5 Uncommon Tips For Your Blog (From Author Tim Ferriss)Claude Harrington 09.28.2015
Over the past decade, author/speaker Tim Ferriss has carved out a niche as one of the leading voices when it comes to efficiency, entrepreneurship and self-help. With a trio of bestselling books—The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef—Ferriss has been able to find success by boiling down big, daunting concepts into underlying principles while offering up unorthodox approaches to excel in those spaces. And with the increasing corporate value of producing fresh content and hosting business-tailored blogs, one can’t help but wish that Ferriss had something similar to say on the subject. Well, as it turns out, he does!
Years ago—eight years and two days to be precise—Ferriss brought this kind of approach to the topic of blogging. Although a good chunk of time has passed, many of his insights are universally applicable (or can be tweaked to fit our current digital landscape), so we thought it would be valuable to take a closer look and reexamine The Top 5 Uncommon Timesavers For Bloggers/Writers.
1. Decide how you’re measuring success before writing a post.
It may seem frustrating to think about tailoring your content towards a specific, not-necessarily-content-oriented end goal. Shouldn’t good content, you might wonder, be enough? It is, I would argue, but the follow-up question to that is this: enough for what? And that, really, is what Ferriss is getting at; delivering that good content to a good-sized audience. Is your objective to garner comments? To be shared with others? Increase your company’s position in the SEO ranking? In an ideal scenario, it’s all of these things of course. But sometimes blindly swinging for the fences is less impactful than consistently getting on base. And much like baseball—a sport driven by stats—it’s important to define and identify a measure for success because, as Ferris points out, “Form follows function.”
2. Post less to be read more.
This is one that I think may have changed a bit over the past eight years, especially as distribution channels make it easier for readers to consume content on their own schedule. That said, the sentiment here remains the same: quality will always be more valuable than quantity. Especially in an ecosystem where every blog is fighting for attention. And I think Ferris does a good job of pointing out that while it’s important to get in the habit of posting with frequency, “don’t feel compelled to keep up with the frequency ‘you have to post three times before lunch’ Joneses.
3. Define the lead and close, then fill it in.
“Decide on your first or last sentence/question/scene,” Ferriss recommends, “then fill in the rest. If you can’t decide on the lead, start with the close and work backwards.
This is a great and underutilized suggestion. While skeptics may view this as almost a clickbaity sort of trick, the truth is that highlighting a lead and then defining parameters will inherently structure the way you think and write. So while this strategy will ultimately help create a better reader experience, it will also most likely inculcate a better writing experience as well. And that is good for both the short-term and long-term success of your blog.
4. Think in lists, even if the post isn’t a list.
Number 4 feels almost like a natural extension of Number 3, touching on the importance of structure (for the sake of clarity and consumption). But it’s worth individually pointing out as there’s a reason that you see so many lists on the Internet: they work! That’s the case for a variety of reasons. Not only do they tend to be less dense and easier to read (particularly in a mobile environment), but the framing device works well with how our brains are wired; utilizing discrete partitions for disparate information.
In addition to the value of list-like content, Ferriss also touches upon the importance and crafting a work schedule that is best for you. “It’s important to identify your ideal circadian schedule,” he says, “and pre-writing warm-up for consistent and reliable results.
5. The best posts are often right in front of you… or the ones you avoid.
“Fear is the enemy of creativity,” Ferris states. “If a good serious post just isn’t coming, consider trying the obvious or ridiculous. Obvious to you is often revelatory for someone else…”
If you read back over Ferriss’ tips, this notion of fear being the enemy of creativity is ultimately what his suggestions are all about. What’s one way to chink away at fear? Build confidence by uniquely defining your own success (#1). And what are some other ways? Be disciplined (#2), be resourceful (#3) and be prepared (#4).
All strong pieces of advice that will help you (as well as us, and likely Tim Ferriss as well) better achieve that success we are searching for. And while the target will always change, the tools you’ll need to use won’t.