Know your metric

When it comes to blogging or marketing, people often have different metrics for success.

Some people measure success through the number of followers or subscribers they have. Others measure it through the amount of money they make per month, either from advertisers or from selling something. Others measure it through the number of shares they have for a post, an update, a video, etc.

My metric is simple: appreciation. Specifically, it’s the number of people who tell me, either through comments or emails or in-person, that something I’ve shared or created has helped, impacted, or challenged them in some way.  If at least one person shows appreciation for something I’ve shared or created (not just gratitude, not just “thank you,” but some acknowledgement of impact), then I consider that a successful share or product or service. (More people showing appreciation = a greater measure of success.)

Keeping this metric always at the forefront of my mind helps guide all my decisions online (and offline).  It allows me to judge possible decisions based on one simple question: “Is this something that my readers or customers will show appreciation for?”  Is this something that my readers or customers will tell me, “This has changed the way I think or do things”?

If it’s yes, then I consider doing it. If it’s no, then I won’t do it. It’s as simple as that.

Of course, people don’t have to show appreciation in order for something to change the way they think or behave.  But if I think I can get that response from them, then to me, it’s worth trying.

Now what about you? What’s your metric?


Use a commonplace book

I found out about this system from Ryan Holiday, but it’s a practice that has been used for centuries by famous figures throughout history. It’s called the “commonplace book,” and it is extremely useful for studying and research.

So what is a commonplace book? A commonplace book is a cache that is filled with references, quotes, anecdotes, ideas, and thoughts that you find interesting in your studies or readings. It’s basically a literary scrapbook of all the stuff you like, enjoy, or find inspiring or interesting or useful.

A lot of famous artists, scientists, writers, and thinkers – from Montaigne to John Locke to Ralph Waldo Emerson – have kept and maintained commonplace books.

The idea behind the commonplace book is to use it as a resource for things you might use later – like a book or a speech or a screenplay or a business. It keeps useful, interesting information at hand so that you don’t have to go scrounging around trying to remember who said that quote you really like or which interview revealed that strange anecdote about your favorite filmmaker.

There are many ways to make and maintain a commonplace book. One way, recommended by Ryan Holiday, is to create index cards for each quote, anecdote, idea that you encounter. You then categorize each card into a theme (like “courage” or “character development” or “programming”) and group cards with the same theme together. You then store the note cards into some kind of depository (a shoe box, a folder, a container) for easy access.

You can also adapt this idea for the digital realm, which is what I do. Whenever I come across a reference or quote or idea, I just create a note in Evernote and I store that note into a certain notebook, usually revolving around a theme or a project I’m working on.

Another method you can use is to create a Word or Google Doc that you continually update over time. This page can be a theme that features many quotes, ideas, thoughts, or references. You can then save the pages in a folder on your desktop or in Google Drive.

Regardless of the way in which you can create and maintain a commonplace book, commonplace books are excellent resources for not only storing cool stuff that you love, but for organizing your own thoughts and, hopefully, creating something cool yourself.

And who knows? Maybe someone will put something of yours in their commonplace book.


Ryan Holiday

Make a list of possible projects

Sometimes you have too many ideas pop into your head that take you into a million directions. You want to write a book, you want to start your own business, you want to create your own course, you want to build a website, etc.

You know you can’t do it all at once, but you also know that you don’t want to let go of these ideas. So what do you do?

What I do is create a file for each possible idea. Then I put all these “possible projects” into a folder (actually a notebook in Evernote, but same difference). And voila!

Most of the projects include ideas that I probably will never get to; but some of them do turn into projects that I’ll actually work on.

Doing this allows me not only to give an idea a chance for consideration later, but to give my mind a break by letting it not get consumed by a possible project. Right now I have 25 possible projects in there (some of which I actually did turn into real projects).

I love this practice because I never get bored now. I always have something to work on, something to apply and develop my skills towards. Maybe it’ll have the same effect for you.


Derek Sivers