243: Tools and Techniques to Blog Effectively on the Road
Tools and Techniques for Blogging While Travelling
Today I tackle a question from a listener about blogging on the road. Carmen Fellows asked about technicalities such as how to get content online and ways to access your blog.
How can you balance blogging while traveling for work or vacation? It depends on the situation, and sometimes it’s a juggling act.
While you’re away, here are seven approaches to try when it comes to blogging:
- Take a complete break, and give your readers a break too
- Work harder, and schedule as much as you can before you go
- Highlight previous content, or feature a “Best of” series
- Schedule one of more guest bloggers
- Blog on the road
- Use posts that are easy to create (polls, embeddable content, link posts, etc.)
- Do a combination of the above
If you plan on blogging on the road, think about where you can find internet access, and whether you want to bring your computer equipment or leave it behind. There are pros and cons to bringing and using devices such as a smartphone, iPad and laptop.
How much do you really need to do with your blog? Working while you’re away can have an impact on what you’re there to do, whether it’s to have fun with your family or speak at a conference.
Allow yourself to be present. It’s okay (and important) to have time off from your blog.
Links and Resources for Tools and Techniques to Blog Effectively on the Road:
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In today’s episode, I wanna tackle a question that came in this week from one of our listeners. The listener was Carmen Fellows, thanks for asking the question, Carmen. It’s all about blogging while you’re on the road. I wanna talk to you about how I approach blogging whilst I’m away, whether it’d be for vacation or for work. Carmen particularly wanted me to talk about the technicalities of doing it, how do you actually get your content up online, whether you do it on mobile or iPad or some other way. Also, I wanna talk a little bit about balancing blogging with whatever else you’re doing in your travels, whether that’d be vacation with family and friends or work.
You can find today’s show notes at problogger.com/podcast/243. As I said, today’s show was inspired by Carmen Fellows who wrote in with this question via our Facebook group. She says, “Hi Darren, if you haven’t addressed this already, can you review different ways to access your blog while travelling to keep it up? For example, if I can’t get on my computer, do you find that updating via your mobile is suggested or is there a better way? I can be on the road for two to three weeks at a time and find it difficult to fit my blog in but still want to make it work.”
A great question, Carmen. It is one that I get quite a bit particularly when I’m travelling. If I’m at a conference, people often ask, “What are you doing with your blog while you’re away?” There’s no one way to answer this question. Over the years, my approach has evolved. It really does depend a little bit upon the type of trip that I’m taking. If I’m away on vacation, I do tend to not want to be working as much as I do. I tend to work a little bit while I’m away most times but if I’m away for work, I’m obviously there to do something else as well.
It is always a bit of a juggle and my approach does change from situation to situation. I did do a Facebook live on this topic last year that goes through seven different things that you can do while you’re trying to be away, these are seven different things that I’ve done over the years. I don’t wanna dig into these too much because you are particularly asking about how to blog while you’re on the road but I do wanna mention these seven approaches that I’ve taken when I’m away.
Firstly, you can take a complete break. A break allows you to focus on your trip, it also allows your readers to have a bit of a break as well which, I think, from time to time can be good. The second approach is working harder before you go. You schedule a lot of stuff so you don’t have to do as much from the road, that’s something that can help a lot, I do quite often. Number three is to run some retrospective series while you’re still away, highlighting all the content from your archives while you’re away. You might schedule some posts so you don’t have to work quite as hard before you go.
Four is using a guest blogger or a group of bloggers or someone to run your blog while you’re away enabling to take a break.
Number five is blogging from the road which is what I’m gonna focus in on for the rest of this podcast.
Number six was using a lighter post. There are certain types of content that you can have going up on your blog scheduled beforehand or that you do on the road that is lighter, that’s perhaps not as heavy or intense to create like running poles doing or doing embeddable content or doing links posts or a variety of those types of things.
The seventh option was doing a combination of the above.
If you’re interested in hearing a little bit more about those seven different options, I do link to that video and a blog post that I’ve written in today’s show notes. If you wanna learn more about blogging from the road, that’s what I do wanna focus in on now. Again, there’s a few different options and Carmen has alluded to a couple of them already.
What I used to do all the time, this is before the advent of mobile phone technology which shows you how long I’ve been blogging. Mobile phones were certainly around when I first started blogging but when I started blogging in 2002, there weren’t too many smartphones. I remember having an old Nokia which did claim to allow you to get onto the internet but it was such a slow experience and a clunky experience. There’s no way you would’ve ever blog from it. At the very most, you may have been able to get into the backend of your blog and edit a blog post but that was as far as it went.
In those olden days and even today, I know a lot of bloggers do this, is finding internet access along the way. This does enable you to travel without having to take any gear with you. In the old days, I would be looking for internet cafes or borrowing a computer from a friend while I was away, finding a blogger that was a local to where I was going, or going to a local library because libraries often have internet access. I guess I’d mention that because that would be one way to travel without any technology at all but still checking in from time to time.
What I used to do in those old days, I guess this would still work if you do wanna travel without any technology, is to take a notebook with you and to outline your blog post while you’re travelling. That’s what I did back in 2002, 2003. I’d be on a plane with a notebook, paper, and pen, jotting down, scheduling, outlining my blog posts and the type of updates that I wanted to do. When I sat down at the library or at the internet café or at my friend’s computer, I had it all ready to go and I can blog more effectively in a short period of time that I had access to the internet.
That might be one way to do it if you do wanna completely travel without too much technology. Most of us today would be wanting to blog on the road from our own device of some kind. You’ve got three main options there. It’s pretty obvious but I do wanna touch on the three main options and talk about some of the pros and cons.
Firstly, as Carmen mentioned, you can blog from your mobile phone, your smartphone. I probably wouldn’t ever blog from my phone, I wouldn’t create text content on my mobile phone. I know it’s possible but I find that too clunky for my purposes, particularly if I was writing anything over 100 words or so, I find it really cumbersome to be typing on a tiny little screen. I know you could probably get a cable and sync it to your phone but even still, you’re looking at a relatively small screen. For me, at my age, with my eyesight, that’s not something that I wanna be doing too much.
Having said that, there are things that I do do from my mobile phone and I would use my mobile phone to do while I was away. If I had prescheduled all of my content before I was going and I wanted to check in on social media, maybe create some social media graphics from time to time, interact with comments, moderate comments, maybe even edit blog posts, mistakes that maybe went up, I would do that on my mobile phone. If I was wanting to be mainly doing the social media side of my business while I was away, my mobile phone will be something that I would be quite comfortable using.
If I was creating content, particularly text content, I would not be doing that on my mobile phone because, to me, it’s too slow, it’s too frustrating, and I reckon that I would be making a lot of mistakes. You have to look at the amount of auto correcting mistakes that we see in text messages, the amount of mistakes that I make on Twitter when I’m tweeting because it’s clunky, my thumbs don’t quite get it right too often. I wouldn’t be focusing too much on that.
What I would be focusing upon is one of the next two options, the first one being the iPad. For me, this has come to life as a good option in the last year for me. I was fortunate enough to win an iPad Pro with a keyboard about 12 months ago, not the really large one, I think it’s probably about 11 inches or something around that size. That, to me, presented itself as a laptop replacement for the first time. I previously tried to use iPads to create content and travel with, I always found them a little bit clucky but the latest versions of iOS particularly have made it much more feasible for me.
There are still some things that working on an iPad or another type of tablet are a little bit feebly to do, but for me, if I was traveling for a week or maybe two weeks or even three weeks and I needed to create some content while I was away and needed to do some of the other social media stuff, then I think an iPad is definitely an option that I would take because it’s so much smaller than most laptops. Of course you can get laptops these days that are very thin, the MacBook Air for example is something that I’ve used in the past. They’re tiny but an iPad is even smaller than that.
If I was traveling predominantly for vacation, a more relaxing trip, and I needed to be able to check in on my work and maybe do a little bit of work if inspiration strikes or if an emergency happened, then an iPad, for me, is one way to go. The keyboard is definitely something that I would always take with me though, I find it a bit hard to type on the screen. Having that keyboard that is in the iPad cover is definitely worth having, it’s not as big as a normal keyboard but it allows me to touch type.
It has apps for pretty much anything that I need to do as it pertains to my blogging. There are apps, of course, for social media, there are apps to allow you to get into the backend of your blog. Accessing the backend of your blog via a browser is totally fine as well on WordPress, I’ve done that many times. It also has apps that allow me to chat with my team, Google Analytics, all those things are available on an app now. It’s a bigger screen than a mobile as well. It allows me with my failing eyesight and fumbly fingers to do okay.
I also like the fact that an iPad allows me to watch Netflix and rekindle and do other things that I do to relax as well. If you’re thinking what app should I have, I did do an episode in this podcast on that very topic, episode 207 goes through my favorite apps for iPad and iPhone, many of which are also on Android apps as well.
I guess to sum up the iPad part of this talk, there’s not really anything I can’t do on an iPad. It’s just a bit slower and it’s a little bit more feebly than a computer. I guess the question in my mind, how much of that work do I need to do while I’m away? If I’m going away for vacation, I don’t need to do much of that work so I’ll take the iPad. If I’m going away for work, I would take a laptop every time. Most times when I travel for work, I take a laptop. In fact I don’t think I’ve ever taken just an iPad when I’m traveling for work, it’s because I’m away to work and I need to be more effective with my time. I’m usually speaking at a conference and I know whilst I can present from an iPad, it’s more feebly–more reliable to do it on a laptop.
Also, I’m usually there working as well. I’ll be working on the plane each way, I’ll be working in the hotel. I’ll be doing several hours of work a day. For me, I’m much more effective on the laptop. For me, I’m taking my MacBook Pro when I’m going away most of the time.
They’re the three options that you’ve got at your fingertips; mobile, very feebly, you wanna be doing very light stuff on it. A tablet, it does enable you to do a lot more, it’s probably that in between option. I do know people who use an iPad, that’s all they ever use for their blogging. It’s possible to blog on an iPad, you probably get more effective at doing it over time. Learning how to do those things, it gets a little bit feebly quickly. Or a laptop which is obviously more expensive and larger as well but is much more powerful.
In terms of how do you fit it all in while you’re traveling. This, to me, is the crux of the matter. The technology is one thing that you can think about and it can help. But how do you actually do it? How do you juggle being on holidays and blogging? How do you juggle being at a conference and blogging as well? For me, there’s probably two things that I would advise. Firstly, schedule as much as you can before you go. This is something that I do when I’m going away for a weekend or when I’m going away for three weeks or a month. I’ve been away with my family for six weeks.
Generally, anytime I go away, I’m working harder for the period before I go away. It’s usually about the period that I’m gonna be away for that I’m working harder. I’m going away this weekend for a long weekend, we’ll be away for four days. For the last four days, I’ve been working doubly hard so that I can go away for four days. If I went away for a month, I’d be working really hard for a month before I went away and trying to increase my output and doing things like scheduling content, writing extra content and scheduling it, scheduling as much social media as I can so that I don’t have to do as much of that and anything else that needs to be done over that month, scheduling as much of it as I can, writing products that I’m doing, writing emails that need to be go out, those types of things.
A lot of it can be done before you go. For me, that is key. It enables me to do a lot less while I’m away and focus upon what I’m away for, whether it’d be work, a conference, seeing friends, being with my family. Schedule as much as you can. The other part of it, for me, is to find a rhythm while you’re away and to schedule the work you need to do. For me, this has been key because it’s very easy with smartphones today to be working all the time while you’re away; checking your emails, responding to social media, those types of things.
As a result of that, it does intrude upon what you’re there to do particularly if you’re there to be with family or friends and you are constantly checking social media and emails, it means you’re not present with your family and friends, you’re not present at the conference you’re at. What I find is that I look at the trip that I’m gonna be away for and I schedule ahead of time when I will work while I’m away. It usually happens in two ways, I generally find a little bit of time everyday while I’m away. If I need to do a bigger task, I will schedule bigger blocks of time as well.
Let’s break that down. For me, generally, when I’m traveling with my family, I don’t work during the day, I’ll only work at the top on the end of the day. Usually, before my family wakes up, I’ll be getting up a little bit early and doing my social media there, checking my email, doing those types of things or waiting till they’re in bed, particularly my kids. I’m often working while Vanessa’s awake but working at the end of the day. That’s the kind of everyday type tasks that sometimes you need to do.
You can schedule content, you can schedule a lot of your social media before you go. Engaging with people on social media, responding to comments, responding to emails, those are the types of things you can’t really schedule. They’re the things that I would be fitting into the top and tail of my day. I generally try and leave the bulk of my day to be with family, be with friends or be at the conference that I’m on.
The other thing that I would schedule ahead of time—and I’m trying to communicate both of these things to whoever I’m traveling with as well so their expectations are that I’ll be working at certain times. If there’s a big thing that I need to do—there might be a news letter that needs to go out that I couldn’t schedule ahead, or there might be a blog post that I need to write, there might be a review of the event that I’m at—there might be something that I have to create and that is gonna take a longer amounts of time, I try and schedule that ahead of time as well.
I might communicate to Vanessa and the kids, “I’m gonna be working on Wednesday morning for about three hours or for about two hours. I’ll need to go and find a café somewhere and I won’t be with you during that time.” That’s something we negotiate as a family. The reason I do that is I want them to understand when I won’t be around so that it’s not just sprung on them. I also find it helpful for me to know when that will be as well because what I find is if I am thinking ahead of time about this hour or this two hours that I’m going to have to work, what I find is my subconscious begins to work on the thing that I’m going to be working on in that time.
I try and work out when it will be and what I will do in that time. More often than not, I find that when I come to sit down to take that time to write that blog post or to do that email, in the back of my mind it’s already done, I’ve already got the ideas for the content or I know the order of the email, I’ve got the subject line there because I’ve been thinking about it for the last couple of days that I’m gonna sit down and write this thing. Your mind begins to get to work on that.
I find scheduling the time ahead is great for you and your family but also helps you to be more effective in that time as well. I actually find that I can get a lot done in an hour if I know what I’m gonna do in that hour and I just get straight to work. Schedule it out ahead of time and then allow yourself to be present for whatever else you’re there to do. Be present with your family, be present with your friends, be present on the beach, taking the nature that you’re experiencing. Whatever it is that you’re there to do, allow yourself to be present in that way.
I do try and work harder to avoid mixing the work and the relaxing too much. I think it’s so important to have time off from your blog. I know a lot of us get a lot of energy from our blogging but I still think we need to take breaks from it as well.
I hope that helped you, Carmen. I would love to hear what you do when you’re away, Carmen, and others as well. The technology you use, are you a mobile blogger? Are you using a tablet? A laptop? Or are you doing it all before you go away and then letting things look after itself? Do you put someone in place to help you out with some of those tasks? All of these are completely legitimate ways of doing it.
If you wanna let us know what you do, head over to the show notes at problogger.com/podcast/243 where there are comments so you can respond and let us know what you do there or head over to the Facebook group. Search for ProBlogger Community on Facebook and you will find that group as well.
I hope you enjoyed that. I’m packing my bags today to go away for long weekends. Luckily I’ve done a lot of work over the last couple of days so I won’t need to blog too much while I’m away but I’m gonna take my iPad with me just in case I’ll need it. I hope that you’ll have a great weekend ahead and a great week. I look forward to chatting with you next week on the ProBlogger podcast.
One last reminder, check out 31 Days to Build a Better Blog at problogger.com/31days. It is something that we’ve just launched in completely new format. We previously did have 31 Days to Build a Better Blog, the ebook. We’ve taken some of the exercises from that ebook and updated them, refreshed them, and put them into a bit of a new order as well and edit some new fresh content as well to come up with this brand new course. We hope you enjoy it. Again, head over to problogger.com/31days to check it out.
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