnout anyway. What most people don’t tell you when you start is that it’s a pretty demanding job. The good news? Justin Hall is doing just fine. He got married, he landed a job that makes him happy, and he’s even blogging again. And if he can find his way out of a dark night, then we all can. The hope is we can prevent ourselves from going there at all.

What are your strategies for preventing blogger burnout?

Jennifer Gresham is a scientist by training and an optimist at heart. She provides uplifting, practical advice on how to get the life you want at her blog Everyday Bright.

Photo credit: Casey Serin
Author: Annabel Candy

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Annabel Candy November 3, 2010 at 1:47 pm

A big THANK YOU to JEN Grehsam for writing this post. The timing is perfect for me as I drown in a sea of emails and Jen writes about it so well. If you haven’t already visited Everyday Bright but enjoy intelligent, thought-provoking writing please do: http://everydaybright.com/

Secondly my sincere apologies to Jen and everyone for the confusion I caused by putting this up yesterday accidentally then took it down. I made a silly mistake. Sorry. Luckily this post is well worth waiting for so please enjoy it now and leave a comment with your strategies for preventing blogger burnout.

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Jen Gresham November 3, 2010 at 11:52 pm

Thanks so much for providing the opportunity to get to know some of your readers. It’s a real honor!

I’m actually in need of my own advice at the moment. As you know I just put up a post that reviews a huge amount of scientific data on the connection between happiness and wealth. Took forever to write, and combined with my other efforts to promote and connect, I am one tired blogger.

Let’s both take a rest and just enjoy this, eh? :)

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Annabel Candy November 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Yes, I read that epic and wonderful post and commented:) Lol, taking a rest and enjoying what we’ve achieved so far sounds like a plan!

Eduard - People Skills Decoded November 3, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Hi Jen & Annabel,

I enjoyed reading this post and I found the 6 ideas useful. I see blogging as a way to branch out from another professional activity. For me , my blog is a way to express lessons from coaching. The benefit of this is that I have a pool of experience I can draw from to write my posts and they have more credibility.

This is in my view, a much better way to go than just blogging all day, without doing anything else to draw experience from. This way, burnout rarely happens.

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Annabel Candy November 3, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Hi Eduard, I have so much to blog about and no time to get it all out there! I admire your sensible and rewarding approach – it sounds as if it works well for you and your readers:)

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Jen Gresham November 3, 2010 at 11:58 pm

Eduard,

I love the idea of using blogging to branch out from another professional activity, even if that professional activity is just “observing and understanding the world.” I started my blog to connect with people and share my ideas on happier living. But I think the idea of making my observations professional gives the whole activity more purpose. Thanks for that add!

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Red Nomad OZ November 3, 2010 at 9:03 pm

I feel like a fraud in saying how timely and relevant this post is for me! I’ve got WAAAAAY less followers than Jen and Annabel and WAAAAAAY more time (I’m guessing), but already I’m being sucked into the vortex of pretty much all the pitfalls outlined above! SO … thanx so much for the tips – they’re already working! But god only knows what I’ll do if (when?!?!?!) my blog gets bigger and better …

Happy travels!!

Marion

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Annabel Candy November 3, 2010 at 10:36 pm

Hi Marion, it’s a tricky one and I’m trying to work out how I’m going to sort it all out myself. If I do, I’ll definitely share! The biggest worry is how to still engage with all my lovely readers without spreading myself too thin.

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 12:04 am

I hate to tell you, but success is just around the corner! You have a lovely blog (adore all the pictures) and a marvelous sense of humor. Who could believe that won’t catch like wildfire?

Glad I could get these tips to you before it’s too late! :)

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Red Nomad OZ November 4, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Stop, I’m blushing! Thanx so much to both of you for sharing your thoughts on this issue – the main things for me are to a) retain my unique voice; b) stay true to my blog’s intention and c) never forget why I started blogging in the first place!

Thanx again, Marion

Scott McIntyre November 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Hi Jennifer and Annabel,

The video of Justin Hall is certainly unsettling. It sounds as if he gave too much of himself to the internet and expected back much more than was possible.

There’s a fine line to be tread between sharing enough of yourself online (your work, your personal life etc.) and investing too much of your precious time and energy. When the balance is out of kilter, that’s when burnout can strike.

There’s one common element that seems to run through all the tips – know why you are doing a particular task and what you want to achieve.

When we have some idea of the effort we have to put in to achieve a desired result, it can help us decide when we’re doing too much for little in return.

But – most importantly – we’ve got to be willing to slowdown when the danger signs are there… that’s the difficult part.

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 12:14 am

Well said, Scott. You’re certainly right that having a clear picture of what you want to achieve is essential. But it’s also true that sometimes our expectations need a bit of a reality check.

We hear stories about blogs that attact thousands of subscribers in 6 months and then feel like we’re failing if we can’t do the same. And the really ambitious don’t quit when they feel like they’re failing, they just work harder. Then, when success does come, we put unnecessary expectations on ourselves (or imagine others are doing it for us) that continue to drive unsustainable behavior. It’s a sure recipe for burnout!

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rob white November 4, 2010 at 12:16 am

Hi Jen & Annabel,
This is great. One thing I quickly realized about starting a blog is that the time one can invest in all the different aspects is seemingly endless. I had to quickly learn that the blog simply serves to enhance my business and is not THE business. When I find that business suffers or my own writing suffers it is time to stop-refocus and start doing what is most important to my big picture.

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 1:07 am

You got it, Rob. I also know how hard it is to do (kinda like not eating cookies while dieting–seems obvious, but I usually fall down a few days regardless). I’m thinking of posting my own advice above my desk so I can keep that focus when demands are high.

Glad you liked it!

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Katie November 4, 2010 at 3:08 am

Fantastic post, Jennifer. I soaked up every word, checked out every link and your article reinforced so much of what I’ve been thinking about in terms of my own blogging lately. Thank you for writing such an important and timely post. Timely for me at least and I’m sure for many others. You rock … and so does Annabel for giving us so much food for thought.

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Annabel Candy November 4, 2010 at 8:55 am

Hi Katie, thanks so much for leaving a comment. It’s an exceptional post and Jen has taught me heaps – I’d never heard of poor Justin Hall before. Plus she must be a mind readers knowing how much I need this right now!

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 11:49 am

Thanks, Katie. Coming from a certified blog superstar such as yourself, those are kind words. You and I write a lot about balance, but finding it as a blogger isn’t easy. I wrote this because I struggle with it myself obviously. Glad I could be helpful!

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Brandon Yanofsky November 4, 2010 at 3:50 am

I like solution #3 a lot. So many people worry about bringing new viewers and neglect their loyal fans.

Maybe this is a practice even beginning bloggers should keep in mind. What do you think?

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Annabel Candy November 4, 2010 at 8:57 am

Hi Brandon, I recommend replying to comments if you value the conversational part of blogging. That’s what I love. It’s not a one-sided monologue – I get as much from my readers as they get from me. I try to reply to my regular readers and commenters – they are my rocks and to new commenters like you who I hope will become regulars;)

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 11:54 am

I personally think the best option is to reward loyal fans from the get go. Chris Guillebeau talks about building a small army of true believers. The only way to do that is to engage and reward them as much as possible. But it’s important to realize that group will morph and shift over time. Some early fans will move on, and new ones will take their place. So you do have to be mindful of the value of new visitors–they’re the true believers of tomorrow.

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Daria November 4, 2010 at 3:56 am

Great post Jen! I especially like the “solutions” section. Very useful information as always.

Daria

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Annabel Candy November 4, 2010 at 8:58 am

Hi Daria, it’s a great post example – Numbered list, problems and solutions:) So glad you enjoyed it.

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Barbara Hammond November 4, 2010 at 3:59 am

Good stuff Jen. I believe planning for success is the best way to handle it. Sometimes, though, the little voice in the back of your mind says…’don’t stress about it, you’ll never get that big.’ And yet… what if?
Great advice! Thanks!

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Annabel Candy November 4, 2010 at 8:59 am

Hi Barbara, I don’t think you need to be huge to have these problems – that’s the problem! But you’re right – it is a good problem to have:) Thanks B:)

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 11:48 am

I know! What if? And as Annabel says, the problems start much sooner than you think they will. Blog domination is consuming work! LOL

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Leah McClellan November 4, 2010 at 8:40 am

Great post! I really enjoyed reading this. I especially like your point about writing for audience. I try to keep in mind that anyone and everyone is reading my blog, not just friends and fellow bloggers, and to write for the Joe and Jane Schmoes that land there via google, not just a select few. The “real life” too…definitely. Good stuff, good reading.

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 11:44 am

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to realize that at some point, most of your audience is the Joe and Jane Schmoes! I don’t know when the transition happened for me exactly, but one day I looked at the comments section and realized I hadn’t met a single one of them in real life. A good evolution I think!

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Dawn Lennon November 4, 2010 at 9:46 am

A terrific post made enormously useful with its advice supported by the real-people examples and the solutions. You make a powerful point that is so true with any “entrepreneurial” initiative (which blogging is in its own way) that we need to prepare ourselves in advance for the probability of success. There’s nothing worse than starting something that gives you wings and then find yourself sucked into the vortex of endless darkness. (How was that for some dark imagery!) Thanks for this superb writing, Jen. ~Dawn

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 11:46 am

LOL–that WAS pretty dark for you, Dawn! But yes, it’s so hard to predict what life will be like when we get everything we’re working towards. It’s usually just the opposite of what we imagine. You look at success and think, “Then things will be easy for me.” Instead, it’s much, much harder (but hopefully also very satisfying!). Thanks for your lovely comment!

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Amy Parmenter November 4, 2010 at 1:24 pm

I Am So Burned………………….Out. :0)

Great post Jen — but too tired to point out the highlights!!! Thanks Annabel!

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Jen Gresham November 4, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I think those of us who went to BlogWorld may be feeling this especially. I know I came home full of excitement and opportunity, but it’s just not possible to act upon all of that at once. It’s so overwhelming. That’s why I think it’s helpful to thinkof your blog as a small business (think scalability) and maybe even consider yourself an employee. If you wouldn’t ask someone else to work until all hours of the night, why ask it of yourself (she says while typing at 5 AM)?

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Annabel Candy November 5, 2010 at 11:25 am

Lol. Oh dear… and if you wouldn’t work free of charge then that might cause a wee problem too:)

Rosemary November 5, 2010 at 2:44 am

What a great post Jen, and with so much practical information. Although I haven’t been blogging long I have already glimpsed how it can all get too much, and how the hours and days fly by when you get caught up online. As you said there’s so much networking to do that it’s sometimes hard to find the time to write…not to mention conduct normal life committments. No wonder people burn, burn burn! Its good to know that Justin Hall recovered from his breakdown and got on with his life. It’s a heady and addictive drug this game, but wow! it’s so rewarding and enjoyable…so like everything else balance is the keyword! My last post is on a similar theme but not as detailed or useful as this one. Thanks again Jen

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Jen Gresham November 6, 2010 at 12:31 am

That’s a good analogy. I got addicted to video games for a while, and then realized it was eating away valuable time in my life. While I enjoyed the time spent playing, those memories aren’t exactly cherished, if you know what I mean! Will have to check out your post. Seems many of us are thinking the same thing, which is good. We can help each other with moderation. That’s what friends are for!

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Kate November 5, 2010 at 2:59 am

Great post, Jennifer. Sometimes blogging feels like a constant, open-ended assignment. When I get too busy and miss a day, I find myself thinking paranoid thoughts like “What if I lose readers?” Oy. The days I’m most content are the ones where I think, “So what if I lose readers?” Or, of course, the days when I write a really successful post. Sigh.

Important topic, though. Thanks!

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Jen Gresham November 6, 2010 at 6:45 am

“Sometimes blogging feels like a constant, open-ended assignment.” Absolutely yes!

I find reader responses are what give me a thrill. I was recently chatting with an A-lister on blogging strategy. He asked me, “What’s the #1 thing you want people to do when they visit your blog?” I said, “Leave a comment.” He just looked at me like I was crazy. Apparently A-listers want subscribers. Ohhhhhh…..

LOL

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J.D. Meier November 5, 2010 at 1:54 pm

I like the way you painted a clear and compelling set of problems and practical solutions.

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Jen Gresham November 6, 2010 at 12:32 am

Thanks so much, J.D. Inspiration is good, but only when it brings about perspiration (or in this case, maybe less perspiration)! :)

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Emiel November 5, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Great post!
I cannot say that I’m having a blogger burn-out, because I’m quite new to the blogging scene. But I do recognise all of the issues raised! And I love the solutions you have given.
Responding is the no. 1 tip that some of my friends gave me. They encouraged me to continue writing although starting a blog is tough business. And they always remembered me to respond!
And of course guest posting. I am starting to receive some requests, but hardly have any time to do so. You want to focus on your own blog first. But it was great reading Morrow’s post: you have to engage in guest blogging, but keep in mind the schedule.
Again, thanks for this great post.

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Jen Gresham November 6, 2010 at 12:35 am

Emiel,
Yes, when I started blogging my one goal was producing consistent content. I was writing a post every other day while working full time, going through a career change, and moving! I look back now a bit fondly on that time–turns out writing is the easy part. Finding an audience and being useful to them outside of your writing is where the pay dirt is, but it’s a lot of (rewarding) work. You have smart friends!

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QwkDrw November 9, 2010 at 5:19 am

To me, this entire guest post is great. Thank you Jennifer for the wise perspectives. And also to Annabel for the great guest post find.

Particularly interesting is ‘The Solution’ presented in #5. Take an occasional ‘blogging break’ to live real life. Indeed, a writer needs life’s experiences to have something meaningful to write about. A possible restatement here might be: a blogger needs a life.

From time to time, one might be in the middle of living real life, cementing personal bonds, actually making some money — and taking a ‘blogging break’

!!

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Jen Gresham November 10, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Glad you enjoyed the post. As much as I love blogging, I love life more. Even I must admit, given 24 hours left to live, would I spend it writing one last blog post? Probably not (though a part of me would be tempted…just a short one? LOL).

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QwkDrw November 13, 2010 at 12:53 am

Yep (Grinning). I can ‘name that tune’ in … two notes (or less).

Dana Udall-Weiner November 12, 2010 at 12:01 pm

This post is so relevant to me right now, as I’m just starting out and already feeling overwhelmed by the amount of time it takes to do promotion, much less writing. Unlike any other work I do, blogging can really become non-stop. Thank you for so clearly identifying the problems as well as the solutions related to blogging over the long haul. (And I’m sure my husband thanks you, too, since I think he doesn’t know what to make of all this time I spend online!)

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Jen Gresham November 14, 2010 at 1:54 pm

Dana,

I hear you on the husband thing. Your goal is to have a successful blog without having your husband get jealous of your community. Do that and you’re 90% there! LOL

Glad this was helpful for you. It’s also important to remember that if you love all the time you’re spending, there’s nothing really wrong with that, as long as you don’t violate your real life relationships in the process. I’m fotunate that my husband spends a lot of time online himself. But when my daugher is up and about, I’m offline. She always gets my full attention.

To make those ground rules work, I had to leave my full time job. Scary, but sooo worth it. Best of luck!

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Miriam November 22, 2010 at 11:05 am

thanks for sharing this! As we’ve just launched our blog I’m trying to plan ahead and be super prepared which includes staying motivated and maintaining momentum so thanks for these great strategies.

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Waegook Tom August 14, 2012 at 1:57 am

This is a great post – thanks for sharing! You’re right about not letting blogging overtake your life. I’m not a huge blogger, so I do spend a bit of time promoting my posts on social media, but also promoting the work of others on Twitter. I mean, who wants to follow someone who only ever tweets about their own work?

Taking a break every now and again is good. I went through a period where I weighed everything that I would do on my weekends by, “will this make a good blog post?” It made me tetchy, and wasn’t always a successful strategy (Yeosu World Expo, you SUCKED).

That Leo Babauta schedule is INSANE, though. I mean, I simply don’t get how he has the time!!!

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