Most importantly build a process you can easily follow, consisting of 4 key elements:
- Use pen and paper to write down ideas
- Plan for an undisturbed creative session
- Record all your ideas for further revisits, find a system which works best for you
- Select an idea and build upon it for supreme content creation
1. Improve creativity by using pen and paper
- The process of physical writing activates brain differently – a study at Indiana University comparing children writing letters and children just looking at displayed letters shown a far more advanced and adult-like neural activity of the brain. A different study at the University of Wisconsin shows that the repetitive hand movements performed while writing with pen activates brain regions involved with thought, language, and short-term memory.
- Writing with a pen is slower than writing on a computer and this has a positive impact – it requires more of your mental energy and as already established engages more areas of your brain. It gives you more time to pause and reflect and help with generating ideas.
- It limits distractions – According to Udemy’s “2018 Workplace Distraction Report”, nearly 3 out of 4 workers (70 percent) admit they feel distracted when they’re on the job. Technology is one of the biggest distractors and Facebook is the number 1 online distractor. If you treat podcasting seriously you need to eliminate this what will stop you from succeeding. Writing things with pen and paper is the only thing guaranteeing the elimination of online distractors.
- It improves creativity – a study at the University of Wisconsin shown that students writing by hand generated more ideas when working on their essays.
Applying tips mentioned here will also improve the success rate of planing an entire podcast season. If you want to know more about planning a podcast season: Planning a podcast season – how to engage the audience?
2. Build rituals – start with dedicated, creative podcasters journal
If podcasting is really important to you than treat it with respect and build small rituals around it.
When starting to generate ideas don’t just go for a random piece of paper from your printer’s tray. That is a utility paper with no meaning, anything can be printed on it. It’s not special, it is a large A4 sheet of paper which will get folded easily and you probably won’t respect it enough and just put a mug on it and create mug stains.
Instead aim for a beautiful, personal notebook which will be a pleasure to write in. Buy something when used will feel special and will encourage you to use it often. Something you will be able to call a companion on your work with podcasting. I’m using and recommending Leuchtturm1917. It comes with a large selection of colors.
A very good alternative and also wildly popular and recommended is a Moleskine Classic. It has fewer color options but it’s also premium quality, and worth consider buying and checking.
Small tip: don’t buy anything too unique which you will be afraid to use and treat it like a trophy. It needs to serve the purpose of encouraging you to write in it. It needs to improve your podcast.
3. Finding the best time for a creative session
To be really productive and creative you will need at least an hour to 2 hours to pass through potential initial writer’s block, obvious ideas, too general ideas, too specific ideas, etc. You will need to analyze your schedule and honestly, think if you are dedicating the best time of your day to do the work.
Options to consider and things to avoid:
- Consider working on ideas in the morning – get up an hour earlier and work on ideas. Work when you have a fresh head before you start your regular day, busy with phone calls, emails, and meetings. Working in the morning is especially a good idea if it is typical for your schedule to get filled out with emergency tasks you have no control over.
- Work regularly on the weekends (or other free days) – if podcasting isn’t your main job and time is a constraint work on the weekends. Get up in the morning before other household members and commit to a dedicated session. This can be a great way to generate excitement if on Friday evening you know that on the next day you will get to work on your podcast.
- Avoid scheduling your creative sessions for the evenings – when you are tired after a full day of work, frustrated with events of the day and distracted because you think about tasks you haven’t completed and you have to address tomorrow it is very easy to just skip your creative session and postpone it by a day. Random skipping and postponing can easily become a norm and seriously hinder your effort and work ethic.
Scheduling a good creative session is equally important when creating a compelling episode. If you want to learn more about creating engaging episodes we wrote a dedicated guide: 9 key tips on how to plan podcast episodes.
4. Create a list of distractors
It is very important to be observant and recognize what distracts you from writing and generating ideas. Here is a list of my personal items I’m managing and eliminating when I want to have 2 hours of uninterrupted work:
- Temperature – I set temperature before I sit down to work, and have a backup hoodie or a blanket within arms reach so I can put them on or take off without getting up.
- Water – I always have a glass and a water bottle next to me so I don’t have to get up when I get thirsty. Like with notebook personalization consider buying a bottle you will really like. Those are really inexpensive and will help you drink more water overall, which we all should be doing anyway.
- Coffee / Tea – I love my coffee. I just make a cup of coffee and take it with me so I avoid even a potential thought of going to the kitchen and having a break.
- Personal comfort – I don’t experiment with a new chair or a new place in the park to work. I sit in my regular, boring place to work when I won’t find new exciting or unknown uncomfortable things.
- Time of the day – I actually have a lot of control over my schedule so I work in the afternoon around 4 pm before my household members come back home and I do regularly work on the weekends around 10 am when I get back from swimming.
- Phone – I just turn on the do not disturb mode on so the incoming calls, emails and notifications won’t get passed through to me.
5. Disable distractors for a focused work session on your podcast ideas
Your personal list may be different. You can have more factors to consider. Think about your distractors and disable them before starting a session. Make an official list of them so you can review before each session before it becomes an automatic behavior. Also, observe yourself when working and if you find some new distractor add it to the list and eliminate before starting a new creative session.
Example distractors which could consider you:
- Take your dog for a walk before starting
- Feed your pets
- Close your windows if you live in a noisy neighborhood or have children playing outside
- Work in the quietest room in your home
- Reschedule an incoming important phone call
- Don’t play music with lyrics (you will be singing the songs before you even notice)
- Avoid creative sessions just after a large meal (with sugar in your system and spiking insulin levels you can be tired and sleepy)
- Also, don’t start working when you are very hungry
- Consider using a restroom just before starting
- Avoid walking around your home: on your trip to the kitchen or restroom you will pass hundreds of objects and each has a potential of triggering long distracting thoughts “I have to call my friend”, “ I have to schedule a doctor’s appointment”, “I should clean this”, “I have to buy more eggs”, etc. – this list does not have an end.
6. Skip first ideas and explore further
There are hundreds of podcaster out there workings on good content. You don’t know their background and experience but there is a good chance that your first ideas on the topic you are working on might be their first ideas as well. Even if not all then at least some of them will be.
First ideas are always the most obvious. They may be great if you are working on creating basic guidelines or podcast material for beginners but you also want to have a more advanced and thoroughly researched material. Think about how you can be most helpful for your audience? How can you provide the most in-depth understanding of the topic you want to discuss?
Generate as many podcasting topics, angles to approach a topic, think of not obvious perspectives, think about ‘what if”. Note down everything. You will review this later and not everything you will generate will be worth podcasting about but at the end of this process, you should be able to reach a unique enough perspective interesting for your listeners.
Give your knowledge away to your listeners and embrace the unique experiences and your personal perspective you have on a topic.
If you are looking for an idea for a show we have prepared a long list of suggestions you can review and find inspiration for your new show. Just visit 40 Podcasting Shows Ideas Available for the Taking Now!
7. Understand your audience – research data.
Why are they listening to your podcast? Regardless if you are starting or have already an existing podcast you should research your audience or audience of your competitors. You analytics tool to understand: Who are they? Where do they live? What is their age? What is their income? On what are they spending their money?
This is the same approach Facebook and Google are using when serving you their ads. But understanding users they can estimate a likelihood of an ad being successful. When you will understand your podcast audience you will increase the likelihood of your podcast’s success.
If you want to learn more about the podcast market, in general, you may want to check out our analysis: Number of podcast listeners in 2019 & outlook for 2022.
8. Answer the needs of a specific listener – build an avatar.
Use a method of creating an avatar. Create a sample user to which you will be addressing your podcast. You should not be talking to a nameless, faceless crowd of people but to a very specific person. When you imagine this person you will be able to better understand his or her desires and motivations. Here is an example description of an avatar of a listener:
- Jim is 25 years old. He just graduated from the University of North Carolina and got his first job at a digital marketing agency. He has a girlfriend and his life aspiration is to have a family and his own small business selling tennis equipment, where he hopes he will be able to use his marketing experience and knowledge of the tennis, which he has been playing since 14. In his free time, he enjoys crime shows and spends part of his income on board games and mountain hiking.
In this example, if you would be podcasting about digital marketing, tennis, mountain hiking or board games you could think of how you can be most interesting and most useful to Jim which will allow you to build more valuable content for your end listener.
Right now we know a lot about podcasts listeners and their behaviors. Most useful knowledge and insights we have gathered in this analysis: Podcasting Demographics 2019 – Marketing Guide to Understanding Your Audience.