Episode 296

Published on:

20th Sep 2021

Podcast Overwhelm Coping Tactics

The more you strive to grow your podcast, the more your plate fills up with things you need to do and eventually, you end up with more and more plates to the point that you could enter the world plate spinning championships.

The point is: there are a lot of people giving you advice on how to grow your podcast and most of it is decent advice (except those dodgy LinkedIn "podcast promoters") and so when you begin to think about actually what to do about your audience growth, you can feel so overwhelmed that you do nothing because you have no idea where to start or what is the most important thing to do, and when.

I have a way to fix that. Read on my wonderful friend.

(Before you do, we have this free Podcast Maker Day event this week that will give you a few hours of focus time to work on your podcast with our team. It's open to everyone.)

I hate the word "coping" - I want you to experience more than that.

I work best under pressure. The shorter a deadline is, the better my work is and until a few years ago I thought that was something that was a problem but that couldn't be further from the truth - it's a real power.

When I owned my digital and design agency (from 2005 to 2017) I used to be the "face person" of the business - I'd produce the content and lead the vision of the agency whilst also working on the tendering and pitching for some of our biggest contracts. 

Tenders, in particular, were a complete and utter pain in the proverbial, though.

We would receive a request for quotation (RFQ) a few months before the tender closing date but every single time our tender documentation would be submitted just before the deadline closed - I was never ahead with it.

Granted, there was a little strategy to that (look up "Primacy, Frequency and Recency" to understand that a little more) but if I'm completely honest I left things to the last minute because I knew that my work would be better with some pressure.

Sure, in the early days I'd make a deep start really early and get things done way ahead of time but the work was never as good as a "rush" job and I had absolutely no idea why. 

On the days that we got the heads up on a tender that closed "tomorrow", I did better work than on those tenders that we'd had months to work on and it baffled me. I mean it really baffled me.

Once I noticed it I began to relish it, though.

I knew my business, I knew my industry and I knew how to write good tenders; I had come to understand myself enough to know that my "quick" decisions were actually highly thought out plans and strategies that I'd been mulling over in my head for months before and it was just the getting it on paper that was done at the last minute.

On the morning of a big tender deadline I knew that I usually had until 1pm to submit it, so I would get up at 4am, grab a Yorkshire Tea and get to the studio for 5am.

Once I got there, I would put on some loud rock music and forget that anything else existed for the few hours that I worked on the tender.

At around 12:30pm the tender would have been checked by Don and off it went, getting submitted and often, won.

When I moved into public speaking, I'd do the same.

I'd have a talk planned for some time way in the future and would leave the prep until the very, very last minute - I even did it with my TEDx talk!

But it was the same scenario: I'd already planned the story, takeaways and the beats of the talk in my head and had been practicing it, refining it and rehearsing it for weeks prior to simply getting it down on paper.

In short: I do my best work under pressure and with far too "little time" to do the job - yet it always, always gets done and it's always, always good.

Parkinson's Law.

This isn't something unique to me, though. In fact, there's an old adage that speaks to the phenomenon called Parkinson's Law.

I discovered the concept a few years ago and even wrote about it in my first ever podcast lead magnet e-book called "The Essential 14-Day Guide to Cutting Your Working Hours and Increasing Your Impact" (hit reply and I'll send it to you, it's from 2014 but still works) featuring it.

Parkinson's Law posits that work will expand to fill the time allocated to it.

Aka: if I had three months to work on a tender and started it at the start of that clock, I'd likely still be working on it on deadline day and it would be no better than if I gave myself those short, tight deadlines that I talked about above.

Parkinson's Law is the very reason that we do great work under immense pressure. When we find ourselves in a position where time is short, we strip away what isn't important, we identify what is vital and we shut out all distractions to get it done.

But the first time you do that, it's really scary.

It's like being a business owner and going on holiday: the first time you do it you think that the world will implode and you'll come back to no business and it all going terribly wrong.

But that doesn't happen.

Instead, we come back to a functioning business and everything going ahead as normal. Nothing implodes, nothing explodes and there's no need to worry.

We have to apply the same approach to our podcast to beat overwhelm.

Most independent podcasters are working on their podcast as a labour of love and they work on it around other commitments: family, work, other hobbies.

That means that we can only spend limited time on our podcast, but the growth that we'd like to see and the success that we'd love for our show doesn't change - we still want big results even though we're only able to work on our show for a limited amount of time per week.

In order to achieve any results, then, we have to shut out the things that don't matter at any given time and decide what we're doing and when.

It's really easy to feel overwhelmed as a podcaster and because there are so many people telling you what to do and how to do it AND because we're usually looking for that top-secret silver bullet that will "explode" our podcast growth, we can sit down to work on something for our podcast, realise that we don't quite know how to do it and then simply revert back to a comfort zone of planning and producing content.

We can't move forward with that mindset and we'll never grow.

Plus, we'll never get those scary things done or those things on the todo list that we've been putting off because we "don't have time" will just keep rolling over to the next week and, a year later, we'll wonder why that podcast that started after ours is suddenly doing much "better".

How do we overwhelmingly beat podcasting overwhelm?

I'm going to talk about how to prioritise things within your podcasting growth strategy and workflow next week because that's something really specific and I have a framework that you can use for it.

But, we can apply Parkinson's Law to our podcasting right now and see some pretty instant results.

Let's use the example of creating a lead magnet for your podcast (a lead magnet is a free thing that you give away in return for someone's email address on your email list, think ebooks, checklists etc).

Maybe you've never created a lead magnet before and let's assume that THIS is the first time you've ever heard of one.

Usually, you'd pop "create lead magnet" onto your to-do list and never really achieve it because it's new, you have to spend some time learning and then doing and it's really hard without knowing what to do and when.

But if we apply Parkinson's Law to this process we can become more specific about things by giving ourselves a ridiculously short deadline which, in turn, allows us to make faster and more effective decisions whilst actually getting the thing done.

Here's a list of things you'd need to do to create a lead magnet, then:

  1. Learn what a lead magnet is conceptually
  2. Decide what lead magnet you're going to offer
  3. Plan the content
  4. Create the content
  5. Do the graphics for the lead magnet
  6. Put the lead magnet online somewhere so it can be downloaded
  7. Set up your email list in AWeber
  8. Link your lead magnet to the list
  9. Put the email sign up form on to your website
  10. Test everything
  11. Launch the lead magnet
  12. Design the promotional schedule for the lead magnet and how it'll fit into your overall podcast calls to action

Pppppphhhhheeeewwww that's a LOT, right?!

Right! Kinda. 

It IS a lot but it only becomes overwhelming, doesn't get done and becomes fear when you 1. don't apply Parkinson's Law to the whole project and 2. don't break down the tasks into specific chunks using the same principle.

Here's what I'd recommend in this scenario, then:

  1. Set an almost unrealistic timeframe for getting this entire thing launched, say one week - anything you do NOT get done in that time simply does not get done but you must launch.
  2. Now that you have your time box or "window", you can decide how much time you have per day to spend on this, let's say 30 minutes per day for five days which gives you 2.5 hours to do the whole thing - tight!
  3. You know it's tight, so you choose a lead magnet that is more simple and effective than you ever thought possible: a checklist.
  4. Next, simply break down the 2.5 hours into tasks and give yourself a hard deadline every day:
  5. Day one is learning how lead magnets work (hint: ask someone!);
  6. Day two is writing the checklist and creating the checklist in Canva or Google Docs;
  7. Day three is creating all of the graphics from a Canva template after noting what graphics you'll need;
  8. Day four is emailing your email company's support team asking how to set an email list up and how to create a signup form (ask, they'll tell you, saving you HOURS) and then following their instructions;
  9. Day five is planning your podcast calls to action and getting the thing on your website.

I know it's easy for me to say all of that but the goal here isn't to plan this process for you, it's to shine a light on the principle.

What I've done above is set a hard deadline so that the work doesn't expand too much and fill too much time and run the risk of never getting done.

I've also built-in some specific learning time on day one for some "just in time learning" (Google it) and allocated a hard deadline on that, too - the learning part shouldn't be detached from the "job" that you need to do, it's part of the work and should be given the appropriate time so that you don't think that you have to start something only after you've learned how to do it.

From there, I've used free tools (Google Docs, Canva) and leaned heavily on my email provider's support team to help me get this done - I highly recommend that you do that as well: don't leave asking support until the end after you've struggled - if you're unsure, ask the support team of whatever platform you use for their help early, it's why they're there.

Again, this is a principle, not a map - how can you apply that kind of thinking to the task that you need to achieve this week, next week and every time you set out to do something effective for your podcast?

This is a mindset.

What you do tactically will change as your podcast grows, develops and continues to evolve.

But there will always be something to do and you'll always be at risk of feeling overwhelmed. Today, start thinking about time blocks and about not letting tasks run on and on and on without being completed.

Try it for a month and I guarantee that you'll start to see some movement in your podcast growth, that you'll feel less overwhelmed and that you'll be surprised at how easy it is to fit your podcast into your schedule without the stress of being a busy creator.

You got this and I'm here to help, anytime.

Your next steps

I teach podcasting a lot, and usually for free. So, here's what I'd recommend you do next:

P.S. you can start engaging with your listeners using AWeber. It's free, no credit card required: Mark.Live/Email

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Known as "That British Podcast Guy", Mark is one of the United Kingdom's original podcasting experts. He is Managing Director & co-founder of podcast hosting, analytics & monetisation platform Captivate.fm which was acquired by Global in 2021 and is known worldwide as an insightful, thought provoking and actionable podcast industry keynote speaker.

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