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Six Improvements to Your Blog

Six Improvements to Your Blog

I’ve done a lot of blog surfing lately, in search of new (best) blogs. What I found often, however, was that there are things people could do to improve the relationship and interaction value of their blogs, which would in turn build a better bridge between blogs and their readers.

  • Display Contact Info Prominently– Put the author’s name right up there easy to read, and add a photo, an email written out to avoid spiders ( chris at lifehack dot org instead of actually clickable), and even a phone number, if you want people to reach you. Add your IM username, and other contact info. If it’s a multi-author blog, display an “About the Authors” link prominently.
  • Fix Comments– I outright LOATHE blogs that don’t permit comments. It’s the opposite of a blog. As Shel Israel said the day before yesterday (if not further back), “It has been the dialog vs. the monologue.” So, make it fairly easy to let people communicate. That means disabling the “users must register to comment” type features. It means even considering killing the “capcha” features, those annoying “write what you see here” things. I still agree with whoever said all capcha should be corporate logos or animal pictures or whatever.
  • Format Your Text– Take the extra time to write “pretty” posts, such as it were. Make it so that people can read what you’re typing, and do your best to keep the tone communicative, and not too dense. Translation: big fat paragraphs of dense text usually don’t make for “friendly” blog reading. (Look at David Byrne’s journal. Great stuff, but soooooooo long.) And get friendly with things like bulleted lists, shorter and longer paragraphs, use of bold, etc. But not too much. It’s a condiment.
  • Use Tagging– The best thing about using Technorati tags and other tagging features is that it helps you AND others. As a blogger, it gets you more traffic from people interested in the words you’ve selected as tags for your post. As a reader, it helps you determine quickly if something is relevant to your interests.
  • Link, Link, Link– When you talk about 43 Folders, give them a link. When you write about a hilarious video on New Year’s Resolutions, share the direct link. This has two effects: one is that it makes it more useful to your readers. Two, it shows Google that you’re alive and sharing information back and forth (which benefits you *and* the linkee). BONUS: it’s good karma, and people feel warm and fuzzy when they see you’ve linked to them.
  • Stay Vibrant– There’s always a way to blog about what matters to you. If your blog features a lot about pens and Moleskine hacks and the like, there are plenty of ways to keep it creative. Just keep thinking about your “audience,” and bring them information that matters.

It’s what Leon and the writers of Lifehack do here (best as we can). We work hard to keep the blog vibrant, varied, and unique, and we try to show different perspectives on what we’ve got on our minds that might be useful to you.

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What have I missed?

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Chris Brogan keeps a blog at [chrisbrogan.com]. He works for Network2.

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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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