What’s in the Podcast…
I was not always a person who enjoyed the predictability and structure that things like calendars or to-do lists provided. I used to thrive on improvisation in everything. I wanted to always feel like I was falling into the next decision, as a journey from one fork to the next. I wanted my life to play like a Dave Brubeck Quartet song where the compositions deviate from standard time just to fall back to the rhythm of the drums keeping time. I figured the best way to find value was through experiences that were left to organically produce themselves. And I still don’t think this is a wrong way to materialize moments, but by no means is it sustainable. I was not always a person who enjoyed the predictability and structure that things like calendars or to-do lists provided. I used to thrive on improvisation in everything. I wanted to always feel like I was falling into the next decision, as a journey from one fork to the next. I wanted my life to play like a Dave Brubeck Quartet song where the compositions deviate from standard time just to fall back to the rhythm of the drums keeping time. I figured the best way to find value was through experiences that were left to organically produce themselves. And I still don’t think this is a wrong way to materialize moments, but by no means is it sustainable. Enter Pocket Progress…
As age begins running parallel with your intentions towards life, you notice that it runs just a little faster than your improvisational, gut-instincts might. That’s where structure begins to make sense. Being a visual person, I gravitated towards lists, as it allows me to visualize the tasks ahead and see the achievements that have already been crossed out or checked-off. Gives me a progress report of sorts. However, I came to efficiency/productivity structure through writing. It wasn’t until I actually began writing where I fell in love with the concept of storyboarding and outlining. To lay out dozens of notecards of scenes, chapters, or just ideas across a table, mix-and-match possibilities, and then have a guideline to give my improvisational brain a through-line to fall back on unlocked so many doors. It was not this stifling, constraining box that I thought it would be, but instead let me play around the boundaries and get even more creative while knowing where the finish line was and a fundamental schema of how to get there.
Now I use all methods of lists, maybe I have gone overboard with them. I have work calendars, personal, and family ones. I have daily task lists, monthly ones, and even yearly task lists that all build within and without each other. I have habit tracking apps, workout schedules, and everything in-between. However, my favorite technique is one I like to call Pocket Progressions, or making pockets of progress.
The way to utilize pocket progress is solely an attempt to deconstruct a larger goal or idea into steps or tasks that will chip away at the overarching goal. Think of the Hero’s Journey paradigm. You cannot ever return the elixir if you never had a call to adventure or crossed the threshold earlier on in your journey. It’s a similar thing. Pocket progress is paving the road to show you how you reach the ending. It’s showing you what you need to do and ingredients to get in order to return with that elixir.
For the sake of example here, I am going to use the Pocket progress template I used when starting this podcast. The ultimate goal was creating a weekly Podcast that was offering something that felt fresh and yet something I felt passionate about exploring weekly. From there, you could just say “go do it” but that is not really telling me what to do.
I can easily become overwhelmed with questions like:
- How do I get guests to interview?
- How do I cold call people?
- What equipment can I use?
- How do I edit a show?
- What’s the name or logo going to be?
- Where do I get that podcasty music?
This list could go on-and-on and become more and more undefined for the answers. Shortly thereafter, for me, I am giving up and thinking about another project because I’ve been thoroughly overwhelmed by too many unknowns. That’s if I haven’t deconstructed the end game. Let’s filter this same “I want to make a Podcast” through the Pocket progress system. I’ll have visual examples to all of this over at the blog, but I’ll do my best to illustrate it through my words here.
First we write down the title of the page, which is the want. In this case it is Podcasting. Now we begin building small subheadings to this title of different sections of what it means to podcast. I usually try to limit this to between 5-10. I think any less than 5 and you haven’t really stretched your imagination to what you can do with the project and any more than 10 and in my practice usually there is some overthinking and getting ahead of yourself going on at that point. So for the example of Podcasting here we have subheadings for:
From here I will create five small lists or “pockets” that contain exactly 5 actionable tasks within them. This way I have clearly defined and obtainable goals that answer the desperate parts of my ultimate goal. So let’s break this down one by one. This feels almost mathematical, but bear with me.
- Find 25-50 emails for guests that interest me to have on the show.
- Create a list of 15 topics to discuss and explore through the show.
- Develop a pitch email, 300 words or less to send to guests.
- Create written posts that can be converted into podcast episodes based on the 15 topics found.
- Aggregate 10 guests scheduled/interviewed before publishing the podcast.
- Learn and practice editing a podcast.
- Create or hire someone to design a podcast cover and logo.
- Research 5 of your favorite podcasts and what equipment they use, try to mix-and-match to stay within a budget of $300.
- Find a friend to produce theme music, outro music, and transitional music for the podcast.
- Research and pick podcast hosting.
- Create a brand and blog around the podcast theme or name.
- Repurpose the podcast content into articles, videos, and social posts.
- Discover 5 good hashtags and 5 good reddit communities to publish podcasts to weekly
- Create a piece of merchandise for guests as a gift and way for them to advertise the podcast beyond just their episode
- Test copy and demos with google and facebook ads with a budget of $250.
- Find 3-5 friends to interview to practice techniques and listen back to self.
- Test out 2-3 different variations of names and artworks for the podcast.
- Produce 3 test episodes, testing 3 different formats of the podcast to get feedback from friends/family.
- Do not publish until there’s a backlog of 8 episodes.
- Create a small list of the next quality upgrade to what I have now (software/hosting/transcription services/etc) and how much this next step will cost
- Discover sustainable numbers for podcasts. Average listeners, smallest number to monetize, etc.
- Learn to build show notes out to effectively engage SEO opportunities
- Create list of 10 things that are working and 10 that aren’t after the first 6 weeks
- Analyze questions asked and research 50 new ones to mix into interviews
- After 6 months of episodes, evaluate growth and decide options for moving forward to next upgrade.
These aren’t perfect goals. Some of them I stretched myself on, others can go into multiple categories, and for some categories I wanted to trail out far beyond just 5 items, but that’s why I believe this is such an effective structure. For me, as soon as the workload gets too large, which something like this easily can, it becomes harder and harder to get through the tasks. On top of that, I find that I will completely cheat on my own system. If this was hopscotch, and we made 50 blocks to jump instead of just 10, I’d be the sour-sport that chooses to walk over 1 through 24 to get to 25, because that jump seems easier to accomplish than the others. I’d start picking and choosing what felt easy or most enjoyable to do in that moment, and I’d procrastinate the harder or more uncomfortable goals. In this example, it may be easier for someone to find a podcast hosting website they like, rather than start with asking friends to help you produce music or design your cover, so you skip to that one first, but then you find it is harder to go back to those other tasks. That’s why there’s a limit to 5, and that’s why I’d urge you to go from 1 to 5. Use the Warren Buffet mentality and just write down the priorities of each group as they come to you, then go down the list that way— regardless of difficulty. It’ll teach you structure and overcoming difficulties to reach easier tasks. After all, when you reach into your pocket, usually you pull out whatever is on top first, otherwise the thing on the bottom causes everything above to spill out all over the floor.
This is my pocket progress for podcasting that I am still currently in the process of working through. I have struggled with things, like developing a pitch email that has a high chance of response, creating content that can easily be repurposed, scheduling the interviews, building show notes, etc. As a small-scale podcaster, you’re running your own little radio station from the booking to the production to the promotion. That ultimate goal can sound quite broad, vague, and daunting— especially when you base your operations off of the big-time players like Joe Rogan, Marc Maron, Nerdist, or so on. Pocket Progress can help you compare yourself less and focus more on achieving what’s important for you instead. I’ll keep upgrading my pockets for podcasting, the titular goal will remain because I have fallen in love with this art form, but the pockets will keep upgrading or repeating as needed. I’ll keep making little moments of progress that stack on-top of one another until I have my very own totem pole that stands tall and stable in the landscape of thousands of great shows over on the iTunes podcast store, where you can go subscribe to this show, leave a review or rating, and share the link with friends. It’s also on Stitcher, Google Play and everywhere else you can find podcasts pretty much.