Traffic Building Worksheet

Hey – I just published this over at The Blog Studio, but I’m betting a few of you might find it interesting too.

I’m a pen and paper kind of guy. Especially when it comes to tracking time and keeping lists. There’s something inordinately satisfying about checking something off. Something I don’t get with a computer.

Paper also has the benefit of portability and visibility. I’ve become addicted to using index cards to jot down notes and ideas. They’re the perfect size to fit in a pocket, don’t take up much room on my desk, and are sturdy enough to survive daily abuse. A couple of days ago I stumbled on the idea of sticking an index card in behind the last row of keys on my apple keyboard. Instant motivation! Nothing like having a constant reminder of what you’re supposed to be working on in the bottom of your field of vision at all times!

I’ve also been toying the idea of creating a system to track my traffic building/site maintenance activities for my work site and a number of client sites. What I wanted was a checklist for both things to check (ie SE ranking) and things to do (write a post, leave a comment, tweak a feature, etc). Sure I could use a spreadsheet to do this. But I have to big resistance issues with this: the first is that I don’t want another memory hogging program open all day, the second is that for me, entering data into a spreadsheet is boring. I want a system where I can easily collect a bunch of data, then batch process a bunch of that data at later date.

To that end, I whipped up The Blogger’s Traffic Building Worksheet (v0.1). This 3″ by 5″ (index card sized) form is meant to be printed out (ideally on heavier stock), cut to size, and used and abused. I’ve included spaces to track the major metrics, as well as a place to record what you did to improve your site (and track the time you spent doing it). There’s room to mark off the number of posts your wrote, as well as the number of comments you left on other sites.

I’ve designed this thing to be motivating: the odds of me making a tweak or two to the site are higher when I have a reminder to do so under my nose. My brain really likes ticking things off (just ask my wife!). It’s not the prettiest thing I’ve ever designed, but this isn’t a beauty contest. So far, I’ve found using the worksheet to be extremely effective. I hope you do too!

Download the Traffic Building Worksheet as a 1-up pdf (1 card per page)
Download the Traffic Building Worksheet as a 4-up pdf (4 cards per page)
Download the Traffic Building Worksheet in it’s OmniGraffle format

Two new blogging series at The Blog Studio

I’m running a couple of blogging series over at work, and thought some of you might be interested.

The first is called the Whoa! Factor. I’m going to explore the inevitable unexpected benefits one gets when blogging. I’m not talking touchy feel-y stuff. I’m talking new business opportunities, being asked to write a book, getting free gear, etc. I’ve got some amazing stories lined up.

Opportunities for the middle aged blog is going to be cool. In the first post, I highlighted some of the challenges and opportunities facing the more mature blog. Not blogger, you understand, but blog. Blogs that have been around for a while have some interesting opportunities, a few of which I touched on in this first post. As the series progresses, I’ll be looking at some of these opportunities in greater depth.

You may now return to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

What do I mean by "living consciously", and how can it really change the world?

Hey, good question. I’m glad you asked! Ok, so you didn’t. But this is my blog, and I can pretend all I want.

Living consciously means simply this: acting and reacting from your true inner self, not from your ego or from habit.

Easy, right? As if.

Living consciously has been my over-arching goal for a couple of years now. I didn’t call it this at first, because I wasn’t aware that it’s what I was trying to do. At first I just knew that there was too much incongruity between how I acted and how I really felt. The more I looked into that, the more I realized that much of what I did as I went through my day was a series of preset reactions to stimuli. I wasn’t really choosing what I doing. I just kind of did it, while the conscious me went along for the ride.

When I started reading up on Buddhism and other such stuff, I got totally drawn in to the concept of now. Being in the now is a way to sidestep preset reactions. If I’m in this moment, I choose how to act.

Over at, I propose that in living consciously can change the world. Now, don’t mistake me for a mystic. I’m not suggesting that the world’s problems will magically evaporate. But I am suggesting that when we live and act consciously, our actions take on a couple of new characteristics:

  • we tend not to make as much of an impact on society and the environment
  • we tend to act with more kindness and gratitude
  • we tend to value quality over quantity

As fucked as our world is at the moment (see the recent update to the Doomsday Clock), I just can’t see us getting out of this mess with the same thinking that created it. Living consciously, I believe, may offer a gateway by which sanity can prevail. Put another way, if I’m less invested in my ego, and more invested in this moment, I’ll make decisions that lead to more good, not more bad.

So that, in the colloquial nutshell, is what I mean. Living consciously is such a simple thing to do. But don’t mistake simplicity with ease. For most of us, the length of our entire lives has been spent conditioning us to act from ego. The ego clings to control with a maniacle rage, not realizing that by releasing its control, You become richer, not poorer. Getting past your ego can be one of the most challenging tasks a person can face. But I think more and more of us are feeling compelled to do so. I’ll go into the reasons why at another time.

One reason entrepreneurs gain weight

Further to my post earlier about risk vs regret comes this thought: It’s not that entrepreneurs don’t feel or fear risk. Just that we fear regret even more. So how do we manage to live with risk? Easy: booze.

Well, that’s one method, and a relatively popular one. Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed my daily alcohol intake grow from about 5 drinks per week to about 20 to 25. What with having a couple of kids, losing my old business, moving across the country, and starting over from scratch, there’s been a bit of stress. Booze has helped to make life a bit more bearable at times.

Recently though, I decided enough was enough; I was going to take a break from drinking. It took a couple of days to get over the craving I felt right around 6pm for a nice scotch. After a week, I was completely free of that need for an evening drink. I was surprised to find that I was waking up feeling more energetic and clear headed that I had in ages. My wife reported that I’d stopped snoring too – perhaps the snoring was affecting the quality of my sleep.

The big surprise though was the huge amount of weight I started to lose. I’d never really considered the caloric impact of alcohol on my diet. Sure, I know alcohol contains calories, but I never stopped to do the math. So imagine my surprise when Google told me I was consuming about 2600 calories per week in alcohol alone! That’s just three fairly small sized drinks per day folks.

What’s more, when I’m not drinking booze, I don’t eat as much. It’s much easier to walk away from a tempting morsel when you’ve got your full wits about you. I’m eating at least a hundred calories per day less now that previously. Not by any particularly difficult control of will. I’m exerting the same watch-what-I-eat effort as before. Only now it’s working.

All told, I’ve cut about 3000 calories per week from my diet, just by giving up booze. If I recall, a pound of fat contains about 3500 calories. So you can imagine the effect this is having on my body. I feel great, better than I have in a really long time.

I’m not advocating here that anyone give up alcohol. But if like me your waistline isn’t where it used to be, you may want to take a look at your drinking habits, as well as your eating habits.

So this begs the question then, if I’m not using alcohol to manage fear of risk, what am I doing? Once we’re being honest, I’ll tell you: I’m suffering a bit more than I was before. But I’m ok with that. I’ve accepted that it’s the entrepreneur’s lot. Meditation helps a whole lot, as does having a more spirit centered outlook on the world. The suffering is there, it just doesn’t matter as much as it used to.

Minimizing Regrets

Hugh Macleod recently posted a terrific list of 26 random thoughts on being an entrepreneur. It’s a great fast read, filled with Hugh’s usual mix of wit and insight.

There’s a comment on the article that really strikes a chord. A fellow named Walter Higgins writes

most people are all about minimizing risks – entrepreneurs are about minimizing regrets.

Bingo. I don’t think I’ve ever had my own attitude so wonderfully summed up. To my addled brain, life is risk. It’s un-escapable. To be paralyzed by risk is to lop a goodly portion of joy right off the top of your allotment. Personally, I’m more terrified by what might have been than by what might be. Death doesn’t scare me. Lying on my death bed wishing I’d followed a dream scares me shitless.

Maybe that’s a good indicator for one’s suitability as an entrepreneur. What’s your risk to regret ratio?

Business Blog Basics – Starts TODAY

File this under “It’s a good idea to look at your calendar”.

Andy Wibbels and I will be teaching another Business Blog Basics course starting at 3pm EST today.

The course is filled with info for those of you either new to blogging, or considering adding a blog to your marketing mix.

If you can’t make the first call, it’s ok – we record it, so you can listen to it at your convenience.

More details can be found at the course site.

The wisdom of kids

Earlier tonight, I said to Zoe, our five year old “You ok? You look tired”

“It’s my brain,” she replied. “It keeps thinking of things I have to do.”

I loved this for two reasons. First is the obvious parallel to the “to-do” paralysis that occasionally grips me. She doesn’t know how to write yet, so I can’t teach her how to create a GTD system 😉 Soon enough though, I’ll be able to help her learn about the magic of next actions.

Far more importantly though is the separation she feels from her brain. “It keeps thinking of things I have to do”. Not “I keep thinking.”

Kids get it. Her sense of self is independent of her body and brain. It’s taken me 36 years to remember that.

The Synthesist

This post is in response to something Dave Seah wrote over on his blog. Dave’s post is a deeply personal middle of the night meditation on identity. I’ll do a terrible job of paraphrasing it here:

Who am I? I know I’m not an Artist or Designer (capital indicates archetypical roles). Sure, I can make pretty pictures when called for. What I’m good at is making sense of complex inputs and outputting simpler, human digestable stories and images.

Dave discovers that his underlying internal motivation is to understand the why of things. He calls himself an Investigative Designer. He closes by saying that “I feel like I’m getting a little closer to establishing what it is that I do, even though I’m not really that much closer to figuring out how to describe it in real world terms.”

Dave’s post was the missing piece in a puzzle that’s been dancing around my head. I think I have some vocabulary that may help Dave with his description.

I’d like to present the concept of a Synthesist, and illustrate how a Synthesist works, the vital role the Synthesist plays in evolving humanity, and the duties and responsibilities that come with this calling.

Merriam-Webster defines synthesis as

a : the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole
b : the production of a substance by the union of chemical elements, groups, or simpler compounds or by the degradation of a complex compound
c : the combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole; also : the complex so formed

A Synthesist is a person who embodies these characteristics. He (I’m going to use the male pronoun for simplicity) takes disparate bits of information and weaves them to create something new. His role is to streamline and to simplify; to remove the cruft and clutter so that the end product is easily absorbable by the target human group.

The Synthesist’s role is to be a translator. He should be well versed in multiple communication standards so that he can receive the broadest possible range of inputs so that his output reflects a broad spectrum of human experience. He makes it possible for an outsider to connect with ever more fracturing cultures. He can talk the language of the Client and the Audience. He bridges multiple cultures (here I’m referring to culture in a broad sense, ie the culture of web designers, or the culture of particle physicists, or the culture of indy rock) and is able to see the links between them (even if he doesn’t consciously know it).

The Synthesist often acts at pre-conscious levels. He collects stimuli and data, constantly picking up waves of culture and society. This becomes the resource from which he creates his work. He feels when something is done just right. He knows without necessarily knowing how he knows. People in creative roles are well suited to this, as we’re often trained to work with our unconscious minds via techniques like brainstorming, priming, going with our gut, following our instincts, etc.

Synthesists are generally not the people doing cutting edge work. A Synthesist needs to be a generalist in order to fulfill his role. He needs to have a 50,000 foot view of culture. He can be immersed in various aspects of it – he needs to be in order to function. But his specialty is the bigger picture, not the nuts and bolts.

This has caused me no end of personal suffering. I’ve always longed to be the best at something. I’m quite good at a lot of different things, but I’ve lacked the genetic talent to be the best. Until I recently realized my role as a Synthesist. From a practical day to day standpoint, I have no idea what this means at this point.

Ultimately, a Synthesist’s job is to just be. He’s to follow his interest until he’s called on to act. That calling can be external (a client, an opportunity) or internal (a sudden need to do something). He’s to hone his abilities to input culture and learn how to read his own mind for cues from his unconscious brain – to make the unconscious conscious.

Being a Synthesist isn’t a paying job. Not directly. Synthesists tend to find themselves at the crossroads of cultures. They are designers, architects, writers, artists, journalists, bloggers… The Synthesist is an extremely important role at this point in our history. He’s the 97th monkey. He is a bellwether. His role in society is to act as a gateway to change. He is a signpost and a map maker.

And with that, I think I’ll get back to work!

Optimism from the Edge

The World Question Center at each year asks a broad based global scientific elite a single question. In years passed the questions have included “WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS TRUE EVEN THOUGH YOU CANNOT PROVE IT?”, “WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION IN THE PAST TWO THOUSAND YEARS?” … AND “WHY?” and so on. This year, the question is “WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY?”

There are 160 responses from some of the smartest (and occasionally controversial) folks out there. I’ve waded through the answers and have highlighted a small sampling to get you started. There’s more on the site than can be digested (or even skimmed) in a single seating, so I’ll likely come back to this subject.

What are you optimistic about?

DANIEL C. DENNETT, Philosopher; University Professor, Co-Director, Center for Cognitive Studies, Tufts University; Author, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon: The Evaporation of the Powerful Mystique of Religion

CHRIS ANDERSON, Curator, TED Conference: Systemic Flaws In the Reported World View

ALUN ANDERSON, Senior Consultant (and Former Editor-In-Chief and Publishing Director), New Scientist: The Sunlight-Powered Future

STEVEN PINKER, Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, The Blank Slate: The Decline of Violence

HOWARD RHEINGOLD, Communications Expert; Author, Smart Mobs: The tools for cultural production and distribution are in the pockets of 14 year olds

MARTIN E.P. SELIGMAN, Psychologist, University of Pennsylvania, Author, Authentic Happiness: The First Coming

KEVIN KELLY, Editor-At-Large, Wired; Author, New Rules for the New Economy: That We Will Embrace the Reality of Progress

JUAN ENRIQUEZ, CEO, Biotechonomy; Founding Director, Harvard Business School’s Life Sciences Project; Author, The Untied States of America: A Knowledge Driven Economy Allows Individuals to Lead Millions Out of Poverty In a Single Generation

JOHN GOTTMAN, Psychologist; Founder of Gottman Institute; Author (with Julie Gottman), And Baby Makes Three: When Men Are Involved In the Care of Their Own Infants the Cultures Do Not Make War

STEPHEN M. KOSSLYN, Psychologist, Harvard University; Author, Wet Mind: Human Intelligence Can Be Increased, and Can Be Increased Dramatically

LINDA STONE, Former VP, Microsoft & Co-Founder & Director, Microsoft’s Virtual Worlds Group/Social Computing Group: People Are Using Technology Effectively To Mediate Toward a Healthier Global Community

RAY KURZWEIL, Inventor and Technologist; Author, The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology: I’m Confident About Energy, the Environment, Longevity, and Wealth; I’m Optimistic (But Not Necessarily Confident) Of the Avoideance Of Existential Downsides; And I’m Hopeful (But Not Necessarily Optimistic) About a Repeat Of 9-11 (Or Worse)

ANDRIAN KREYE, Feuilleton (Arts & Ideas) Editor, Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Munich: We Will Overcome Agnotology (The Cultural Production of Ignorance) (scroll down, the link from Edge is broken)

JAMES GEARY ,Former Europe editor, Time Magazine; Author, The World in a Phrase: PCT Will Allow People To Take Individual Action to Tackle a Global Problem

KAI KRAUSE, Software and Design Pioneer: Neo-Contentism

MAX TEGMARK, Physicist, MIT; Researcher, Precision Cosmology: We’re Not Insignificant After All