(The original title for this post was, “The No-Resolution New Year, or How the Portable People Meter Can Help You Not to Stress Over Your Resolutions.” But that was a bit wordy. Read along and it’ll all start to make sense. Perhaps.)
For two weeks now, I’ve been reading and hearing about everyone’s new year’s resolutions. Most folks want to lose weight. Exercise more. Eat healthy.
Some have very ambitious, specific resolutions, such as resolving to publish a book or to make a specific more amount of money each month. Others are a bit more ambiguous, like trying to be a better person – which is nice, but what does that mean? Are you only moderately tolerable now?
Believe me, I appreciate why folks make new year’s resolutions…but if you ask me for mine, I’ll tell you I have none. And it’s not because I don’t think I can’t make improvements in my life, or don’t see the value in setting goals.
I simply don’t see the point in setting a date to start on those goals.
A few years ago, I was talking to some friends about wanting to leave my place of employment and strike out on my own to work for myself as a voiceover artist. It was autumn, and I recall explaining to them that there were a number of things I would need to do in order to make that change possible. I would need to build up contacts and clients. I would need to make sure my finances would be able to handle the initial reduction in pay. Most importantly, I would need to have the physical tools available to work from home, such as a new computer and editing software, a better quality microphone, and sound dampening equipment to prevent ambient noise and echo in my recordings.
One of my friends suggested it would be a good new year’s resolution to work toward that goal. I agreed – although I saw no need to wait until the new year to begin setting the plan in motion. So I began auditioning more, prospecting for clients, and connecting with more people through social media. I also started buying some new equipment.
I knew my finances were not going to allow me to leave work that following year, but at least I had begun moving forward.
Eventually, I got more gigs, built up a clientele, and this past summer was finally financially able to leave my position as production director for a 5-station radio group and work for myself. A month later, I began this blog – another item on my to-do list.
And you know what? The 2010 new year, 2011 new year, and 2012 new year had nothing to do with any of it. It was done through sheer determination, and determination is available 365 days a year.
The Portable People Meter
The Portable People Meter (or PPM) is a small device developed by the company Arbitron to measure how often a person listens to different radio stations. You may have heard of Nielsen ratings for TV? Well, Arbitron is the radio equivalent of Nielsen, and ratings are very important , because they show how many people are listening to different stations, how often they listen, what times they listen, etc. Radio and television stations then use this info to sell advertising and set rates.
The way it works is, a random person is equipped with a PPM and it automatically keeps track of which stations he/she listens to throughout each day over several weeks. (Back in the day, people were asked to keep written diaries, which can obviously be fallible – although some still do use them – so the PPM was a huge breakthrough in radio station monitoring)
Ratings are broken down into ‘Average Quarter-Hours,’ which simply means a minimum of 5 minutes for every 15-minute block, if you divide your clock at :00, :15, :30, and :45 minute increments. For example, if a listener tuned in at 6:00am and tuned out at 6:07am, that would count as one quarter-hour, because he/she had listened for at least 5 minutes. If that listener tuned in at 6:10am and tuned out at 6:20am, it would count for TWO quarter-hours (5 minutes in each quarter-hour block). However, if he/she tuned in at 6:11am and tuned out at 6:19am, that radio station would receive NO quarter-hours, because the 5-minute minimum per quarter-hour had not been met.
“Your point, Matt?? Get to the point!”
Ok, ok. You see, the PPM blew away a rock-solid radio programming axiom that nearly everyone in radio obeyed.
Before the PPM, radio stations believed that each hour’s first quarter-hour (from :00 – :15) was the most-listened to of all the quarter-hours. This is because the hand-written radio diaries often had the first quarter-hour listed. So if that’s what people are writing down, it must be the way it is, right?
With the advent of the PPM, the number-crunchers at Arbitron realized that each quarter-hour was more or less equally listened-to. People were tuning in to radio stations not at the top of each hour…but whenever they darned well felt like it.
Shocker, I know.
Thing is, it was a shocker to a lot of radio stations, who for decades had deliberately played their hottest songs, or some other type of important, exciting must-tune-in elements, at the top of each hour. Turned out that that people were writing down the top of the hour on their hand-written diaries not because they were tuning in at the top of the hour, but because it was easier to say “11am” if they happened to tune in at 10:55am (which, you’ll notice, is an all-important quarter-hour!).
I’m explaining all of this to show that it’s irrelevant when to begin improving your life. The important thing is that you have a vision for that improvement. And if you don’t have the determination, that’s ok – take some time to find it! It doesn’t matter if it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year – a radio station needs to have good programming every minute of the hour, and you make changes to your life every day of the year.
My wife and I met in September 2007, were engaged that following Christmas, and were married in August 2008, one month before we’d known each other for a year. While some might say we rushed into things, I say we seized an opportunity. We knew how we felt about each other, we knew our feelings would not change…so we figured, why wait? One never knows what might happen tomorrow. Carpe diem, and all of that!
Whether it’s the top of the hour or the beginning of the year…it’s just a spot on a clock or calendar. You can make those resolutions whenever you feel like it: losing weight, making more money, being more tolerable.
And if you do make a resolution that fails or for some reason doesn’t come to fruition…
Today is as good a day as any to start again.