Thursday, July 18, 2019

How to Get in the Habit of Streaming

You're excited about streaming on Twitch, and you spend a bunch of energy setting up your channel. You go live for a few days, but before the week is out, something comes up and you've missed one of your scheduled broadcasts. The next week you're busy at work and you miss two or three streams. The week after that, family is in town and you miss even more. Eventually you decide that you just don't have the time to stream, and put it all on hold for a while.

Has this happened to you? It's sure happened to me on previous projects. If you swap out the Twitch stuff, you could apply this same story to working out, dieting, painting, writing, learning a new language, any new skill you might try to learn in any field. In previous entries, I've discussed How to Find the Time to Stream on Twitch, and How to Stay Motivated About Twitch Streaming, but what if you've carved out time and feel motivated to start your streaming career, but simply can't stick with it? I'm going to talk about how I got into the habit of Twitch streaming.

Making your Twitch streaming into a habit is an immense help. It's perhaps the only important thing about streaming- that you're able to do it every time, without fail, until it's as natural as breathing. When streaming is a habit, you won't have to battle with yourself to actually sit down at your computer. You'll be able to keep yourself in check, control your day no matter how crazy it becomes, and never miss a scheduled broadcast.


There are all sorts of distractions out there.
Anyone reading this who has never actually tried to sit down and stream for weeks on end probably doesn't know why I'm making such a big deal out of nothing. If you're still trying to perfect all the equipment or graphics you need in order to START streaming, you may think that what you're going through is the hard part- that once you've finished putting all the pieces together, it'll be smooth sailing. This is the miscalculation that dashes the dreams of so many hopeful streamers. Every time a Twitch streamer wants to go live, they must first fight a pitched battle against themselves.

There's a force inside all of us, which actively tries to stop us from doing whatever it is we truly want most in life. I've referred to it in past entries as ego, I've referred to it as self-doubt, I've referred to it as Gear Lust; its names are numerous. I will refer to it here as The Enemy, because that's exactly what it is. It's a malevolent force that takes many forms, each trickier and more seductive than the last. It will fight the prospective streamer every chance it gets.

Let's get one thing out of the way first: You will never stop having to fight this battle. 

The fear, the self-doubt, the desire to be anywhere but in your computer chair will come back every single time you want to stream, no matter what you do or how experienced you are. I've streamed a minimum of 3 times daily for the past 12 months, over 1,000 individual broadcasts, and I still encounter it. Don't expect to ever be rid of this enemy, but you CAN make it easier to fight. Like leveling up in a role playing game, every time you're able to stream without missing your scheduled days will increase your ability to resist its offensive. You're still battling the same monster, but your attack, defense and hit points have increased. Just don't count out The Enemy's ability to summon allies: busy days, tech issues, lack of sleep, feeling sick, and any other real-world problems. These are The Enemy's best friends, and they're all understandable excuses not to stream. But whether something is a good excuse or a bad one, missing a stream is missing a stream at the end of the day.


The Enemy will trick you. It will cloud your memory so you forget an important engagement. It will coerce you into doing any other 'productive' task EXCEPT streaming. It will keep you from having a handle on your day so that you feel overwhelmed and tired out, constantly swimming upstream against the current of its lies. But there's something I've discovered that has helped me to consistently defeat my Enemy each day. This high-level weapon has not only helped me to stream more consistently, it's helped me to improve several aspects of my daily life:

I keep a very organized calendar.

Be ever vigilant. The Enemy is within us all.
Everything I do on a given day has been laid out on my Google calendar the night before. I consult my calendar constantly, to make sure everything I'm doing that day is on track. This habit increased my efficiency, which was to be expected. But what I didn't expect was how much more lucid I became throughout the day. Knowing exactly what I can AND CAN'T do on a given day helps me to get more things done, while still keeping my eye on the prize and doing what's important.

Oftentimes The Enemy will try to trick us into thinking we're being productive. Yes, creating channel graphics or updating social feeds will improve or help our channels, but sometimes the energy all these actions take will sap our future energy for streaming. With a well-organized calendar I can schedule blocks of time for these improvements, but they have to compete with the blocks of time set aside for streaming, family time, food, personal commitments, and other top-tier things that are non-negotiable.

I thought this rigidity might make me into a robot, or detract from my personal life, but it actually helped in that department as well. How many of us have been late for dinner or a movie because we were too engrossed in our stream to end the show? This is The Enemy up to another of its tricks: allowing our streaming habit to slowly chip away at our personal lives. It could takes months or years, but if you miss out on enough family or relationship time because of your streams, you'll eventually be forced to make the tough choice to give it up altogether. Breaking down your day into chunks will make your streams start and end punctually, leaving more time that you can dedicate fully to the people most important to you. For anyone who works crazy amounts of hours per week, you know that every extra moment spent with loved ones is a very precious commodity.


The calendar in itself is an effective weapon against your inner Enemy, but you'll find that it becomes even more effective as you learn to follow it more rigidly.

The Enemy hates clarity. It hates when you have a
handle on your day.
If you're planning to stream at 8pm for example, know that you will absolutely start preparing your show at 7:30pm, or whatever gives you enough time to prepare. It doesn't matter what else you're doing, that time is already pre-booked, pre-determined, and non-negotiable. 7:30 is when you start doing ONLY the things that are required to make the stream go live. If you were updating channel graphics or changing your chatbot at the time, save your work and add it to your calendar for the next day, or for after your stream. There are no exceptions. The Enemy loves when you're pulled in so many directions that you forget to turn on your camera, set up your greenscreen or install an important game patch before your show, because feeling self-conscious after one of these slip-ups could prevent you from going live tomorrow. Setting aside time before your stream will help you to have designated 'breathing room' beforehand. You'll be surprised how much this cuts down absentminded mistakes.

If you're planning to meet a friend for dinner, celebrate an event, go to a concert, or any other one-off activity during a scheduled stream time, that goes on your calendar as well. Being able to see this block of time in your day, you can then plan for your show to be pushed back to a later hour or pulled forward so you stream before going out. Don't simply cancel your show because your plans would clash with your regularly scheduled stream, do the show anyway at an unscheduled time. Life isn't the same every single day. Be willing to shift your schedule, but realize that aside from a family emergency or the end of the world, there are no excuses not to go live.

Then, when it's time to start streaming, it doesn't matter if you haven't figured out which game to play yet or perfected your description. You go live. Once again, there's no arguing, no time extension, it's simply a done deal. This has helped me root out the crippling indecision that would come right when my finger was on the 'Go Live' button. Anyone who has streamed before knows the sensation I mean. Indecision about games, laboring about descriptions, perfecting the copy in your 'going live' Tweet- these are all last-ditch efforts by The Enemy to stop you from doing what you love. If you can press that single, decisive button, you will have won the battle- at least for now.


Just be aware that this same Enemy will come back tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that. Each time, it might bring new friends. Surprise engagements, overtime at work, waking up sick, self-doubt, bad weather. As long as you're equipped with the knowledge that this force will never stop hunting you, you'll always be ready for it. And now you have an arsenal with which to conquer The Enemy in whatever form it appears. Turn streaming into such an unwavering habit that no one- not even you- can stop you from pursuing your dream!

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