The most common question I receive about WTFab is, “How do you manage to work fulltime and blog?” Honestly, it’s not easy, and it’s not all perfectly ‘grammed macarons on WTFab and free massages at Google (although there are plenty of those wonderful things too). I love my job at Google because I work with amazing people on fun projects (I do employment branding and outreach events for the tech community) and it has given me incredible opportunities to travel the world. And I love blogging because I adore creating content and it’s exciting to have full creative control. I’ve had awesome opportunities to work with brands I adore, travel, and attend fun events because of my blog (I know every blogger interviewee ever says you shouldn’t start a blog for the free stuff and perks, but screw it, I love the free stuff and perks).
Since I receive this question about how to work full time and blog at the same time so often, I’ve been meaning to write up a post about how I do both. When MiO asked me to share how I manage to squeeze every last efficiency drop out of the day, I knew it was the perfect opportunity to respond to this FAQ. While I’m by no means an efficiency guru, I’m really excited to share today’s post with you and my hope is that you’ll get some helpful tips from it. Sometimes my colleagues at Google will tell me that they admire how I have a blog and put so much energy into it, and that they wish they could make time in their lives for _____ (fill in the blank with volunteering, reading more, starting their own blog, creating a podcast, working out etc.). So whether you’re looking to add something new to your plate, or you already have a fulltime gig and a blog or a side hustle, or even just a hobby that you wish you had more time for, I hope you find something helpful in today’s post!
HOW TO WORK FULLTIME AND BLOG
Getting organized is key. Here are a few ways that I organize and own my workday and time.
Schedule your priorities (don’t prioritize your schedule).
I live and die by my calendar. If it’s not on my cal, it’s not real, and it’s definitely not happening. I use Google Calendar and I have separate ones for my work, personal, and WTFab schedules, which can all be viewed individually or synced into one view (tips on how to share your calendars here). By being proactive rather than reactive with my schedule, I have more control over making sure my priorities actually get accomplished each week.
Eliminate distractions and time block.
We live in a world with so many distractions. Do you ever find yourself intending to do one thing (like write an email or post a photo on Instagram) and a half-hour later you’ve ended up going down some rabbit hole (like responding to other emails or watching everyone else’s Insta Stories)? No, just me? (Doubt that ;)) Sometimes it’s really tempting for me to sit down to write a blog post and have my phone next to me so that with every ping and notification I’m looking at my phone to see if I want to respond to that text, or email, or comment on Instagram. This is not an efficient way to work. Instead, I’ll put my phone on silent (no vibrating! If you want to take it a step further you could put it on airplane mode or even turn it off) and turn it face down or outside of reaching distance so I’m not tempted to look at it. I’ll then write down one to three to-do’s that I want to accomplish during this time, and I’ll make sure to use a verb in each to-do. So for example, instead of just “Blog post,” I’ll write “Finish and schedule blog post” or rather than “Pitches,” I’ll write “Pitch ten travel brands.” Including an action word helps keep me on track and gives me a specific, tangible thing to accomplish. When I’m at work, rather than at home blogging, I’ll do the same thing by putting on headphones and tuning out my coworkers (though I love them so!) when I really need to focus and jam on some work without distractions.
I also (somewhat) obsessively keep track of what’s coming up on my cal specifically taking time to review the day, week, and month ahead as things get added to it. Mostly, I do this because my job at Google involves a lot of travel, which I absolutely love. But sometimes my work travel combined with my personal travel can equate to me not being home for six weekends in a row, and weekends are when I get most of my blogging done. I’ll take into account things like campaign deadlines (i.e. I’m doing a sponsored post for X brand and they want it live on X date) and think about where/how I want to shoot content. Sometimes I’ll schedule out shoots for a campaign weeks in advance because I prefer to shoot on weekends when I have a more flexible schedule (and more daylight), and I know I’ll be traveling the next few weekends in a row.
Learn how to say no.
I think that “Say yes to everything,” is actually terrible advice. Maybe if you’re just out of college and brand new to working in the real world, it’s helpful to say yes to any and every opportunity that comes your way because you’re a sponge soaking up every possible experience. But after that phase, I think it’s important to be very intentional and strategic about what you say yes to. Sometimes projects come my way (both at Google and for the blog) that I have zero interest in. And I’ve been practicing politely saying no. It can be a little scary at first, but honestly people respect you when you are confident in what you do/do not want. And if you say yes to things you don’t want to work on, that leaves less time for the things you do want to put effort into. The same goes for social engagements. Sometimes I have to say no to things (spur of the moment happy hours with coworkers, blogger events, etc.) because I know I’ve already committed myself to something else that evening.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR BOD
Your mind and body are so interconnected. Taking the time to take care of yourself will help you maximize your performance.
As Elle Woods said, “Endorphins make you happy, and happy people don’t kill their husbands. They just don’t.” I’ve always been active and played basketball and did weight training in high school, but as I’m sure you’ve experienced too, it gets a lot harder to find the time for and motivate yourself to work out once you have a big girl job. But finding a workout routine that you love and can stick to is such a game-changer. Personally, I’ve found that I love going to classes because there’s accountability in knowing that you’ve paid for a class and will see friendly faces there. And having a trainer standing over me telling me to eek out one more burpee definitely pushes me further than I push myself. For my current workout routine, I aim for five workouts a week, and I rotate between HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), which I love because it’s fast-paced and a bunch of different exercises so I don’t get bored (and hard AF), pilates, and my newest workout obsession, boxing. Working out has become such an important stress reliever for me and if I skip working out, even if it’s just for a day or two, I turn into a stressball and a far less enjoyable person to be around because I feel sluggish, irritable, and anxious. And going back to my first tip, I schedule every day’s workout on my calendar so I know what’s coming up, and I don’t skip it. So looking ahead to the next week, I already know which days I’m doing which workouts because they’re already on my cal.
I used to think that there was absolutely no way I could practice meditation, even though I’d read numerous studies about how it can benefit your health. I finally decided to take a two-day immersive class at Google about meditation, and I learned firsthand even more about its benefits. I now use the Headspace app and I love it because it has guided meditations and you can control the length of time (10, 15 or 20 minutes) for your session. Also Andy’s soothing, British accent voice is the most relaxing thing ever. My goal is to meditate every day, but that certainly doesn’t always happen. And again, my daily 15 min meditation sesh is on my calendar. I also do a nightly quickie practice when I’m lying in bed to help me fall asleep, where I picture each of my chakras and their colors one by one. I then imagine breathing in light, and out dark from each chakra for a total of about five minutes. It sounds very woo-woo, but it’s definitely relaxing which helps slow down my racing mind so I can sleep!
Nutrition and caffeine.
Good nutrition is so important for an efficient workday. I’m definitely not an expert here but I’m trying my best to be healthy and fuel myself! A few things I live by during the work week include pretty much avoiding simple carbs (even though pasta for lunch sounds delicious, I’ve found that I have a huge crash afterward and am super tired and sluggish), I don’t really eat dessert during the workday (again, sugar crash), and I try to drink a green smoothie every day. And I do rely on caffeine to keep me pepped up. While I’ve had some friends try to tell me about the benefits of going cold turkey and cutting caffeine out of your life, I am frankly not interested. A cup of coffee is my morning vice and I love starting my day with it. After lunch, I always hit a bit of an afternoon slump and need a little more caffeine to power through the rest of the day, but another cup of coffee will definitely keep me up all night. Instead, I’ll get my afternoon pick me up with a few drops of MiO, a liquid water enhancer. There are four different product lines, including Original, Energy, Vitamins, and Electrolytes. The different lines each have a different purpose for me—Original is just plain yummy to add to your water, and Energy is perfect to power through my afternoon workload. The Vitamins line is great for when I’m traveling (I like to boost my water with vitamins), and I like to use Electrolytes when I’m working out (more on that in a future post!).
Try new things, but know your body.
Many of these things I have learned through trial and error. I think it’s important to try new things in your daily routine because when you find something that works it can really supercharge you, but you have to be in tune with your body and listen to it. For example, I am not a morning person, but I wanted to try doing morning workouts to see if I could train myself to get onboard with that. I gave it a good ol’ college try for about a month and a half, and did 7am workouts before heading to the office. While it did feel good to have my workout done before even going to work, I ended up deciding that I hated it because by the time I got home in the evening I was exhausted. After that I started bringing my gym bag to work (I found that if I bring my bag and go directly after work I will not skip a workout, but if I tell myself I’ll go home after work, get changed, and then work out at home I almost always end up on the couch half-assedly answering blog emails from my phone, too tired to work out) and getting my workouts in directly after I wrap up at Google for the day. This works really well for my routine because usually at the end of a workday I’m a bit tired, but if I get a workout in I feel refreshed and re-energized and I can put that energy towards writing a blog post that night.
If you’re going to try adding something into your routine to see how it works, give it at least 30 days, since studies have shown that’s how long it takes to form a new habit (I learned this from reading the book Drive, by Daniel Pink. If you’ve gotten this far in this blog post, you’ll probably really like that book). Here are a few other examples of things I’ve tried and either ditched or incorporated into my daily routine:
Sleep. I’ve read so many articles about “A bajillion things successful people do before 8am” and I constantly see posts on Instagram that say things like “I’m too busy hustling to sleep,” or, “They call us dreamers, but we’re the ones who don’t sleep.” That’s cute, except for I really, really need my sleep. A couple years ago I got “inspired” by these articles and Instagram posts, and I tried staying up super late, waking up early, packing in tons of travel, and basically saying yes to everything (see above tip for why that’s a bad idea). And guess what? I was grumpy and tired and got sick twice in the span of one month. So by trying to pack everything in and get more done, it ended up backfiring and knocking me on my ass.
Now, I’ve accepted that I am a night owl and that I need more sleep than the average person (I think I could literally sleep for 10 hours every night if I let myself), and waking up is really hard for me no matter how many hours of sleep I’ve gotten (I’m a chronic over-sleeper). To help with this, I guard my schedule to make sure I get at least 8 hours of sleep per night, and when that’s not possible due to crazy travel and event schedules, I make sure I have time to rest and recharge afterwards. Over the last year I’ve started using the app Sleep Cycle, which monitors your REM patterns and gently wakes you up when you are closest to your most awake state (rather than your deepest sleep) within a 30 minute window of time that you set. I combine this with a daylight alarm clock, which has a light that slowly turns on until it reaches full brightness at your alarm time. This combo has been really helpful for getting my ass up on time!
Omied keeps telling me I need to power down all my devices an hour before bed time to help me sleep better. I know he’s probably right, but I’m a blogger! And I blog at night, sometimes up until my last waking minute. So instead I’ve been wearing digital eye strain glasses (Wow, that sounded so sexy, didn’t it? Try to control yourself, please.) that filter out the blue light that screens emit that keep you up at night. I’ve noticed that when I wear them I’m able to “turn off” my mind faster and fall asleep more easily.
Meditating. See above. I tried it and loved it and it’s part of my daily routine now!
Journaling. I think it’s a lovely idea, but I just didn’t get into it. Maybe because I already feel like I chronicle so much of my life on my blog. One thing I’d be willing to try is writing down something I’m grateful for every morning in something like a one line per day journal.
I’m always looking for easy wins and new ways to boost my efficiency. Here are a few that I love.
I love Google Apps. And ok, you might say I’m biased because I work there, but I’ve loved Google Apps before I started working at Google, and really my job there has only enhanced how efficient I am with all of Google Apps because I’ve learned tons of tips and tricks. A few other apps I love:
mSecure. I love this app for storing all my passwords, all different kinds of travel ID numbers, credit cards, etc. Whenever I’m filling anything out online I have all this info at my finger tips.
Google Keep. Keep is great for saving notes, pictures and ideas and organizing them by colored labels. I have one label where I save notes and pictures for future blog post ideas and another label for travel where I save different recommendations people have shared with me for destinations all over the world.
Wunderlist. Wunderlist is great for collaborative lists and reminders.
Unroll.Me. This handy tool gives you a list of all the emails you’re subscribed to, and allows you to easily unsubscribe from all the ones you no longer want.
I’m always thinking of things I can automate. Whether it’s setting a recurring calendar invite for a workout class I do every Tuesday so I don’t have to keep adding it to my cal, adding a canned response in gmail to reply to FAQ’s about my blog, or using textexpander to shorthand things I type a lot like my phone number or address, it all adds up to saving me time. Take a step back and think about administrative things you do in regularly, and then do some Googling for ways to automate it. Always going back and forth with people to schedule calls? Use Calendly to seamlessly have the other individual pick a time that works within your schedule and send a calendar invite. Trying to schedule an all-day offsite with multiple people? Create a Doodle so they can all input their preferred dates. Chances are, if you’re doing something administrative on a computer and thinking gee, this is annoying, someone else had that thought too and created an app for it.
Knowledge is power.
I’ve been inspired to try almost all of these tips because I learned them from someone else. I’m a huge fan of Marie Forleo—she gives great, useful business advice that’s applicable to anyone looking to add some efficiency, productivity and organization to their lives on her YouTube channel (MarieTV), and she also interviews interesting and inspiring authors and other experts. I also love TED talks for inspiring stories, and Fohr Card’s A Drink with James for blogging advice from the pros. Pro tip: If you’re short on time you can speed up YouTube videos by 1.5x or 2x. And for double efficiency, I’ll listen to these videos or podcasts while I’m commuting, working out (running), or editing photos. I also subscribe to several different email newsletters from experts in the blogging and marketing industries. But I’m also ruthless with Unroll.Me, and if I ever feel like the content is becoming irrelevant for me, I hit unsubscribe.
Remember, it’s all a balance! Sometimes I’m so focused on efficiency that if I’m not being productive, it feels like a waste of time. But you can’t always be mega productive ALL of the time or you’ll burn out eventually. Sometimes you need a break to recharge—but it’s all about finding that balance of pushing yourself to work smarter, harder, and longer, vs. realizing when you do need to take a break.
Welp, those are all my tips for how to work full-time and run WTFab. It’s a long post, but like I said, it’s not easy! What it boils down to is firing on all cylinders, being intentional with your time, and taking care of yourself so you’re at peak performance. How you do that is up to you. 🙂
I’d love to hear, how do you manage to do/live/play more?
Thanks to MiO for sponsoring this post!
Elise Armitage is an entrepreneur and founder of What The Fab, a travel + lifestyle blog based in California. At the beginning of 2019, Elise left her corporate job at Google to chase her dreams: being an entrepreneur and helping women find fabulous in the everyday. Since then, she’s launched her SEO course Six-Figure SEO, where she teaches bloggers how to create a passive revenue stream from their website using SEO. Featured in publications like Forbes, Elle, HerMoney, and Real Simple, Elise is a firm believer that you can be of both substance and style.