Over the last five years, I have worked like a dog every day on making In The Know Traveler a success. During that time, I made some good choices and a million bad ones. Here are some of my biggest mistakes and how I fixed them, so you can avoid the same ridiculous organizing pitfalls. I have written everything from my perspective, because I know what has worked for me.
1. Not Planning
I knew I wanted to inspire people to travel and I wanted to have a million readers. I knew I wanted to make a difference and have some integrity while doing it. However, what I made up for with enthusiasm, I completely lacked in organized execution. It made working on my web site unnecessarily complicated.
How to fix it
I eventually wrote down a plan that included everything I could think of that I needed to do and what readers would need to know. I included a mission statement, topics I planned to cover, what days articles would be released, a collection of emergency articles for when life happened, and what I hoped to accomplish over the next year. The planning stage saved a huge amount of time because I didn’t have to spend time guessing at what I needed to do next as I continued to work on the site.
2. You Can’t Please Everyone, So Don’t Bother
Every time I write an article, part of me is back in high school. I want all my readers to love me and think I am cool. It’s embarrassing, but true. There have been times when I have changed my site in the hopes of making it something it was not to try to please everyone, at least a little. I discovered this confused readers and took me away from being real with people.
How to fix it
I now only write for an audience of one, me. If I am not being authentic, then I might be spewing garbage. This is why I never really trust large corporations and politicians, because they are always trying to offer what people want to hear rather than being honest about what they can really do. This kind of inauthentic communication may be one way to run a business, but it is not a way to build a real relationship with real people for a global community, which is exactly what I hope to do at Travel. Write. Live. and In The Know Traveler. It may not please everyone, but I can live with that.
My mission on ITKT is to inspire travel and promote cultural exchange.
However, I also like a good political debate, playing guitar, and books about conspiracy. There are so many thoughts to have about so many topics. Once in a while it seems appropriate to drop one of these topics into my travel site. While it made sense at the time, I now think it was a ridiculous idea. It would be like going to the store to buy a box of Ding Dongs, but all the store has is steamed brussel sprouts. It might be good for me, but it wouldn’t make sense for the reader.
How to fix it
Once I had defined my sites in 25 words or less, I had specific guidelines for the topics I could cover. Here are my definitions for In The Know Traveler: “dedicated to promoting international travel and cultural exchange,” and for Travel. Write. Live.: “The No B.S. Blog about Travel and Writing to support the creation of a better Life.” Anything outside of these margins becomes a story for another site.
4. Stagnation from Overwhelm
Let’s face it, blogging can be overwhelming. I had to teach myself Photoshop, WordPress, html, a little php, social networking, marketing, stat interpretation, how to check out the competition and model the success of others — not to mention still having family, friends, work and time to do my personal writing. It is easy to look at this huge pile of stuff and say, I am going to eat a giant sack of Ding Dongs and take a nap on the sofa.
How to fix it
I have learned to cope with the pile by doing a little everyday and making lists of small things I can easily finish and check off. Seeing what I have accomplished takes away from all that I think I have not.
5. Checking Numbers and Checking Everything Else
For brief periods (I am in one right now), I have spent too much time seeing if anyone is visiting my site , who they are, how they are doing it. Then I check my email, maybe someone wrote me something in the last thirty seconds. Maybe a Prince from Bahrain who wants to send me $75,000,000 for no reason, and writes in ALL CAPS so it must be important, is trying to reach me. This has been the single greatest time-waster, ever.
How to fix it
This is a tough nut to crack because it is easy to justify constantly checking my stats and email all the damn time, especially when I have a new site just launching. Truth is, numbers fluctuate, sometimes wildly, from day to day based upon a bunch of tech things I have no control over. I receive 150 emails a day. 149 of these emails are not really important and can wait until later in the day. Still I want to look.
I have learned to schedule Facebook, Twitter and email for twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. Ideally, I look at the numbers once at the beginning of the month. I include an hour (timed if necessary) of Facebook, Twitter and emails that require a little more attention per day. I include an hour of numbers, which is more than I need. Again, the last month has been a trying time.
Overall, these five simple rules give me more time and increase my production five-fold, which allows for more time to work on better articles and writing. It has also given me something I didn’t expect, a little piece of mind. Piece of mind that I have got myself organized to be efficient and get it all done.