Podcast Ads Explained

Podcast Ads Explained

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21 JUNE 2021

written by Mike

podcast

ads explained

Let’s talk about the monetisation of your show. 

First of all, if you are starting a podcast with a goal that will make you loads of money, you may be heading for disappointment.

Older articles say podcast advertising reached around $670 million in 2019, and it’s heading towards 1 billion in 2021. It sounds like a lot of cash, but at the same time, radio advertising was around $14.5 billion in 2019. 

That makes podcast advertising 4.6% of audio radio ads revenue, a small number. And this number is usually centralised at the top of the charting shows.

It took us a long time to be a self-sustaining business with a lot of free work and a lot of luck.

It’s not impossible, of course! 

However, let’s be realistic if you are here for money, there are much better ways for you to earn it and much easier ways like e-commerce or good-paying jobs.

But! 

Let’s talk about how ads on podcasts work.

Love it or hate it – ads on podcasts are still the primary revenue stream for people who make a living in the space. Of course, there are experiments with paying for content, exclusive shows and premium services; however, just like with Youtube – if you want to watch or listen to content for free, be ready to watch and listen to some ads, or as some people call it – sponsorships.

For podcasts, ads are calculated on CPM, which is a cost per mille. Which means a cost per 1000 listens.

So $20 CPM means that for every 1000 listens, you will get $20

10,000 – you will get $200

100,000 – $2000

1,000,000 – $20000 although no one will pay that much for an ad

Ads can be placed at the beginning of the episode, called pre-roll

In the middle of the episode – called mid-roll

Or at the end – called post-roll

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Midroll ads are best paid as people are less likely to skip them; it’s easy to skip pre and post rolls, but if you are listening to podcasts and there is a midroll, you are likely to leave it on as it means you would need to unblock your phone, access the app and manually skip the ad – it’s just a hassle.

Ads themselves also have a few categories, and the best paid are what’s called host read baked in ads. This means that the ad would be recorded by you and exported on your podcast MP3 file – it’s part of that until you manually edit that out and replace the episode with an ad-free version.

This is possible after negotiated time passes or after it reaches a negotiated amount of impressions.

Another category is dynamically ad-injected campaigns, the host read.

Host read campaigns are what it means – ready by you. However, these are not baked but inserted by the system on your episodes (as pre-rolls or mid-rolls), and they switch off after a set date or set impression amount.

These will be paid less than the baked-in ads.

The third is also dynamically ad-injected campaigns but radio-style. These aren’t recorded by the host and are the same as the ads you hear on the radio. 

They will run for a certain amount of time or impressions and often are geo-targeted – so, for example, they will only run for listeners in New York or London.

I like the idea of dynamic campaigns because it means that you will still be paid for your old content, which can get significant download numbers when your show gets popular as people go back to the old episodes.

With baked-in ads, they only get paid once, and you are banking on new content all the time and that people will listen to it.

Geo-targeting also becomes more common, and it’s a question of time when advertisers will be able to target gender, age and other variables like on social media or Google.

Ok, so now you have an idea how the ads work; the second part of the lecture is – how to get sponsors!

In most cases, the way it works now is YOUR SHOW – PODCAST NETWORK – AD AGENCY – COMPANY.

The company pays the marketing budget to the ad agency, which contacts podcast networks that select shows and books the ads.

As you probably think, the initial money is getting smaller with each step.

The ideal scenario would be to go directly to companies. This is, of course, possible, but it means selling on your end – contacting prospects and getting the deals ready in place.

Last time I checked, there are plans for some sort of open platforms where smaller companies can directly sign with podcasts, but as of now, it’s still just an idea with lots of potential problems – like lying with stats and accountability.

Going directly to an ad agency won’t work in most cases as these guys work with networks; they don’t want to deal with individual shows.

The option left on the table is to join a podcast network or sign a deal with a hosting agency.

As I mentioned before, most hosting companies act as networks because they know the numbers and analytics and have access to loads of shows.

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Therefore when you start hosting your show, it’s good to see if the company also can sell ads and if they are doing it well, as there are stories from the past where people weren’t getting paid and had their funds withheld.

Before you get ads on your show, you will need numbers, so focus on growing your podcast and make it sound good.

Once you have your numbers, I guarantee that you will be contacted by your hosting service and offered ad sales; you will also get approached by several other podcast networks and offer advertising deals.

The other thing is money, when and how you will get paid.

Well, read T&Cs! It is changing now as the industry is becoming standardised, but I remember when we first sold ads, we got money after like 6 or 7 months! That meant working for free (well, working on other jobs) until the check cleared.

Why was that?

The ad agency had 30 days to pay after the campaign ended (which was 30 days) so suddenly it was 60 days, then the hosting company had, I think, 90 days for the payment to clear.

I can’t remember now, but it was long before we saw any money.

Thankfully most services are much better now, and you get paid within 30 or 60 days but double-check the terms.

As far as the split goes, it can be from 50-50 to 80-20 (in your favour).

So let’s say you can grow your show to over 100k downloads, with around 20$ CPM

That’s 20×100 = 2k per ad

If you decide to have one pre-roll and maybe two midroll ads, that means 6 thousand per episode, and let’s say you have four episodes per month. That’s 24 thousand per month; with a 70-30 split, you would still clear 16,800 per month. 

Easier said than done, but not impossible.

Some advertisers will book 3 or 4 ads as a campaign, and then CPM goes out of the window because they will get a discounted rate. So instead of 2k, they may pay 1.5k per ad; however, they book it on five episodes. So you give away a bit of money but for long term stability.

They may still cancel them, but there is a deadline.

Getting sponsorships on your podcast is a goal for many aspiring podcasters, and many will get to do this. However, it shouldn’t be on your mind when you are starting. As you learned, it isn’t as easy as it looks, so focus on making great content, and the money will come in due time!

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How to grow a podcast

How to grow a podcast

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17 APRIL 2021

written by Mike

HOW TO

GROW A PODCAST

After over five years of working in the podcasting space, we grew our main show Casefile to hundreds of millions of downloads and consistently feature on top of the charts. We also successfully launched several podcasts under Casefile Presents umbrella and hopefully continue to do so for a long time.

Exact success is never replicable because there are too many variables to copy. However, there are a few general rules that I think can help in achieving long term success. At least they worked for us.

I want to go through 3 of them and break them down further.

CONTENT

Content is and always will be the king. Podcasting is no different, and the content will always win in the long run. I want to discuss what I think is relevant to podcasts.

The first one is the voice. Podcasting is all about the audio and developing the connection through sound. And just like with radio the host or hosts’ voice is crucial.

The voice needs to be likeable, easy to listen to, soothing or fun, or dramatic – there are many angles to it. However, no matter the style, people have to like the voice and want to listen to it, sometimes for hours.

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The second part is storytelling. The most important part of the whole podcasting thing is the story – the rest supports this centrepiece. The voice, the production, the team – everything exist to help the story. 

It could be a comedy story, a true crime, fiction, an interview with guests, a chat show – whatever. However, there needs to be a point to the episode, a narrative and a timeline of what’s going on.

If it’s just two buddies talking about nothing, then it won’t be easy to keep the listener interested.

The story needs to grab from the beginning and hold the listener until the end. Don’t take anybody’s time for granted – it is our most precious resource.

And the third one is consistency. There are so many channels and platforms that a person who clicks on your show needs to know why they are here and what they will listen to. If you want to talk about true crime in one episode and then comment on movies in another and games in the third it will be pretty challenging to build a dedicated audience.

Big personalities or celebrities are exemptions to the rule and people tune in just to hear them talking about whatever.

However, for most of us, consistency will be the key to growth and developing a listenership.

Let’s now talk about

AUDIO QUALITY

Podcasting is all about sound. There seems to be an opinion, at least in some corners, that podcasting is easy – you record, upload and people will listen to whatever.

Now ask yourself this: 

Why would you spend your time listening or watching or reading some poorly produced thing?

There are plenty of good quality pieces of art or content that the bad ones don’t deserve anyone’s attention.

Now, don’t get me wrong – the story will always win. If you have the most expensive show with a bad story, the production quality won’t save you.

But if you have a great story with so and so audio quality, you can still get people interested.

However, to scale up and win in the long run you need both – great stories and great quality.

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Let’s start with recording.

Ideally, you have a nice microphone and a quiet set up. You also keep it in the same position and always use the same settings. It’s worth reading and watching basic recording tutorials and techniques. The way you speak to the microphone matters but the choice of the microphone matters even more! You don’t need a professional studio or a microphone worth thousands of pounds, but don’t think you can get away with a $20 one.

The second step is production. Audio production is not easy. The basics are not super difficult either but don’t think you can record and upload. 

What about editing, the volume levels, EQa and compression? 

You want your listeners to understand at least what is being said. If you want to add music on top of the dialogues, then at least you need basic mixing techniques.

You don’t need an expensive set up as everything can be done on your computer with a nice pair of headphones.

But production takes time and it’s slow work, so many people just skim it.

You wouldn’t believe the number of expensive shoes that I check and think to myself – did no one listened to this before the release? 

And that leads to my last point and that is consistency. As you learn you will upgrade your set up and make your show sound better but you should always strive for consistency. In volume levels, in recording settings, in your production template.

You want the listener to go from one episode to the next seamlessly and you don’t want them to adjust the volume during listening. You want people to have a smooth listening experience every time they click play!

TEAMWORK

The third leg of podcasting success, in my opinion, is teamwork. To grow and sustain a popular show, you will need a team of people who will support you and work together on bringing the episodes out.

It’s easy to start alone, but it’s rare, and I would argue, impossible, to achieve something great by yourself. 

A dedicated team of people makes it easier when times get tough.

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To have the right team, you got to have the right people – but once you gather them around your show, you also need to work on the team from within.

One is feedback – there needs to be an open feedback platform to give their opinion – good and bad. Feedback needs to be discussed by the rest, and if necessary, the changes implemented straight away. When team members feel like they don’t have a voice, they will grow in resentment and sabotage everything from the centre: feedback, even most trivial, needs to be heard.

The same goes for ideas. To stop growing is to die. You have to keep moving, keep experimenting to some degree and try out new things. It’s a fine balance between doing what is working and still improving and evolving. It doesn’t matter if a person is a senior or new to the team – ideas just like feedback need to be heard and discussed calmly.

Some will be good, some will be bad but don’t even think you found a winning formula and can now coast and relax. The thing that is winning at this moment may not be the best strategy in the future. Keep the team talking and brainstorming, and don’t criticise anyone for their ideas.

The last thing when it comes to right teamwork is dedication. You want people to care about the show and their work. To do so you need to learn what motivates each individual as it won’t be the same. For some is money, for others, flexibility and freedom, someone else thrives on getting the credit and so on. Once you discover the right incentive it will be much easier to get people pumped up to care about the work. Personally, I think that money is only the first and most obvious one, but once that is covered you still need to dig deeper and discover the why.

Those are the three elements that I think are needed for a successful podcast. However, there is something else that I value, and it is necessary to talk about.

LUCK

I’m a big proponent of randomness and luck. I do agree with the saying – the harder you work, the luckier you get. However, most of the things are outside of our control and are driven by random events. You can have the best team, work hard, produce awesome content – and still, no luck.

Or you can start a podcast from your bedroom and straight away grow and gain a huge audience.

Sometimes we get lucky or unlucky, and remembering that, in my opinion, will keep you humble.

Because if you do get success and attribute some of it to luck – you know that you shouldn’t be boasting or thinking you are the best in the world.

Same if you get unlucky even though you worked hard – it doesn’t mean you suck, it doesn’t mean you are stupid, it just means that this time it didn’t work out.

As the ancient saying goes, sometimes Lady Luck gives, sometimes she takes it away!

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RETHINKING YOUR POSITION

RETHINKING YOUR POSITION

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13 APRIL 2020

written by Mike

Rethinking

your position

It would be quite obvious to say that we are now in the middle of an extraordinary episode. The global pandemic caught everyone by surprise, and also it was a catalyst for an overdue market correction.

It is easy to be smart after the events and discuss what we should and would have done; however, nobody could predict the turn of the events. Not only we are facing unprecedented safety measures set by the governments, but also, the business stopped.

We are stuck at home, not earning, not spending. Many people will lose their jobs, and many companies will fail.

At this moment, I’m one of the lucky ones, as I’ve set up my life to be able to work from home years ago. It was after I read the book called Antifragile by Nicholas Nassim Taleb that prompted me to rethink my position in the world.

The one-story that stuck out to me (and I will probably butcher it) was about the global market crash of 2008 and two brothers. One brother was a taxi driver and the other a banker with a highly paid position.

Because taxi drivers must be able to adjust and due to constant change after the 2008 economic collapse, the taxi driver was able to navigate during difficult times.

The other brother lost his job and was unprepared for what happened next.

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My takeaway was to be always prepared but also to challenge myself during good times, get out of my comfort zone, change and pivot so when something unexpected happens, I will be ready.

Well, nothing could prepare me for what is happening now, and it will take a bit longer to see the effects the events had on everyone, but the lessons from Taleb’s book helped.

Which also brings me to a second point which is, now I think is an excellent time to rethink and ponder our position in this world. Is the chase worth it when the unexpected can and often will throw the plans into the bin?

Is there a way to simplify things?

To make events like this more manageable?

Something else did trigger that thought and rethinking my position again.

Just before the pandemic happened and countries around the world shut their borders, for the first time in my life, I travelled to Australia. 

Australia is almost the furthest you can go from the UK, and after a very long flight, it dawned on me how far from home I am and how incredibly lucky I am to be able to travel half the world in such a short time (and relative comfort).

The trip was a success, we were able to do a lot of work, and the flight back went without a hitch. Only just as a couple of weeks later the borders were shut tight.

It was only after when I sat at home and pondered about the whole trip, that two things stayed on my mind and prompted me to rethink my position again.

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One was how detached, during that time, I was from my everyday problems and small issues.

Family stuff, anxieties, stress were gone thousands of miles behind me, and for the first time in my life, I felt free and egoistically happy.

I could see myself staying in this far away country, separating my life from the past and everyone else and just having it for myself. 

The vastness of Australia offered the feeling that I’ve never had experienced in my life.

Was it only because I knew I would be coming back? 

Would that feeling go away after a month, two, six?

Who knows, but it left a mark.

The second thought was about the work. For the past few years, I’ve been lucky to be able to work from home, which has its pros and cons. I have friends and family nearby, but my work is a lonely endeavour. It is just me in front of the computer screen.

The project in Australia involved renting a studio with staff and working with a lot of different people.

I haven’t done something like that in a very long time, and the experience reminded me why we are social creatures and why the best ideas often happen in a group where there is diverse thinking involved.

Every day was a long day, but we were energised and exhilarated at the end of each session.

The project made me rethink my position again. I love my everyday work; however, I think I need to include more people or at least a couple of projects like this during the year.

To keep myself, not only on my toes but also engaged and inspired by others.

Rethinking the position in life, at work, in the world is something that I often do, however thinking itself doesn’t change anything. It is the actions that cause a change in life. Unfortunately, the most recent events will force this on a lot of people, but it is a reminder that we shouldn’t get too comfortable with our ways of life and that it can all change in a matter of seconds.

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My Plans for 2020 (and beyond)

My Plans for 2020 (and beyond)

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17 FEBRUARY 2019

written by Mike

my plans for 2020

 

Long time, no see.

I haven’t been uploading anything for a while. It would be easy to blame it on work, business or life, however looking back I have to admit that it just wasn’t my priority.

Not only that. I was also contemplating why I even keep the website, and what should I do with all of it.

To cut the story short, after a few months of thinking, I’ve decided to change a few things. Before I get into the details, I wanted to talk about what prompted me into further action.

After attending podcasting meetups and workshops here in the UK, I’ve noticed that not only the space is vibrant and exciting, but also there is a massive opportunity for growth and development.

Because in my work, we usually deal with the US market, it seemed that podcasting is a matured industry. With big companies, spending and marketing campaigns.

However, when I looked at the UK and Australia, I noticed that the medium is not where the US partners are, and it is still finding its voice on the global stage.

Having the privilege of my experience in the space, I thought, how can I help and be a part of the evolution?

With that in mind, I developed a plan for this year. It will move me into the direction of growing this website as well as available resources in the podcasting space.

Here are the areas that I will be working on going forward.

 

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WORK

The work on Casefile will still be a priority and the main thing that I do daily. We have a strong team of highly skilled and capable people and are planning on creating more of what we do best – high quality, in-depth true-crime podcast.
Besides that, we also have several projects under Casefile Presents umbrella. All of them being produced by talented and passionate people, from many different backgrounds. With the Casefile Presents projects, I will be taking more of a ‘head of production’ role with the final feedback and say on the content. However, in a couple of the projects, I will be taking an active part in audio producing and possibly music composing.
It looks like it’s going to be a busy and exciting year.

WEBSITE

The website is being redesigned with a new look. More sleek, modern and kind of a Blade Runner vibe. There won’t be many changes in terms of the content here, just a facelift.

BLOG

I don’t have massive plans for the blog. The idea is to (maybe) release a new article per month.
I am keeping with the style that I developed in the past – audio, podcasting and work topics. However, it depends how much time I will have left after the new venture that will be taking a chunk of my day.


YOUTUBE

I thought about starting a Youtube channel for a long time. I’ve even released some video tutorials in the past on Youtube (they are gone now), but it never felt like a good time to start.
Few things aligned lately. Moving to a new house, I finally was able to secure small dedicated working space for myself, where I could see the videos being filmed there.
Two, I finally felt that I was ready to talk about podcasting ideas and problems as I think that my experience taught me a few things over the last four years.
Three, my brother wanted to move from his primary skill, photography, into video making. As we live together, this presented an ideal situation for him to learn the ropes and for me to get the production for a ‘family’ rate.
And four, I thought that if I don’t start now, I will never do it. It seemed that there wasn’t a similar channel about what I want to do and I knew that once the Casefile 2020 schedule kicks off in February, I won’t have time to do the Youtube. So during our break from work, I prepped everything and laid the foundations for the channel, which will make the work streamlined throughout the year.

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BOOK

For a long time, I was bothered about the fact that my book wasn’t properly edited and proofread. I’m not a native English speaker, and I knew my writing wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be. Therefore I decided to send the manuscript to a proper editing house.
I’ve also added a few updates as the book was written in 2017 and a few things have changed since then.
The book will be updated with a new cover on the Amazon store.

COURSES

The first thing I wanted to do is to take the course off the Udemy platform and move it to my website. I will be doing that in the coming weeks. It will offer me more control and better conditions for future courses.
I’ve written another two courses – both about podcasting. I’m planning on recording and releasing them here this year.
I also have vague plans for another two (on podcasting again) however I will see how I get on with other tasks.

EVENTS

There are quite a few podcasting and true crime events planned in the UK this year. I will try to attend these and in some cases, have a small exhibitor’s table too.
Networking is something that I want to work on and getting out of the house will be in no doubt helpful!

These are my plans when it comes to the professional side of life. There are some changes, but it is more about doubling down on podcasting and my work.
Ultimately we will see how it all develops in the coming years, with the acquisitions, consolidations, rules and maturity of the medium. I am excited for any new challenges that it brings.

That’s it for now!
The first Youtube videos are out now, and there are many more planned. It’s an exciting experiment for me, and we’ll see how it progresses over the year.

Thanks for reading. Speak soon!
Mike

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Pros and Cons of Working From Home

Pros and Cons of Working From Home

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16 JUNE 2019

written by Mike

PROS AND CONS OF

WORKING FROM HOME

 

One of the recent changes in how people work is the focus on flexibility as well as comfort and working from home seems to tick these two boxes.

There aren’t many more comfortable places than our own homes and having an office next to your bedroom (or in your bedroom) offers a lot of flexibility with your day.

In the past, working from home meant running a business and being self-employed; however, this is also changing. More and more companies, especially ones that operate on the internet, allow their employees to do some work from home. It may be an occasional day here and there or a flexible schedule, but, I can see these options available more easily now.

Working from home still seems like a dream come through for many people, and they envy those who have that opportunity. It means having no boss, no schedule and of course no dress code as you can do your task in PJs and no one will mind a thing.

From my personal experience, after 3.5 years of working from the comfort of my home, I can say that I have a good comparison to the standard office environment.

I have had many jobs before, and in different places and even though working from home does have a lot of upside and positives, like, with everything else, it has its downsides too.

Here is a list of good and less ideal things that I found after a few years of having the office less than three steps away from my bed.

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PROS

No schedule

Matthew Walker is a scientist and professor who researches sleep, and in his book Why We Sleep, he demonstrates that we are not all wired in the same way. Naturally, some people prefer to work in the mornings, but there are also those who need a later start. Unfortunately, most companies (and services) favour a morning 9-5 routine, which for many people means a grumpy way to start a day. The obvious positive of working from home is that you can set a schedule that works for you. You can set the hours that you prefer and take as many breaks as you want.

No dress code

Not everyone likes to dress up every day, put on makeup and iron a fresh shirt. No dress code is even better than a casual one, because you can work in your PJs or your robe or wear nothing at all! No one will look at you or comment behind your back.

Services and appointment

Most people work 9-5, which means that necessary services like health appointments are either busy, closed or available for you on weekends. Same goes for gyms, restaurants and cinemas. Having your schedule means that you can book these appointments during day hours when there is little queuing. Gyms and cinemas are empty, and restaurants offer more deals as they want customers during quiet periods. It is honestly one of the best things that you gain when working from home.

 

No unnecessary meetings

Anyone who ever worked in the office understands the pain of pointless meetings, and the time wasted on gossiping near the coffee machine and just general unproductive activities that happen during office hours.

When working from home, there is none of that. When you had enough, you can stop and do what you want to do – go shopping, read a book or watch a movie. There is no need to sit idly in front of the screen staring at the clock.

No pressure

Of course, there is always a bit of pressure when working with clients however when a deadline approaches and you work alongside other people the stress feeds on itself and it is very easy to be consumed by the bubble of pressure, stress and anxiety. I find working from home much more relaxed than the office or any other work environment.

When I’m stressed, I know, it is me who spreads the pressure around, and I can’t blame anyone else.

 

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It would be to easy to list all the good things when you can sit at home and do your work. Like most things in life, working from home isn’t for everyone, and it has some consequences. Here are five things that I noted about having an office at your home that you may not enjoy.

CONS

No schedule

I am a believer that routines help to guide our days and to improve skills, develop projects and make us healthier in the long run. However, with no schedule set by managers, this goes out of the window, and it can have a negative effect on your life.

When you have flexibility with your time, there is always an opportunity to move things to another hour, another day. You can sleep how much you want, take naps, favour pleasure over work and get little done.

To combat that I have my schedule that I stick to every day and in some ways, it is more rigid that schedules I had when I worked somewhere else.

No dress code

Sitting in your robe or PJs all day may seem like a good idea; however, it can also lead to stopping in taking care of yourself. Most of us like to look good in the mirror, but when day after day, there is no reason for it, it can develop in a bad habit. It’s all about balance, I tend to work in regular clothes rather than sweatpants, but my partner likes to work in her PJs in the morning. However, we still dress up when we leave the house.

No reason to leave the house

When working from home, and especially when you are busy with work, there may be days that you spend between your four walls. Even if you live in your perfect place, be it a centre of a bustling city or a quiet residential part, you are still confined to your home office.

Add to that no need to dress up every day, leaving the house may become problematic. It’s great that you can be more productive at home, but it is so easy to sit in front of the screen all day and then watch some TV show in the evening when suddenly realising that last time you opened your front door was two days ago.

 

It gets lonely

The unnecessary meetings are annoying, and you may not like the gossiping near the coffee machine, but with time, you start to miss it. You begin to miss the chitchat with your workmates, meeting new people in person and everyday banter. Working at home gets lonely. I am lucky that my partner also works at home, but it means that we get lonely together.

The crucial bit is to go out of your comfort zone, join some activities and clubs in your area and meet people there. It is much more challenging to do when you do your work from home, and it’s harder to make new friends. 

Feedback and ideas

It is much easier to offer feedback when the person is sitting next to you.

Emails get lost, multiple time zones play their role too and, with time, you forget what you wanted to say in the first place.

Another thing is that creativity can also suffer, having multiple people in the office means bouncing ideas off each other, trying new things, listening to different opinions. When you work from home, even with a team of people over the internet, it is much harder to create that environment.

 

After a few years of working from home, I can now see that it is not for everyone. It requires discipline as well as a proper willingness to leave the house. To meet new people, you have to get out of your comfort zone, join local clubs and pick up new activities.

It is something that I didn’t think of at the beginning of my journey, and it is still something that I am working to fix in my own life. Looking at my sister and friends who lead busy lives in the centre of London, they love their office environment – the hustle and bustle of it.

My current work requires a quiet studio, so I’m glad I can do it from home and even that I’m on a different time zone than my teammates because I can do my job without too many disruptions.

However, it does get lonely, and sometimes I wish that I could attend a meeting or two, even if it were just a waste of time.

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Habits and Routines

Habits and Routines

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19 APRIL 2019

written by Mike

HABITS AND ROUTINES

 

I’ve always believed that people are creatures of habits. We do have the power to innovate, improvise and disrupt; however, most of the time we quickly fall into routines, leading some parts of our lives on autopilot.

I don’t view it as a bad thing though. Even looking at my body, most of the functions run on autopilot, and it would be distracting if I had to remember to breathe or digest my meals.

I’m happy to not think about it.

Moving outside of our bodies, daily routines as small as brushing the teeth and eating; going to work and completing monthly goals also happen semi-automatically. We are, just like with breathing, free to stop but we don’t do that, happily following the routines of our days.

I think that having a routine helps to free our minds so we can focus on things that matter, or require more attention. However, what we should think where do our routines lead us. Unfortunately, some habits can quickly develop into toxic routines that not only stop us from growing but do a lot of harm too.

The dangerous aspect is that we don’t realise when we cultivate these habits.

I had my realisation about four years ago. On the surface, I was doing good. I had a good job and a great partner. I’ve attended a gym and made time for evening leisure. However, when you looked behind that veil, the picture wasn’t as pretty.

I suffered from insomnia, sometimes having two or three nights in a row with a very little sleep, I felt tired, weak and slowly started gaining weight.

Even though the symptoms were there, I set them aside, continuing my daily, weekly and monthly routines until I crashed. It all culminated with a period of a few weeks when I became depressed and started questioning my whole life choices. It wasn’t pretty.

However, I also realised that I had to make some significant changes. I wrote down my routines, my habits, my daily actions and had an honest look at how I lead my life.

I figured that my state was the reaction to my choices and it was clear that I made some wrong ones along the way.

 

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From the list, I could see, straight away, some habits that in my opinion were doing more harm than good.

I was attending the gym, but there was no schedule, and I skipped more sessions that I went to. 

I consumed way too much coffee, and my diet needed to shake up also.

I didn’t smoke much, but two, three cigarettes per day were a norm.

I had a glass or two of wine almost every night, and I used recreational drugs for relaxation.

I used to be an avid reader, but I stopped reading books and turned into watching TV or playing games instead.

These were just some of the things that I wrote down. I needed to be as honest as possible because without that I knew that it would be challenging to turn my routines around.

Next was a plan for drastic measures. The way I laid the things out was if I take a 180-degree turn on my habits, I should feel the opposite – happy and energised.

I wrote the initial plan and got to work.

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Another thing to understand is that habits work on the same rule as compounding interest – they take a bit of time to start producing results. And this is something that throws a lot of people off.

We start dieting; we start exercising, we pick up a new skill and then after a couple of weeks, even months – there’s nothing. We feel the same or worse, and it looks like the effort was in vain.

What I’ve learned is that we need to zoom out and look at these things in macro rather than micro scale. There is no such thing as shortcuts and planning for a more prolonged investment takes that pressure off. So when you pick up a new skill that you practice three days a week, think about when you will be in 6 months, a year even rather than a month or two, and then get excited about what’s going to happen.

Also, take into consideration that more than often other people will see the results first. The best example is with going to the gym. Because you see yourself in the mirror every day, you won’t necessarily see the significant results. However, when you see some of your mates after a few months, they will certainly notice the changes! And hopefully, let you know how good you are doing.

On the other side, it’s not enough to plan for that year-long result. I’m also a proponent of tracking the everyday results, to write down your schedule and have a bit of accountability.

You start exercising – write down your daily progress.

You start dieting – plan your meals.

You pick up a guitar – schedule the daily exercises.

Habits can be about anything, and as long as they help you grow, keep you healthy and energised, they will make your life better. And inadvertently will positively affect everyone around you, without even knowing.

Yes, it takes time to form new habits, and routines so don’t give up until it feels what you are doing is natural and part of you.

I’m not saying that it is easy though, it is straightforward to destroy good habits with a few bad ones, and it happens quicker than forming new ones.

It may be challenging to start, and I would recommend a book by Charles Duhigg, The Power of Habit which will help you to understand the trigger and award of your actions. And what to do to change them.

If you struggle to see your bad habits, ask your closest ones and let them be as honest as possible. Nobody is perfect, but at least you will know your starting point.

So what happened to me?

It took a long time, there were some drastic changes, ups and downs on the way but after four years I can say that at least I feel, like a different person. I look at my old habits and think, why didn’t I challenge myself earlier, why did I think it was good for me?

But, that’s the trick, when you are in the middle of something it is difficult to have that objective opinion on the matter.

Sometimes we need a little push.

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