Does this sound familiar? You sit in front of the computer and look at your watch: 11am. You’ve been „working“ for two hours (or so) yet it feels like you haven’t got done anything much at all so far today. Again.
When you think about how you really spent the most creative time of the day (if you are like me this would be either early in the morning after you drunk your cup of coffee or two hours after dinner when the food has settled and you feel relaxed) it may come down to stuff like that:
- Checking the latest visitor stats of your websites
- Checking the latest rankings of your websites
- Checking the latest income of your websites
- Checking newsfeed on Facebook and replying to two of your friends (with one of whom you continue to chat for about 20 minutes)
- Checking your email and replying to the most „important“ ones
- Checking out competitors‘ sites to see what is new with them
- Do research on a topic you want to write a blog post about but get distracted by figuring out how that website is making money
- Checking your Facebook „only once more before really getting started“ and by doing that getting interested in another really interesting article that you want to „quickly skim through“ right away
All of these activities may have kept you busy for the first two hours of your day but have close to 0 impact on the growth of your business. You may have heard of the 80/20 principle (80% of your outcome is generated by 20% of your input and the remaining 20% of your outcome are generated by 80% of your input). Try to get done the 80% first before doing research, facebooking, emailing and all the things on the bullet points above.
If you are running your own online business, it’s quite tempting to read this and to check that when you should actually prioritize and make progress working towards your goals. And since you are your own boss there is no one who checks on your productivity or sets deadlines.
You may not have deadlines for your online business (even if you do SEO for local businesses you could always find excuses why they haven’t reached their milestones for the past month) but what you can definitely implement in your daily work routine are productivity tools that will ensure you become (or stay) focussed on really getting the important tasks done. It may take some will power to push yourself using them on a regular basis but only until they become part of your routine. And if you follow the three steps I’m about to share with you this should take less than a month.
What I’m talking about is an easy to follow, three-step process to increase the productivity of your online business that is working for me and a lot of other successful „digital nomads“. Again, they may sound very easy, but as usually it doesn’t help to just read it but you need to take action and implement these tools. Only then you’ll get the benefits.
Step 1: Keep track of your work
Before you think about how you can (re)organize your work schedule, it’s important to analyze how things are going right now. And for that you will need to track your work.
Get yourself a small notebook and use one page per one work day. Of course you can also write it down on your smartphone or computer, but I feel doing it the old-school way has a better effect on how you perceive the results.
Write down everything you do in front of your computer and how many minutes you spend on it. For example:
- Check website stats, rankings and revenues (20 mins)
- Research and competitor analysis (45 mins)
- Writing new blog post (1 hour)
- Checking and replying email (35 mins)
- Working on a new affiliate site (50 mins)
- Cold calling potential SEO clients (1 hour)
Of course that’s really random here and you might just want to focus on 1 or maximum 2 business models (i.e. blogging and client SEO) instead of working on several areas without getting any real results. Even if you do – just continue with your current working style during this first stage. This is all about assessment.
Alternatively you could only write down the work and corresponding amount of time that you think brings you closer to your goals (like I explained in the video), but it’s up to you.
At the end of each day, draw a line under your last activity and sum up the total amount of time.
Do this every day for at least 25 days.
You may feel bored of it after day 16 or 17 but it’s important to keep going so you’ll have sufficient data of your work performance to analyze.
Then it’s time to look at your daily results: How much time have you really spent on tasks that move your business forward, to come closer to your goals (hopefully you have them clearly defined)? Take out everything else like research, replying to emails, watching webinars etc. Sum up only the time you have really been productive. And be honest with yourself.
Based on the results, make the necessary changes: If your current business goal is to have a niche blog with 1,000 daily visitors then make it your priority to write at least 1,000 words of original and helpful content for your blog. Before thinking about how you can improve the design to increase the page views per user or decrease the bounce rate, focus on content creation every day before you think about tweaking all those little things that you can, before you notice it, spend two hours on without making a huge overall difference. Remember the 80/20 principle: 80% of you blog’s success is depending on great content and only 20% on the design. People will forgve you if the design is average as long as you have useful posts. It’s not the other way around.
On the other hand, if your current business goal is to have 5 SEO clients by the end of the year, then focus on lead acquisition. And lead acquisition only. Don’t waste your time building PBNs when you don’t even have a client yet. Once you have leads, you can focus on selling. Once you have sold, only then you would start building a PBN and worry about the rankings.
Just whatever method you choose to make money online, spend your mornings (or whenever you start working) to focus on the things that yield the most results. Once you have accomplished them, you still have more than enough time to play around or work on some other things.
After you have kept a track record of your work and analyzed the results, you should have more than enough motivation to proceed to step 2 in order to start increase the productivity of your online business.
Step 2: Small Goal Setting on a Daily Basis
Any successful online business requires (at least in the beginning) concentrated and goal oriented work on a daily basis. That’s why it’s so important to treat your „projects“ like a real business and focus on what you need to do in order to reach your goals. There are several ways to keep yourself accountable of your daily achievements and here are my three preferred methods (use at least one of them):
- Set your goals for the following day when you go to bed at night. Think of three areas you want to accomplish tomorrow. Like writing 1,000 words of great content for your blog, contact 30 business owners by cold calling them, create and send out 3 SEO audit videos to potential clients (cold emails).
Only you know what you really need to do, every single day, in order to eventually reach your bigger goals and accomplishments.
- Buy yourself a whiteboard and every day, write down what you want to have done by tomorrow. Put the board on the wall near your desk so you’ll always be reminded of it once you are tempted again to do something else. Most people I know use this method to write down their weekly or even monthly goals, but if you just start out I think it’s much better to push yourself and write down small goals for every single day so you get into that routine of getting stuff done.
- Use an app like Pomodoro to set tasks and measure productivity. The principle is simple: One work unit is 25 minutes and that’s what is called 1 Pomodoro. You could set yourself a daily goal of say 10 Pomodoros and then every time you press the start button you would focus 100% on your task. Like blog writing. And only pause once those 25 minutes are over. 10 Pomodoros a day would mean „just over 4 hours“ but if you take a look at your notebook from step 1 and how much real work you used to get done in one day, it’s probably a lot more than that. And those are 4 hours of focussed work, no distractions, no excuses. If you do 10 of these Pomodoros every day and stick to it (make it become a habit) you will reach your goals for your online business sooner or later.
Whatever your goals are for the following day – make sure you start working on them first thing when you turn on your computer!
I know it’s tempting to check your website stats, rankings and competitor sites first to see what is new, but I also know (from my own experience) that by doing so it’s just too easy to lose concentration and focus or even completely forget about everything else and once you remember your real important tasks and look at your watch you often feel like you wasted your time when you could have already written 600 words or cold called 13 business owners.
Create effective and productive work routines by implementing at least one of the three described tools above and you’re well on your way to reach your goals. It’s just a matter of time if you put in constant effort into the right tasks.
But there is one more step you need to take and include it in your work life. Well, you don’t have to of course, but for me this is the single most important activity that reminds me why I’m doing what I’m doing.
Step 3: Write down your big goals every day (Affirmations)
Every day you wake up and don’t write your goals is a day you aren’t taking massive action and staying laser focused on what you want out of life. Write your goals again before you go to bed.
Who do you think wins in life? Someone who writes their goals over 700 times a year or the one who writes it once?
Do you know why you should be putting in effort every single day in order to succeed with your online business?
If your answer is like „oh well, I just wanna be rich“ then you have the wrong mindset. Just the wish to have a lot of money is not enough to keep you motivated on a consistent basis and especially during tough times you need more specific, visual goals. Something that it’s worth fighting for.
Why do you want to be rich? Why do you want to have a lot of money? What is your driving force behind that?
For me the single biggest driving factor to make my online projects (continue to) work is that I want to be my own boss and never have to work for anyone else in my life again. By the age of 26, I quit my day job and walked out of the office determined to always have the freedom to work on what I want, where I want and when I want.
That’s why I write down this long term goal, among a few others, once a day. And I highly recommend you start getting into this habit, too. You could just open a text editor on your computer or smartphone and it may look like that:
Yes, you will need money to realize most of your goals and it’s okay to define a monetary goal that you want to achieve – as long as you include more visual goals as well. When I turn on my laptop every morning I don’t think about dollar notes, but about the next trip I’ll do when having reached some goals. Amongst others.
Since we are all a little bit busy and tend to forget things, I leave this document called GOALS on my desktop so I’ll get reminded every day. No excuses. Once a day write down your big goals.
You’ll be amazed by the power of this technique which is commonly referred to as affirmations and it has been proven productive for a lot of people who do it. It will force your mind to imagine yourself how it would be to have your goals accomplished and then encourages your mind to figure out ways to transform your desires into reality.
The effects of affirmations could be described in a lot more detail but I’ll leave it like that. If you doubt it then just try it out for smaller goals for a period of three months. And you will be surprised by how much more determined and focussed you become to make things happen.
Remember that the most important part of running any kind of online business (besides working on the right tasks) is to be consistent with your efforts. And in order to keep that consistency and with it to make your online business more productive you now know three golden methods that, if applied, will put you on the right track.