Yeah, I know, another blog post about New Year resolutions. But one with a difference.
Everywhere you go, people are talking about their resolutions. Or why they’re not making them. Or why this year will be different from previous ones.
Many fellow parent bloggers have set targets such as going full-time, monetising their blogs, growing traffic or achieving a certain Tots100 ranking.
There’s nothing wrong with that. But that’s not me. I’m a man with a different plan.
Not ‘what’ but ‘how’
I don’t make resolutions. Haven’t done for years.
My reasons are pretty standard. If something’s important to me, I don’t wait until January to start. And I’m already trying to do most of the things that really matter.
Anyone can make a resolution with an achievable goal about what you want to do. The challenge is to have a clear plan how to do it. That’s why the diet planning industry is so lucrative – it gives you the how on a (small but expensive) plate.
The key for me is not about finding more things to do, it’s about focussing more on what matters. The last thing I need is to dilute that focus at a time when I’m already spread thinly between my existing priorities.
So have I made any New Year resolutions this year? No. But I do have a plan.
Doing more, doing less
The plan is to focus on the few key things that are important to me and to make time for them by scaling back on other activities.
From a writing perspective, I have three clear objectives.
1. Complete a first draft of my book
I announced that I would be starting a book about fatherhood six months ago, since when I’ve done some planning but little actual writing. In effect, I’ve warmed up but am still stuck on the starting blocks.
In truth, I’ve underestimated the difficulty of creating the space for this. Too often I’ve been distracted by the desire to crank out another blog post – dashing off 500 words is a much less daunting task than making inroads into a 50,000-word project, after all.
So that’s the what but how will I make the time to write my book?
I published over 250 posts on this blog in 2015, averaging around 700 words each. I’m planning on reducing that number to 200 this year. 50 fewer posts equates to 35,000 words.
I’ve also closed my TV blog and taken a six-month hiatus from the cycling site I edit and write for. That’s the equivalent of another 50 or so posts – another 35,000 words.
That means, in theory at least, I’ve freed up enough bandwidth for 70,000 words – more than enough. To stop myself from frittering away that spare time in other time-wasting activities, I’m going to allocate my regular three-hour Friday night writing block (which was spent largely on the two blogs I’ve stepped back from) as ‘book time’. That’s a reasonable start, I think.
2. Expand the podcast
I launched my own parenting podcast at the end of July. My intention was to start small while I learned the technical side of things and honed the format – initially a weekly recording with a guest blogger in which we read favourite posts.
With 20 episodes under my belt I’m now ready for the next phase, which is to build a set of regular/semi-regular contributors and expand the podcast into more of a panel/magazine show.
That means more planning, recording and editing each week – which I’m offsetting by stepping back from the other (cycling) podcast I’ve been part of for the past three years. I didn’t want to do that but something had to give.
3. The blog: whatever happens, happens
Is my aim for 2016 to make my blog bigger and better and progress on the road to world domination? No.
I love writing this blog, which I do as much for my own benefit as for the ego boost of knowing that other people read it. While it’s been gratifying to see my Tots100 ranking rise steadily (I cracked the top 100 briefly and have hovered just outside it since) and I enjoy a useful secondary income from writing for the Metro website, blogging has always been a hobby for me. Reviews, competitions, sponsored posts, giveaways: they’re just not my thing.
I do what I like because I like what I do. Blogging has never felt like a chore. When you’re not chasing page views or rankings or paid jobs – when they’re a nice-to-have rather than a must-have – that’s incredibly liberating.
This means I’m genuinely relaxed about writing fewer posts to free up time for my book. If my Tots100 ranking and page views go down as a result, so what? It will be a shame but they’re only nice-to-haves.
So I’ll write fewer posts this year. But I’m also going to make an effort to get back to writing for me again. It’s all too easy to follow the pack and write the same posts as everyone else to chase traffic or imitate the most popular blogs. I’ve fallen victim to that at times. But no more.
I’m a bit different to most other parent bloggers. And I’m a better writer when I embrace those differences – being a dad, being an analytical type, seeing the world from a slightly different angle to most people – rather than trying to conform.
I may lose some readers but I’m determined that this year the blog will reflect more of me as an individual. Whatever happens, happens. And I’ll be fine with that as long as I’m staying true to myself and my three objectives. Everything else is white noise.
What about you? Do you have any plans to do things differently this year?