Too Much Content? (How to Know When Less is More)

In May, I started a challenge with myself to write, record, and release a new song every Friday for three months. The 12 songs would make up my 8th album, “Void of Gray.” After eight weeks, I’m calling it quits! I’m throttling back my releases to monthly instead of weekly. Why?

The Stats Don’t Lie

The first week of my song-a-week challenge, my open rate was 27% and click-through-rate was 8.5%. Pretty good!

But week by week, both of these metrics gradually dropped off. Last week (week 8), the open rate was 17%, and click-through rate was 3.2%.

(My overall list averages a 26.4% open rate and 6.2% click-through rate.)

There are a number of factors…

Overload. I assume most of the drop-off can be attributed to inbox overload. Even the best newsletters get lost in my inbox, and I regularly purge my subscriptions. The flip side is that only 0.8% of my subscribers unsubscribed over the 8 weeks. So my audience seems okay with the weekly update.

Song choice. Last week’s song was a re-release of an earlier demo my list had heard before. Maybe a lot of them just didn’t care to hear the new version. But the two prior weeks had been brand new songs (two of the best I’ve ever written), and the open and click-through rates of those songs had still dropped compared to previous weeks.

Summer. I started my challenge at the beginning of May and it’s now the beginning of July. Maybe people are just on vacation and have checked out for a while. Could be.

But the biggest problem…

My list wasn’t growing. I had been hoping to generate buzz by releasing a new song every Friday. But it didn’t feel like I was. Perhaps I needed to go a few more weeks or months for the challenge to gain momentum. But I doubt it.

The Marketing Factor.

When you release great content with great frequency, something has to give. For me, I found I didn’t have any time to market my content. I just didn’t have time to write, record, mix, master, publish, and promote my music. And so my audience was barely growing.

Not only that, but other areas of my life fell out of balance.

  • I started an awesome new morning routine, but I wasn’t getting enough sleep.
  • I relieved stress by getting outside and going fishing, but then I fell behind on other projects.
  • I couldn’t devote as much time as I’d like to my health or personal development.

Focus vs Balance

If you try to focus on everything, it’s impossible to focus on anything. But if you spend all of your time and energy on just one thing, your life is going to fall out of balance.

I want to be effective, not just efficient. I want to focus on quality, not just quantity. I want to reach Level 10 success in every area of my life, not just one.

Odds & Ends

Outsourcing. You could argue that I could have just hired someone else to do the mixing and mastering of my music. That would have saved me about 10 hours a week that I could have devoted to keeping the rest of my life in balance.

There are two problems though… 1) I’m sort of a control freak when it comes to how my songs sound. I probably need to let go of this anyways. But 2) Paying someone to mix & master 4-5 songs a month would be insanely expensive. ($1,500 x 52 weeks in the year = $78,000/year).

I’m doing the best I can with what I have, and trying to do better every day. If I can get better in any area of my life every day, I call that success.

The Morning Crescendo

If you wake up early enough, you’ll catch it.

This morning it was 4:30am. I was up just in time to hear the earliest bird go through vocal warmups. Just one single bird doing lip rolls.

As you sit quietly in the dark, meditate on one single phrase to purge the excess clutter from your mind. Mine was “Be still and know that I am God.”

Once you’ve got that down, drop the phrase and focus on nothing but your breathing. It should shortly feel natural and effortless.

Now, let go even further, roll your mind forward and simply listen. You should notice the dull hum of electricity or the breath of water in pipes.

Occasionally the fridge will kick on for a few minutes, but don’t lose focus on the overall noise level.

As the fridge drops back out again, take note as more birds join the dawn.

I’ve noticed the most fascinating thing… As the dim glow of dawn grows ever brighter, the noise of life grows louder. This is what I call the Morning Crescendo.

The birds steadily grow louder and their songs bolder. They start singing rounds and canons, and slowly add additional parts. Then neighbors begin stirring. More cars hit the road now, and however distant, you can hear the buzz of traffic grow louder and more noticeable.

In an apartment, you can hear neighbors brushing teeth and scurrying off to work. Slamming doors. Footsteps down stairs and alleys. The shutting of trucks and car doors. Engines that rev and then trail off. Then busses and trash trucks and planes.

And then maybe members of your own family. Stirring in bed, pacing the floor above your heard, getting dressed and making breakfast before carrying out groggy smalltalk. Morning is here and on a scale of 10, the noise level of life is set somewhere between 9 and 11 until close to midnight.

It’s no wonder why many of the worlds most celebrated writers, thinkers, and inventors rose early and accomplished their best work before the crescendo begins.

A New Routine

Today, I set in motion a change in routine and habits I hope will cement itself as part of my life in perpetuity. It started in the bathtub last night as I listened to a podcast with Erik Fisher about breakthroughs, setting goals, and creating time boundaries. As history will testify, I’ve never been good with schedules. But I do have big goals, like living a life independent of time and money. And to become independent of time, I will first learn to submit to time and structure my day more efficiently.

I set the alarm for 7:30am and made a schedule as follows…

7:30am – Bible
7:45am – Workout
8:15am – Shower
8:30am – Breakfast
9:00am – Write
9:30am – Work
10:30am – Practice
11:30am – Create
12:30pm – Lunch
1:00pm – Nap
1:30pm – Work
3:30pm – Breathe
5:30pm – Dinner
6:30pm – Free
10:30pm – Bed

I want to start my day with energy and inspiration, so the Bible and a workout where I listen to an inspirational podcast or audio book are essential. Then, I need to shower and eat breakfast… these are necessary burdens of living life. But some of my best ideas come in the shower. And I’ve never felt quite right throughout my day without taking a shower first.

I’ve scheduled 30 minutes to write. I want to spend this writing in my journal (this) and freewriting. If I stimulate my creative-side first, it should journey with me the rest of the day.

I then have an hour set aside for work. You wouldn’t think an hour is sufficient for doing work, but I envision that if I’m able to focus on some important task for one hour, I will get more done racing against the clock and working distraction-free.

At the end of this hour, I want to practice my music for an hour, and then spend an hour creating. Maybe songwriting or recording or shooting video. In reality, I’d prefer to do all of this before any sort of work. But every time I’ve tried, I’m distracted by a feeling of guilt that prevents me from reaching peak creativity. That’s why I’ve scheduled a one-hour blitz for work prior to this creative time.

I’m not good at waking up early, so I imagine rising nearly 3 hours earlier than usual will be a challenge. To refresh my mind midday, I’ve scheduled a nap after lunch. This should be no longer than 20 minutes (according to psychological studies I’ve read) but I’ve scheduled a half hour because I am terrible at falling asleep.

After waking from my nap, I want to spend another 2 hours working without distraction. This will likely be set to a pomodoro timer (25-minute intervals with 5 minutes of rest in between) to keep me working with a sense of urgency. If you can’t accomplish all your day’s work in 3 hours or less, you’re working harder than you should be, and not as smart as you could be.

After I’ve finished my work, I’ve scheduled two hours labeled “Breathe.” I hope to spend this time meditating, reading if the weather is crappy, or otherwise getting outside and walking, exploring or fishing. This is a time to decompress from all my efforts and rejuvenate my mind.

My evening will be spent preparing and eating dinner with my fiancé for an hour and then the next 4 hours with her either dating, relaxing, or doing something fun with friends.

Knowing myself, I require 7-8 hours of sleep per night (the more, the better). I find this crucial to my health, wellbeing, and to ensuring I have a fresh mind able to create each day. I’ve scheduled to get in bed by 10:30. It bears repeating, I’m terrible at falling asleep. So I’ll spend some time in bed reading something light, preferably fiction, although I rarely read anything but nonfiction. But I’m currently enjoying “Roughing It” by Mark Twain, and this sort of reading puts my mind at ease and has been helping me to fall asleep faster. I’ve found nonfiction in bed get my wheels turning, and once turning, they’re very hard to stop.

This is all fine and fancy, but now I’m in my first day of implementing this routine. I woke at 7:25 but fell back to sleep before I could even sit up and woke again at 8:25. I know, disappointing, but it’s still progress. Aside from that, my morning routine went well. Everything is slightly delayed because of waking up late and also spending a half hour vacuuming the apartment (which before today, I’ve rarely found the time to do).

So although my new routine is already off-schedule, I’m planning to right my wrongs and start again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that. In truth, starting isn’t starting. A baby step is only walking if you continue to take additional baby steps. And even then, you’re still a long way from running.

Most my journal entries will be private (on my iPad), but I felt this entry had some useful points and that by posting it publicly, I might be more inclined to stick with this new routine.

The Problem With Numbers

The problem with numbers is they feel so good. It feels good to have 6 retweets or 3,000 followers or 20,000 emails on your list. It even feels good to have numbers in your bank account. But feeling good is dangerous.

Feeling good doesn’t create anything. It doesn’t encourage us to risk or explore. Sadly, feeling good sedates us. It lures us into a sad state of complacency.

Stop looking at numbers and start creating true art. Art that tells a story, art that resonates. Naturally, the numbers will be there. They’ll probably even grow exponentially. But numbers aren’t the goal. Making something that matters is.

Tides of Success

I get so tired of trying to be “better,” dream “bigger,” and do more. Some days, all I crave is peace and rest.

Is it normal to feel this way?

Maybe success comes in like a tide. Highs and lows that wash some of the shore away while uncovering new and beautiful treasures.