2018 was an experimental year for the blog. We spent each month exploring a different theme along the path to living a better life.
It was an informative and helpful project for me and I hope it was for you as well. I’m proud of the content I created.
I was able to (mostly) keep up with a twice a week schedule despite adding a newborn in January and a new job in August. This project helped me keep a focus on self-improvement at a time when it would have been easy to let go.
But with the end of 2018 and this experiment, it’s time to decide what’s next.
Going forward I’m looking at two main things: what do I want to do (both with regards to time commitment and subject matter) and what is valuable to my audience. I think that there is significant convergence between the two with regards to subject matter.
In the two and a half years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve focused on personal finance and investing, happiness, and productivity. I still enjoy learning about and writing about these areas, but I don’t feel the need to be redundant and repetitive.
There are a lot of great writers in the personal finance and investing space writing pieces that are similar to what I’ve written in the past.
In the areas of happiness and productivity, I’ve already written about the most important findings, studies, and habits. Continuing down these paths at the rate I’ve been going means that I will either be writing about things with only marginal value or I’ll be retreading the same ground.
Nuance and Detail
What I’ve found this past year is that my writing gets shared the most when it is the most nuanced. My lengthier and more well-researched pieces on less trodden ground seem to connect the most and make the biggest impact.
In the last few months I’ve gotten good feedback and Twitter traffic from a 3600-word essay on privilege and understanding why some people push back, 3500 words on student loan forgiveness, 2400 words on why personal finance and self-improvement writers should spend more time talking about politics, and a 16,000 word six-part series on Universal Basic Income and how to make the math work.
Ignoring the Rules
This is the type of work we’re taught to stay away from if we’re trying to build an audience.
I think that’s wrong. I think people are interested. Plus, the fact that the experts have told everyone to stay away means that there aren’t many people doing it.
I’m also in no rush to build a massive audience. I don’t monetize my blog at all, so I don’t need to maximize clicks. I’m in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, so I have to work in public service jobs for a few more years before I could even consider transferring to a new career if I wanted to.
Mostly, though, I like this work. I like answering hard questions. I like researching uncommon issues. I like stretching beyond what others are doing and digging deeper.
Here’s the part where my personal whims differ from what the audience might prefer.
I want to blog less.
I mostly stuck to posting every Tuesday and Thursday all year despite a new baby and a new job. This sucked up most of my free time all year, but became especially difficult when I got into my longer, more research-intensive subjects in October and November.
If I’m going to be focusing on the more time-intensive articles, I’m going to need to post less often as a matter of practicality.
On top of that, though, I want to have time for other projects.
I used to be able to blog consistently, work my full-time job, work a seasonal second job, do a little freelance work, and get some time to work on other projects and hobbies. With a baby and a more demanding new full-time job, that is no longer possible.
I want to make time to write a novel. I want to put together a non-fiction book proposal for an idea I’ve been kicking around. I want to make time to play music again. (And, if I’m being completely honest, I’d like at least a little bit of time to play Civilization again.)
These all require taking time from something else. I don’t want to take that time away from family and I have no intention of taking it away from work at this moment in my career. That leaves the blog. I already don’t spend any time on SEO or marketing or guest posting or any of the other things that people do to try to build an audience. The only things for me to cut are research and writing.
Keep On Keeping On
I’ve considered quitting the blog every few months for the last two and half years. It is time consuming and constant where I like to be regularly picking up new projects and learning new skills.
This new set up will allow me to use the blog to keep learning new things and sharing them with you, while also allowing me more time to work on other projects. I think this is a path that will be sustainable and not lead me to consider quitting so often (although I’m sure there will be adjustments in the frequency of posts over time).
With all that said, here’s what to expect going forward.
I still intend to focus on money, happiness, productivity, and generally living a better life, but will spend more time (a) exploring details and nuance, and (b) touching on bigger picture topics like the intersection of politics and economics with these topics. This is something that I enjoy, something that I think I do well, and something that is less common in the blogosphere.
I will not have a posting schedule. I want to feel comfortable researching as deeply as possible without having a deadline hanging over me to get something published. The schedule has been great for keeping me on track with the blog but has also meant that I have cut off research earlier than I would have liked on some topics and that the blog has sucked up all my free time on weeks when I was writing about more complex issues.
I want to spend less time blogging, but I want each article to be higher quality. I think removing my schedule will be the best way to get there. If I find that I am not posting often enough and am unduly procrastinating, I may revisit this decision and implement some form of a schedule but for now 2019 will be calendar-free.
(This is another area where it helps that I’m not trying to make money. All the blogging advice says to set a schedule and stick to it. After hearing that for years, it feels oddly freeing to remind myself that I don’t need to follow anyone’s rules.)
Join the Conversation!
That’s my plan for the new year. I hope you are also designing your life to be more of what you want.
Here’s to a better life in 2019!
What do you have planned for the new year? What do you want to do more of? What do you want to do less of? Let us know in the comments!