This summer, the world lost one of its most highly effective teachers. Stephen Covey died on July 16, 2012, age 79.
Covey will be remembered as a transformative thinker on leadership and personal effectiveness. His book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is, and will continue to be, one of the greatest instruction manuals for personal productivity and growth ever written.
Today’s post is a respectful homage to his most lasting legacy — those 7 habits.
And since we focus on WordPress around here, that’s what we’ll apply them to.
So, in honor of the late, great Stephen Covey, here are the seven habits of highly effective WordPress users.
1. Be proactive
Own your WordPress experience.
My favorite aspect of WordPress is how even a total HTML and design idiot like myself was able to become comfortable managing — and even customizing! — sites relatively quickly.
When I first launched Midwest Sports Fans, I did so simply to have a sandbox to play in and learn WordPress.
I quickly realized that themes and plugins were available to help me add to the site in ways I could otherwise never do. I also quickly learned that there were tutorials online for damn near anything I wanted to learn how to do myself.
This enabled me to go from a clueless and tentative new site owner to a confident one who felt empowered to create the WordPress experience I wanted for myself and my readers.
The beauty of WordPress is that anyone can do this. It just takes a proactive mindset.
2. Begin with the end in mind
Use WordPress as a tool for achieving your objectives.
What do you want to accomplish by launching a website?
- Are you looking to set up a glorified online diary?
- Are you looking to create an online business card for your brick-and-mortar business?
- Are you looking to develop a profitable ecommerce site?
- Are you looking to build an audience that builds your business?
- Are you looking to completely transform your life?
The possibilities are endless. You just need to know which one of myriad possibilities you’re targeting.
Notice that Mr. Covey’s original habit does not read “Begin with the end in mind … and it can never be amended!”
Not even close.
Goals change. Objectives shift. Plans alter. Nimbleness is required.
But you have to at least have a potential end in mind to know which direction to start out in.
Launching a website can be daunting. Beginning with the end in mind will help you make the critical initial decisions — domain name, host choice, initial design — so you can get out the door confidently with your WordPress site.
3. Put first things first
Prioritize, plan, and evaluate your strategy.
Once you’ve committed to taking control of your web publishing experience and determined your objectives, the next step is to plot a course of action. This is where determining and adhering to priorities is so important.
Remember that the greatest strengths of WordPress can also be its greatest weaknesses. I wrote last week about how this applies to plugins, but there’s much more area to cover.
For example, if your website will be focused on displaying high-resolution photographs then having a robust, photo-centric child theme from the get-go will be important. If, however, your site is copy-focused, then there’s no need to spend much time fretting about how photos are displayed.
The amount will differ, but we all have a finite amount of time that we can put towards our publishing endeavors. Prioritizing and planning will help make the time you do have more efficient.
4. Think win-win
Contribute actively to the online community.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my time online is that if you want to receive, you better learn to give, give, give — and then give a little more.
For example, when I wanted to gain exposure and credibility for MSF, I knew I needed to get links from bigger, more established sites. Simply emailing out links to articles didn’t get me very far.
But once I started linking to other sites first, and then sending an email to the site owner to commend him or her for writing a great post (without mentioning anything of my own), I found folks much more receptive to the links I’d send out in the future.
Pay it forward, as the cliched but relevant saying goes. It became a win-win situation as I promoted other sites, they promoted mine, and all boats rose.
The concept can be applied to your site’s own community.
If someone comments on your blog, that’s a win for you. If you respond to your commenter, especially if you answer a question or provide additional insight, it’s a win for the commenter. This will encourage other people to comment, which is a snowball you most certainly want to get rolling.
And the concept works specifically in regard to WordPress too.
So many great plugins are available for free or for small fees that provide real value for the people who use them. Donate to the plugin developer, link to them, thank them publicly … do something to show appreciation for their contributions to the open source community that makes WordPress special.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Have a customer-focused mentality.
Anyone who reads Copyblogger regularly, and who’s been following Brian Clark’s latest online venture Entreproducer, knows about the importance of listening.
Brian teaches that you should build an audience before (and while) you build your business, because that audience will help you determine what direction the business should ultimately go in.
Even if you’re never going to sell a tangible product or service through your website, you are still selling a product to your readers. That product is your content and your ideas — and by extension, you.
By understanding what your audience wants, you can create content that provides real value and a design that complements it.
WordPress makes the content publishing and design part of the equation easy, but you have to bring the focus on the customer to the table.
Combine competencies and conquer.
I’ve already mentioned how wonderful WordPress is from the perspective of encouraging proactivity and enabling simple, productive learning. But that certainly doesn’t mean that you need to do everything on your own.
For example, if you want to have a high-performance site with great security, generic hosting just won’t do. But do you have the skills or knowledge to manage your own VPS? Would you even have time to if you did?
This is why people opt for premium managed hosting.
You do what you do best — run your business, while we do what we do best — run and protect your site.
Sure, there are enough WordPress-related tutorials online to teach you how to do almost anything. But at the point where learning and implementing the lesson creates negative value because of the time it takes away from your core activities, it makes sense to synergize.
Be smart about how you implement synergy into your web publishing strategy, but certainly don’t be afraid.
7. Sharpen the saw
Balance and renew resources and knowledge.
WordPress is constantly growing and developing, which means any site owner should do the same.
For example, with each new WordPress update come new built-in features that you should know how to use.
There are always new lessons to learn, skills to acquire, or partners to team up with … and if you’re proactive, objective-focused, and prioritized, and if you think win-win and listen, then you can be in a constant process of moving your website forward as an ever-improving tool for achieving your business goals online.
Got anything to add to this list? Drop it in the comments …