2020 has been all manner of strange. For some, it has been an especially difficult year. For others, it’s been the best year in recent memory. For me, it was somewhere in the middle.
But regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, I wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas.
In this post, I will be paying tribute to family, friends, coaches, collaborators, colleagues, podcast guests, and more.
Whenever you do something like this, someone always gets missed, but if you’ve helped, inspired, supported, coached, or have been a part of my life in some capacity, you know exactly who you are. Thank you and may all your Christmas wishes be fulfilled.
The Indie YYC’s mission is to inspire artists in pursuit of independent creativity, independent thought, and independent life.
And the reason I publish daily on my personal blog is because my mission is to inspire creatives and creators.
Do you notice a running theme?
I am under no delusion that I can inspire anyone without being inspirational. Which is why publishing daily has become even more important to me. Developing the habit, showing up, and doing the work is what turns a snowball into an avalanche. It’s also what distinguishes a pro from an amateur.
I will continue to work on many things – music, books, courses, businesses, communities, and more. I’ve put my blood, sweat, and tears into these projects, which I believe are all worthy of an audience.
No matter what I end up doing, I will always need an audience. It doesn’t need to be large. It just needs to be engaged.
So far, though I have had some minor successes, I have not built a large audience on any platform. But looking at all the things I’ve done so far, blogging has proven the most effective activity for building an audience of any I’ve tried.
3. Build Awareness for My Projects
I have a page dedicated to my projects, which I reference often in my blog posts.
Not all projects are tied to money, and as I’ve already shared, inspiration is at the core of all of them.
But it also goes without saying that if there’s no money, there’s no mission. Projects need to be at least self-sustaining to be workable, though I typically give them plenty of time, attention, and nurturing to get to that point.
4. Develop Content
It may seem as though publishing is the final step in any creative effort, but the reality is that whatever you end up publishing could end up being the first iteration of many to come.
Musicians will publish music, only to have it remastered and re-released again later. Sometimes, they will publish live, acoustic, or even revised versions of the same music.
People vote with their attention, and you never know when you might strike a chord with an idea that’s worth pursuing further. Publishing daily gives you an opportunity to see what might have some resonance sooner rather than later.
5. Develop Product
Whether it’s blog posts, eBooks, books, podcast episodes, audiobooks, presentations, courses, or otherwise, writing is typically at the foundation of all things I develop. Some of the content is unscripted but much of it has been thought through in advance.
The things I publish could form the foundation for the products I later deliver, and in some cases, are little snippets of the product in finished form.
Most recently, I completed a series on life transitions in 16 days. This could easily be turned into a book, eBook, audiobook, or otherwise. I’m looking into this possibility.
Many years ago, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger launched an eBook called 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. All the content is on his blog, available for free. But there’s something about bundling up all that content that appealed to buyers. This has been an enduring and successful product for Rowse.
Blogging is going to appear like spinning wheels to some. The way I see it, the more strategic and intentional I can get with it, the more opportunities I can ultimately create for myself.
6. Document My Journey
I come from a family of teachers. My dad was a teacher. My mom was a teacher. My sister has taught at different times in her life. Many of my aunts and uncles are teachers.
It’s quite easy for me to go into “teaching mode,” even in my publishing efforts. But that isn’t my intention with the blog.
More than anything, I intend to document and share my journey. Because I haven’t “arrived” by any stretch of the imagination, and I don’t expect everything I’ve published to this point has been brilliant either (hopefully, it’s getting better).
I’m off to a good start, but in many ways, I’m just getting started.
God willing, one day (hopefully soon), my blog will prove useful to others.
I have documented my journey through good times and bad times, through trials and tribulations, through twists and turns, surprises and shocks.
I do not plan for legacy. But if what I’ve documented proves useful to just one person many generations from now, I’ll be elated.
8. Develop a Valuable Skill
Communication is an incredibly valuable skill, and in these fast-paced, microwave, social media drenched times, it’s becoming more of a lost art by the day.
No matter how popular videos or podcasts or presentations become, the written word will continue to touch, move, and inspire people. It allows people to tap into their imagination, which is more powerful than most realize.
So, let’s keep this in perspective. My first love was arts and crafts. As a child, I loved drawing, painting, crafting… basically anything to do with creating.
Since I grew up in Japan, when I returned to Canada as a teen, writing in English was not one of my strengths. But I started to take interest in it because I began building websites.
Before I knew it, I was obsessing over vocabulary, spending time in Reader’s Digest, dictionaries, thesauruses, encyclopedias, and other sources.
It was also around that time that I began taking a stronger interest in music, which basically replaced my drawing, painting, crafting, and so forth.
But writing stuck with me through the years, and so did music and building websites.
Some people call me a writer. That’s not quite true. I am just as much an artist, musician, web designer, podcaster, presenter, teacher, and more.
But I can’t deny that writing brings me joy, even if it’s a lot like having homework every day for the rest of your life.
10. Organize My Thoughts
How do you know how you think about a specific subject? How much do you really know about it?
Here’s a good way to find out – write about it!
It has been my experience, as well as the experience of some of my friends, that we know way more about our areas of study than we realized. But it was only through blogging, writing, and content creation that this became apparent.
If you want to collect your thoughts on anything, try writing!
11. Generate & Explore Ideas
I often spend time thinking out loud. I’m sure, at times, it seems as though I have no clue what I’m talking about (which is probably true), though at other times, I hit on something that matters to others.
At the foundation of most projects and products is an idea that resonates, and by publishing daily, I get to see what you are searching for and are interested In, both in the short term and the longer term.
12. Reinforce My learning
I’ve often shared about things I’ve been learning as I continue to live out my mission. But it’s human to forget some of what you learned.
By documenting my journey, I get to look back on the things I’ve learned. I get to execute on the ideas I’ve documented and shared. I can re-presence myself to things I may have otherwise forgotten about completely.
13. There Will Always be Something to Write About
Every few years, speaker Mitch Joel announces the death of blogging. I get what he means. You can’t publish a few sentences on LiveJournal and expect 10 thoughtful comments on it anymore.
But blogging, or at least content marketing, isn’t dead. The written word still drives more traffic than multimedia content like podcasts. And depending on where you’re putting your focus, it gets more traffic long term than YouTube videos too.
You can do well on any channel. But I’ve been podcasting for over 11 years and I have never seen more than about 3,300 downloads per month. I have been publishing videos on YouTube since 2009, and I do not have a single video with over 85,000 views, or a channel that has crossed the threshold of 200 subscribers.
Now, it’s important to realize that when you make videos, the video is the product. When you blog, the blog is just the content. The product is something else.
Either way, there will always be something to write about. Just look at what unfolded in 2020. Whether it’s current events, technology, or otherwise, someone somewhere will always want to be inspired, informed, or entertained.
Over the years, your blog becomes your portfolio. And every creative and creator should have a portfolio. Not to be hired, though that could be a happy byproduct of logging your work.
Your portfolio is an extension of self. It shows who you are, where you came from, where you are now, and what you’ve done. And few things could be more human than that.
I know about all the products I’ve made that I currently support. But I’ve forgotten about the many legacy products I longer do anything with.
My blog helps me keep track of all those things, and it becomes my voice in the world.
15. Stay Sharp
A creative can become complacent at any level. I say “level” here as though there are places to get to, which is only true if there is something you aspire to. If your art or your projects make you happy, and that is enough, then that is enough.
But every day we have a choice. We can show up and do the work, or we can sit on our laurels.
No matter how much you think you’ve accomplished, no matter how much of a contribution you think you’ve made, no matter how tired you are from working on that last project, there is always something more to give within you. The creative spirit never dies.
If you want to stay sharp, show up and do the work, even when you don’t feel like it.
16. Be Generous & Give Back
It’s easy to think that anyone who publishes daily or blogs all the time has an ulterior motive. But you can dig into my archives and mine for gems at any time. Everything there will remain free, forever.
I don’t have ulterior motives. My motives are quite clear, and you can read all about them in this post.
No one in their right mind would put this much effort into blogging if there wasn’t a generous spirit behind it.
Generally, I don’t interrupt my posts to do product pitches anymore. I will passively mention my books, courses, and anything else I’m working on, but you generally won’t hear me say, “hire me for your next writing project NOW!”
See, I can’t convince you to do what isn’t of any interest to you to begin with.
Sharing is generous. Especially when you share freely, openly, and candidly about what you’re learning and what you’re doing.
People notice when you write about them, even high-profile people.
Now, when I mention an entrepreneur, a YouTube personality, a Forbes contributor, and the like, rarely if ever do I hear from them.
But I often do hear from people who are grateful for the PR and exposure, people in the same industry, or content creators who aren’t as well-known.
You can create many connections by blogging, and you can double and even triple your results by leaving thoughtful and insightful comments on other people’s social media posts.
I’ve booked many a podcast interview by interacting with others on social media.
Today, I know people all over the world – Canada, U.S., U.K., Japan, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and more.
Blogging can broaden your world in a big way.
18. Promote My Friends
I have been very intentional in sharing about my friends (fellow creatives and creators) in blog posts, podcast episodes, books, and more. I even did this in my latest podcast episode.
I don’t know how much they benefit from my mentioning them. But even if it results in one new follower or fan for them, I think it’s worth it.
This is a part of my ongoing efforts to be generous, supportive, and inspirational.
19. Share The Love
Whether it’s mentors, coaches, my Dream 100 or otherwise, I get to honor all the great people that have shown me the way by showing up daily. I get to give away credit and put a spotlight on those who have been beyond generous to me. And I get to pay that forward too.
20. For My Future Self
Today, I might hate sitting down to write (I don’t – but occasionally, such as when I’m not feeling my best, it’s not a walk in the park). But I know my future self will thank me if I stay consistent and keep doing the work.
I have not reached the level author Derek Sivers is at. He says he does everything in service of his future self. Wow.
But I know I will thank myself later for the effort I’m putting in now. That makes it worth doing.
21. Build Trust & Credibility
I’m aware that many entrepreneurs use various psychological tactics to sell. And that’s their way. My way is to build long-term trust and credibility with my audience.
I know that my way takes longer. But that’s okay because I know it leads to better long-term results.
22. Build Authority
With regards to Music Entrepreneur HQ, I’ve had several people tell me “your presence in this space is hard to ignore.”
That tells me I’ve been able to dominate a niche and build authority in it. And because of that authority, when anyone needs anything as applied to modern music entrepreneurship, they’re going to come to me first.
23. Generate Traffic
Blogging helps you build traffic to your website. You’ve probably heard that before.
But as with anything else, it will do nothing for you if you don’t stick with it.
My goal is to generate a large amount of targeted, engaged traffic over the long haul.
24. Grow Social Media Following
Because of the goings on in 2020, I could see myself ditching Facebook and Twitter completely. I might even minimize my use of YouTube.
But I will continue to leverage different platforms like Medium, and to that extent, I will always be looking to build my following.
Again, a targeted and engaged following is more valuable to me than an artificial one, which is why I’m not relying on being a flash in the pan.
25. Marketing & Promotion
As I’ve already shared, I concentrate on this less, because I know it’s a long-term byproduct of the short bursts of effort that go into blogging.
But there’s no beating around the bush with this. Whether you call it building a following or sharing your works, ultimately marketing and promotion is at the heart of it. It’s just the terminology that may not sit well with some.
26. Generate Money on Medium
I’ve made it clear that I would like to up my Medium game, and I have been doing exactly that over the course of the last five months or so.
(I’ve been experimenting with the platform for much longer than that, but I’ve been taking it more seriously here in 2020.)
My efforts are starting to pay off, as I’ve effectively tripled my income from Medium, but right now that doesn’t amount to more than a cup of coffee.
Still, I’m constantly exploring and trying different things, and there are new platforms popping up all the time. Medium is just one among many now.
27. Take Advantage of New Opportunities
Medium is just one opportunity. Apparently, Quora has a partner program too.
I’ve been messing around with Tumblr, Blogger, and HubPages for years.
I’m also a little curious of News Break, Weebly, Ghost, and so forth.
And I’ve experimented with many others over the years, like InfoBarrel.
So long as I’m writing, there will always be new opportunities, and I will always be able to take advantage of them fast.
28. Make Money from Self-Publishing
A great deal of effort goes into everything I write. This post, for example, is about 3,200 words in length.
Tell most people to sit at their desk and write 3,200 words, and their eyes will glaze over.
I like to leverage my writing wherever and whenever possible. Syndication and distribution is just the beginning.
Content can also become eBooks, books, audiobooks, courses, presentations, and a great deal more.
Inspiration and generosity are at the foundation of what I do, but I believe in being shrewd about repurposing and leveraging the things I’ve created, too.
29. Create an Income from Writing
I have been making a healthy income from writing in different capacities since 2016.
But it certainly can’t hurt to maintain a presence online. My services may not be for everyone, but there will always be those who want it. And if I keep writing, those people will find me. I have a lean stable of high paying clients, so generally, I don’t need to go looking for more work. I can let it come to me.
If you want to see examples of my writing, all you need to do is go through the blog archives.
30. Repurpose & Monetize
I’ve hinted at this already, but so long as you’ve got content, there will always be new opportunities to repurpose and monetize it.
Monetization is secondary to all other things mentioned here, but as I said, I believe in being shrewd when it comes to exploiting copyrights. I feel it is the responsible thing to do as a creative or creator.
31. Sell Services & Products
I’ve mentioned some of my services and products throughout this post in passing. But you won’t find a single sales pitch.
It’s a dead horse now, but as I’ve said, leveraging your works is the responsible thing to do as a creative or creator.
Here, I look at several time wasters that can end up killing your productivity without you even noticing. Ready for this? Let’s get into it!
Contrary to what you might think, I’m not hating on meetings. When they are necessary, and organized, they can have immense benefits for a business, community, collaboration, or otherwise.
The challenge, of course, is that most meetings aren’t. They don’t have an agenda. They aren’t targeted – so, the whole team shows up when they don’t need to be there. And they aren’t intentional or organized.
Understand that if the people in the meetings don’t even want to be there, and don’t need to be there, they are getting absolutely nothing out of the meeting. You are wasting their productive hours. Interruptions, regardless of when they occur in the day (or week), tend to break concentration and flow.
In my observation, meetings go counter to how we as humans work, too. We’re expected to pay attention for an hour or two, when we know our brains are bad storage devices for information, and our memories are faulty at best.
If no notetaking happens, then it’s even worse. By the way, the onus is on you if you aren’t taking notes, because that’s about the only way I’ve found to ensure meetings are productive on some level.
If you want to be effective with meetings, have a read through Steve Goldstein’s article on Inc. about how to fix meetings.
2. Scanning the News
To say that the media exaggerates is an understatement. There has been more fearmongering, sensationalism, and propaganda in 2020 than any year I can remember.
Scanning the news isn’t going to change the situation. And for the most part, it just makes media companies richer. They get paid for your attention.
Further, it tends to focus you on the negative. And I don’t care how positive a person you are. Spend enough time watching the news and you will come away with doom and gloom.
Author Dr. Joe Dispenza says we often begin our days in the same manner – by checking our phones, reminding ourselves of who we are. And then we expect to have a different day than we did yesterday, when we’ve just gone through the process or reminding ourselves and reinforcing who we think we are.
They say today is mutually exclusive from yesterday, but that’s not necessarily true when you go through the same morning ritual of comparing yourself to others, taking note of what they have that you don’t, feeling inferior, and so on. Your experience of today will be much the same unless you adopt new rituals.
I have known this for years, so it’s not news to me, but documentaries like The Social Dilemma have been making the public aware of the ill effects of social media. It’s been designed to be addicting. And big tech companies have endless data points on us to where they might know us better than our best friends.
The issue about fake news, however, is grossly misleading. By pointing to an extreme example like flat earth, they oversimplify a rather complicated issue. Because frankly I’ve seen more fake news from the likes of The New York Times, CNN, BBC, and so on, this year than ever.
Regardless, the core of it is this:
Social media makes you feel like the hero of your own story. So, it trains you to be selfish. And when things don’t go your way, you compare yourself to others and feel bad about yourself. When you feel bad about yourself, you want to buy something to solve your problem. And guess what’s right there on social media? Products for you to buy.
I’m not saying don’t use social media. I’m saying, if you can, use it wisely.
4. Smartphone Notifications
Does your phone constantly buzz or chime? And do you find yourself checking every time it does?
Like social media, smartphones have been created to be addicting. And the worst part is that they are addictive in all the wrong ways.
You’ve got all your vices right there – social media, news, email, texts… And if that wasn’t bad enough, you can download games and other distracting apps.
We’ve all got smartphones, so I’m not suggesting you toss yours. But here’s a suggestion you may find useful:
Turn off all notifications. Yes. All of them.
Creative work requires concentration, and every time you break it, it takes a little over 23 minutes for you to recover it, according to Blake Thorne on I Done This Blog.
If you turn notifications off, your phone won’t be constantly vibrating or notifying you of new messages and notifications. Then you can check your phone when you want, on your own terms. It’s quite empowering.
Don’t let your smartphone rule your life. Turn notifications off and check your phone on your breaks. Trust me, you’ll have more than enough time for texts, voicemails, and so forth.
At the end of the day, what might be a time waster for me might not be a time waster for you. And vice versa. So, it’s a little subjective. You’ve got to look at this in consideration of your work and goals.
If you’re a social media manager, for instance, spending time on social media is not a waste of time. It’s your job!
Still, I hope you found the above helpful, and you’re able to get more of the right things done as a creative or creator. After all, it’s not just about getting more done. It’s about getting more of the right things done.
Are there any time wasters I’ve missed? What are your best productivity tips?
Let me know in the comments.
Shh… Don’t tell anyone. Only the cool kids are talking about it.
Have you ever woken up Monday morning only to discover that you completely forgot about a meeting you’d been booked for?
If you managed to pinpoint this oversight in time, you may have narrowly avoided a disaster.
But if you missed out on the meeting completely, you might have angry emails or voicemails waiting for you. Even if they aren’t angry, you still feel bad, because you know it reflects on your integrity.
And while no one is perfect, oftentimes, this type of situation is avoidable (it doesn’t have to be a meeting – it could be any kind of commitment). That’s what we’re going to look at here.
To tell you the truth, I resisted doing anything of the sort for a long time.
But then I started publishing daily. And as I gained more practice and learned more about writing and marketing, I started to see the wisdom in coming up with a plan.
Which is why each day in the week has a specific theme on my blog:
Monday – entrepreneurship
Tuesday – self-improvement
Wednesday – productivity
Thursday – creativity
Friday – inspiration
It’s also why I started writing for a specific audience – creatives and creators.
Once I’d settled on this format, I’d figured out what to publish on the weekends – a weekly digest on Saturdays, and a #StrategySunday post on Sundays.
These posts serve functional purposes to be sure, and people are already finding value in them. But truth be known, they are also a lot easier for me to write. I get to have a bit of a mental break on the weekends.
So, you can see from this example that Sunday planning sessions have helped me create a stronger focus and gain more clarity on my vision.
It has also helped with my Medium strategy. Since I’m looking to grow my following and earn some more cash on Medium, having all the above in place takes a lot of guesswork out of the week. It has already paid off, even if it’s only in cents and not in dollars.
Why Plan on a Sunday?
Whether it’s author Darren Hardy or business mentor Lori Kennedy, you will find that many creatives and creators have a Sunday planning habit. My mentors plan on Sundays too.
Does this make Sunday the best time to plan? Not necessarily.
Again, I had some resistance to this. I was brought up in the church, where Sundays were sacred and were thought to be “a day of rest.”
I have no issue with that whatsoever.
But I think what makes Sunday planning powerful is that it’s quiet and no one else is doing it. It gives you space to think.
I get that Monday is the day most people dread, so planning on a Sunday could give rise to feelings of anxiety.
That’s not the case with creatives and creators who love what they do, though. They look forward to making the most of the week ahead.
And when you think about it, if you can work out all the “unknowns” in advance, Monday morning doesn’t have to be such a slog.
Of course, things can come up, and we may not end up doing everything according to our plan.
But if you have a plan, you’re more likely to put your priorities first in your schedule. That way, even if you end up getting a headache halfway through Wednesday (or any day), you will have at least completed what was most important and urgent on your to-do list.
There are probably more benefits to Sunday planning than I can realistically identify or expand on.
But here are some of the main benefits I’ve reaped:
1. You Can Get Everything Out of Your Head
Author David Allen says your brain is a horrible storage device. I agree.
Getting your thoughts and ideas down on paper (or even down on your iPad) allows you to clear your mind and begin a new week knowing everything has been accounted for. That could contribute to a better sleep, too.
Writing everything down also tends to reduce anxiety. Because you can get clear on everything you need to do, including errands and minor to-do items.
2. You Can Boost Your Productivity
If you do all your planning on a Sunday, you should be able to identify gaps in your schedule and times when you aren’t booked for a meeting or anything else.
I’m not suggesting you fill every available gap in your schedule with productive work. Billionaire investor Warren Buffet was said to have surprised Bill Gates with his blank calendar. There is tremendous value in unscheduled time.
But if you want to squeeze more productivity out of the week, you should be able to identify gaps in your schedule where that can happen. Such opportunities tend not to present themselves when you’re “flying by the seat of your pants.”
3. You Can Brainstorm Ideas
Although I’ve never run out of content ideas, it often happens that by the time Sunday has rolled around, I’ll need to brainstorm additional ideas for the week ahead. Especially since I’ve settled on the format detailed earlier.
So, if you need to exercise your idea muscle, and determine worthwhile actions for the week, you can use your #StrategySundays to get clear on next steps in your projects.
4. You Can Speculate on Possibilities
I’ve shared about some of my journaling habits already. One of the things I love to do is speculate on possibilities.
Speculating on possibilities is just that. It’s not about trying to come up with right answers. It’s not about trying to form perfect answers. It’s just asking yourself, “What’s next? What are my next steps? What could I do to move towards the outcome I desire?”
And then you just write down what comes to mind, free form.
5. You Can Ponder Questions
This is a recent favorite and a valuable exercise at that.
Ask a question related to your projects. It could be something along the lines of, “What could I do to enhance my results in X area?” Or “What could I do to ensure I follow through on Y?”
Then, ponder the question and write down your answers. Again, your answers need not be right or perfect. The act of pondering is sometimes enough to cause a breakthrough.