Earlier this year I went on a diet and lost about 25 pounds in 10 weeks. Maybe that doesn’t sound that impressive in the age of “Biggest Loser” — but I was proud, because it was something I’d never had much luck with before. When I thought about why I was successful this time when I’d failed so often in the past, I realized that running this blog had taught me a great deal about what it takes to diet successfully. And I’ve become convinced that reverse is also true: If you can understand the principles behind a diet, you can understand how to run a successful blog.
I’m not saying the two are exactly alike — but running a blog and sticking to a diet contain a lot of the same challenges. At their hearts, each is a game of discipline, patience and self-knowledge.
- You’ve got to know what you really need. I gave up meat in 2002. Dieting is hard; dieting with a supplemental food restriction is a cruel cosmic joke. But it also means that I need to pay attention to the amount of protein I eat. That means I have positive goals each day, instead of just worrying about making a mistake. Too many new bloggers (and dieters) focus entirely on the negative. What if I eat too many carbs? What if I write a lame post and everyone laughs at me? The answer to both is the same: You’ll wake up tomorrow and you’ll try again. But the only way you’re going to have the strength for that second attempt is if you focus on what you really need to do, instead of worrying about what you need to avoid. Get your vitamins; eat your fiber. Engage with your community and show a little thought leadership. I’m not suggesting that fat and typos don’t matter. But if you focus on what you need to get done, you’ll feel better and you won’t sweat the mistakes as much.
- You’ve got to have goals for every stage. Someday, I’d like to be a famous writer who weighs less than he did in high school. Today, I’ll settle for being a guy who lost a few ounces and wrote a blog post you shared with all your friends. Both those sets of goals are important, but they’re not the most important. People who only say “Someday, I’d like to …” never do. If you only think about the end result — whether its sales leads or a slim waist — everything else feels too daunting. People who only say, “Today, I’ll settle for …” never do any better. You keep yourself from building momentum and taking advantage of strategic possibilities. You need a medium focus to help keep you on the path to success. The goals in the middle are the ones that keep you accountable and keep you on the road to “someday.” Make those intermediate promises to yourself. Write them down. Tell friends who are going to nag you about them later. Have goals for every stage and stick to them.
- You’ve got to measure, but not too much. I used to weigh myself every day and check the click rates for this blog every free moment I had. I wanted to know if I was winning or not. But here’s the thing about measuring progress: It can only help you with decisions you’re going to make, not the one’s you’ve already made. Checking to see if a post is doing well won’t change the quality of that post — and weighing myself every morning won’t change what I had for dinner last night. Now I only weigh myself once a week, right before I go grocery shopping. And I check my clicks when I’m sitting down to think about my editorial plan for the next week. I measure when there’s a chance that the information can help me make good decisions and not when it will just stress me out.
- You’ve got to take a balanced approach. I’ve met fat vegans and chubby aerobics instructors. These people are walking testaments to the fact that diet or exercise alone can’t get the job done. With blogging, the false choice is between content creation and promotion. You can’t just hit “publish” on your post and then walk away. You’ve got to be willing to work it a little bit and promote your content through other social media channels. And the reverse also holds true: If your blog doesn’t have enough great content on it, no amount of hype is going to draw people in.
- You’ve got to do it your way. I’ve walked 100 kilometers in a single day. But if I sound like someone with even an ounce of willpower it’s only because you’ve never seen me confronted with pie. Or cake. Or anything even a little chocolaty. The point is, I have strengths and weaknesses and so do we all. Social media types love to talk about the importance of authenticity — but that’s really putting the cart before the horse. Before you can be true to yourself, you’ve got to know what you’re working with. Know what kinds of content are a natural fit for you and play to those strengths.
- You’ve got to commit. We’ve all seen the spiral before: There’s a flurry of blog posts and self promotion … then fewer posts … then a break, followed by an apologetic post promising more updates soon … followed by eternal silence. You’ve seen the same thing happen with yo-yo dieting friends, I’m sure. In both case, consistency is what wins the war. You have to make your new project — whether its a blog, a diet or anything else — a priority and stick with it. You’re not going to triumph with one great post or one super low-cal day. You probably won’t see results today or tomorrow, but you’ve still got to keep plugging away. The good news is that if you do it right, a project like a blog or a diet isn’t a chore you can’t wait to finish. It becomes a inseparable part of your daily life.
Image Credit: evirgen, via iStock Photo