As 2020 comes to a close, and 2021 begins, some folks may be thinking about New Year's Resolutions. True, 2020 has brought a different of circumstances. Still, it's an easy conversation topic at this dark, dry time of year. “Got any New Year's resolutions?” folks ask. “I'm going to start a podcast!” you might say, or “I'm going to work on my podcast more often!”
How beautiful that optimism is: as bright as the shine from a disco ball, as shiny as a freshly poured flute of champagne. We need optimism, and everyone should dream big. When it comes to New Year's resolutions that work, though, you need specificity, practicality, and enjoyment. Podcasters are no exception. Just because you got an amazing new microphone or another sweet piece of kit for Christmas or Hannukah, that's not enough to build good habits.
Of course you want your podcast to be great, and you want to work on it more efficiently, creatively, and so on. It's easier to stick to a New Year's resolution that is specific, rather than a broad one. Instead of saying, “I'm gonna work on my podcast more,” how about saying, “I will:
- spend 15 minutes every night writing my episode plans in a journal.
- try a different technology to record interviews, which I haven't used before, and see if that makes my work easier.
- remodel my podcast website.
- try out different audience growth strategies.
Something specific and clear is easier to do, especially if you're feeling gloomy from post-holiday letdown.
Be honest with yourself.
See how all those examples above are actionable? A goal that is a verb, rather than a noun, is more in your control. A goal that's a noun is more slippery. Again, dreaming big is great, but dreaming realistically is more likely to give you results.
For example: “I'm going to get David Tennant to be a guest on my podcast to perform a dramatic reading of my cousin Stephanie's poetry about toaster ovens, and all the Tennantheads will tell everyone about my podcast and I'll be famous.”
Hmm. Well, “get ” is a verb, but all of this depends on David Tennant being available, interested, and willing to participate in your podcast, and read Stephanie's toaster oven poetry. Even if his agent does return your call, and if David Tennant does show up and record himself reading the poetry, you have to wonder if his PR team will promote your podcast to the Tennant fans. Then you have to wonder if they'll listen, and if they'll like it enough to share with others. That's a lot of “ifs.”
Or, you could say, “I'm going to study and practice better mic technique for 15 minutes a day, so I can sound more professional and confident when I read Stephanie's poetry about toaster ovens on my podcast.” See how this is a New Year's Resolution that's within your control?
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Make it enjoyable.
In his book The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg points out that habits don't stick unless there's an immediate pleasurable effect in the habit itself. Think in terms of adding to your life, not subtracting. For example, if you want to have a healthier diet, which feels better: adding more fresh fruit and veg to your plate, or taking away chips? Drinking more water, or cutting out soda? Let's say you already like to read. Pick up some books about podcasting, instead of spy novels or whatnot. If you're concerned about growing your podcast audience, curl up in a comfy chair with Podcast Growth: A Book About Growing Your Podcast Audience. If you go for a walk regularly, use EditPoint to listen to your sound files and take notes while getting some fresh air. Make New Year's resolutions that are fun, and you're more likely to actually do them.
Change is good.
Try listening to podcasts that you've never heard before. If you tend to listen to shows like Entrepreneur on Fire, try Meditation Minis. If you tend to listen to The Goop Podcast, try Creepy. Think about how these different shows use sound to create an audio experience. Listen to how they do what they do, and figure out what you can learn from that. You don't have to like these podcasts, or even subscribe. Just try something completely different, as a New Year's resolution, and listen for how the podcast works. When you notice what tools and techniques these new shows use, write them down in a swipe file.
What's your story?
In Redirect: Changing The Stories We Live By, Timothy D. Wilson suggests that we can change our habits by changing the stories we tell ourselves about those habits. His prescription is to write down our life stories, look at how we write about the habits we want to change, and then rewrite our stories in a new light. I think it doesn't even have to be that complex (though his logic is airtight). We tell ourselves negative stories all the time. “I don't have time to go to the gym today because I'm too busy.” “I can't host my podcast on a media host because that costs too much.” “I can't get people to listen to my podcast because everybody is looking at Facebook.”
Start taking apart these “I can't because,” statements, and start thinking about “can” statements. “I can listen to podcasts while I'm at the gym.” “I can find out which media host has great features that make the cost worth while.” “I can engage Facebook users by using audiograms.”
Reframing negative narratives by having positive conversations is what #LetsTalk2021 is all about. This contest is tailor-made to give podcasters support and resources to launch a podcast. If you're feeling stuck, this opportunity can help.
When all else fails, ask for help.
If you're looking at the depths of winter and wishing you could make your podcast better, but don't know how, ask for help. There are Facebook groups and Twitter hashtags, event meetups, and conventions. Some libraries have podcasting workshops. Working on a project with a like-minded soul can give you fresh perspective. If someone tries to make small talk about New Year's resolutions with you, you can always say, “I don't know: I need to change my approach to working on my podcast. What do you think?”
Podcasting takes planning, consistency, and work. It can be a bit lonely. if you feel like you could use some support and resources, take a look at The Podcast Host Academy. There, you'll find resources, courses, videos, and Weekly Live Q&A sessions, to help you improve your skills and make your podcasting habit much more enjoyable.