The Metrics of Helpfulness – The One Person Test

IMG_6127In a recent episode of The Good Life Project, Leo Babauta (of Zen Habits) tells Jonathan Fields that the most important thing a blogger or business can have is trust – and the only way to earn it is to actually be trustworthy, honest, sincere and be there to genuinely help others.

It sounds blindingly obvious, right?  But I’ve definitely seen a few people online who don’t seem to follow that advice!

The One Person Test

He goes on to say that rather than worrying about web stats and the usual social media metrics, he focuses on whether what he publishes online has helped someone – even if it’s only one person.

“I don’t know how to measure trust, but my metric is a binary metric – instead of trying to get 100,000 hits or whatever – my metric is ‘have I helped somebody’. And it’s either yes or no.

And if the answer is yes, then I’ve done something good. If I write a post and it helps one person – if it helps more than one, great –  but if it helps one, then to me I’ve succeeded. And if all I’m doing is trying to help myself, then the answer is no.”

You can watch the episode below – it’s worth it just to see the crazy green tea these guys are drinking.

Now that type of metric is perhaps a luxury that Leo (yes I like to pretend we’re on first name terms) can afford as author of one of the world’s most popular blogs. But it’s something I kept in mind as I headed out to a number of events over the last couple of weeks and it has held me in good stead. It can feel pretty vulnerable putting yourself out there and sharing your ideas, after all, especially if feedback isn’t immediately forthcoming.

social media surgery jan 2013

Photo by Ally Tibbitt from Greener Leith

Putting It To The Test Part One – Social Media Surgeries

Firstly I attended the Edinburgh Social Media Surgery as a volunteer, also known as a ‘surgeon’. The event was organised by web manager and blogger James Coltham (aka @prettysimple) and sponsored by Greener Leith. With more than 40 people turning up, and those split about half and half between volunteers and locals wanting advice, it was a really busy evening.

I was able to help a local jazz musician with her WordPress blog, and teamed up with fellow ‘surgeon’ Lilly Hunter to give her advice on using Twitter. Therefore, I met the ‘help one person’ test (phew). Of course, helping someone also made me feel good, so everyone’s a winner!

The next Edinburgh Social Media Surgery takes place on Monday 18th February. Maybe I’ll see you there?

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Putting It To The Test Part Two – The Pimp Your Online Presence Workshops

As I mentioned in a recent newsletter, I was also hired to present/facilitate two workshops, the first, at the Digitally Agile Community Learning and Development conference (DACLD)*, was loosely based on my Pimp Your Online Presence ebook, and the second, at the No Knives, Better Lives National Youth Summit, was also on a similar theme though the title was slightly different.

Below are the slides from the first event:

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I haven’t spoken in front of a group for a while (there were about 20 people at each workshop) and I was pretty nervous, perhaps more so because I was sharing my own ideas that originated on this blog!

The workshops were enjoyable, but I’d be lying if I said everything went smoothly – at the first one I had to improvise after technical problems meant I couldn’t show the presentation.  Thankfully there was a lot of discussion and input from the people who were there.

I’m relieved to say that on both occasions I also passed the ‘help one person test’. I received the below tweet after the first workshop, and one of the participants at the second one came up to me afterwards with lots of questions and said they really enjoyed it.

Now I’ve just got to work out how to win over a few more people at future events!

How do you measure the success of your creative, or social media efforts? Could Leo’s ‘One Person Test’ be a more useful goal than the usual popularity contest of Facebook likes and Twitter retweets etc? Let me know in the comments!

*You can download the programme for the DACLD event here. There were some excellent talks by the keynote speakers:

Lauren Currie from We are Snook spoke about their amazing work in teaching design thinking, Ross McCulloch from Third Sector Lab shared great examples of how organisations are using social media and Jenni Robertson from Edinburgh City Council Digital Learning Team spoke about how access to iPads and other technologies in and out of school had a positive impact on children’s learning and development. 

Mike Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning also spoke, saying that the future lies in the digital sphere (and using an iPad to prove it!). 

Spring-Clean Your Routine

Spring Cleaning by √oхέƒx™

Congratulations to everyone who completed the Four for Feb challenge (the downloadable PDF memorabilia thingy will be posted soon), and even if you didn’t quite make it but managed to do something creative during the month, it’s a great achievement. Why? Because NONE OF US HAVE ENOUGH TIME.

The demands on our time and attention only increase as we get older and our lives become more complex (unless you’re already retired or independently wealthy  in which case congratulations!).

Most of us work full-time. Some of us do extra freelance or other creative work on top of that. Some people have children, some are in long-term relationships. Most have daily, weekly and monthly chores to get done. Some people have people to care for, or their own illnesses and other issues and problems to deal with.

And most of us like to have a bit of a social life and have fun every now and again to0. It’s important t0 get some downtime,  to properly rest and relax. And we like to keep up with what’s going on in the world, through a variety of sources, the news, blogs, magazines, TV.

So for most of us, are lives are already full. We have packed our days to capacity with endless activities, and I for one find it overwhelming at times.

So the next challenge I’m suggesting is one where you sit down and actually work out how you can free up some space in your schedule.

Leo Babauta, one of the most successful bloggers on the planet, wrote a brilliant post about how you need to create time to make serious changes in your life. This is what I did for myself when I gave up writing about local music and recording my monthly podcasts, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed doing, because I knew they were not sustainable activities in the long run because neither earned me any money.

Does that mean I won’t do things for free that I enjoy in the future? Not at all. But by giving up those things I was able to get experience doing other things, and spend some time working out what I wanted to do next, and actually earn some money doing other freelance writing/web work. Last year I also missed out on blogging for a few months, and didn’t socialise very much, all because I was focused on trying to get work I enjoyed.

So you do need to prioritise and decide what’s most important to focus on. Seth Godin’s book The Dip is all about the difficult period in any project or activity when your enthusiasm wanes, difficulty levels increase and you need a lot of self-discipline just to continue. His point is that in some cases it’s extremely important to get through the dip to the other side, but in some cases it’s not worth it because they are dead-ends. You need to decide which of your activities is which, and stop the ones that are getting you nowhere.

But even then, you might struggle to find any free time, because you lack the basic awareness of how you’re behaving throughout the day. I know I can be in denial sometimes about my procrastination, but spending an hour reading blogs when I could be writing my own is probably not the best use of that one hour each day that I can keep free to myself. Laura Vanderkam’s book 168 Hours is all about this topic, and she suggests tracking how you’re spending your time. You can download a free time management spreadsheet from her site which will help you do this.

As we’ve seen from many of the Clear-Minded Creative Type interviews so far, a strict routine can be the best way to stick to get creative work done, whether it be managing your projects along with your caffeine intake like Hande Zapsu Watt, or getting up ridiculously early each morning like Thom Chambers. Here it’s impossible not to mention Leo Babauta again as his book The Power of Less talks about setting morning and evening routines which allow you to be creative, or get regular exercise, or even just to get some quiet time to yourself to read a book.

So the challenge for March/April is to “spring-clean your routine” and find at least one regular time-wasting activity that is no longer of value to you and no longer contributes to your goals to eliminate from your life.

In March I suggest you try and become aware of how you’re spending your time. Spring starts on 21st March so see if you can identify by then what you’re going to stop doing and make a plan for how you’re going to do it.

Then in April you can start to establish a new routine to allow you to achieve your creative goals. Imagine how freeing it will be to have that extra space in your life to achieve what you really want. I guarantee you will feel more clear-minded as a result :)

Photo credit: √oхέƒx™ Note: all book links are part of Amazon.com’s affiliate scheme. Because I need the money to buy Apple products.