Do you find yourself putting off content? Or do you feel like you don’t have enough time to produce quality content?
Instead of publishing something that’s “good enough,” maybe you take minimal action (or none at all).
There’s this fear that others will judge and label it “low-quality.”
I get it. You want to produce valuable content. There’s this inner critic that’s saying, “Nope, this isn’t good enough yet.”
But if you don’t get into the habit of publishing content NOW, how will you reach your goals?
In this post, I’m going to share:
- Insights around establishing and keeping a content creation habit.
- Overcoming perfectionism so that you can begin making actual progress.
- Why small habits lead to significant changes.
- How Beethoven’s habits made him legendary.
- And what a Harvard Linguist can teach us about making a content creation habit easy.
This will empower you to create quality content consistently and use content marketing to achieve your business goals around growth and profit.
Overcoming Perfectionism And Its False Promise Of Progress
I started learning about entrepreneurship in 2013. I had just graduated High School and, for the first time, seriously asked myself… “What do I want to do in life?”
Tim Ferriss’s 4-Hour-Workweek was my gateway into entrepreneurship.
And shortly after discovering him, I found this guy named Pat Flynn.
Pat Flynn’s brand is all about “smart passive income.”
This idea was intriguing to me at the time.
My impression was that you could create stuff and passively receive income without having to do much work. It seemed like magic.
Now, obviously it’s not that simple. But as a kid transitioning into adulthood, this seemed pretty cool!
So I began consuming Pat Flynn’s content, starting with his podcast episodes.
I began at the bottom, episode 1.
Then during episode 15, he shared how one of the best ways to get started with passive income was article writing for revenue sharing sites.
You’d create content for the site. Then depending on how much exposure you receive (and various other factors), you could end up getting a bit of passive income.
The site he recommended was InfoBarrel.
Now, this was back in 2013. I don’t recommend InfoBarrel now (and Pat Flynn wouldn’t either). Medium is the top site for this nowadays.
Since I was young and the idea of passive income was appealing (and the allusive promise of quick money), I naturally gave it a shot.
I created a couple of articles. Looked at my dashboard. And said to myself… “This stuff doesn’t work.”
I was starting college. So I decided to give up on creating content and focus my energy on schoolwork.
I’d intermittently re-visit content throughout college and occasionally write on social media or in forums like Quora.
Again, no spectacular results surfaced.
It wasn’t until after graduating college when I started to see the error of my ways.
This was 2019 and 2020.
As I started to look at entrepreneurship and value creation more seriously, it became obvious.
If I wanted to become successful, I needed to be consistent.
The standard advice was, “you just need to be disciplined.” Hustle.
Yes, this is true. But it’s a simple truth.
How can you ACTUALLY do it?
The answer came when I listened to a Tim Ferriss podcast episode with Scott Adams.
Scott Adams has a popular saying: “Losers have goals. Winners have systems.”
After this idea marinated in my mind a bit, I realized the cause of my problem.
I was too focused on the outcome, which ironically prevented me from getting ideal results.
What I needed to do was focus on the system. In other words, I needed to build quality habits.
By focusing on the outcome, I was becoming too idealistic. Perfectionism.
In 2020, I became increasingly aware of this perfectionism mentality inside of myself.
I wanted to overcome it. So I did something that I was deathly afraid of at the time.
A 30-Day Facebook Live Challenge.
I had a small group and decided for 30-days to jump on a Live Video and just riff on a topic.
This did a few things:
- I couldn’t script out what I wanted to say because Facebook Live is more improvisational. You can have an outline or structure, but you can’t fully script it out in-detail.
- I had to show up every day, even if I wasn’t confident in the quality of my idea. And this helped me break through this “perfectionism barrier” holding me back from creating content consistently.
Once a habit is established and you gain more experience, your confidence naturally increases.
And you become less resistant towards taking action.
It’s validating when someone consumes some of my content and shares how it’s impacted them.
And I attribute any impact I have to the habits I’ve been able to establish.
Why Small Habits Lead To Big Changes
“You should be far more concerned with your current trajectory than with your current results.” — James Clear
There’s a species of bamboo that doesn’t grow much for 3–5 years. It’s barely visible.
During this time, it’s building an elaborate root system. But once its root system is established, it can shoot up to 90 feet in just 6 weeks.
Without its root system, this growth wouldn’t be possible.
I find this anecdote powerful for habit formation.
This foundation is your habits. And your habits set the trajectory for whether or not you’ll attain your goals.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains why small habits make a huge difference.
He emphasizes the importance of getting 1% better each day. In the short-term, growth isn’t noticeable.
But here’s what happens over a year:
1% better every day for one year: 1.01³⁶⁵ = 37.78
In other words, engaging in a quality habit every day can result in you becoming 37 times better by the end of the year.
Quality habits are the compound interest of growth and improvement.
How impactful can your content become if you got 1% better each day?
How would your quality of content improve?
And how would this impact your business success?
Great content marketing is a matter of building habits that allow you to consistently create high-value content … and leveraging this to grow your brand.
How To Create Permanent Change: Identity-Based Habits
The biggest challenge is keeping a content creation habit long enough to start seeing some progress.
I’m currently writing this article in January. It’s time for people to make “New Years Resolutions.”
But I can’t stop thinking about how many people will fall back into old patterns after a couple of months (despite their initial surge of motivation).
Now I’m not joking or poking fun. I used to do this, so I know this pattern all too well.
Unless you get lucky, success doesn’t come immediately. And even if it does… would you have the skills and resources to sustain it?
So to ensure that success is inevitable and sustainable, we’ll need to make a habit permanent. And then improve it over-time.
One of the biggest insights I had reading Atomic Habits was that permanent changes occur when a habit becomes rooted in your identity.
We typically want to get the results without having to change who we are as people.
It’s easier that way.
Imagine someone wanting to eat healthier. So they begin thinking of habits that’ll help them achieve this.
Maybe they learn some recipes. Get some supplements. Create a meal-prepping schedule. And any other method that supports a healthy eating lifestyle.
But despite having good intentions and cultivating a specific routine that allows them to eat healthier, let’s say they don’t see themselves as the type of person who eats healthy.
It’s not “who they are” yet.
If there’s a conflict between the habit they want to develop and their self-concept, then making this a permanent habit is unlikely.
This is like walking into a donut shop and asking, “What item on the menu is the healthiest?”
Someone looking for a healthy item to eat at a donut shop has an inner conflict between the actions they want to take… and how they actually themselves.
Every time you complete a habit, you’re casting a vote for the type of person you want to become.
And awareness of this is powerful.
Because now you can get to the cause (instead of fiddling with the effects).
Changing your identity is causal. It has a ripple effect. It can impact our beliefs, values, capabilities, behaviors, and environment.
So the overarching process for permanent change is:
- What result do you want?
- What type of person do you need to become for you to achieve this result?
- What actions and habits reinforce this identity or self-concept of yourself?
This is easier said than done. So if you read till the end, I’ll share a practical way to start doing this successfully for your content.
Beethoven’s Habits Made Him Legendary
Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most influential composers in the history of Western music.
His achievements as a composer and pianist far outrank most artists of the classical music repertoire.
He wrote for wealthy patrons and also earned money from public concerts.
His accomplishments include writing 32 piano sonatas, 9 symphonies, 5 piano concertos, 1 opera, and some ground-breaking string quartets.
How was he able to create so much value?? The answer is found in his habits.
Here’s a glimpse into his daily routine.
He typically rose at dawn and would prepare coffee for himself. He had a quirky habit of using exactly sixty coffee beans per cup.
He’d then be at his workstation till about 2 or 3 pm. He regularly went on walks outdoors to take breaks (which would aid his creativity).
After his midday dinner, he’d embark on a long walk, carrying a pencil and a couple of sheets of music paper in his pocket when inspiration struck.
Evenings were often spent with company or at the theater.
He’d rarely work on his music in the evening and would get to bed at a reasonable time (no later than 10:00 pm).
His daily actions reinforced the type of person he wanted to be.
He got 1% better each day. And the result?
Becoming one of the greatest composers of all time.
His habits, throughout his lifetime, made him a legend.
What Research Says About Permanent Change
How can we start (or improve) our content marketing processes so that online growth and profit are inevitable?
Here’s a common roadblock people face when creating content. Perhaps you can relate.
You get a surge of motivation.
The notion of using content marketing to build your business becomes exciting. So you go all in.
You spend multiple hours each day creating content. Maybe you do this for a couple of weeks or a month.
Suddenly… your surge of motivation begins dissipating. You’re not getting results fast enough.
Then all of a sudden, your motivation dies.
And your habit with it.
In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains that one of the biggest bottlenecks for developing permanent habits is caused by it being “too hard.”
This is rooted in human nature.
We’re wired to conserve energy. And we’ll usually take the path that requires the least amount of effort.
In 1949, Harvard linguist George Kingsley Zipf proposed the Principle Of Least Effort. It’s also referred to as Zipf’s law.
Interestingly enough, the context of Zipf’s law comes from the study of linguistics. And it’s been extrapolated to other domains of study since.
Zipf noticed that the evolution of language followed this rule of least effort.
C.M. Millard, Author of A Biography of the English Language, explains this principle well:
“One explanation for linguistic change is the principle of least effort. According to this principle, language changes because speakers are ‘sloppy’ and simplify their speech in various ways. Accordingly, abbreviated forms like math for mathematics and plane for airplane arise. Going to becomes gonna because the latter has two fewer phonemes to articulate. . . . On the morphological level, speakers use showed instead of shown as the past participle of show so that they will have one less irregular verb form to remember.
“The principle of least effort is an adequate explanation for many isolated changes, such as the reduction of God be with you to good-bye, and it probably plays an important role in most systemic changes, such as the loss of inflections in English.”
That being said, James Clear proposes a simple solution when forming a habit.
“Make it easy.”
If you only post content once a month, it’ll be too challenging to create 5 articles a week. It’s not realistic or sustainable.
That’s kind of like expecting to take your car from 0 to 100 in a second. Not only is it unrealistic, but you also place additional and unnecessary stress on your car and its engine.
This is where a powerful tactic comes into play.
The Two-Minute Rule: Build Content Habits From The Ground-Up
James Clear recommends a tactic called the “two-minute rule.”
The basic idea is that you make a habit as easy as possible for your current skill and resources level.
Start with a two-minute habit. And improve from there.
Let’s say you want to read more so that you have more source material for your content.
Instead of reading an entire book in a week, start reading a couple of minutes each day first. Once this is a habit, iterate and expand on it.
The same thing goes for any aspect of your content creation process that you want to improve upon.
How can you make it as easy as possible?
If you’re like me, then you may have some objections to this. Most of my protests stemmed from the “all or nothing” approach.
If you go from exercising 0 minutes each day and then try to work out for 1 hour each day… you won’t last long.
It’s more productive to make the habit easy first. So instead of exercising for 1-hour daily, you could start with 10 or 20 pushups every day.
“But Colton, 10–20 pushups won’t help me reach my goals.”
You’re technically correct in the short-term.
And with a perfectionist mentality, you’re tempted to start with an ambitious habit. I speak from personal experience.
But the downfall to this approach is that you’ll never create a long-term habit.
A more productive approach is to focus on shifting your self-concept.
10–20 pushups may not give you the immediate outcome you want… but doing it every day will reinforce the identity of someone who exercises every day.
And once your identity has shifted, it’s much easier to iterate and improve your habit.
Being on the right trajectory is more valuable than fixating on the current outcome.
Now It’s Your Turn: Make Your Content Creation Habits Easy
Your content habits form the foundation for mastery.
1% improvements each day allow you to build your content creation skills.
And when used strategically, you can leverage this to build your audience and brand… generating more growth and profit.
This checklist will help you get started with content (or improve an existing habit).
- What result do you want? And how do you want the content to impact your business?
- How much content do you need to create every week?
- What type of person do you need to become to achieve this?
- What actions and habits reinforce this identity or self-concept of yourself?
- What’s the easiest way to start developing these habits right now? What’s realistic given your current level of skills and resources? Make it 2-minutes each day if you have to.
The goal of this checklist is to elicit some ideas to begin implementing a content habit now.
If the habit is too intimidating, perhaps scale it down a bit. Make it easier.
If the habit is so easy that it’s laughable, perhaps make it slightly more challenging.
What did you come up with?
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