It’s March 3rd, my first REVIEW DAY for Groundhog Day Resolutions 2013. Today is also the day-after completing 30 new products, one a day, for 30 days. I’m tired, but exhilarated by the effort. Here’s what I learned, and what I’m planning for March.
A Look Back
To recap my Groundhog Day Resolutions for 2013, I think this mission statement describes it best:
I want to succeed by becoming as excellent as I can be, producing original works and seeding the world with them to see what comes back. To create, and connect, at the highest level I can.
There are several guiding directives that I’ve written to help put the mission statement into practice:
- Strive toward excellence and mastery in what I am doing.
- Learn how to make wonderful things, by first learning how to make sucky things.
- Share what I make and what I know with like-minded, self-empowered, conscientious, kind, competent people. That’s the primary audience.
- Build the means for converting ideas into tangible, shareable goods and bringing them to market for the people who can use them. That’s the secondary audience.
- Be fully present in every personal transaction, as conduit for the values expressed above.
- Most of all: be visible and accessible, and be willing to fail on the world stage.
The 30-product challenge addresses all of the above criteria in a countable, results-focused way. Beyond achieving a 30-product count, I had few expectations. Admittedly, I hoped that I would be able to expand the number of revenue streams significantly and regain traffic lost in the past few years, but I didn’t count on it. I wasn’t even sure that I could do 30 products for 30 days, though it seemed likely given my positive experience with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) last year. Would lightning strike twice?
Regarding whether I could do it or not was a moot point. I don’t seem to be at a loss for coming up with things to do. The low-hanging fruit was form updates, but I mostly eschewed those in favor of something that pushed my own boundaries a bit. The exception to this was when I was fulfilling a long-standing request.
However, I was also reminded that it always takes longer than I expect. This is an important reality-check moment. I’d hoped that I could get a new product out in about 90 minutes, based on the amount of time I’d spent doing the NaNoWriMo in November every day. I think the shortest time spent was around 2 hours, going up to 9 hours, and averaging around 3 hours total. Pat of this time was taken up with the blog post creation itself: photos, PDF packages tended to take between 45 and 90 minutes of times.
I have a tendency to equate “hard” and “new” with “worthwhile.” As a result, I think my product mix ended up being fairly diverse; I wasn’t content to just rehash old forms and concepts. This pursuit of the novel may have actually cost me sales.
Here’s a list of all the products
Single Sheet Weekly Planner Groundhog Day Resolutions Primer Horizontal Strip Calendar Mini-ETP / US BW Mini-ETP / A5 Mini-ETP / A4 and US Mini-ETP Papergraphics Design Year of Sundays Operating Principles Cards Half-Size ETP Almanac ETT for 6 Minute Timing Creative Cootie Catcher ETP Almanac BW Optimized Spaceship Trading Card Word Counting Calendar March Creative Independence Book Concept ETP Printable Planner Kit
DSLR Camera Settings Primer DSLR Camera Settings Primer Revised Explore Learn Build Share Mugs Sponsorship of Forms Sales version of CGT Update Live Design Sessions Visual Hierarchy Primer / Book Concept Dream Context Tracker Revision/Release Groundhog Day Resolutions Article Book Half-Size ETP Notebook Prototypes Explore Learn Build Share Posters Interval Graph Paper Index Card Blocks
Anchoring this list are mainstays like the Emergent Task Planner, calendars, and a few form updates. I think this is what people expect to see when they visit my website looking for tools.
A little stranger were things like the Creative Cootie Catcher, the Spaceship Trading Card, The Dream Context Tracker, and the Operating Principles Cards. These spoke more to my personal values and interests, and they got a mixed response.
Information products like the Creative Independence Book Concept, ETP Printable Planner Kit, DSLR Camera Settings Primer, Visual Hierarchy Primer, and the Groundhog Day Resolution Article Book were a new class of product for me. These got even less interest if I look at the raw numbers, but the quality of the interaction tended to be higher. I think there’s an interest there. Pursuing these are likely for April or May.
New services like the Live Design Sessions and Sponsored Downloads are exciting to me in different ways. Interest was even lower than for the Information products, but there.
Personal Branding products like the Dave Seah Mugs and Posters, on the other hand, didn’t prove popular at all. I wasn’t really pushing them as quality objects (I hadn’t seen samples), and who am I to think that people would want stuff in their house with my name prominently displayed? However, it did get me thinking about BRAND and WHAT I STOOD FOR. To what extent am I willing to use my own image in a leadership role?
What planning? I didn’t have a production list, but just spent the first few minutes of the day deciding on what I’d do.
The process went something like this:
- Sometimes, I’d get an idea based on reader response to an earlier product.
- If I was feeling particularly groggy, I would just scan my backlog in Trello. I have every idea that I want to remember in Trello, which makes it easy to be productive on-demand when I can just grab something out of cold storage.
I’m fortunate to have started this challenge after working out my 15 minutes to motivation ritual. Getting up every day for a 715AM creative independence pow-wow with my friend Brad made the “getting started” part of the challenge very easy. Because my daily routine is well set now, I’m able to start new projects at-will first-thing in the morning. Admittedly, though, starting other projects afterwards is more difficult. However, the protocol for that is to just announce to the chat room that I’m doing a “15-minute unsticking burn” and that’s usually enough to get things moving.
The big discovery is that I love making something new everyday to share. I love seeing what happens, and the daily product focus helped smooth out the anxiety of waiting. If today’s product of the day doesn’t strike a chord with anyone, then maybe tomorrow’s will. In every case, the feedback helped illuminate next steps and new possibilities. I believe that I would love to make this my job, learning building sharing every day.
I would take the weekends off, though.
To be able to do a new product every day required a fair amount of commitment, particularly since they were taking 3-4 hours of prime production time out of my day. I don’t have a lot of client work going on right now, so that happened to work out.
I also noticed a cycle of personal enthusiasm as the days went by:
- Initially, the first week was full of promise and I felt a lot of energy. I saw that people were downloading the forms, and a few readers left encouraging comments.
- By the second week, though, I started to feel a little down: there was no “kaboom” in traffic or other external indicators. While I had told myself I wouldn’t count on it, I did start to wonder if I what I was doing had any relevance in the modern blogosphere. I shook those thoughts from me and took comfort knowing I was doing something instead of sitting on my butt.
- Toward the end of the third week, I started to feel mental fatigue, which I hadn’t anticipated but wasn’t surprised by either. It seems 2-3 weeks of intense work on a project will eventually deplete my mental reserves, and then I need to be careful about reducing hours and introducing non-project activities to keep my whole nervous system from imploding. My skin gets bad, too.
- Knowing that the challenge would soon be over gave me an additional boost. Also, by this time I had made a few things that I was particularly pleased with, and I saw new ideas springing from them.
- In the last few days, I saw the collection of products I had assembled, and felt good. Some of them are pretty neat.
In terms of personal resolve, I got exactly what I needed:
- A reinforced belief in my ability to create and make daily.
- A confirmation that this is what I want to do
The concept of Creative Independence has, in my mind, passed its first real test.
I think there was perhaps an uptick in RSS readers by 200 (the current count, at around 5200 readers, is well below the peak of 13,000+ in 2010).
Daily Traffic was slightly elevated, averaging a few hundred more pageviews per day. No new referrering websites were discovered in my stats, which was a little disappointing.
I did enjoy an uptick in encouraging emails and comments, maybe a dozen. This gave me positive energy to work with, which was absolutely crucial.
There were more comments overall, though my website hasn’t been getting many comments for years. I equated this with the thought that no one was really reading anymore. However, when I was running my per-product Feedburner stats, I noticed that there were a couple hundred click-throughs per item. Even the items that had garned zero comments were getting click-throughs and downloads. I had equated 0 comments with 0 interest, but this isn’t the case. People just don’t have the time or energy to leave a comment, I’m guessing. This hypothesis piqued my curiosity about the non-product-a-day posts, and I found that the short asides, which generated zero comments, tended to have higher levels of interaction as measured by clicks. They were short, informational, and promised a result. Lesson learned!
What I’m happiest about is that I am feeling a reconnection with readers who are all doing interesting things. Food scientists, musical instrument makers, software developers, entrepreneurs, and students have all contacted me to ask a question or make a suggestion in the past 30 days. I’ve tried to respond to everyone. I’m feeling pretty good at having made new connections!
With 30 new products to develop and sell, I am reminded just how much work it is to properly display them. My website is designed for 2005 website traffic, not modern audiences, and is therefore a huge mess.
I am hereby declaring March as the Month of Marketing. I have a ton of products and ideas to show. I need to make the following much more apparent:
- What you can find to solve a particular problem
- What fun things Dave is doing that you might like too
- How to buy, download, or participate
- What longer-term engagement is available on davidseah.com if you discover I’m in your tribe of interests and values.
This is a pretty heady design problem, but it’s one that I think I’m finally ready to tackle now that I know “the Dave Seah Way” is at the root of it. I have also had a Steve Jobs-ian insight into products and selling. This will help me get over my own hangups, and I’m excited about putting into practice. More on that as the month grinds on.
I’d like to maintain the Product-a-Day Challenge, but am going to amend it to the WEDNESDAY PRODUCT OF THE DAY or something. This will give me some room to do other project work and blog about some other topics. I will, however, commit to writing a “What I Did for Marketing” every day, but will keep it the following format:
- Written to provide an Insight Immediately
- Provide a link as an example or purchase
I will also take weekends off. I need the recharge time.
So that’s the plan! Tune back in on April 4 to see how it went!
Groundhog Day Resolution Posts for 2013
Here are other posts about Groundhog Day Resolutions for the 2013 season.
- 02/02 Kickoff - Setting 30 Products in 30 days.
- 03/03 Review - The Aftermath of 30 Products in 30 Days; What's Next?
- 04/04 Review - New Website, Increasing Opportunity
- 05/05 Review - Winding down a long chain of external commitments, getting ready for a hopefully-productive month.
- 06/06 Review - Reducing Friction from internal struggle, picking the winning attitudes and tasks that produce tangible assets.
- 07/07 Review - Mid-year Review, Focusing Process
- 08/08 Review - An unexpected vacation for me, Relaxed Progress Made
- 09/09 Review - Slow progress made, but that's OK; I'm accepting the slow and mindful way!
- 10/10 Review - After a month of experimenting with early rising, I realize that prioritizing my mission of creative independence might actually be what I need to do. Duh.
- 11/11 Review - Not much progress made on Creative Independence, but I have attained a sense of surety and calm about what needs to be done--and how to approach it--while maintaining balance between external commitments and personal goals by accepting that they take time and that's OK.
- 12/12 Review - The year ends without closure, but looking back I see that I've made progress. More importantly, I believe that I'm generally on the right path.