Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Solidify Your Streaming Habits

Streaming is all about forming habits. In order to become consistent in your live schedule, regularly fix behind-the-scenes problems, interact with your community, or become better at speaking on camera, you need strong habits which keep you on track. I cover this subject a lot, because I’ve personally struggled with it in the past. Forming a habit, whether for streaming or for anything else, is an elusive pursuit. Oftentimes as soon as you think you have a grip on a certain habit, it slips right out of your hands. Today, we’ll go into a few more of my thoughts about forming habits, and how to stick to them once you start. 


Imagine you’re driving a car on a road with no other cars or pedestrians in sight. You come to a red traffic light. Even though there’s nobody around, it’s likely you’ll still stop your car. The light turns green and you keep driving. Now you come to a stop sign. Suddenly your level of obedience might change. You look around and there’s still no person or vehicle in view at all. Maybe instead of coming to a full stop, you simply slow down and then keep going. I’m not saying that’s the right thing to do, but it’s definitely not uncommon among drivers. Your mileage with this analogy may vary, especially based on where you live, but you can see what I’m getting at. Both of these signals legally require you to stop your car, and under normal traffic circumstances most drivers will stop at both. But when put into a situation where the driver’s judgment says there’s absolutely no need to stop, they might ignore or only half-obey the stop sign, while still stopping at the red light. 

Maybe these drivers wouldn't stop at 
a red light. But you definitely should!

Twitch streamers, when they’ve built a streaming habit, will treat their streams as either a traffic light or a stop sign. Anyone can stream when they feel like streaming. But when the day gets busy, or we’re tired, or we don’t like the way we look, that’s when we really find out what kind of habit we’ve built. There are very few reasons I can think of that would ever make me want to miss a stream. And to be honest, most of those reasons are so horrible I’d rather
not think of them. Like when stopping at a red light on a deserted street, I simply obey the habit I’ve built. I don’t make a value judgment, and I don’t deviate from the routine. I stop the car. And when a new day comes around, it doesn’t matter how badly I want to skip my stream that day, or how tired I’m feeling. I just do the show. 

That’s not to say I always do the show the same way. As I’ve laid out in many entries, whether you do the actual livestream should never be up for debate, but the way you do them should. If you’re tired, go live for as long as you can and then stop early. If you don’t like how you look today, turn off the camera. Instead of having ‘no stream today’ as an option on the table, imagine how you’d solve the same problem while still doing your stream. In the entry Become a Solution-Oriented Streamer, I posed one of the biggest problems a streamer can face: a lack of suitable internet to do a broadcast. And then I gave examples of three different ways I’ve solved the same problem on my own channel over the years. Each solution was chosen based on what was important to the specific stream I was doing at the time. You’ll find that when you stay solution-oriented, you can suddenly see where sacrifices are possible without hurting the core of what you’re trying to create. 


Now, all of this is fine to think about in theory, but actually enacting a habit in reality is difficult to do. I’ve been able to keep this kind of unshakeable mindset about my streams by simultaneously building up the ability to follow my own orders. That takes time and practice. I can’t overtly make you any better at upholding your habits- that’s something you have to do yourself. What I can do is show you the kind of mindset that will help to facilitate those habits. The entry How to Get in the Habit of Streaming explored how life can (and will) throw obstacles in your way, whenever you want to try to form a new habit. Learning to stream consistently is partly about battling this unpredictability, and partly about learning to work around it. In that entry, I talked about how I use a calendar app to schedule my day. I can easily shift items around when necessary, which helps with the unpredictability of everyday life, and I can easily see what personal or stream-related plans I have coming up, so nothing takes me by surprise unnecessarily. 

Stream without obstacles!

The entry Strengthen Your Twitch Habits introduced an unexpectedly effective strategy, which has served me well for the past 10+ years. In college, I always used to forget my room key, causing me to get locked out of my dorm room quite often. To combat this, I simply shifted my habit from the mental to the physical. Instead of asking myself whether I had my key before leaving the room (which I clearly couldn’t bring myself to do consistently enough), I would instead stop the door from closing with my foot every time I left the room. No matter what, that door would be stopped before it could close. Then I’d have to look in my pocket, physically hold the key and be looking straight at it. Only then could I close the door. I haven’t been locked out a single time in the ten years since. It sounds absurd- if I couldn’t stick to the first habit, why would switching to another habit be any different? I think the physicality of this habit might reach a different part of the brain than the purely mental process used to. What do I know though? I’m no scientist. All I know is that it worked. 

I’ve since enacted this same rigid habit-forming strategy in several aspects of my Twitch streams. If I forget to do a step in my pre-stream setup process, even if it’s not necessary for that particular stream, I’ll actually start the entire setup process again from the beginning. Not because I needed that step to necessarily happen in that order to make the stream work, but because it creates a strong mental association. Like an actor on stage using their co-star’s lines to remember their own cues, doing everything in a certain order in my setup process allows me to avoid missing crucial steps when it really counts. This sounds obsessive, but don’t knock it until you try it. Habits are built on repetition, so the more repetition you can create for non-creative aspects of your stream, the better. And the better you are at executing various stream tasks, the less friction you’ll have in forming the larger habit of going live in general. 


The ritual of stopping my door to remember my keys, along with the stream setup routine, are both examples where I’ve turned my habits into a traffic light rather than a stop sign. No matter what, and absolutely without question, I obey these time-tested rules I’ve set for myself. Every single time. Many people are uncomfortable with this kind of robotic compliance, but I can tell you it works wonders. Take some time to build a ‘traffic light habit’ of your own, for whichever aspect of your stream’s consistency is giving you the most trouble, and see your frequency of mistakes come to a halt. 

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