Old School Blogging And Habit Formation
As the leaves finish turning, the days become shorter and the winter lights start to appear on our streets, our thoughts naturally turn to what we might want, or hope for, in the coming year. As I write, there’s still 18 days left in 2015 and if your calendar is anything like mine, there’s still a lot of things to do between now and New Year’s eve.
But, as I start to mark more and more dates into 2016 (and 2017), I can’t help but wonder what the coming year will be like. How much success and failure, happiness and sadness, lies in store.
Habits in popular culture
Of course, we tend to think of the coming year in terms of resolutions, commitments we try to make to get more out of the coming year. Resolutions might be driven by big life goals, but the way we articulate them sits squarely within the realm of habits, trying to increase the good ones (exercise, heathy eating, gratitude, productivity) and reducing the bad ones (slothfulness, unhealthy eating, negativity, distraction). That most new resolutions fail to stick past the first weeks of January probably shouldn’t surprise us, because it’s always hard to develop new habits and even harder to break old ones.
The public discussion of habits has really grown in recent years, sparked in part by popular books like The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business and Better Than Before: What I Learned About Making and Breaking Habits–to Sleep More, Quit Sugar, Procrastinate Less, and Generally Build a Happier Life.
On a recent Unmistakable Creative podcast interview, Jim Bunch talked in depth about designing our living and working environments with a view to making good habits stick. One idea he suggested, was a kind of 90 day challenge; pick three goals then every day, for 90 days, have three concrete actions towards those goals. 180 actions towards a set of goals, in a short space of time, is a pretty solid way to make good habits stick.
How Long Does It Take To Change Habits
Over the years, I’ve hear plenty of suggestions for how long it takes to make or change a habit, 21 days, 30 days, 45 days. One recent study suggests the number is closer to 66 days. This feels about right. In my own experience, along with watching fellow creatives and folks I’ve taught and mentored along the way, it’s sometimes true that we can make a habit stick after doing it everyday for a few weeks, but it usually takes closer to 2-3 months if the change is ever going to be permanent in our lives.
That’s because changing habits isn’t a decision it’s a process. Wanting to change our habits is easy – a lifetime of failed New Year’s Resolutions teaches us this fact. Actually changing them requires a lot of work and usually, it involves making ourselves accountable to someone else for our progress. Bunch’s 90 day plan involves accountability to others who are going through the same challenge. Often, those who succeed in making habits stick, are accountable to family, loved ones, coaches, mentors, teachers or bosses.
Old School Blogging And Accountability
When we remember what blogs were like in the old days, back before 2006, it’s often the personal, confessional nature of the posts that comes to mind. But, a lot of old school bloggers were striving to be accountable for the way they lived, sharing their lives as way to reinforce a commitment to see more of the world, cook or eat better food, be more committed to their family, church or charity, or live a healthier or more active life.
Why Did Old School Blogging Die Out
The one-two punch that killed off old school blogging was the rise of “problogging” the idea that you could use blogs to make money and the advent of social media, which gave people tools that were much easier to use and in many ways better suited to the kind of sharing that happened on personal blogs. Now, most new blogs today are focussed tightly on particular topic and often a specific niche within that topic.
Maybe it’s the winter-time nostalgia, the twinkling lights and mulled wine shaping my mood a little, but I miss Old School Blogging. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Lately, I’ve seen some folks use mailing lists to share short series of day posts, usually around a month, that feel very much like old school blogs, a few photos, some quickly written thoughts and observations. Like dropping the needle on a vinyl album, after years of listening to digital recordings, this step back into old school blogging feels warm, fresh and delightful.
The Post-Traffic Mindset
Over the last few years, I’ve divided my time between photography, music and writing, with blogging taking up a big chunk of the later. It sounds like a 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 split, but while I was away in New York, I noticed that these three creative pursuits were dwarfed by the amount of time I had been spending on trying to generate traffic for this site (and other projects). The world of SEO, content marketing, audience profiling, copywriting and other traffic-related activities seemed to take up an increasing amount of my time. There seemed to be a direct correlation between the way this new habit, tending my online garden so to speak, had taken over my time manifesting in a decline in creative output, from the number of photos I took every month, to the number of blogposts I wrote, together with struggles to maintain other good habits, like eating and sleeping well.
So, back in October I decided to put that stuff back in the small box it deserves – SEO matters, but not that much! The freedom from what had become a bad habit already feels wonderful – more time to take and process photos!!! Now I’m wondering what a post-traffic mindset means for this site and what I share on it. I’m not sure if going old school is the answer. But, something more personal, more everyday, like walking in the park, feels like the right path to walk, a habit I’d like to get back to.