Friday, February 26, 2021

Stream Smarter, Not Harder

When creating and refining a Twitch channel, there are a million areas on which you could spend your time. In many past entries, I’ve helped you to remove wasteful activities from your day, optimize the amount of time you dedicate to streaming, and better organize the tasks you take on. But even with all this polish, it might always feel like there’s more you could be doing- like there will simply never be enough time to do everything you want to do on your Twitch channel. 

And actually, this is true. 

There will never be enough time in the world to do everything you want to do, on Twitch just as in life. So the really important skill comes down to finding which activities, improvements or other ideas will move you in the right direction. Until you know what you’re aiming for, all the optimization in the world won’t help you fully achieve your Twitch goals. It’s only once you’ve cracked that code that you can truly be efficient with your time. And once you’ve found that nugget of inspiration, you can continue refining it- not only by doing more, but also by strategically doing less. In this entry, I’ll help you to stream smarter, not harder. 


Let me get one thing out of the way first. If you haven’t started streaming yet, this entry isn’t for you. The objective when using a technique like this is to discover things through experience. Your goal, if you haven’t been streaming consistently for a long time, is to first get good at simply going live every time you plan on doing so. By attempting to implement the technique I'm about to teach too early, you’ll end up merely planning a Twitch channel, but never actually streaming on that Twitch channel. And in that case, optimization will be the least of your livestreaming problems.

There are always many ways to 
approach the same task.

For everyone else who has been streaming for a while, try lots of ideas to see what you like most. In several previous entries, I talked about discovering what I wanted from my content not by thinking, but by doing. And doing a lot. I’m talking about finding new stream concepts after hundreds, sometimes thousands of individual broadcasts. The time spent before discovering those things is still valuable, as it strengthens the ability to stream, and of course isn’t completely without enjoyment. Streaming itself, after all, is the passion. New ideas are just ways to enhance and supplement that passion. For me, these ideas were things like art streams, live language learning, and focusing more on story in the games I play. For you, the passions will be completely different, but the process will be very similar. The only way to find these new ideas is to stumble upon them through the act of streaming. Keep trying things. If you get too set in your ways, you’ll have a very hard time discovering anything new. 

I’m not saying everyone has to become an ultra-experimental variety streamer either. Even if you only play one game, there are a million ways you could play that game, and a million more ways you could present it in a stream format. How will you know you’ve found the one you like most until you’ve tried all the other possible options? No matter what kind of stream you produce, there are always new pathways to explore. Don’t lose the curiosity to follow them. 


Once you’ve found an idea you like for a stream and have tried it enough times to know it’ll stick, you can start chipping away. That’s right, we’re actually going to begin scaling things back in controlled ways, which will allow you to get the most return out of what you put in. There’s a principle that highly effective people apply in several personal and professional fields, which I’ve touched on briefly in various entries, but never mentioned by name. It’s called ‘The 80/20 Rule.’ This baffling-but-true law states that in any endeavor, 80% of the efficiency actually comes from only 20% of the effort you put in. In business, this means that a small group of one’s clients typically account for the majority of the overall profits. In an example from the world of computers, Microsoft found that by fixing the top 20% of major bugs, it solved 80% of computer crashes across the board. And in Twitch streaming, it means that some small sub-section of what you’re doing right now makes up 80% of your overall happiness with the content you make. 

Games are cool. Yoga is cool too. If you find you like one 
much more than the other, you don't have to do both.

So the objective, once you’ve found a good thing, is not to simply add that thing to your routine, but to shave away all the stuff that gets in the way of you fully enjoying that thing you want to do. Try to identify specifically what makes you happy about this thing you’ve discovered within your streams. Which activities related to your Twitch channel enhance that feeling, and which are inhibiting it? These might come from any stage in the process. It could be that once you’ve found that you really love live-streaming your morning yoga, you decide that video games, and all the headache and prep that goes with setting them up, can be removed from the schedule entirely. Maybe you’ve found that you’re happier streaming games but with no camera, which would then remove the endless setup and tweaking of webcam, lights, OBS layouts, syncing, forgetting to enable certain video tools, and so on. Each piece of your stream is like an iceberg. The action itself is just what you see on the outside, but in every feature we add to our channels, there’s a massive infrastructure of setup, tweaking, and other tasks connected just under the surface. Cutting one feature typically removes a lot more headache than you’d expect. 

This rule can certainly come into play when making informed decisions about viewer optimization on your shows. In the entry Three Easy Ways to Stand Out on Twitch, I proved mathematically why choosing one less popular version of Dark Souls II as your game category over another version of the same game, was 5x more likely to attract an audience than the one with more potential viewers. This same concept could even apply to cutting back ideas outside the streams. For example, as I mentioned in a previous entry, I found that creating, maintaining and selling merch was taking more time and energy than I wanted, so I removed that feature entirely. By excising that one thing I didn’t enjoy (along with all its hidden time sinks), I was able to create several times more pieces of Instagram, YouTube and other content outside the streams that I actually liked. 


This principle doesn’t always break down to an exact 80/20 split of course, but simply represents any instance where something of low value takes significantly more time or effort than something of high value. By cutting that thing of low value, you’re not only freeing up time, but allowing yourself to potentially do several times more of that high value activity. When you cut back from your routine, don’t just leave that blank space alone. Continue reinvesting in yourself. Add more of the things you actually like doing on your streams, and your satisfaction with your content will start increasing exponentially. Hopefully by utilizing these concepts, you’ll see why it’s important to stream smarter, not harder. 

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