If you don’t look far enough ahead, podcaster, you may miss big trends or changes coming to the industry. Of course, if you look too far ahead, you might miss obstacles directly in front of you and stumble. The trick is striking a balance.
This week we’re going to talk about time. Not the entire duration that humanity has been around or the age universe, but different aspects of time as related to being a working podcaster. Because if you make better use of time, it will get you on the track of making podcasting better.
Your own personal “time-horizon” is something that shifts naturally. In general, if your experience is limited, your time-horizon is short. As your experience grows, your time-horizon typically (though not always) expands.
When you’re just starting out with podcasting, your time-horizon is probably focused on right now! You have an idea in your head, and you want it out for the world to hear. You don’t have a long term plan. You’re just trying to get going. As you grow as a podcaster, you stop worrying about right now and start looking farther ahead.
But here’s the reality about the time-horizon. The actual horizon is a fixed point with a natural and insurmountable “edge”. If you set up a huge telescope parallel to the ground and peer through it, you still can’t see beyond the actual horizon. There’s a natural curvature to the Earth that we can’t see beyond. That telescope can help you see things in the distance more clearly, but there will always be something over the edge that you can’t see.
All you can do is choose where you want to focus. That’s the time-horizon that matters: your own personal time-horizon.
Are you thinking about the episode you’re going to do today? Are you thinking about the show you’re doing this week? If so, you’re not alone. Ask around, and the vast majority of podcasters are only thinking about their very next episode.
Though for a lot of podcasters, the time-horizon is much shorter. Some podcasters shrink their time-horizon to minutes. Some podcasters don’t even think about their episode until they sit down behind the microphone. I’ll be really honest with you: In Season One of Podcast Pontifications, several episodes were conceived of minutes before I sat down to record. A very short time-horizon can work, as long as you can talk extemporaneously and have enough expertise to let the seemingly random thoughts inside of your head come out in a way that makes sense. Now in Season Two, I’m planning out my entire week, which I think is making the experience better. Better for you. Better for me.
But that might not work for you. You might find that expanding your personal time-horizon results in a terrible experience for you. As with so many things, YMMV.
One way to work on expanding your time-horizon is to actually have two time-horizons: one for your episodes, and one for you and/or your show. For me, I keep my episode-focus to less than a week. I come up wlth the main topic that I will cover during the week, then I shrink my time-horizon to think of the contents of each episode of that week. If a great idea for a future topic comes, I write it down and forget about it, because I’m focused on this week.
But for me and how I fit in the ever-changing podcasting landscape, I focus my time-horizon months out. Not quite years, because things are shifting too quickly for that. Plus I’ve never been one for sticking with a 5-year plan. Too many interesting things crop up before that time. But that’s me. You do you.
Not that I let that stop me from thinking about macro-changes to podcasting that happen over much longer time scales. We’ve been podcasting for 15 years now, and I think quite a lot on what the next 15 years might look like. But that’s tough to predict with any level of accuracy, so I don’t make plans based on those idle musings.
So don’t make the mistake of planning too far out, especially if you’re starting from a super-short time-horizon. Instead, think about the possibilities of what might happen one step past your current time-horizon. Reduce it down to a simple, binary choice: How will you know if whatever you were focused on worked… or didn’t work. Think about that for a few episodes, and check to see if what you thought success (or failure) looked like matched up to what really happened. It’s not about consistently getting it right: it’s about not being surprised when you don’t get it right.
Though you shouldn’t be working to eliminate surprise from your world! Surprise leads to change, and a lack of surprise means you’re probably stuck in a groove. Or worse, a rut, where you just do the same thing day after day or week after week and nothing ever changes.
Pro tip: Podcasting has changed drastically in the last few years. If your show hasn’t… Well then.
Expanding your time-horizon gives you more time to think about you, your show, and where you and/or your show fits in the overall podcasting landscape. Not to mention the ability to think about what’s going to happen with the overall podcasting landscape in the future. Just prepare to be wrong about that. I sure am.
Should you focus on short versus long, or somewhere in the middle? It’s a happy balance you want to strike, and there isn’t an easy answer to get you there. I don’t have a way to magically bless you the gift of seeing all the way to the horizon. It’s up to you to decide where to focus your eyes and your attention on your own time-horizon.
More episodes are coming this week, all focused on time, so I do hope you’ll stick around. But if you have no time to wait and you need some help right now, get in touch with me. This is what I do. I help people launch their podcasts and find great success going forward. And I think (probably too much) about what the future of podcasting is going to look like. email@example.com reaches me. And you can go to PodcastLaunch.pro to see a list of all the services I offer my clients.
Since you got this far, how about mashing that 👏 button a few dozen times to let me know you dig the written-word version of my thoughts on these podcasting topics? I’d sure appreciate it!
This article started life as a podcast episode. The 203rd episode of my four-times-a-week short-form podcast called, oddly enough, Podcast Pontifications. It’s a podcast for working podcasters that’s focused on trends in our growing industry and ideas on ways to make podcasting not just easier, but better. Yes, you should listen. Here’s an easy way: 👇
Evo Terra (hey, that’s me!) has been podcasting since 2004, is the author of Podcasting For Dummies and Expert Podcasting Practices for Dummies, and is the CEO and founder of Simpler Media Productions, a strategic podcast consultancy working with businesses, brands, and professional service providers all around the world.