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Five Things I Learned from 31 Days of Blogging

By Mike Spotten

I made a commitment to myself sometime in November that I was going to start my blog on December 1st. I’d been thinking about it for months. I knew what it was going to be about and I knew what the URL was going to be and I was ready. I just needed to get everything set up to pull the trigger on December one.

As November crept along I kept thinking about what I needed to do in order to launch and I kept not doing it. It’s not that I didn’t want to, it’s just that I found other priorities that were “more important”. Were they really? Probably not, but the mind is a devious trickster.

And then it was December 1st and I wasn’t ready. I didn’t have WordPress set up, and now felt unsure about the topic and the URL. However, I said I was going to launch, and so launch I did. I spent the first few hours of the morning trying to convince myself that the original URL and name I had was right even though I felt like it wasn’t.  Finally I settled on mikespotten.com in order to let the blog grow and be whatever it was going to be, which in the past month it has.  

This brings me to the first thing I learned (or rather re-learned).

Learning #1: Start.

I’ve said it multiple times over the first 31 posts, but it’s crucial, so I’m repeating it again. If I hadn’t started I wouldn’t be writing this post right now. I’d probably be playing Clash Royale or scrolling through Instagram.

By getting the ball rolling it created momentum just as I predicted it would. And by committing in writing to posting every day in December it jedi-mind-tricked me into feeling obligated to fulfill that promise.  In the book Influence, Robert Cialdini talks about an addicted smoker handing out cards to the people she respected most in order to give herself the push she needed to quit. This was my way of committing to the task.

Learning #2 – It was harder than I thought it was going to be.

It was hard to post every day. Or rather, it was hard to post something I felt good about every day.  I care about what I’m putting out into the world. 

At the beginning I had planned to write a few posts a day and have a backlog ready so I could take a day off here or there. That didn’t happen. I had other work come in which became a priority and on the days I did have extra time I would perfect one post rather than write several.

I got sick twice and I had to create “filler” posts. From Boxy To Curvy and Rapid Prototyping were those posts. Not bad, but short and sweet. I had Rapid Prototyping in my back pocket from day 1, but From Boxy To Curvy was something I had read the day before and in my feverish haze threw it onto the page in order to get back into bed.

There were days where I didn’t know what I was going to write, I had worked all day, put the kids in bed, worked some more, and then it was 10 or 11 at night. “I don’t want to post today.” I would say to my wife and she would nod knowingly without a word. It’s the kind of torture I like to put myself through, the only person marking the scorecard was myself but fulfilling that promise of a post a day mattered and so I sat down and wrote.

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Learning #3 – There are different types of posts.

My expectation at the onset was that I would write a lot of posts on building products, setting vision, strategizing, ideation, roadmaps, etc. And I wrote a few good posts on those topics and would reference back to them whenever fitting, but the majority of the posts ended up being about the process of writing the blog itself and personal challenges I was having on a given day or reflecting on a challenge of the past.

I also created three of my favorite posts from the month in a three day period: What Makes a Good CultureAmazon Go, and Product Lessons from Mark Zukerberg’s Home AI Challenge. Two of them were unexpected pieces about technology that I felt compelled to write after they came up in my news feed. Moving forward I intend to do more of these types of posts. 

Learning #4 – I failed at promotion.

My goal was to get 100 subscribers in December. I got 10. I know I could have gotten more and applied more tactics in order to try to get them but I didn’t. I focused on the writing and I avoided promotion. I promoted 3 posts the entire month and I even forgot to include Google Analytics until about day 10. Moving into January I’ll start experimenting with different promotion techniques and include traffic goals as well as pushing my subscription of 100 users.  What I did learn here is that direct email outreach worked better than any other form thus far and sometimes I need to ask in person, “Hey, can I add you to my list?” and then just do it myself.

Learning #5 – Spillover.

Committing to working on this blog has engaged me in ways that I wasn’t expecting. I dug into articles that I would only skim before and stopped audiobooks to take notes in order to reference it in a post. As hard as it was to post every day I’m very glad that I did.

An unexpected result was something I’ve called spillover. My commitment to doing the blog has triggered other positive habits to rise to the surface of my life. I’m getting up earlier, exercising more often, eating better, and finding that I'm more focused. In The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg talks about keystone habits which when triggered create a domino effect towards other good habits. I believe the act of working on this, achieving something daily and stepping towards my larger goals, have made this a keystone habit in my life.

Minor Learnings

On December 1 I wrote, “The only thing I know for sure is that I’ll be further than I am today.” It’s very true. 

For January I’ve set another goal, but given myself a little bit of leeway: 20 posts  // 100 subscribers.  That gives me 10 days off, which I have already eaten through 4 of.

Along the way I discovered how to set up an Amazon Affiliates account, got MailChimp set up, posted on LinkedIn, posted on Twitter, created a content calendar, dug around in WordPress and more to get this all up and running.  These are all things which took time and will pay dividends moving forward into January.

There’s a bunch more, but that's a taste for you. What would you like to see me write about? Leave me a comment and follow along on my blog HERE

Nicolas China

Pixilated Photo Booth, 3200 James St, Baltimore, MD, 21230, United States