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The year 2008 for me was dominated by a long trip overseas, which meant I was away from home and in a constantly changing environment.
Although I boast I was able to run my business while traveling a circle around the globe, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t experience more pressure on the time available for work.
The way I chose to travel resulted in planning the details for my next stop a week before I arrived – sometimes just 24 hours before arriving or even after arriving! This included booking accommodation, flights and figuring out things like how to get from the airport to the apartment or hotel I was staying at.
Once landing in a city and settling in, the next “pressure” was determining what was worth seeing and doing, and ensuring the time available for fun was used on the best sites and attractions. This involves research and planning, reading reviews online at sites like TripAdvisor.com, buying tickets for tours and figuring out how to get to places using public transport.
When at home in Brisbane my time is quite fluid and I have few commitments or deadlines. With just my mother now living in Brisbane, I rarely have family events on and I’m not married with children, so I’m pretty much looking after myself.
Traveling dramatically changed how I live. What is normally stable in my life – where I live, what I do during the day and what I eat – became dynamic, with the variables changing every week. Suddenly my free time was gone and I was forced to live in perpetual inconsistency.
As a result of the constant changes in my life, I had to become very focused with how I used my working time. I didn’t want my blog to die, I had customers to support and I wanted to work on new projects so my business continued in a positive direction. This was no easy task, but I’m proud to say that I was able to achieve all my business goals in 2008 despite the changes to how and where I lived my life.
If you’ve never read my article on the 80/20 rule, go do so now. It’s one of the most powerful concepts available today that can truly make a difference to your life and your business. My article introducing you to the rule has been one of the top 10 posts on this blog for years. You can find it here –
If I look at the metrics, this was a great year for my business. I more than doubled my revenues, my blog readership and email lists grew significantly, I had successful product launches and released some fantastic free resources like the Conversion Blogging video, not to mention publishing many articles on this blog that I know will continue to bring in traffic for years to come (the true essence of a pillar article).
None of this would have happened if it weren’t for the 80/20 rule.
Information overload has always been a problem. In 2008 it became even more of a problem. Although a great enabler and empowering tool for education, the world wide web has created a situation where it’s as important to be aware of what you need to know and do as much as knowing how to do it. If you don’t learn how to ignore 99% of what’s out there, you never get the clarity to learn the 1% that you should focus on.
In 2008, a wonderful collection of new communication tools took off, and although they are fantastic resources, and can be great business tools as well, they are serious time sinks if used passively.
Twitter has well and truly arrived and is fast becoming a must-have tool for every blogger, internet marketer and small business owner. While it’s a wonderful way to connect with people, if you aren’t careful, you can tweet entire days away.
Facebook is the leading social networking application available today. The generation just below me (the teens and early twenties) are so connected with Facebook, they choose to communicate through it rather than email. Think about that for a moment.
You can’t afford to ignore Facebook, yet like any social network, it takes time to maintain and leverage your profile and networks, so another slice of your limited time is taken away.
These are just two tools, the leading two social media tools in my opinion when it comes to business purposes, that demand your attention. You might also spend time building a stumbleupon profile, or keeping up your Digg time so you sway some power there, or perhaps you have a MySpace profile to upkeep, or maybe video is your thing and you’re actively monitoring all the latest YouTube developments while keeping your own profile fresh with videos.
I haven’t even mentioned reading the leading blogs in your industry and staying up to date with news articles. Thanks to Digg and similar sites you can easily find what the crowd considers the best content, but that only increases the pressure you feel to read it so you don’t become out of touch.
Let’s not forget the oldschool resources that still claim some of your mindshare – books, magazines, trade publications and print newsletters. While “traditional media” face stiff competition from newer forms of information sharing and publishing online, there’s still much value to be found in reading the old fashioned way.
Plus we have new product launches each week too. If you’re in my industry, the world of “learn how to make money” information products, then every few days something new comes along to tempt you. Even if you have no intention of making a purchase, most launches offer free resources that are actually pretty good, since businesses today are learning how important it is to move the free line even more (thanks Eben Pagan!).
Simply put, in 2008 there were more tools, resources, articles, reports, books and e-books, videos, podcasts, news feeds, magazines, tweets, and updates coming your way that if you attempted to give your attention to even just a handful of it you will have felt overwhelmed, and worse still, you were distracted from the all-important action steps you should be taking to build your business.
So as not to be hypocritical, let’s acknowledge that we all contribute to this problem. I’m doing it right now by publishing this article. I’ve been doing it for four years on this blog, with a steady stream of content, that while valuable to some, adds more noise to an already very noisy world wide web. I released free reports this year, published videos, blogged, tweeted, updated facebook, uploaded photos and like any good net-citizen, made comments, posted in forums and sent emails.
How exactly is this going to work, if we all contribute to an information overload problem that’s becoming worse, yet current wisdom dictates if you want success you need to study information and then produce output to gain experience, and ultimately, make a profit?
The solution, in particular for information publishing entrepreneurs who are attempting to build a profile of expertise as the basis for their online business, is to liberally apply the 80/20 rule to everything they do.
Although one of the key selling points of the internet as a commerce medium is having access to a global marketplace, this also creates the aforementioned problem of information overload, and means you face a lot of competition. In order to compete you need to focus on fewer people, not more, although you can certainly draw people to you from all over the world thanks to the web.
What I am talking about is what we call niche marketing, and as Seth Godin explains, you need to build your tribe.
We differentiate ourselves by focusing on a target market and presenting a perception as being the best, or offering the best solution, to one problem. This in turn attracts a certain type of person, who become part of your tribe because they benefit from what you teach and sell, and also feel rapport with you – they share your circumstances (or perhaps your previous circumstances that you rose above) and like you as a person, as well as a resource to help them become better at something or solve a problem.
People want the best answer to their specific question in a specific niche. You need to be the answer, but only to that question or category of questions – not every question.
Your job is to be the search and filter for what your tribe need to know. You help deal with their information overload problem by being a trusted source. They ignore almost everything else, listen to you and apply what is relevant for their present situation. You are one of their 80/20 resources. You are part of the minority that they pay attention to and not the majority they ignore.
This is obviously a good position to be in for your business, since people pay attention to what you say, and thus buy your products. However it’s a position of great responsibility. You need to deliver results and in order to do that, you have to solve your own information overload challenge.
The 80/20 rule, when applied right, means you work less and get better results. This happens because you focus concentrated effort on the few elements that matter most.
In order for the 80/20 rule to work right, you need to be able to identify what you should ignore. Once you know what is not important, then what is important are your points of leverage. With leverage, comes exponential results.
The first step to determine what is important to the growth of your business, is to figure out what you need today in order to get an immediate result. In other words, what constraint do you have that if removed would immediately take you a step closer to the result you want?
When you find the constraints holding back the 80/20 leverage points, then you have your big money answer. You need only work on eliminating that constraint and then the next in sequence until your outcome is realized.
If at any point you spend time on tasks that do not remove immediate outcome constraints, or are low-impact activities, you are effectively wasting time, at least from a business objectives point of view.
Just like your tribe look to you for advice on what really matters to them, you need to find your trusted sources. The people you follow, who you study under, admire, aspire to replicate and of course, like as people too, are your filters. You take what they learn, experience, filter and then distribute to you, and then process it for your people.
I believe I’ve cracked the code on how to become an expert and you really only need to do three things well –
Every expert I currently study is constantly referencing to other experts they have studied. They quote from a book, or from a presentation or a coaching program or even just a blog article, but in essence, all they are doing is taking what is already known as a good idea – an idea that works and has been tested by someone else – and then translate that idea into an applicable concept for their audience.
Rich Schefren and Eben Pagan are two guys I place at the top of my mentor tree. These guys are experts I study, because they both have achieved what I want to achieve. I follow their example, study their training, and find myself referencing their ideas to my people – and yes that means you as a reader of my blog too.
Rich and Eben constantly read books, listen to audios and study courses and use what they learn to teach their students. They act as filters for their followers (Rich has openly stated that his key role in his business is acting as an information filter and idea generator for his customers).
I choose to listen to a select group of people because what they teach resonates with me, they have credibility and proof, I fit their target demographic, I like their personality and style and I have benefited from implementing their techniques in my own business.
Because time and energy are finite resources, there is a limitation when it comes to how much you can study. To succeed you need to find the right people to follow, who match your criteria, who can help you eliminate your immediate constraints, and then go to work implementing what they teach. It’s also critical that while you do this, you ignore everything else until you have achieved the outcome you desire.
In 2008 I ignored like I have never ignored before. As a result of less time and constant change, I needed to focus specifically only on what needed to get done to get a result.
I wrote fewer blog posts this year than in any other year since I began blogging. I read fewer books, ignored product launches, didn’t read the news in my industry, almost completely stopped reading other blogs, didn’t keep up to date with plugins or scripts or tools released for my blog platform and unsubscribed from all but a few key email newsletters.
What I did do was focus on what I knew mattered most to my success given my present circumstances and desired goals for the year. I needed to keep my marketing system active. I had to keep blogging, but I focused more on pillar content and less on update frequency. You will see my blog this year featured very few news posts and although less was published, each article I wrote was thorough and had a specific purpose.
In 2009 my circumstances have changed again and I have time once more for more active study. As a result of this I’ve already ordered several courses and plan to increase the amount of time I spend keeping up with my industry and using social media tools. I may also write more blog posts, however I plan to use most of the “extra” time for product creation, as that is a higher leverage activity for me at this stage of my business.
In your case right now you need to ask yourself if your current day to day activities are really helping your business, if of course business goals are your focus in 2009. If they are not, you need to make changes.
Stop trying to study everything that shows up on your radar. Stop trying to keep up with every social media tool. Just because an expert you trust says something is great and you should do it, and this certainly includes me too, don’t just follow them blindly. Even this advice I’m giving you now should be carefully interpreted based on your situation and what you want to achieve in 2009.
For bloggers, if you are keen to make 2009 a year of growth, you need to commit yourself to excellence. Excellence in terms of what you consume and what you output for your readers. You have to study and you have to take action. That’s the only way you can truly learn new things, which you can then teach to your audience, your tribe. However you must be careful, choose only to study and action what can help your business and what can be translated into learnings (blog content) for your readers.
The core elements of a successful blog have not changed. You still need great pillar content. You still need to market your work through communication channels. You still need to build relationships, network, and implement fundamental traffic and marketing techniques. You still need to follow the Blog Profits Blueprint, which is just as relevant today as when I published it in 2007.
For most of you bloggers reading this, the big change you need to make in 09 is an adjustment of how you spend your time. I’ve said this before, but it remains just as powerful a statement – you don’t win if all you do is consume other people’s ideas, you must publish your own unique ideas for others to benefit from. Cut the time wasting activities, focus on output and consider what you can become really good at in 2009.
For those of you building a business, which may include blogging, but also other critical elements such as email lists, automated marketing systems, affiliate programs and of course, products of your own, you face a myriad of choices next year.
Your challenges are relevant to what stage of business growth you are facing. Most of you reading this are likely still in the momentum building phase, which means you lack cashflow, products, resources and marketing systems.
In most cases the first place you need to focus attention on is marketing, in particular, how you can automate your marketing system, so your cashflow becomes steady while you go to work building the other aspects of your business. It’s much easier to spend money hiring people and investing in your business, when you know a certain amount of money is going to be generated next month, and the month after that and so on.
To make this practical, you can ask yourself some practical questions.
Is your business not delivering what you want because…
…and so on.
If as you ask yourself these types of questions, consider what you could do if you had the answer. If what you could do would immediately result in an increase in cashflow, or elimination of whatever major constraint you face now, then that’s the problem to solve. If however the answer only opens up more questions, then you haven’t found the core element that needs to be addressed first.
Once you find the core element – the problem you need to solve today – go study the trusted source to get the answer, or if you already know how to get it done, get it done. It’s not rocket science. Find problems, learn solutions, implement actions, get outcomes.
Consider the 80/20 rule, learn how to ignore everything that’s not going to help you eliminate your immediate constraints, decide what you want to change and what you need to learn in 2009, and you will enjoy tremendous rewards.
Good luck and I look forward to continuing my entrepreneur’s journey with you in 2009.
Happy New Year!
PS. I’m going to open up a handful of private coaching spots in 2009, something I’ve never done before but have been asked about repeatedly. The price will not be cheap – low four figures – because I want action takers. It will involve personal time with me over the phone, designed to get your internet business making at least four figures a month.
If you feel capable of following my direction and are ready to get busy in 2009, please enter your details into the form below and I’ll send you more information once I’m ready to take clients. Slots will be strictly limited on a first come, first served basis.