Getting things done: gradually change your habits

Find the right tools to make it easy for you

Find the right tools to make it easy for you

When I set out on my poetry project last year, I didn’t really know how long I could keep up with publishing a freshly written poem each day. I wrote blog posts and poems occasionally, mostly when an idea popped up in my mind to write about. But posting every day is something I had not done yet.

I had begun some blogging projects before, in which I aimed to post regularly on a certain topic, but I never really managed to take that for a long run. Then I remembered a TED talk by the always interesting and engaging Derek Sivers. Basically it says that if you announce your goal, and your social circles acknowledge that, you already feel like you’ve achieved it, or at least are close to that. However, if you keep it to yourself, and just start working on it, you’ll actually do the work that needs to be done to achieve your goal, and are much more likely to really achieve it.

With that in mind, I started writing and posting poems every day. And if I was lucky on one day, and got inspiration for more, I would schedule them for a few days ahead. This kept the pressure on in the first weeks to get into the rhythm of writing each day.

I also initially set myself a deadline. Publish by 18h15 at the latest each day. That way, I had some extra motivation to write early in the day. And really look hard for inspiration.

In terms of poetry style, I prefer to write free verse. My ambition was to experiment with some poetic forms, and maybe improve my writing. However, I decided early on that I would focus first on producing a poem each day, and then later on experimentation.

After about 3 weeks, I assessed that I could at least make it for another 2 or 3 months. So, I decided to go public with the intention. Not that I wanted to do this for a year, but that I was working on a personal project of writing a poem each day. Also, I experimented some with different poetic forms, but also with video.

During the project, I learned that I was looking at my world differently. I was constantly trying to find inspiration in everything around me. Everything. This also meant that I had to be sure to have a way to record inspiration directly. Normally, I would use a paper notebook and a pen to capture thoughts. And I still love to. However, I don’t have these always at hand, or two free hands and a place to take out my notebook and pen, sit down and write something. So I started using a notepad app in my phone. One that also allowed me to easily copy the text to my blog. In the end, I managed to write and publish 366 poems last year, one each day.

So, what have I learned about getting things done and achieving goals during this project? Let me give you three simple steps:

  1. Set yourself a challenge, and remember it’s your challenge and not someone else’s;
  2. Get into a habit of doing the work by:
    1. setting easy targets,
    2. setting deadlines you can make,
    3. begin small,
    4. make it easy on yourself by using the right tools;
  3. Do it.

Lessons from the poetry project
This is the third post in a series in which I share the lessons I learned from my A Poem Each Day poetry project. Earlier I wrote about reciprocity and choosing channels wisely.

Choose your social media channels wisely

The first photo to illustrate a poem on A Poem Each Day

The first photo to illustrate a poem on A Poem Each Day

When you start a new public project (or breathe new life into an existing one), increasingly you need to consider how to fit social media into it. Especially if you want to draw attention to it. The worst you can do, is making the decision to be everywhere just to be sure you don’t miss a potential audience. So before you start creating new accounts on all the social media channels you know, it’s good to take a step back and think about it first.

So, when I started to publicize my poetry project last year, I had to make some decisions regarding sharing on social media. My two favorite channels are Twitter and Facebook. On Twitter I have a sound personal follower count, and some good interactions with people I have connected with. From earlier projects I’ve found it hard to build a new account that resulted in traffic leading to websites, so I decided not to have a dedicated Twitter account, but use my personal account for sharing links to the poems and telling people about it. It added an extra dimension to the overall content I shared through my personal account on Twitter, and in this way I could build on the network I already had there. To separate the poetry project posts from other ones, I used a hashtag for them.

Facebook was a slightly different matter. Because I wanted to keep the website I had for the poems ‘clean’, meaning that I wanted the content there to be predominantly poems, I decided to build a dedicated Facebook page to share links to the poems and generate traffic, but also to share links to other poetry related content, and maybe share some other news and thoughts around the poems. And updates about the crowdfunding campaign I ran.

I also tried to share news and links from my poetry project on Google+, but quickly found out that there was no significant response or other result generated from that, so I stopped the effort there.

Then came the decision about share buttons on the website itself. I wanted to give people who read the poems an opportunity to easily share them. But what I don’t like as a user myself, is to have too many options. Since I had focused my attention mainly on Twitter and Facebook, share buttons for those platforms were mandatory. I also added Google+, and left it there. Since I’m quite fond of Pinterest, I also wanted to have a Pinterest share button, which meant something for my content publishing guidelines. Since Pinterest is an picture-oriented website, I needed to make sure that my poems were accompanied by shareable imagery as well. So I tried to have as many poems illustrated by photos or other pictures as well. As an added benefit: blog posts with an image in them tend to have a higher reading and sharing potential than those without.

The lessons I learned from this, can also be valid for your projects involving social media. Simply put, they are:
Choose channels to focus on, that help get the best exposure to your work;
Leverage existing channels and communities when possible;
Make sure your content is in line with what people expect to find on the channel in question.

Lessons from the poetry project
This is the second post in a series in which I share the lessons I learned from my A Poem Each Day poetry project. Earlier I wrote about reciprocity.

Reciprocity, why it works and when it doesn’t

A handwritten poem on a postcard - an acknowledgement for contributions

A handwritten poem on a postcard – an acknowledgement for contributions

If you want to have some success with your social media campaign, reciprocity is a phenomenon you should take into account. At least, if you’re not Nike, Google or Coca Cola. Or Justin Bieber. The basic, age old principle of give and you shall receive is a strong one in social networks, both online and off. It’s what makes them work, and what brings you results. If you handle it with care.

But, first of all you have to understand the results that you want to achieve. Sure, getting followers and likes can be easy, but is that what you really want. In my poetry project, for example, the result I want is that people will buy the poetry book I am going to publish. The followers on the blog, the likes and comments on the poems are all contributing to that. If I manage to publish poems good enough for people to like and if I manage to engage with this audience in such a manner that I keep them interested enough to want to buy the book.

What will not work? Well, getting people to like or comment on the poems out of the sentiment of just giving back what I gave to them. Commenting on, liking and sharing work from others can make them want to push the like button on my website once. But if it’s only that once, and only because I clicked a button on their blog, it’s not going to help me sell an extra copy of my book. The same goes for these ‘follow-me-and-I-follow-you-back’ tweeters. Those are connections that will not bring you results. The value of that connection will not go deeper than one extra follower. The trick is converting that follower into a potential buyer of your product, service, or, in my case, book.

So, you have to identify those that really take an interest in your campaign. Thsoe are the people that share your campaign with their friends without you asking for it, and participate in the conversation. Give feedback. Those people you need to cherish and strengthen your ties with. You can do that by acknowledging their contributions, maybe give them a small present. As an example: in my poetry project, I sent out some handwritten poems on postcards to people that really made a difference.

You can also strengthen ties by finding common interests other than your campaign, and work with that. The key thing is: be authentic in giving. It’s always directly very clear when someone just tries to get you to return the favor, so that they can show a higher retweet, follow or like count. And it’s not that hard, it just takes some sincere effort. But, that sincere effort will bring you not only a higher chance to achieve the results you want, it can also bring you the satisfaction of discovering new friends, new content and contributing to the success or work of others.