Progress Report – Project Lifestyle Design: January 2011

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by Brenton Russell on

Welcome to the first progress report of Project Lifestyle Design for 2011.  It has certainly been a month of big events since December’s monthly progress report!

This month saw me work my last day in the Australian Army after 13 years of service as a professional military officer.  Seven months now and counting of paid leave to get my lifestyle design up and running! After working my last day in the Army this month also saw me travel 1,200 km to re-unite with my family on the Sunshine Coast, Australia after they had moved four weeks before me.

Finishing up my job, setting up a new rental house, settling into a new area and commencing the search for a house to buy meant that December was a pretty full month.  Oh yeah, we also managed to fit Christmas in there as well! All these big events took significant time away from Uncork Your Mind.  That being said, I’ m pretty happy with the website’s progress this month so read on!

December Stats

December Progress Report Dashboard

December saw an abnormal spike in traffic when I used a website that takes screen shots of your own site using just about every browser imaginable so you can see how your site looks with all these browers.  The downside was that it visits your website with each of these browsers to take the screen shot.  This saw a spike of 40 visits that I have subtracted off my total visits.  An adjusted monthly visits stat of 370 represents a 23% increase in traffic from last month.

This abnormal spike also affected my bounce rate and average time on site so I won’t comment too much on these.  Overall another month of steady traffic growth.


  • RSS: 16 (7 new: + 78%
  • Twitter: 11 (4 new: + 57%)
  • Newsletter: 12 (6 new: +100%)
  • Alexa Ranking (one month): 344,807 (previous month around 420,000)
  • Google Page Rank: Lifestyle Design – 637  (see screen capture below from Market Samurai)

Keyword Stat December

I am really happy with the growth in subscriptions! Once again, the absolute values are not so high but the relative percentages are really pleasing!  It is highly motivating to have people find your site valuable enough to subscribe.

I am particularly happy with the 100% increase in newsletter subscriptions. I am spending a fair bit of time on each issue and new subscribers make it all worth while.  If you haven’t subscribed yet, do so on the right hand side and I will send you some recent editions.

My Google Page Rank is still languishing but with a clear strategy now (see December Review section below) I am confident that I can increase my rankings throughout January.

This month I have added my Alexa Ranking as well.  When I first started this website my ranking was 19,000,000!  I thought that I would be happy if I could bring it down under 1,000,000 by the end of 2010.  To have made it under 400,000 is fantastic for me! My next big goal is under 100,000 but I am under no illusion that the lower you get the harder it is!

Top Traffic Sources

December Progress Report Sources Stats

My traffic from Steve Pavlina’s traffic has slipped from the top position last month to #3.  This is probably because I have been spending a little less time here and trying to spend more time on other people’s websites.  I am comfortable with this as I have connected with some great people through their websites and I think that I have the balance about right with Steve Pavlina’s forum.

It surprises me to see a 66% increase in traffic from Google noting that my search rankings aren’t improving much.  I guess this is the result of having more content on the website for google to find?

Top Content

December Progress Report Content Stats

My Homepage remains my top page by a long way.  Now that I am re-united with my chief design advisor (my wife!) I will conduct a layout review and make some modifications.  I would really like to take the appearance of Uncork Your Mind to that next level of professionalism.  Drop me a comment or email if you have any suggestions!

Again my most viewed post is 80/20 Principle: 5 Tips for Workplace Effectiveness.  With this interest in the 80/20 Principle I have put a goal for January to write a post about the application of the 80/20 Principle for lifestyle design.

My Current Favorite Websites

In my December progress report I listed a heap of websites that I am currently following.  I am still following most of these sites but the following have proven to be ‘my favorite favorites!’:

What I am realising is that I am spending a lot of time on sites about online business topics so now I need to rebalance and find some great sites to interact with that focus more on lifestyle design and self-development.

Newly Discovered Websites

In line with my December goal of finding three websites to recommend, I have exceeded my goal with the following new websites (well new to me at least!):

  • The Blogging Bookshelf – Blogging tips written by a super helpful blogger called Tristan.
  • Murlu – Turning your passion into an online business.
  • Ridicuously Extraordinary – Karol Gadja’s highly successful lifestyle website.  Also has a great free email series when you subscribe.
  • Ryan Renfrew – Posted a great five part series in December on the five laws of stratospheric success.
  • Illuminated Mind – Another big self-development website that I have come along late on the scene!
  • Change you Thoughts – Another high quality self-development website.

I really want to continue to concentrate on building relationships and joining the communities of smaller more intimate blogs rather than the more generic and less personal A-Listers.

December Review

Last month I started to place a little thought into my email newsletter.  So far I am using the newsletter to write about interesting lifestyle design-related topics and incorporating different info formats like video clips.  Please subscribe on the right hand side of the website and make my stats look great in next month’s progress report!

In the interest of keeping costs low I originally chose the free plan with Get Response as my email service.  After using this for a couple of weeks I decided that I really didn’t think the interface was very friendly so after a bit of messing around I jumped ship to Mail Chimp.

I gave this a go for a couple of weeks as well until I decided that I wanted to customise the sign up box.  I personally found that the Mail Chimp sign up feature was not very conducive to customisation.  So now I have bitten the bullet and am now paying the small monthly fee to use AWeber.

So far I have found AWeber to be fantastic.  I know that it is the biggest and most heavily recommended email service out there but I always found their lack of a free plan for a small site like mine a deal breaker. With hindsight I now firmly wish that I had gone with AWeber from the start!

The biggest issue with swapping to AWeber from another email service is that when you import your list into AWeber it requires your contacts to opt-in again.  Most of my list has re-opted in with a small handful yet to respond.  I am hoping that this is due to the distractions of Christmas and New Year!  I’ll say it again, start with AWeber from the beginning!

Goals Achieved

The first of my goals was to create a high quality information product.  To actually complete a product of high value without an idea of what it looked like was probably too ambitious for me in a busy month.  I have, however, come up with a good idea for my first information product so I rate this goal as a partial success.  I will develop this product as a goal for January.  More info to follow on what this product will be!

I managed to finish and post a picture of the latest iteration of my lifestyle design vision board.  It is now proudly hanging next to me as I write this post providing me with regular visual cues for achieving my lifestyle design!

My aim to write one ‘How to’ post in December seems a little irrelevant now that I am reaffirming my aim to make Uncork Your Mind a source of actionable information.  Therefore I hope that almost all my posts are ‘how to’ posts.  Mark this up as a success for December!

My two website marketing goals for December was to write an EzineArticle and develop a traffic building strategy.  After reading around for a traffic building strategy I have found the following two resources to be most helpful:

I have started to employ Pat Flynn’s method by writing an article for GoArticles on Vision Boards and have also started to look at some Web 2.0 methods.  Definitely an area for further development in January and one that requires a lot more effort.  I do have a few doubts about my feelings on the article spinning tactic.  Please post your thoughts if you have an opinion – I’d love to hear them!

I have only just come across Steve Scott’s Blog Lead Generation Diagram but it ties in nicely with some of my other goals such as writing more articles and developing an informational product.

My goal of writing a guest post was completed; however, I am yet to email it to my intended website.  I will do this in the next couple of days after a final proof reading so I am assessing this goal as achieved!  More guest posts to follow in January now that I have increased time on my hands.

Check out the new websites that I found and recommend above. Definitely over-achieved on finding three websites.

Being an avid reading I certainly achieved my goal of finding and reading some books directly and indirectly related to lifestyle design.  Check out my reading list below.

I put some time into developing the footer of Uncork Your Mind which was a hang-over goal from November.  While it does need some more work I’m pretty happy with my first attempt.

Goals Not Achieved

Again I didn’t write a post on what my overall plan on becoming a lifestyle design entrepreneur is as I really didn’t feel inspired to write this.  I think that this is because I want this site to be a relevant information source for YOU as opposed to a personal diary for me.

I am now going to delete this goal but I will include my own real life examples and stories where ever relevant.  I believe that this will provide better value by demonstrating how I am applying what I write about without taking the emphasis of Uncork Your Mind away from being a helpful source of lifestyle design information for YOU!

I didn’t get around to fixing the categories on Uncork Your Mind.  Such a small task just didn’t seem to bubble up to the top of the to do list. I make a firm commitment to achieving this goal in January!

I didn’t end up writing a review for Thesis as I am not sure that I am the best person to do this.  There are people out there dedicating their sites to website design who write these types of reviews far better than what I could.

Instead I have decided to write a review on a product that I also know and love but fits better with my website.  Pzizz is a powernapping, meditation and sleep treatment software package that I have used extensively for the last two years for stress relief, daytime re-energising and getting to sleep at night when your brain is thinking at a million miles an hour. Rather than just write a standard review I want to put in the extra effort to make this review as helpful as possible. Stay tuned!

My theory is that its critical to be able to review and amend/develop/delete goals so long as you know why you are no longer going to pursue that goal and it is for appropriate reasons.

Books Read/Reading

December Posts Summary

Here is a summary of my December posts:

January Goals

This month I am really going to focus on building up my traffic so I can connect with more people.  To this end I am going to concentrate on implementing Pat Flynn’s Backlinking Strategy and Steve Scott’s Blog Lead Generation Diagram.

I am also going to significantly develop my first information product so that if it isn’t finished by the end of January, its very close.  Doing a kick ass review of Pzizz which goes above and beyond the standard written post is also a priority.

I want to really affirm that Uncork Your Mind is all about practical lifestyle design and self-development.  Almost every site on the internet that bills themselves as a lifestyle design website spends almost all their time discussing ‘passive online income.’  That’s fine as it is an interesting area with a high reader demand; however, I want to make Uncork Your Mind a resource of actionable lifestyle design information regardless of how your desired life plan looks.


  1. Develop information product.
  2. Develop an email list plan.
  3. Write the monthly newsletter.
  4. Write a review for Corbett Barr’s Affiliate Marketing for Beginners training course (using my first attempt at a niche site to demonstrate success or otherwise!).
  5. Write a review on Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guide to Working For Yourself.
  6. Write an 80/20 Principle post on lifestyle design.

Website Marketing

  1. Learn about Squidoo and create a lens.
  2. Write at least two articles for different article directories.
  3. Write two guest posts.
  4. Implement Steve Scott’s Blog Lead Generation Diagram.
  5. Learn more about how to use Twitter effectively.
  6. Conduct a website design evaluation.


  1. Create my first niche site using Corbett Barr’s Affiliate Marketing for Beginners training course.

Self Development

  1. Read Chris Guillebeau’s Unconventional Guide to Working For Yourself (recently purchased).
  2. Write something every day.
  3. Finish reading Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Online Connecting

  1. Comment daily on other related websites.
  2. Continue with my How Can I Help You? campaign.


Overall December was a pretty big month both on and offline.  Offline saw me work my last day in the Army, move to a new area and enjoy Christmas.  Online saw another month of steady traffic increase and a more consistent application of my efforts towards Uncork Your Mind.

Looking forward to January and my first full month of self-employment!

Uncork Your Mind is now a “DoFollow” website.  If you choose to leave a comment you will get a link back to your website.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Tristan January 4, 2011 at 12:21 pm

Awesome post, Brenton! This is the kind of monthly report I like to see. In depth and comprehensive. Nicely done.

Thanks for the mention! If there’s anything I can help you (or anyone reading this, for that matter!) with blog-wise, let me know.

I really like your vision board. That’s something I’ve thought about doing for a while but have yet to actually do. I like how your wife has one, too! That’s great.

Thesis is a great theme, isn’t it?

Keep up the awesome work, and I hope you have a fantastic 2011!
Tristan recently posted..How to Turn a Lousy Blog Headline into a Great One


Brenton Russell January 5, 2011 at 9:47 am

Hi Tristan,

Thanks for the feedback. The monthly report is definitely my most favorite post to write each month. Its takes a bit of time but it certainly forces me to analyse my results (good and bad!) and to think about where I want to be heading. I’m glad you like reading it as much as I like writing it!

Thanks for the feedback on the vision boards. Not only does my wife have one but my two kids (3 and 5) also have made their own one! Theirs is more focus on having fun and being healthy rather than any hard core goals and achievements. They had a great time picking and cutting out their pictures and gluing them onto their board!

Thanks again for writing a comment and thanks to your website BloggingBookShelf for providing the inspiration for my footer redesign!


Steve@Internet Lifestyle January 7, 2011 at 12:57 am


Congratulations on your last day and your, “official” moving on to the next stage of you life. That is a really big thing.

It is good to see that you are having some really positive growth! I really liked all of your plans. They are in depth, well thought out and IMO filled with promise. I think your site will continue to grow and expand over the coming months.

I agree wholeheartedly about Aweber. Sometimes I am unsure about mailchimp, since I have heard some decent things about it, but I have always only used AWeber and I have had no reason to think that it was not a great choice.

Thanks of course for your mention of my site. Very nice! Tristan, Murray, Pat, Karol, Ryan and everyone else awesome. I think there was only one blog on your list I do not visit at least 1 time a week. All very good choices and great company.

Keep going the way you have been and I suspect you will have some great success in the coming months. :)
Steve@Internet Lifestyle recently posted..Get More Blog Traffic Blueprint Week 8


Brenton Russell January 7, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Hi Steve,

I think that being self-employed will take a lot of discipline but I also feel that it will be a very rewarding challenge. Thanks for the feedback on my plans. While the absolute growth figures aren’t spectacular if the figures continue their relative growth I will feel that I am at least heading in the right rough direction. Constant and steady improvement!

It is good to hear your thoughts about Aweber from someone who extensively uses email lists. It has been a bit of a pain swapping (twice!) but your comments reinforce my thoughts that it is the right thing to do.

Thanks for your words of encouragement. I will let you know how I go with your Blog Lead Generation Blueprint!


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