Stormtrooper New Years ResolutionGiven the time of year, you might think that it’s fairly cliche to put a post up about goal setting and resolutions… But you know what? I’m good with it. Why not take the time that everyone takes for a little introspection and stock-taking of your life?

I actually started thinking about goal setting a few weeks ago because we were gearing up to go into full “employee review” mode at work. I realized right away that the goals that I had set for myself and with my team were less than ideal. Not all of that is my fault – there is a lot of bureaucracy in that process at my work and our goals have to fit inside a particular set of checkboxes. But letting the bureaucracy get in the way of benefits of setting goals is crap, and that’s what I did.

What I SHOULD have done is check those boxes with the numbers and goals that fit the requirements, and then augment those requirements with goals that better fit my team and my specific needs and strengths. So that’s what I’m looking into now – setting the goals I need to set, but not neglecting the goals I should set.

I’ve also been thinking about a few resolutions, and some things that I could do better. I’ve found that I’m not good at the little, daily things that I know I should do but somehow never get around to. The type of things I wish were habits, but I haven’t been able to make stick. So I’ve added a category to my task list (I’m a bit compulsive with the to-do list) called “Daily” and added a few things to it that I want to do every day. So far it’s helped to have the daily reminder show up on my phone and tablet and laptop and everything (he says, 4 days in). I’m going with the Seinfeld Don’t Break The Chain method of motivation, because it adds personal accountability, and that’s what I believe it takes.

Nothing too drastic, and really not too specific. I’m leaving myself the option to change out what the daily tasks are, so I guess my resolution is to actually have the list of daily habits that I stick to. We’ll see how it goes.

What about you? Resolutions?

A Schedule Defends from Chaos & Whim

Everyone likes to think of themselves as spontaneous. But building predictability and planning into your business operations is critical to success. Without planning and scheduling, you are subject to whim (as my fortune cookie says) – you work on what you stumble across or what you think of. But so much more can be accomplished by building a schedule of optimizations. How?

Building a Schedule Requires Planning & Critical Thinking

When you take the time (and it can take a considerable amount of time) to build out a schedule of optimizations or tasks to accomplish on your program, you are forcing yourself to think critically about what is required for success. I’m amazed at how many programs are being run without that thought and effort. If you are doing it right, you are looking at your goals and putting together a plan for regular changes and work to help you achieve those goals. You have to decide:

  • What optimizations are you currently making, or wish to make?
  • How often does the account/campaign warrant each change?
  • What are your success metrics & best practices for each optimization?
  • How can the process be streamlined?
  • What are the outputs from each action?

Defining the answers to these questions up front can help you save a ton of time and make real progress towards your goals.

After you have determined what optimizations you need to make, you should determine how often to make them. Don’t forget to plan for changes in seasonality! If you are a retailer, you probably have to optimize more frequently in Q4.

Create Checklists and Processes

Once your optimizations and tasks are defined, creating a checklist and process for those tasks helps make sure they get efficiently accomplished. As I mentioned in my post on building reporting, everything you build should be scalable and repeatable, with focus on speed. Automation is key!

Another key to success – don’t try to have every process built perfectly. Take a page from product designers, and start with a minimum viable product. Get it out the door, and then every time you fulfill that task or process, iterate and improve. That way with minimum amount of time up front, you can be up and running, learning what you need to change and how to improve.

 

It’s been 3 months since I presented at SMX West in San Jose, and about 2 months since I presented at Pubcon New Orleans. At both shows, I spoke about building an efficient reporting product, as well as another few specific ways to do some common and necessary Paid Search tasks. I thought I would post a recap of that content here, and am finally getting around to doing it. :)

Quick side note – both shows were great. If you are interested in attending a conference about search marketing and social media, both the Pubcon and the SMX series are FANtastic.

Now, without further ado…

Efficiency is key to Search Marketing. There is no end to the amount of time you can spend optimizing and analyzing, tweaking and testing your accounts and programs. You have enough to do just figuring out enhanced campaigns or whatever the new algorithm update is all about – you don’t have time to spend hours every week pulling and massaging numbers. Don’t get me wrong – effective reporting and tracking is vitally important to success in search, and should be in every marketer’s utility belt. But the best reporting is both comprehensive and FAST. Continue reading

There is a lot that keeps us from getting it done. You know what I’m talking about – that thing you need to do, that’s been waiting for nothing but you to do it. The first thing that pops in your mind when someone says the words “to do list ” or “procrastination”. We all have that task or project or whatever that we know we need to do, know we should do, but we are just really not eager to do it at all.

I noticed that I had this tendency to want to procrastinate.. and the first thing to go was always it. That one thing. So I came up with a plan..

Every day, the first thing I do is it. That’s right. I move that crap I don’t want to do to the top of the list. Before email, before hopping on the twitter, before any reporting. Before.

The effect of making progress on it is that I find myself in a productive mindset. I no longer have this one thing looming over my head, and I feel freed up to prioritize and work on whatever else needs done. Seems to work pretty well for me.

What about you? How do you keep yourself from procrastinating?

 

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to attend a local mini-conference (or summit, or meetup, or something)  where 3 online business rockstars spoke. In Utah this is a pretty big deal. I was able to hear from Mitch Joel, Julien Smith and Chris Brogan. It was really, really good – the Women Tech Council did a great job putting on the event. You should buy their books and read their blogs and all that stuff. There is a reason they are rockstars.

But that’s not really my point in bringing it up. My point is that I am constantly amazed by the continual quality of work and content that these guys produce online. I mean it really baffles me. They were actually asked how they do it during the summit, and their answers boiled down to two things:

  • They make it a priority
  • They make sacrifices

These are not uncommon answers for the “how do you find time to blog” question. In fact, they are both things I have heard before. I have been giving it a lot of thought lately though, because my own writing and content creation has been seriously neglected over the last… forever, and it’s about time it stopped. Or started. You know what I mean.

As I said, I have been giving it a lot of thought. So as of about 6 minutes ago, I am instituting a “blog for at least 15 minutes a day” policy in my life. Why? How? Let me break it down for you…

“I don’t have the time” and other such nonsense

A common hurdle to get over when to writing is the “I just don’t have the time to devote to writing” problem. Well I’m solving that one first. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t have the time. I have a full-time job I spend an unholy amount of hours working at, I have a family (including a new born), a house, and a number of side projects that take up all my waking hours, and some of my sleeping ones. But I also know that creating content is important, and it’s a skill I want to improve.

So instead of doing the whole “1000 words”, “a post a day” or “3 posts a week” or whatever, I am blogging for 15 minutes a day. Now whether I can get something posted in that time frame is not what’s important. What is important is that 15 minutes is something I can plan for, schedule in, and accomplish without being pulled away to something else. You can’t really say “I don’t have the time to do X for 15 minutes every day” because then you are saying that you don’t have 15 minutes free. Which is a lie.

Why it’s not “Write for 15 minutes a day”

If you have ever blogged, you will know that it’s a lot more than writing. There is coming up with ideas, outlining and organizing them, writing, editing, revising, looking for fancy images, creating links, posting, tagging, promoting, etc. If I limited this 15 minutes to just writing, I would still never get anything posted. I would have volumes of unpostable drivel.

Now there will of course be some days that I will want to spend more time than just 15 minutes. For example, I hit the 15 minute mark about 42 seconds ago, but I’m still going. But according to my self-inflicted rules, I don’t have to. I could stop right here (.) and pick it up tomorrow, and post it then. But I happen to find myself with a little extra time tonight, so I will keep at it a bit longer.

I’m hoping that this system I have devised is going to do the trick. What’s the trick you ask? What’s the outcome I am hoping for?

The Endgame

The point of all this is to build the habit. Classical conditioning at work here. Very Pavlovian. I want to create content easier, blog more often, develop my thoughts better, share them with my peers and followers, have conversations and build relationships. All in 15 minutes a day!

I’m joking around a lot, but I am really serious. I am putting in the time. I’m getting out the laptop (not the phone or iPad or netbook or whatever – the workhorse), turning off the distractions that off buttons (Phone, Twitter, Facebook, IM, iPod, Pandora, Hulu, TV, etc.), hiding from the ones that don’t (the wife, the babies, the mom looking for tech support) and putting in 15 solid minutes of straight blogging every day.

So what do you think? I have a few questions I would love for you to answer in the comments:

  • How do you find the time to blog? What have you found that works for you?
  • Do you think my plan will work? Why or why not?
  • Do you want to join me?

If you do want to join me in the 15-a-day plan, let me know. We’ll start an awesome club or something.

There have been tons of articles about it over the past few years – Multitasking is not as efficient as we would all like to believe. We have reached a time where it is not only common to be doing 4 or 5 tasks at once, but it’s pretty much expected. Job descriptions list it as a required skill! We are encouraged with “open door” policies to stop by our coworkers’ desks. We have opened ourselves up to phone calls, email, IM, text messages, tweets, pokes, & about a billion other ways to be distracted, and that’s even before we start working on a bunch of things at once. Continue reading

Digital NomadsFor almost the last year, I’ve been working for a company that is based in Seattle, although I still live in Utah. Telecommuting brings some interesting challenges and opportunities, and one of them is the ability (and necessity) to work wherever I am. Whether I’m in my home office, a restaurant, an airport, or the main office in Seattle, I have to have everything I need with me wherever I am. Such is the life of a Digital Nomad.

As I prepare to head to Seattle tomorrow to spend the week in the office and swing by SMX Advanced, I thought it would be fun to show how I pack for a trip such as this. So in the spirit of the recent “What’s in our Bags” series from Lifehacker.com, here is how I am preparing for the week… Continue reading

BottleToday I found out that if I don’t change a few things very soon, I am going to be the bottleneck in my team’s upcoming development projects. I will have people waiting around for me to catch up and get my piece of the puzzle finished. Never good. This realization made me review my thoughts on “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.

The web development cycle is a lot like a manufacturing plant. A product (web page, widget, whatever) has to be treated and assembled by different machines (like business, development, QA) before it is a completed product. Whenever there is a sequence such as this, one part of the process will inevitably be the part that takes the longest and impedes the flow. This will cause all the parts downstream to wait and waste time sitting idle. Continue reading

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Mike Moran‘s most recent book, Do It Wrong Quickly (Quick note – I haven’t yet read the book, just a number of posts and reviews about it. It’s on my list, ok?). You can read the gist of the book on his site, but in 1 sentence taken from the description at Amazon:

“Moran shows how to quickly transition from plan then execute to a non-stop cycle of refinement.”

Continue reading