80% of our website traffic comes from content and SEO. We went all-in on content from day one, and our focus was rewarded with search traffic.
20% of our website traffic comes from social media – mostly Facebook and Twitter.
In our early days we invested heavily in automation and social sharing tools to boost our social media traffic. And while we did see it go up, the ratio always stayed the same. 80% of traffic came from search and SEO, and 20% came from social media.
Ultimately, that prompted us to let go of our subscriptions to a lot of SaaS apps. Most of them don’t cost that much, but $10 here, $50 there, $30 over here… it all adds up.
We stopped putting so much effort into social media, and instead reinvested that time into content.
You know what’s interesting, though?
The ratio stayed the same…
Content and SEO traffic dropped to meet the decline of social media traffic. Fascinating how that works.
So, yes, while it is always good to understand that most of your results are coming from a few of the things you’re doing, there are times when cutting out the 80% of activity isn’t going to produce more focused results. The ratio will always adjust itself to be in balance.
In his book, The Slight Edge, Jeff Olson talks about how in any area of life, you’re always on an upwards curve, or a downwards curve. Small, consistent, daily actions lead you to being on the upward slope. Neglect, inconsistency, and inaction leads to you to being on the downward slope.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s your career, business, finances, health, fitness, relationships, or otherwise. Things are always getting a little bit better, or they’re getting a little worse. Temporary imbalance is fine, even necessary at times. But whatever areas you’ve neglected will be on a downward slope by the time you’ve returned to them.
The Pareto Principle is Always at Work
The key is to notice it.
Inc. says most employees are only productive for about three hours per day.
Interesting. Because 20% of 24 hours is just under five hours.
Since about 2011, 80% of my income has always been from the music business in some way, shape, or form. 20% has been from design, websites, content, communities, and other projects.
If you were to look closely at your own income ledgers, you’d also find that 80% of your income is coming from one overarching source.
Asking an entrepreneur whether they’ve experienced frustration is kind of like asking whether rice is white.
But as entrepreneurs, we’re used to solving problems with more action. So, when frustration takes root, our first thought is that we’re not doing enough. More action will solve the problem. Even if we’re already grinding out 12- to 16-hour days.
But what I’ve experienced in my own journey and coaching efforts is the opposite. Doing more when you’re frustrated tends to lead to more frustration. The actions you take don’t lead to better results.
Action is one of your superpowers. But trying to solve frustration with more action is a form of insanity.
Taking breaks, changing your environment, thinking, and reflecting are severely underrated. Taking these steps can loose you from the chains of frustration if you give them the attention they deserve.
At times, a short break is more than enough to help you clear your head and feel excited about your projects again. Sometimes, a longer break will be necessary.
But if you are caught in the grips of frustration, there is no easy exit. Doing more is rarely the answer. Even in small ways, your frustration can begin to affect your output, your team, and the way you communicate with prospects and customers.
I understand the hustle as well as anyone. The hustle, at times, is what sustains my output. But only at times. Not all the time.
Because I’ve realized that you can build your business around the life you want to create. When so often we end up focusing on building our life around the business we want to create.
It’s a trope to say that you should work smarter, not harder. But the question is whether you have taken the time to figure out the 20% of work you’re doing that leads to 80% of the results. Because only then can you identify what working smarter might look like.
This is a specific tool for a specific situation. It is not meant to be applied unquestioningly. But if you are in the throes of frustration, unable to move forward, then consider that you’re only becoming more entrenched in frustration by taking more action.
P.S. My new course, the Entrepreneurial Essentials for Musicians Masterclass is available.
This course equips you with practical and timeless mindset advice, along with the skills necessary to make your own way in the music business.
The challenge is that many of us have a hard time identifying what that 20% is. So, we just keep giving 100% effort, even when we mentally understand that only 20% of what we’re doing is making a significant difference to our creative projects, communities, or businesses.
I recently stumbled on a simple diagnostic (I’m calling it the “Effectiveness Diagnostic”) that helped me get clear on my 20%. Want to know how it works? Read on!
I could expound on that thought (as I have done elsewhere), but if I were to bottom line it, it’s that productivity is just getting things done, while effectiveness is getting the right things done.
So, let’s identify the right things.
Prepare two blank pieces of paper (or create a new note on your iPad, as I like to do).
On the first piece of paper, write down everything you are currently doing. Yes, everything. Do this first.
Also consider things you’ve done in the past (IMPORTANT), especially things that worked for you. For example, if you used to guest post on relevant industry blogs, and that drove a lot of traffic to your website, that would be something to add to your sheet.
On the second piece of paper, create three sections, labeled “low effectiveness,” “medium effectiveness,” and “high effectiveness.” You don’t need to split your sheet into three equal parts. Just make sure there’s enough room for each.
Now, because it can be hard to think in black and white terms, you may find it beneficial to add one or two other sections to your sheet – “low-medium effectiveness,” and “medium-high effectiveness.” It’s up to you. If there are certain things you do that you have trouble assigning to low, medium, or high, these extra “in between” labels can help.
Look over your first sheet and categorize the various tasks, activities, and projects you’ve written down.
Put them into their appropriate category – low effectiveness, medium effectiveness, and high effectiveness. Be as ruthless and detached as possible.
Note: This will require some deep thinking on your part. So, take your time.
As I was doing this, I realized very quickly that most activities fell under “low effectiveness,” some went under “medium effectiveness,” and only a few made it into “high effectiveness.”
If more than 20% of your tasks made it into “high effectiveness,” you’re either lying to yourself, or you’re being a little too generous.
I ended up with six items under “high effectiveness,” past efforts considered. If you end up with more than three to seven items here, something is probably off. Consider reevaluating.
You’ve just applied the 80/20 principle to your work. Now you have a much better understanding of the things that make a difference in your projects, community, or business, as well as the things that just take up time and do not lead to desired results.
What can you do with this information?
Well, I’m a bit of an operations nerd, so my suggestion would be to eliminate, automate, or delegate.
Basically, STOP doing the things that don’t yield results.
AUTOMATE the things that still need to be done but can be done using a SaaS app or machine.
And DELEGATE the things that still need to be done, aren’t an effective use of your time, and require a human touch.
Double down on the highly effective 20% that leads to the outcomes you’re looking to create.
I found this simple diagnostic to be of immense value.
There are certain commitments I’ve made (such as publishing daily) that I will be keeping for at least a year, regardless of effectiveness.