Being consistent is tough. To make something work there has to be a sacrifice.
A trade off is where things become so much easier (even if harder for the short term). It just means that you can’t do everything but focus on something on a much deeper level.
As we start the year with optimism and potential new paths to go down, it also presents cul de sacs. It is easy to start something with gusto and new found spirit but then acknowledge that persistence is difficult once January is out the way.
To start a blog, introduce a new podcast/video series or create a regular email, I have found that the only way to create something that is worthwhile ie. worthy of someone else to allow you their time. You have to do something that compromises something else.
You Just Can’t Do It All…Then More
Business and people accept that they can do it all, but they can’t.
The Oxford dictionary definition of trade-off is:
‘A situation in which you accept something bad in order to have something good.’
However, the payoff is when you create work that is on a different scale from sounding like everyone else within your industry.
The reason companies and people sound the same is that there is a lack of discipline to focus on a new routine and is seen as an extra, rather than a necessity. I have seen this with companies who have looked to build an active calendar of content (focused on developing their blog, video, podcast), but the reason it has not worked was that it was seen as an add-on to a busy week.
What was happening was that the rest of the work fitted the normal routine, but when something new was introduced it was not given a sense of priority, just a case of adding another block to the Jenga tower. What was happening was that the ongoing messages people wanted to communicate, ended up with no distinct point of view and was being produced towards the end of the week after everything else.
This meant that the messages distributed were no different from everyone else and the easiest thing to share was on what the company was good at and not the value created for others. What happens is that it is easier to slip back into default mode ie. praising yourself, rather than finding a cause that you can explore, develop and people to click into.
When people think they can do everything, you start to see articles that offer no value ie. why you need to work with a (marketplace that you work within that shines on you) company, how a (marketplace that you work within that relates to you) can help you. No one wants to read/watch/hear something that provides no insight, has been said the same before, has a hidden agenda or just completely misses the mark when someone else isn’t consider.
There has to be a trade-off. When nothing is sacrificed to make something else stronger, you are forever in limbo.
Some Real Life Trade Offs
Let me highlight some examples from my side:
Writing The Content Revolution TRADE OFF, I became a bit of a hermit and turned down a lot of friend invites, so I could finish a book.
My weekly writing TRADE OFF is that I don’t watch the football on TV on a Monday evening.
The weekly You Are The Media Podcast TRADE OFF is that I make sure Wednesday lunchtimes are in the office.
My company TRADE OFF is that I stopped being everything to everybody ie. the logos, building websites, but focus on helping others develop their narrative so they can connect and build their own loyal audience. I made the decision to move from a generalist company to specialist.
What each of these examples highlight is the importance of channeling energy and focus in one area, so you build a rhythm and more importantly, become better at something. On many occasions it is giving in to one thing, to spend more time on something else.
A lot of what I have done has been part of a family decision. Writing a book is very hard and I made the decision to commit to this at the expense of family time. For instance, I can remember reading through the second draft manuscript, next to my wife, in hospital, the day after the birth of my second daughter and the complications that arose through the early weeks of Alice’s life. Looking back now, the trade off for finishing a book was very much at the detriment of my family.
What About You?
If you want to really explore a space, distribute a message and get good at it, it means you have to say no to other things and put them in a box.
This means you can lean into one thing on a more detailed scale, rather than the ‘how to create a blog/website/vlog/social profile that gets thousands of followers/an abundance of shares/a glut of new subscribers’ type article.
In the words of the very wise economist Michael Porter, “Strategy is about making choices; trade offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”
Saying no to things, in order to get better, doesn’t have to be tough family decisions, it is a lot more simple:
Stop watching Netflix and comfy that the new series of Black Mirror takes precedence
Stop believing you have to be continually informed by watching the news
Stop thinking you have to take every article from Forbes to Social Media Examiner and Moz as the font of knowledge, find your own form of intuition to explore and share
Stop saying yes to everything and that extra two hours you had at the start of the week ends up in the bin
Stop sending emails when all you have in your armoury is what offer you want to shove in someone’s in-box
Stop spending more hours than you need on Facebook, it doesn’t improve your week/day
Stop reading book after book in the same field, it gets repetitive and you start to swallow everything within an echo chamber that no one else knows what you mean
Stop creating things without a plan in front of you, or you’ll end up writing articles along the lines of ‘when is the best time to post on Twitter’
Stop thinking you can be all things to all people, others will see you stand for nothing
When you accept that you can do less, but create maximum impact, it becomes easier to acknowledge that you don’t have to think that you have to be everywhere and trying out everything.
Over the past year I have realised that cleaning out and parking things that don’t work or align with what you what to achieve, are for the better. Just because it sounded great that I had the opportunity to travel and speak in different countries, doesn’t mean that a room of delegates are going to subscribe to receive the You Are The Media weekly email.
Lets Round Up
To become accomplished at one thing, you have to park another that does not align with you objectives. If you are happy to binge on Netflix or Facebook, or say yes to everyone, does it help you become a trusted source? will it position you as a viable alternative? Will it help increase your audience and customer base?
You can’t keep fitting things in just because there are hours in the day. To become recognised as someone who is accomplished in your field and for others to want to spend time with you, then you have to have something that has your own stamp to it and not looking over someones shoulder as they have already done the hard work.
If this is the year where you find a consistent rhythm to communicate a message to build loyalty, you select what you are willing to leave behind (not watching football on a Monday night has become quite easy). What you start to see is you increase the chances of the result you want (not watching football means I can send create the You Are The Media email each week).
Making sacrifices presents opportunities to explore new capabilities. People are more willing to trust you when you provide a point of view that has your stamp on it. This becomes so much easier when you are prepared to let something else go. Doing more with less, sounds far more attractive.