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How Tim Ferriss Busted the Biggest Myth About Blog Success

Posted By Guest Blogger 25th of August 2011 Social Media 0 Comments

This guest post is by Amy Porterfield of AmyPorterfield.com.

When it came to building my business with social media, I lived by the motto, “More is better.” I applied every social media strategy I learned, stacking plan after plan and idea after idea.

Then I read Tim Ferriss’ new book. And everything changed.

With Tim’s 4-Hour Body, I realized I was a sucker to yet another myth in my head just like I was when I was little and my mom used to tell me I couldn’t swim for an hour after I ate or I would lose my lunch.

In his book, Tim talks about a concept called the minimum effective dose. He says the minimum effective dose is the smallest dose (a.k.a. activity) that will produce your desired outcome. In real-life terms, it’s that sweet spot that is exactly enough, no more, no less, that gets the results you’re after. It’s that place where you can achieve the most dramatic results in the least amount of time possible. Anything beyond that point is a waste of your time.

Tim uses the example of boiled water. Boiled water is boiled water. There’s no such thing as “more boiled.” Make sense? Or if you go to the beach and you spend 15 minutes in the sun, you get a tan. But anything beyond those 15 minutes and maybe you start to burn. Once you pass a certain point, you actually can create setbacks. Essentially, doing too much can trip you up.

Then it hits me: with social media marketing, more is not better. In fact, more is worse.

Whether you are using social media to gain greater exposure for your blog, build awareness for a product or sell your services, it’s natural to want to do all you can to get results. But did you know that when you do too much, you could actually halt real progress? In fact, when you try to do too much, it can mess up your momentum and cost you profits and valuable relationships in your business.

How does this relate to your success?

To apply the minimum effective dose to your social media efforts, you first have to realize what may be a dirty truth: you’re trying to do too much.

At some point, we’ve all been there—we try to be everything to everyone and make promises we can’t keep, schedule meetings on top of meetings and start new projects that never get finished. It’s human nature. The challenge is that when we take on too much, there’s no time to think things out—and you begin executing in a bubble, ignoring your intuition and making decisions that lack creativity and strategy.

The problem scenario: the social media junkie

One of my most recent clients was a self-proclaimed social media junkie. When it came to online networking, she did anything and everything to boost her online exposure. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging, YouTube, FriendFeed, shiny new social apps, networking gadgets, widgets and tools, you name it, she was all over it. And if a new social media strategy was discovered, she was ready to implement at any time.

Not only was she overwhelmed, confused and stressed, but also she was not seeing results. After a few coaching sessions we discovered that her audience was not using Twitter, and rarely checked into their LinkedIn accounts. She instantly quit wasting her time on these networks.

Also, although she loved making videos, and hated writing blog posts, she was producing several written blogs posts a week because she thought the “hard work” would pay off. Since she was not confident with her writing, each post would take her three to five hours. The misconception that she needed to post multiple times a week was costing her time and money. After monitoring her blog we learned that her audience responded better to video blogs vs. written blogs. She stopped the written blog posts immediately and now posts videos multiple times a week, each taking her about 30 minutes to record, edit, and post.

She was doing too much and was completely sabotaging her success. When she took a step back and stopped “doing,” she was able to see what was working and what was a waste of time. This insight was not clear until she finally stopped “doing” and stepped back to assess the situation.

The solution: create more white space

Harvard Business Review recently published an article called, This Space Intentionally Left White. To get an edge on the competition, the author suggests we “slow down to see more.” She goes on to say that we need to “radically alter a small moment of time each week—to schedule a time for doing nothing but thinking—and pay attention to what emerges in the absence of the noise of our normal activity.”

When you slow down and think about your next steps, things get a lot clearer. You are able to see the pockets of opportunity—and that is where your sweet spot, that minimum effective dose, starts to become more apparent. Setting time for the white space allows you to uncover the areas where you are doing too much and wasting your time—and easier, more strategic opportunities come to the surface.

Spacing out

Are you mired in too much? Make it a habit to find two hours a week where you do nothing but think, not do. No multi-tasking, no emails, no cell phones, no journaling. Just you and your thoughts. Think about where you come up with your best ideas—in the shower, or listening to music in the car—it’s when you’re likely doing an automated activity that allows you to just think.

And next time you get that overwhelming urge to take on yet another project, remember this myth buster: more is not better, it’s just more. Choose your best dose instead—the minimum effective one.

Amy is the co-author of Facebook Marketing All-In-One for Dummies and a social media strategist for entrepreneurs and small business owners. You can read her weekly blog here and check out her latest program, The Simple Social Media Formula, here.

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  1. If you want to get scientific about it you could relate it to a Gaussian, or Bell-Curve. Zero effort produces zero results and increases with the amount of effort you put in. Then at some point the results decrease with too much effort. The X-Y graph leaves you with a Bell-Curve.

    • There is always a point in anything you do where you get diminishing returns. We often go past this point and it hurts us because our opportunity costs become so great, yet we don’t even realize it.

      This is also the hidden principle behind the 80/20 rule. We expel all our effort on the 80% that that’s only giving us 20% of the results, while being blind the to 20% that’s giving us 80% of the results.

    • Hey, Brian. I never thought of it the way you said it here, “while being blind to the 20% that’s giving us 80% of the results.” – really great point.

    • Great way to analyze it!

  2. This turned about to be a pretty good post despite how much I despise the personality of Tim Ferriss.

    Not that the guy doesn’t have some decent ideas…

    • I thought that was a great strength of the post — even if Ferriss makes you nuts, Amy brought a great point from the book into blogging.

      • Yes, I love how we can apply concepts from health and fitness into blogging and business. It’s one of the those things we always hear about “learn from people in different fields” but it’s not always apparent. Amy did a great job with this one, and it makes total sense for social media!

    • Gregory – you crack me up. Glad you could look past the man :-)

  3. I think one of the big things with social media is that there are so many different social media sites that we get told that ‘we have to be on’, and it just spreads us to thin that there is no time to build real networks or relationships.

    • This is true – perhaps we need more networking and a little less promotion to create a balance.

    • That’s really true, Thomas. It’s tough because when you are building a business, or even working for one, you have a million and one things to think about – social media can easily monopolize your time if you aren’t strategic about it.

  4. Amy,

    I enjoyed your post.

    I think we intuitively associate a good work ethic with “doing more.”

    You point about clearing “white space” makes sense.

    I discovered this concept during overseas flights. It seemed like air travel was a booster rocket for creativity.

    Eventually, I connected the dots that this was a time that delivered such “white space.”

  5. After pondering this article for a bit… btw Amy, well written. I agree with this article. Its important to review analytics and traffic stats to be able to gain better momentum with one’s stronger media outlets. As an individual this article is very true. Its important to create white space and ‘pick the weeds out’ so to speak.

    But I think another option, in addition to taking out the less productive social media outlets, is to hire a person to help with these tasks. Because as every blogger knows… its very easy to get overwhelmed in ‘keeping up’.

    • I like that idea a lot. I have a great virtual assistant who helps me track my social media activity and engagement on a weekly basis so I know what’s working and what’s not. Without analytics and traffic stats it’s really just a guess as to your success or lack there of… Thanks for adding this great insight, Christine.

  6. nice post indeed!…. thought-provoking!

  7. Wow, what a fabulous point and what a great post. I think we’re all so over saturated with the expert advice on how to online market that it’s easy to get exhausted and miss the point completely. That white space is there for a reason – thanks for pointing it out.
    Writer Chick

  8. It was really nice to read something like this for a change. According to the usual advice, I’ve been doing everything wrong with my blog for years (post infrequently, let Blogger host it, don’t choose an optimal time of day or week for new post, use a template instead of a custom design, don’t go around planting links ‘n trackbacks and comment-spam everywhere, don’t use the blog to tell people ‘what to do next’ blah blah blah). And yet, it won Best Crochet Blog. I only post when I have something to say, dammit. That’s all I want to read on others’ blogs too: what they are moved to write, when they wish.

  9. Amy, I really appreciate this post because as I’m sure is true for many people, I do feel overwhelmed by what seems like too much to do and too little time. So lately I’ve been trying to focus on doing just a few things well, but there is always a feeling of not doing enough. How do you determine which things to spend more time on and which things to ditch? Do you focus primarily on the things that you enjoy most and are more naturally gifted in (e.g. for me that would be writing), or do you determine this in some other way?

  10. That was a good write up. I notice that each day my little blog page hass different hits from different internet sites. Each day is different. But this does make sense.

  11. This is really good news for people like me who are still struggling to LIKE facebook. :)

  12. Amazing post as usual Amy.

    “More is not better, it’s just more” – that’s going on the wall.

  13. Man, this is so true. I learned this the hard way. Why couldn’t you post this a month ago?

    I overworked myself on my blog, and ultimately, I burned myself out. I didn’t have the drive, and I wasn’t seeing any results. Then I took a break, and I started to realize that by overworking myself, I was having a negative effect on my blog and my readers. I hope that some other young bloggers will read this and learn the lesson the easy way.

    Thanks for a great post, and good luck on everything else that you are doing.

  14. Great post and completely agree. Tim Ferriss has really cracked this code of more not necessarily meaning better. His ideas, thoughts, and ways of thinking on many different subjects are fascinating. Very good write up here though! Well said!

  15. Amy –

    First off, congrats on the new book on Facebook, I hope it does well for you. Secondly, I couldn’t possibly agree more to the concept of simplifying your approach and focusing being a leading principle of success. Glad to see on your sales page that this idea carries through with your social media coaching program as well, I’m sure your future clients will see the most traction for the simple but sound advice.

  16. Brand popularity doesn’t happen when you are everywhere, but it happens when your name is everywhere.

  17. Amy,
    I can’t stand it when I go on Twitter and the same person has like 5 or more tweets in a row promoting their own stuff. It’s a real turn off. Less is more, I agree.

  18. Super post, Amy! These are really important points and not enough people are talking about them. Love the application of “MED” to blogging.

    • Sonia! Thank you so much! I usually write “how-to” articles, so it was really nice to change it up and talk about mindset and best practices for a change. I think that’s what’s most important overall. So glad you liked it!

  19. Hi Amy,

    Spot on tips here!

    I take a break each hour. For 5 to 10 minutes, I do or think nothing. I clear out all the mental garbage I chose to accumulate over the prior hour, which clears my thinking. This helps me see if I’m engaged in effective acts.

    Forget about 2 hours each week, try an hour or more of quiet each day! The more time you spend being in silence the more easily you are supplied with effective effective ideas.

    Effective is better.

    Thanks for sharing your insight with us!

    Ryan Biddulph

  20. Thanks Amy, another good post

  21. Now this made me think about my approach when using social media Amy. I was just about to join a 12 step program for social media junkies like myself and instead will follow your advice. Thanks for saving me from all those meetings!

  22. Thanks for posting this. I like the idea of “minimum effective dose”. I hate it that Tim comes up with this stuff.

  23. Just wrote about the need for silence in our lives…how it can help us find our own music. Mine is a variation on this theme but the outcome is the same; save some space for yourself.

  24. Enjoyed the post, and completely agree that more is definitely not better – too much of anything becomes a bad thing (just ask anyone that has ever eaten too many carrots).

    I would be interested to see the steps an individual can take that will make it easier to spot that magic sweet spot. I understand that each site and each person will land in a different location and it would be great to get some guidance before I jump.

  25. Amy – I am a first time reader of your material and I really enjoyed this article. I can honestly say this piece hit really close to home. So close that I became very uncomfortable reading it ~ Which is a good thing. I resemble a lot of what you wrote about the simple concept of creating “white space” or time to think really stood out for me. I am going to proactively pursue this starting today. I do need to “de-clutter” my mind and prioritize how and where I spend my time in order to be the most productive and most profitable “me” that I can be.

    Thanks again for a thought provoking piece.

    Vito Boscaino

  26. Awesome post!, I’ve started to slow down on social media and work behind the scenes more on big animation projects & games. ;]

    All the best Amy,

    David Edwards

  27. Or, as famed designer Milton Glaser said, “My adventure has all been in my mind.” I think he also said something like “Less is not more; just enough is more,” but I can’t find that one.

  28. This is an outstanding post, Amy. Many people, including me, have had the wonderful experience of getting a great idea while doing something routine and automatic, such as taking a shower or taking a walk. I don’t know about scheduling a two-hour shower, but walking is wonderful for getting away from the routine, frantic, addictive activity that we bloggers tend to find ourselves doing. I combine walking with birdwatching to “slow down to see more.”

  29. Great post, Amy!
    I get so pissed when yet another social media platform comes out, like we don’t have enough already, and there’s all this pressure to start using it. Google+? Why? Go ahead, Google, I’m all for free enterprise and competition and innovation, but why does everyone who’s happy using twiiter and facebook have to jump on another thing? They don’t even like it. Look at all the tweets that say “Trying to figure out google+” or “Not sure how I feel about google+ but maybe I’ll get to like it.” Why? Why try?
    Too beaucoup.

  30. I agree with Sonia. Great correlation between Ferriss’ book and blogging! Awesome post, Amy!

  31. Excellent post. I agree. Sometimes too much is worse than too little. Activity is not equal to impact.

  32. Congrats on the new book, Amy!

    This was a fantastic post and really great timing. You have now given me permission to create space to just think. I would normally feel guilty about this and feel like I needed to be doing something productive (that probably really wasn’t productive at all).

    Great post!!

  33. Amy – timely and awesome. The way I create more ‘white space’ is to step away from the computer and think strategically on…wait for it….paper! Otherwise, I click and click and click and post and comment — and well, you know the drill. I think it’s time to step away, again, and keep this lesson of the ‘minimum effective dose’ in mind. Great post.

  34. Excellent post Amy! I love this part:

    “radically alter a small moment of time each week—to schedule a time for doing nothing but thinking—and pay attention to what emerges in the absence of the noise of our normal activity.”

    Yes, I do need to take more time to just sit in silence and while not doing anything. Oftentimes I find lost in a mess of thoughts and to dos and ideas… and nothing really gets done because I’m bouncing around! Thank you for this great post! xo

  35. Great post Amy!

    I think many of us that jumped into the social media field with both feet have come to this realization at some level or another. Thankfully, I’ve narrowed down the list of social media tools that I use and see success with. There was a time that I felt like the client – just so overwhelmed with places to maintain that I couldn’t keep up. Then I realized that I just didn’t need to be everywhere, just in those places that it was important for me to be.

    Cheers, Jackie

  36. Oops, my website address was incorrect. Have corrected it here!

  37. Amy,

    I agree with the “less is more” approach, but the one thing that is missed is the “in between” the starting point and the “less is more” point, of which you point out the right part.

    You have to start somewhere, the starting point. I was writing my book using iWork Pages on my Mac and an editor stated I needed “Drop Caps” in it. I spent three hours figuring it out and blogged about it. Within weeks it was my #4 all time visited blog post. I never knew people would be looking for this info. It is getting and watching the feedback which determines your “effectiveness” of your blog writing and then your “efficiency,” or the “less is more” approach. If you don’t watch the result, you can never get to the decision.

    Thanks for a great post.


    P.S. Mac or PC? :-)

  38. Great post here. I have taken up a new project lately and have felt like I am spinning my wheels. This post makes me think I might need to take a step back and see what I really need to be doing. Thanks for sharing!
    Making your to-do list work for you

  39. I am so glad that you brought this out for discussion. I have felt pressured to involve myself in the same deceitful way. I feel relieved to know that simplicity is still king!

  40. I’ve joined numerous places online to jumpstart new traffic over the years. And right now, 99.99% of my blog traffic still comes from either a link I place on Twitter to my post, Google traffic or a link someone else has placed on their own blog. I know some people drive traffic from posting on Facebook. It makes it easy to post and add a photo, but I never get much traffic that way. Probably because I hate Facebook and rarely use it. But Twitter I’m always hammering away at day and night so I’ve built up a decent following. I’ve randomly joined things like Tumblr, Technorati, stumbleupon, Youtube, digg, buzzfeed and a dozen others. And still, most of my traffic comes from the same three places, Twitter, Google or blog referrals. For me to waste one minute posting something to places with virtually no return on my time investment takes away from the time to feed the people who deliver all of my traffic. In other words, most of my experiments in expanding my audience over the years have failed. And I really should have just focused my energy on making my postings Google friendly and interesting to the people following me on Twitter.

    • A Little Bird says: 08/27/2011 at 4:24 am

      Hi Terry,

      I’m not a big fan of FB either. But since you seem to be an avid Twitter user, I hope you know that you can also link your Twitter account to a FB page and have your Tweets mirrored as FB status updates.

      Depending on your niche, more business-minded folks use Twitter than FB; more “regular folks” use FB, but more people in general have a FB account than a Twitter. So you might reach potential new customers who don’t use Twitter but would find your site via a FB Twitter link.

      I’m still working on starting a blog myself (which is why there’s nothing listed in the “Website” blank as of yet), but I have this in mind for something I’d do. It makes sense, so hopefully for you (and maybe me at some point) it will make “Cent$” as well!

  41. Thank you for this article. This is exactly what I needed to read today. Sometimes when I’m not seeing the results that I want, I just expand and expand, and try more and more stuff. It really gets overwhelming. Like you explained in the story with the video blog lady, its better to just concentrate on what you enjoy, what you’re good at, and what is actually working! Its better to be really good at a couple things than ok at a bunch.

    As for the 2 hour thinking break. Bravo! I love this idea, for me I get my best brainstorming done in the shower… and if there is anybody out there like me, they actually make water proof pads of paper and water proof pencils WITH suction cups so you can jot down those ideas as they pop into your head. Kinda cool if you ask me.

  42. Thanks for the post. Many of us become obsessive about checking in and updating and being everything to everybody that we lose sight of our goals and our results. I certainly plan to reevaluate my efforts.
    On the other hand, I believe it’s a bit misleading to say that your client can plan, record, edit, and post a video in 30 minutes, unless she completly wings it and doesn’t care what it looks like.

  43. Amy your analogy was brilliant, I am such a visual learner and this really made things crystal clear. I love the idea of not working your tail off but getting huge results…humm my business sweet spot.

    I must being investigating this!

    Thanks for all you do Amy!

  44. begin*

    (damn motor fingers)

  45. Love it love it love it! I’ve been delaying projects and products that could actually make me money through my blog, all because I’m so caught up in ‘having to’ post a certain amount of times, and I find that fills 90% of my available blogging time. Even before reading this I’ve been thinking maybe I don’t have to follow the rules about post frequency. Some of the big names out there seem to only post sporadically. Thanks for adding to my thought process!

  46. So wish I’d had this last week when I spent nearly the whole week trying to get a video done that I’d set my mind out to doing!
    I’m so much better at article creation … guess what I’ll be doing the remainder of the week?!
    Thanks Amy & Tim!

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