When you make the decision to grow your blog and hopefully create an income from it, it can be so easy to fall into the trap of doing everything all at once in the name of getting as much exposure as you can. You’re blogging every day, you’re promoting those posts to your Facebook, Twitter, Google+, you’re ensuring all posts have a Pinnable image, and you’re Instagramming the behind-the-scenes for your followers. You’re working hard, commenting on other blogs, finding interesting things to retweet, staying up half the night with your editorial calendar, reading sites like this one about how to make money, and signing up with the next big thing in case it can help grow your blog (Vine, anyone?!).
It’s pretty easy to get to a stage where your blog is running you instead of you running your blog. You’re drowning in emails, you can keyword posts in your sleep, you’re a slave to your stats, and you will scream if Facebook changes its algorithm one more time.
But that’s not all. You’ve had ideas for a Blog Series, several eBooks, a podcast and an eCourse. You’re keen to get started – in fact, when you see how successful others are, you wish you started years ago.
But what if you’re stretched so thin that you’re doing everything, and none of it as well as you could? What would convince you to cut back to only a few things, and putting your heart and soul into making them great?
A while ago I was listening to the How they Blog Podcast with Kat Lee. Kat is a blogger, a podcaster, and a stay-at-home mom of three. She has two blogs (each with their own podcast), the usual number of social media sites, eBooks, a small blogging course, coaching sessions, and seemingly a huge number of things that need her attention on a daily basis.
But one thing she said in conversation with another blogger really caught my attention: her motto is “do as little as possible as well as possible”.
Each year, each season, she has different things she focuses on, and is happy to let the others take a back seat. I decided to ask her more about it, in the hopes that the way she came to streamline her online presence might be inspiring to those of you who are a little bit overwhelmed and over it.
First things first: How did Kat adopt the mantra?
“I’m an ideas person,” she says. “I love being creative and starting things, but while this can be a definite advantage, it can also be a huge disadvantage – I realized that every time I started working a new idea, I was actually also giving up on something else. And if I kept moving on to new things, I’d never develop anything excellent.
“We all have a finite amount of time in the day. I’d rather be excellent at one or two things than dabble and be average in twenty things.”
For the people I know who have turned their backs on “having it all” and have shifted gears to hone their talents in one or two areas at a time, it was usually because of burnout. Trying to be all things to all people at all times had forced them to make a change. Kat says it wasn’t quite like that for her, but she still needed to make that change.
“Honestly, I think I hit “plateau” stage rather than “burnout” stage,” she says. “I wondered why things weren’t taking off like they used to. I finally realized that greater levels of success require greater levels of sacrifice. That’s why you don’t see Olympic athletes at McDonald’s or Disneyland the day before their gold medal event. We all have a limited capacity for…everything. So the only way to increase our capacity for one thing is to reduce our capacity in another area – hence “Do as little as possible, as well as possible.”
“This past year, I’ve focused a lot more on podcasting (and less on writing) and as a result, my podcast [Inspired to Action] is consistently on the Top of the Kids and Family charts on iTunes. The beauty of this is that I’m not eternally confining myself to anything. Just because I’m currently focusing on podcasting, doesn’t mean I’ll never write another epic blog post. It just means not right now. “This season is for learning how to consistently create excellent podcasts and building systems and skills that will make it all relatively habitual. As I build habits, podcasting requires less effort. Eventually, much of it will become second nature…which then increases my capacity to add something else back in – like writing.
Gary Keller says, “Success comes sequentially, not simultaneously.” Ronald Reagan was a famous actor and President of the United States of America, but not at the same time. We just don’t have the capacity for simultaneous excellence, but we can build on our knowledge and skills so that we can have sequential success. I want to do things with excellence and excellence can only be achieved with focus on one thing at a time.”
When you’re new or you’ve just made the decision to turn your blog into a business, the internet is a world of possibility. It can take time to get to a point (whether burnout or plateau or otherwise) to really narrow down your focus. You might not want to do less, you’re happy to just be on the playing field. Kat explains the situation well:
“I think the biggest reason [for that] is because newer bloggers aren’t sure what they want,” she says.
“That’s not a bad thing, but until they figure out what they want, it’s hard to find the motivation to say no to other things. Just like kids participate in 24,976 different activities – their job as a child is to figure out where their talents and passions collide. Once they find that sweet spot they can then arrange their effort around pursuing it with excellence.
“It’s the same with a new blogger. Until they know their audience, their message and their voice, it’s hard to say no to all the opportunities that are out there.”
In fact – Kat thinks it might be worth newer bloggers shifting priorities at the start to ensure that when they do focus, they’ve got a solid foundation from which to grow.
“I think that a new blogger needs to focus on writing and connecting with their audience,” she says. “Increasing traffic and building a platform and refining their message should come AFTER they actually know what they want to say. Otherwise, they spent all that energy possibly building their platform in the wrong location.
“However, I do think they can follow the motto by applying it to the process of finding their message, audience and voice. Be focused about writing and honest about what resonates with you and your readers. Instead of spending energy on increasing your page views, focus your energy on understanding what you want to say and who needs to hear it.”
So how does the motto manifest itself in Kat’s reality?
“I’ve narrowed down what I do online,” she says. “Ironically, I blog less and podcast more. I’d rather have a Top 10 podcast and an average blog and social media presence, than an average everything. Of course, as I mentioned before this is temporary. Once I have a system for podcasting with excellence, I want to return to writing and learn to do it with excellence.
And as someone who has spent a lot of time being intentional about how she divides her attention, she has some advice:
What’s the best tip you’ve found to help you pare back?
To use physical folders. It’s easy to expand digitally, but if I have physical folders for projects I’m working on and limit those to 6 at any given time, I have a concrete reminder when I over commit.
Did you read any books or resources that helped you refine your schedule?
Simplfy by Bill Hybels, The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst and Tell Your Time by Amy Lynn Andrews
What would be something you’d like to pass onto bloggers who are feeling overwhelmed?
Why are you blogging? What message burns within you that you know will help others? Who are you blogging for? Once you know the answers to those questions, it’s so much easier to separate the blogging wheat from the blogging chaff. Just like a hunter might have a super powerful gun that can down any deer from a mile away, if he isn’t locked in on the target, that powerful gun doesn’t do him a bit of good. Find your target, then scale down your vision to focus on it – success comes easily once you do that.
So what do you think – is simplifying but excelling something for you? What would you focus on? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Stacey Roberts is the Managing Editor of ProBlogger.net, and the gal behind Veggie Mama. A writer, blogger, and full-time word nerd, she can be found making play-dough, reading The Cat in the Hat for the eleventh time, and avoiding the laundry. See evidence on Instagram here, on Facebook here, and twitter @veggie_mama.