Return visitors – 3 Strikes and you’re out!

It may seem blindingly obvious to state that the Internet is not a book or a magazine. People who visit your site (or blog) are interested in gaining information, whether it be information about you, what you sell, or what you have to say. If they re-visit your site they want to see fresh content, new posts or new products. If they have seen it all before, why come back?

In general I tend to think readers of websites, or blogs even more so, have a certain attention span that needs feeding. Most people are fairly busy and don’t want to waste their time looking for something that is not there.

When I visit a site that I like I tend to bookmark it (or subscribe to it via RSS). I go back in a few days and have a look for new posts. If there are new posts I come back the next day and the day after that. On the flip-side, if I go back and the content is the same as before I tend to move on and look at other things. I will often return in a few more days and see if it has been updated, but if there is nothing new I tend not to go back for a while.

The more you go back to a site and see nothing new, the more stale the site becomes. There are so many sites out there and such enormous competition, that it is easy to move on and forget the site that was not updated.

With this in mind I liken the generation of fresh content on a website or blog to the 3-strike rule in baseball.

Strike one

A visitor usually comes back in a day or two, looking for fresh content

Strike two

Visitor comes back again a day or so later, giving the site a second chance

Strike three!

Visitor usually returns a little while later, when they remember about the site. If there is still nothing new the visitor is unlikely to return

This is not a hard and fast rule, some people may give a site more chances, some might give less. Most web site owners, bloggers in particular, are guilty of allowing lapses in posting (myself included), especially when they are busy, but it is worth keeping this lesson in mind when you start to get busy.

Your most valuable visitors are the return visitors. They obviously liked what they saw the first time they visited, that’s why they came back. Don’t let them down!

Multitasking doesnt work

I read a post by Jay the other day about multitasking, or rather the myth of multitasking. Without going into the technical details of how computers (appear!) to multitask with humans it doesn’t work. People boast about it because it makes them seem great, and people write it on their CV because they think (and they may well be right) that it is what employers want to read.

In actual fact people don’t multitask very well, certainly not in creative or development environments. Focusing on one thing at a time is a far more effective way of achieving objectives and maintaining quality. If you really are that busy that you feel the need to multitask then in actual fact what you probably need is to outsource, leaving you to focus on single important tasks at a time.

People often get backed into a corner by lack of planning, hence they end up multi-tasking. How otfen have you left something to the last minute, only to find out that you then find something else that is also urgent?

Sometimes I find myself multitasking without even knowing it. Multitasking doesn’t have to mean working on two projects at once, it can be as simple as reading the email that just came in, or answering an MSN message.

Jay sites a study by Eben Pagan about how long it takes for your mind to adjust back to what you were doing (and become productive again) once you have been distracted. Apparently it is 10 minutes or so. This doesn’t sound a lot on the face of it, but if you are distracted 6 times in a day (and you probably get distracted a lot more than that) then that is already 1 hour. I’m sure you could find a better use for that hour, I certainly could!

Eben Pagan says that “multitasking lowers the IQ more than smoking pot”. While I would not condone smoking the weed as a viable alternative to multitasking he does have a point.

Sometimes it is worth remembering that email is not instant messenger. The email that just came in will still be there in half an hour, when you have finished the job you were doing, yet for some reason there can be an overwhelming compulsion to deal with it right away.

A good experiment is to close all distractions (email/MSN/twitter etc) while you are working. If you spend an hour focusing on what you should be doing instead of multitasking you will be surprised how much you get done.

There was a lot more to Jay’s post than just multitasking, but as is often the case I read a post and something jumps out to me over and above the rest.

Have a read for yourself and let me know, do you suffer from multitasking?

Be nice, it costs nothing

Can you put a price on being nice? The chances are you already have. When you go to a restaurant, do you sometimes tip a little bit more if the serving staff were extra nice/professional/helpful? When you shop somewhere and the assistants are nice (not pushy) and give good advice, you go back next time, right?

Although you cant always equate these experiences to exact amounts, it is easy to see the value in being “nice”.

Of course, sitting here with my coffee it is easy to say these things, and reading them you may well agree, but out in the real world, when we are running at a million miles an hour, it is not always quite so obvious.

We’ve all been there, trying to do 5 things at once, only to get an email or take a phone-call from a customer (or potential customer) with a question. That’s when we need to remember the value of being nice.

In actual fact, the value of being nice far outstrips the cost of being nice. If you go out of your way to be helpful the customer will remember it. Whether you reap the benefit of this now or later, either way it will be remembered.

The same can be applied if you are not so helpful, always remember that.

The actual cost of being helpful is zero, or close to it. If you can greet every request, every phonecall and every email in the same positive manner it really does not cost you anything, but the rewards can be immense!

So next time the phone rings or you hear the chime of a new mail arriving, remember the value of being nice, it’s worth it, I promise!

Juggling multiple projects

I am currently juggling several large projects, as well as some small ones, and it is quite an exciting and busy time for me. This is the main reason my blog posts have been few and far between this past couple of weeks.

I am experiencing a period of intense motivation and innovation at the moment. I have no idea where it came from but I feel a certain inertia to keep going, to ride the wave and see where it takes me (ok, maybe that was a bad choice of metaphor, as most waves end up crashing into the shore, but you know what I mean!).

As much as I love “riding the wave of enthusism” (ok Jim, step AWAY from the metaphor!) it is a lot of hard work, long hours and a little bit of frustration of not getting things ready as soon as I would like.

My present situation let me to wonder how others deal with the pressure of juggling projects, when different people are pulling you in different directions. Do you get frustrated or overwhelmed?

Do you wish you could finish one job before starting the next, or are you good at juggling multiple things at once?

Personally I tend to do quite well under this sort of pressure, when expectations are high and timescales are tight.

I do however find it very different when it is myself that puts on the pressure. If i have one project I can get stuck into it, but when I have many I tend to focus on one at the expense of the others, and because there is no client associated with these other projects I do tend to allow them to drift.

So, I am interested to hear how other people deal with “multiple project madness”.

Do you work better when a project is your own, or when it is attached to a client? Does “juggling” make you excited, or frustrated?

Be more like a dog… WOOF!

Did that title get your attention (or at least make you smile!)? Hope so!

I have been doing a lot of research into dog training recently, mainly because we have two Yorkshire Terriers about to become part of the household, and they need a bit of training (do not pee on the x-box and do not chew the sofa would be a good start!).

One thing that I have found very interesting is how dogs live for the moment. If you want to train a dog it is actually not as hard as you think. Dogs are much better at un-learning the past and focusing on the present, and they also don’t get distracted by the future.

In business it is easy to explain away why you haven’t done certain things, or achieved certain goals. “I wish I had started doing that when I was young”, “I missed the opportunity and now it is a bit late”. Do those sound familiar?

So many times we are bogged down by who we are, what we have or haven’t done in the past, and how we usually go about things. Imagine for a moment you could erase all of that, imagine you could wipe the slate clean.

With a clean slate you are now equal to everyone else. You can be one of those people who achieved greatness, as you are not bogged down by the past.

There are two issues people have with what I have just said. Firstly, that the moment is gone, and it is now too late to become great. Secondly there is a belief that greatness is part of your DNA.

In terms of it being too late, this is where thinking like a dog comes into it. Live in the moment, stop worrying about the past, and have belief in yourself. You will be surprised at what you can achieve. Geena Davis (actress) nearly qualified for the US Olympic archery team in a sport she took up at the age of 40, less than three years before the Olympic tryouts.

As for the DNA argument, there is a belief that people who are the absolute best in their field (top golfers, chess grand masters, top Grand Prix drivers) are made slightly different to the rest of us, but that difference accounts for the final 1% of their greatness. With hard work, determination, and the desire to better yourself you can still be, for all intents and purposes, top of your field.

Without rambling on too much, try it out for yourself. Throw away the restraints of the past, find a challenge, and tackle it. Go about it with the self belief of our four legged friends and let me know how you get on!

Your weaker work may be better than you think

When you look back at some of the work you have done, whether it be in the office, drawing, photography, writing, or poetry, you will probably have a rough idea in your mind what was your better work and what was not. The question is, are you correct?

Firstly this is a bit of an unfair question, as people produce things for many reasons. If you are producing something purely for yourself for example, then what you think is your best work is correct. However, putting that aside for a moment assume you are putting your work “out there”. Assume you do care what the general public, your friends and family think of your work. Would they agree with what is good and what is not?

My friend Matt is a keen (and dare I say “rather good”) photographer. He has embarked on “Project 365” which, for those of you not in the know, is a project whereby he takes at least one photo every day for a year, and publishes it on Flickr.

I tend to look at the daily photo every day, and sometimes there are a few. The other day he posted 3 photos of paragliders (he does that too, dontcha know!). I immediately said I love one of them, the second is pretty good albeit a bit “normal”, and not as keen on the last one (hey, he asked for honest critique!).  The thing we laughed about is my opinion was the EXACT opposite of his. While he understood my opinion, his take on it was different.

Who was right and who was wrong? Hard to say really, having just 2 opinions, it will be interesting to see your comments on what you think of the 3 candidates.

paraglider

paraglider 1

paraglider 2

paraglider 2

paraglider 3

paraglider 3

My point over and above finding out which photo is best, is more to make the point that if you have produced some work that you are questioning “putting out there”, because you think you have done better, do it anyway, or at least get a second opinion.

Some of our best work is often something we did not think much of at the time.

Get back on your bike – a lesson in self belief

I have had this in mind to write about for a few weeks now, but have only just sat to turn my thoughts into a post.

Do you remember as a child, learning to ride a bike? I’ll bet you fell off a few times, I know I did! I kept on falling off and I kept on getting up, dusting myself off (and pulling myself out of the rose bush!) and getting back on again. I did this more times than I care to remember, but one day I suddenly found I could ride a bike!

This is an experience most of us have had in our lives and can relate to. The endless confidence and willpower of a small child is something we can learn from. There was nobody on this planet that could’ve told me I could not ride that bike. Come hell or high water I was going to ride it. I was going to ride it well and I was going to ride it FAST!

The older we get it seems we lose this confidence. Reality gets in the way, perhaps. There are so many barriers to entry in various things in life, and so many people out there just waiting to put us down, tell us we are not good enough that it is easy to lose the confidence in ourselves. If we could think back to the lesson of riding the bike I think we could learn a lot from it.

Of course there are certain unattainable things in life, we are not going to fly without assistance, for example (although I did once try… believe me it doesn’t work, and it hurts!). However, most things in life are attainable and the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is down to a number of factors, most notably skill, luck, confidence and the ability to keep trying.

When you look at the most successful people in life you will find that most of them did not succeed first time. Sir Richard Branson for example, one of the most charismatic and successful businessmen of my time did not get where he is today without a few setbacks.

When he first wanted to buy his private (Necker) island he did not have enough money for the £3M island, he tried to buy it nonetheless (for £200,000) and failed and was evicted from the island. He kept positive and eventually bought the island (with caveats) for less than he had originally tabled, £180,000 in total. The point is, he kept positive, got back on the bike and got what he wanted.

The point of this post is sometimes we do things and appear to be getting nowhere, whether it is not getting promotions in work, not making enough money, or writing blog posts that nobody reads. The lesson is always get back on the bike, keep going, believe in yourself and before you know it you will achieve what you set out to!

How to win friends and influence people

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to be sent on a half day course which introduced the concept of motivation and self-help, sponsored by Dale Carnegie. To be honest the course was not great but it did inspire me to seek out more information.

I got hold of the CD’s of Dale Carnegie’sHow to win friends and influence people” and listened to them on the way to work while in the car (in those days I had an hours drive to work, so it passed the time). Although all the examples were from the USA, mainly the Founder Fathers and past Presidents, he does make some good points. This book was first published in 1936 and has sold more than 15 Million copies worldwide.

I am not going to go into the detail of exactly what is in each section, but here is the rundown (taken from Wikipedia).

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People

“Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.”
“Give honest and sincere appreciation.”
“Arouse the other person an eager want.”

Six Ways to Make People Like You

“Become genuinely interested in other people.”
“Smile.”
“Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
“Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.”
“Talk in the terms of the other man’s interest.”
“Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.”

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking

“Avoid arguments.”
“Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never tell someone they are wrong.”
“If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.”
“Begin in a friendly way.”
“Start with questions the other person will answer yes to.”
“Let the other person do the talking.”
“Let the other person feel the idea is his/hers.”
“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”
“Sympathize with the other person.”
“Appeal to noble motives.”
“Dramatize your ideas.”
“Throw down a challenge.”

Nine Ways to Change People Without Giving Offense or Arousing Resentment

“Begin with praise and honest appreciation.”
“Call attention to other people’s mistakes indirectly.”
“Talk about your own mistakes first.”
“Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.”
“Let the other person save face.”
“Praise every improvement.”
“Give them a fine reputation to live up to.”
“Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.”
“Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.”

The audio book is well narrated and the examples (if a little corny at times) do make you think. I must say I am not a big reader, hence I got the audio book, but if you only read one self-help book in your lifetime I can heartily recommend this one.

Embrace change

Over the past few months I have been working on a new way of thinking. There are so many new technologies on the Internet nowadays that I hadn’t tried. It is easy to pass many of them by or dismiss them. I used to be as guilty of that as the next person, but not anymore.

Stumbleupon, Digg, Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, the list is huge. Some of these have been around a while and some are new kids on the block. It is easy to dismiss some of them as gimmicks, useless, or just simply “not your thing”. Until you try these technologies you will never know if they will be useful and you may miss out.

I have been experimenting with several new technologies recently and have found some that I never thought would be useful being integrated into my daily life. A prime example is Twitter. On the face of it this is the same as the “what are you doing now?” section of Facebook, a small piece of information that once updated quickly goes stale and is out of date. Useless? I thought so, until I found that you can hook it up to many other applications, WordPress for example. Every time I publish a blog post, it updates Twitter. All of a sudden a seemingly useless piece of technology has a use.

I am not going to go on about the benefits of Twitter right now, this post is not about that, it is about taking steps to try out every new thing you come across, you may be surprised what you find. sometimes something only becomes useful when matched with something else, Synergy if you will.

The phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” comes to mind. Well yes that is true, but in this industry you don’t need to be an expert on everything, you just need to know enough to find out what works for you and how to benefit from the things that you can use. It’s a bit like comparing a motor mechanic to the average driver. You don’t NEED to be able to rebuild the engine to be able to benefit from a car.

There are still things on my list to try, I will let you know how I get on along the way. What I will say is these last few months have opened my eyes and made me see that unless we take steps to deliberately try all these new things, we will pass them by. This industry is hard enough to succeed in, without missing potential opportunities along the way.

You can be whatever you want to be

When I cast my mind back to my school days I remember the talk in the playground was often “what do you want to be when you grow up?”. I remember my answer was always “I want to be a pilot”.

As the years went on this became less and less likely, and while I meandered my way through high school, following the course of what I knew best, computers, it became less and less likely. By the time I got into University on a computer course it was next to impossible, and a career in IT was all but inevitable.

As we go further in life we steer ourselves toward what we know best, what we are good at or what we enjoy, gaining qualifications and experience along the way. Sometimes we do this deliberately and sometimes it is unconsciously.

Have you ever woken up and thought “what if?”, “what if I had taken that job?” or “what if I have followed a different university course?”, I certainly have. In so many ways in life we end up with limited choices about what we are and what we can be.

You may think this is a rather negative post so far, and I guess you are right, but where I am going with this is we have a tool available to us that previous generations did not have. A tool that quashes these limits and breaks down the boundaries. The Internet is a great invention. I was lucky enough to be in the generation that saw the birth of the internet. Ever since I first saw it I was hooked. Yahoo, the BBC, Microsoft could all write HTML pages and they could be seen from anywhere in the world, but so could I… All of a sudden the playing field was level, I was as big and powerful as Microsoft.

Obviously it is not as simple as that, but the basic theory is there. I can publish websites, documents, videos online and nobody will stop me and tell me I am not qualified, I don’t have the right grades from school or I don’t have the correct amount of experience. The boundaries are gone, I can do what I want and the only limiting factor is that if what I write is not good enough people will not read it.

How many jobs can you do that? Imagine you want to be a surgeon, you can’t go into a hospital and keep hacking away at people until you get it right, until you become good enough to be respected. If you want to be a pilot you can’t grab the controls on your next trip abroad and say “come on, let’s have a go?”. The internet simply gives you all this opportunity on a plate!

All this is a bit obvious, you may say. Well yes it is, but how many of you reading this now have dabbled in the world of web publishing, with blogs or with personal websites? I imagine a few of you have. I wonder if any of you would think about giving up your day job to become an expert in the field of “the internet” and all it entails. Scary prospect, isn’t it? It is, but at the same time it has a strange appeal to it. It is an open door, one avenue in life that doesn’t have someone stood there judging us, telling us we are not good enough, or that we don’t have the skills to make it.

I liken it to the early days of America, the land of opportunity, where people were rewarded for taking the initiative, for developing themselves and for doing well. It is all too easy to accept the run of the mill life, going to work 9 – 5 and simply existing and paying the bills. The internet is not for everyone, but what I can say is it is THERE for everyone, if you want to use it.

There are not too many jobs on this planet that allow everyone to “have a go” and see how it works out. If you are one of these people “on the fence” like I was, give it a try, you might just surprise yourself.