… Why are New Years resolutions so quick to die?
I mean, we’re one week into January and it seems almost like a joke how sharply everyone’s motivation has disappeared. Fun fact of the day: YouTube made me watch an ad for tacos before playing me my workout video the other evening… so yeah, thanks Universe.
But back to the point – here’s my grand theory: New Years resolutions rarely work because all we do is binge on fluffy inspirational quotes and goals that (sadly) have very little impact on behaviour change. Let’s face it, practical goal setting has an awful rep. I think it’s mostly because these goals don’t look sexy on Pinterest boards. No amount of VSCO Filter or hipster font can embellish “cook your own meals at least three times a week.” Try whispering it sexily… nope… still nope.
Still, in between all the ‘new year new me” nonsense, I think I’ve finally worked out how to make my dreams come true. Sad spoiler: it has absolutely zero to do with “believing in myself” and “following my heart”. To be frank, I can’t really trust that dummy (me) to do anything. I’m like one of those kids that parents keep on leashes because they like shiny things so much. For this precise reason, I don’t trust myself and my heart, because if I did, I’d be eating chocolate cake in a hot tub while binging on the Bachelor. Like… everyday.
Instead, I rely on concrete, practical goal-setting to patrol myself and keep my grubby brain in check.
… and that’s been better for me than Pinning #inspo until my eyes burn off.
On January 1, I woke up with a psycho grin on my face and thought: “This year, I’m going to kick some serious ass.”
And you know what? Serious ass I shall kick.
This year, I challenge you to let go of fluffy goals like “grow traffic” and “increase followers”. Nope, 2017 is going to be the year for badass, concrete goals that move you towards blogging greatness. Here’s my list!
#1: Be more strategic and selective with your time
Pageviews, followers, likes, retweets, love letters… If you’re anything like me, your blogging life has been consumed by a tidal wave of metrics and KPIs. As soon as you’re happy with your number of Instagram followers, you realize your engagement isn’t as good as someone else’s so you join a million comment pods and then you read that Pinterest is where it’s at, so you quickly grow your following, only to hear that repins are what matter, not follower count… so then the cycle continues until you’re ready to drown yourself in a bathtub of your own overworked tears.
Guys – isn’t blogging just the absolute worst?
It’s genuinely just a never-ending cycle of realizing you’re inadequate in some respect, crying in a corner, and then bolting to work on that. The result becomes that you’re half-assing a bit of everything, and in a “whole ass is king” kinda world, that won’t fly. This is why one of my top blogging resolutions for 2017 is to throw these stupid metrics out the window and focus most on what actually matters. This will of course depend on what your goals are. If your goal is to monetize your blog, you need to work on the metrics that make you money. If you want pageviews to explode, you need to nurture the profiles that actually bring traffic. There’s no use in growing your Twitter account for example if it brings you no value, so here’s a simple takeaway:
In 2017, let strategy drive everything you do.
- Sit down and create a list of concrete blogging goals.
Sure, start with fluffy unicorn goals like “grow traffic”, but remember to constantly ask yourself: how? I hate to sound like a middle school planning teacher, but effective goals should be SMART – Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic and time-based. For example, instead of “grow email list”, you should have something like “Reach 1000 mailing list subscribers by June”.
2. Under each goal, create a checklist of action items.
It’s not enough to just have goals. Action items are key in motivating yo’ lazy bum to actually achieve these goals. What’s crucial is that you break everything down into easily manageable chunks so that nothing seems daunting. It’s better to have a to-do list of 100 achievable items than 5 vague mega tasks that overwhelm you. Let’s say one of your action items for mailing list growth is to create an awesome opt-in freebie to incentivize sign-ups. That’s great, but don’t just put “create opt-in” on your to-do list because that’s way too big a task for you to ever tackle. Instead, break it down into mini-tasks like “Decide on idea for opt-in. Write chapter of opt-in. Find a way to send opt-in to subscribers automatically. Send Christina chocolates for this brilliant tip, etc. etc.”
3. Schedule blocks of time into your calendar to accomplish these tasks.
Don’t just wait for “free time” to pop up… You need to fit these tasks into your schedule just like you would a work shift or a dinner with friends. Otherwise, it’ll never get done. I like to keep things simple and use Google Calendar to schedule in chunks of activity. For example, one of my non-bloggy goals is to run a half-marathon this year, so I’ll have things like “Run 2 miles” scheduled as an unmovable block of fear on my calendar.
4. Focus only on the tasks that move you towards your goal.
I know it might be tempting to do a little bit of everything, but if commenting on others’ blogs isn’t part of your big picture plan, then don’t waste your time doing it. That’s precious taco eating time (or time to work towards your other goals).
#2: Focus on pleasing who actually matters
With over 7 billion people in the world, it’s gonna be pretty impossible for everyone to like you.
I mean, we live in a society where some
monsters people don’t even like chocolate, so… it’s quite clear that none of us stand a chance.
Now, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in blogging (and life, really), is that there are certain people who will like you, and certain people who simply won’t. Your energy is far better spent finding your weirdo soulmates than trying to win everyone over. I promise, no matter what your crazy interest/niche/style is, someone out there will dig it. The more you zone in on these kindred spirits, the more successful you (and your blog will be). Don’t be a one-size-fits-all poncho when you can be a fitted Armani suit!
So in 2017, work less on pleasing the masses and more on really knocking it out of the park with your ideal audience.
- Clearly figure out your brand.
It’s hard to sell yourself to people when you don’t know what you’re selling. If you can’t tell me in one sentence what “your brand” is, then you’ve got some homework to do! Are you the fun, bubbly traveler with excellent style? Are you the intelligent, history-conscious responsible traveler? Your readers need to learn what to expect from you, whether that’s the way you write, the kind of content you write and everything else in between, so figure out your brand before you do anything else.
2. Create a profile of your ideal reader.
I discussed this in my No BS Guide to Travel Blogging post, but for me, what’s more important than a defined “niche” in content creation is understanding who exactly you’re creating your content for. One handy trick for this is to create a very detailed “avatar” of your ideal reader. Give them a name, give them hobbies, define everything about them. This will then give you a clear picture of who you’re aiming to satisfy with your content, which lends clarity to the type of content that you create.
3. Brainstorm the online habits of your ideal reader.
After you’ve created this persona, you need to then think about where they would hang out online (so yes, lace up those stalker shoes). What social media platforms are they active on, what pages do they like, what groups are they a part of, what online communities do they frequent, etc. Write down this list because it’ll be a crucial tool in your promotion arsenal.
4. Brainstorm ways you can reach your ideal reader through these channels.
After you have your list ready, you can then think about how to use these channels/communities to your advantage. The goal here is long-term, engaged audiences who love the content you create. Sure you could submit your article to StumbleUpon and get a lot of views in a day, but if they’re not sticking around, then that’s not nearly as beneficial as discovering people who will genuinely love you and what you create. So, once you know where your ideal audience hangs out, think about how you can reach them… would it be to get certain pages to promote your content? Would it be to get more active on a particular platform yourself, or perhaps even join the groups they’re part of and become a respected member of the community? Think about this and write it down for reference!
#3: Put quality, unique content at the forefront
It astounds me when bloggers say their goal is to publish once a day. Unless you’re some kind of bionic superhuman, I don’t see how any of the content you publish will be good. Nowadays it seems like so much blog content out there is interchangeable… and that doesn’t sit right with me. If I’m reading your blog and it could easily be anyone else’s, then in the long run, that won’t do you and your blog any good.
- Decide what makes you unique.
This can be the TYPE of content (e.g. write about what no one else writes about), the QUALITY of content (e.g. sure you write listicles but your writing or photography is far superior), the VOICE you use (e.g. you’re a hilarious, wonderful glowing unicorn whose personality shines through your posts) or your EXPERIENCE (e.g. you come from a unique perspective and backstory). Write down what will distinguish you from other bloggers, and refer back to this constantly as you create content in 2017.
2. Consume excellent content on a daily basis.
The more that you surround yourself with quality, the more that you will internalize that quality and churn it out in your own blog posts. My suggestion: find content creators that you admire, whether that’s a blogger, travel writer, photographer, YouTuber, whatever. Follow their content and write down what it is that you like about their stuff, and how you can incorporate those aspects of excellence in your own work.
3. Conduct a “uniqueness” test before creating anything.
No matter how great your idea is, remember to do this test before you start writing: Google it. As much as I still like to believe I’m a special ass snowflake, the truth is the black hole of the Internet probably contains something similar to whatever you’ve thought up. If they haven’t, congratulations, you’re a wizard. If they have, don’t ugly-cry just yet, read through some of the existing content and identify the gaps that you can fill and the unique spin that you can put on it, whether it’s higher quality content, being more thorough, a different perspective, etc.
#4: Build and learn more skills.
There are few jobs out there as multi-tasky as that of a blogger. While common knowledge seems to assume that we’re just people who write angry things on the Internet, the truth is closer to the fact that we’re also expected to be demi-gods of photography, design, public relations and spinning plates, apparently. Because the skillset of a blogger is expected to be so multifaceted, you should work as much as you can to constantly improve your skills and learn new ones. I know this is scary, but if you’re not improving, then everyone else is… and you’re falling behind.
- Create a skill development goal.
I know we discussed goals earlier but hey it’s a New Years post so what did you expect? I highly recommend you add at least 1 skill development goal to your mighty list, and because I recognize that skill improvement is a tough one to quantify, my second action item is for you to…
2. Treat yourself to a course or eBook
2016 was the year I finally accepted that sometimes I have to spend money to earn money. The best way to work at a skill development goal is through the completion of a course or eBook, simply because it gives you a quantifiable milestone to work towards. I used to be a big advocate for DIY learning, because yes, there is SO much info out there (and I’m a bit of a stubborn know-it-all). The difference with a paid course/book though is that you get a concrete goal, and the sum of money you pay (even if it’s a bit) holds you accountable. That (in addition to the higher quality/aggregation of information) is why I now really enjoy investing in courses.
Cheap plug time: I recently launched my No BS Guide to Affiliate Marketing eBook and you can grab it for only $19.99! If your goal for 2017 is to create more passive income for your blog (and do so without sacrificing the quality of your content/relationship with readers), then I promise this will be a good resource for you. This is not a beginner’s book, rather it’s meant for travel bloggers who have dipped their toes in affiliate marketing, but have failed to see results. When I was in this boat, there were virtually no resources geared towards the travel niche, and the unique challenges that travel bloggers face…. so because I’m me, I just made one myself 😉 Click here to read more.
3. Read more marketing books
With university done and dusted, 2017 finally marks the year that I’m able to read for fun and because I want to! That’s why for 2017, I’ve created a list of 9 marketing books I want to read (mostly because I’ve heard such great things about them). One book I highly recommend is Contagious by Jonah Berger. It’s one of the few books I’ve read for pure enjoyment over the past 5 years, and it’s a fun, easy read about the psychology behind why things go viral. Besides that, here’s my Marketing Reading List for the year. Please leave a comment if you have other recommendations or if you’ve read any of these! I’d love for you to read along with me 🙂
Social Media Made Me Rich: Here’s How it Can do the Same for You by Matthew Loop
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
#5: Find a better blog/life balance.
I don’t know about you, but these days, it seems like my blog is less of a hobby and more like a very committed marriage with octuplets on the way. The amount of time I devote to blogging is borderline psychopathic, and I think we all fall into the trap of letting it consume our lives, especially so for those working full-time because every spare minute gets spent on blogland. While it’s important to be driven and to have goals, blogging shouldn’t come at the cost of personal relationships and mental well-being! So in 2017, please work harder at balancing your blog with wellness.
- Create a schedule for yourself.
Along with scheduling blocks of work tasks on my Google Calendar, I also leave free blocks of time to do other things (e.g. watch TV, eat a bucket of ice cream with my hands, etc.) and make sure I stick to it. This ensures that I don’t enter crazy beast mode and blog for 38 hours straight. When scheduling, be sure to consider other hobbies/important things in your life (e.g. exercise, spending time with loved ones, etc.) and to allow time for those too.
2. Create “off-time” targets.
It might sound silly to have “fun” and “time off” goals, but for the Type A workaholics in all of us, it’s crucial to maintaining a balanced lifestyle. In the past few months, I kept my ‘personal life’ goals simple: I made sure I had at least 2 social interactions a week (lol how robotic does that sound?! I mean like a coffee date, dinner out, drinks, etc.) and that I would devote 4 hours a week (scheduled on Google cal) to learn German. Having these targets kept me in check, and of course, prevented me from going insane.
3. Think big picture.
We bloggers have the tendency to stress ourselves out over the very small things, which leads to many sad hours in fetal position.
Here’s my tip though… if you’re feeling burnt out and overwhelmed, ask yourself: “if I don’t do this right now, who is going to care?”
For too long, I stressed myself out thinking “oh crap I haven’t scheduled tweets yet… or I haven’t posted on IG in forever” etc. etc. but the truth is: we humans are all too obsessed with ourselves to really follow anyone else that closely. Realistically, if you DON’T tweet for a week, is anyone going to notice? Probably not. It’s good to be on top of things, but if being “on” all the time is coming at the expense of your personal life, then remember it’s okay, and that genuinely, the world will not end if you don’t gram that day.
To quote the great pop deity that is Britney Spears, oops I did it again. I sat down, intended to write a short post for you all, and then 3000 words later…
I’m sorry. But I guess you’re all used to it by now.
So tell me my wonderful blogger friends, what are your blogging goals for 2017? Let me know in the comments and I’ll try my best to send you some suggestions and resources to move you along!