2 Kids, a Full-Time Job, and No Spare Time: How to Build an Online Business When Life Is Hectic

how to build your online business

Image by @SEOBulldog

Did you know that hunter-gatherers spent less time “working” than we do today?

It’s one of the ironies of our era that despite an enormous amount of time-saving devices, we as a society are probably the busiest we’ve ever been in history.

This has led to the rise of a huge “personal productivity” industry. Some people now spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year learning how to make the most of limited time. (And how can they afford to pay for all of that productivity wisdom? They work longer hours to make more money! Oh, irony of ironies…)

This isn’t going to be a “1,894 tips for greater productivity” post. There are a lot of great resources on the web where you can learn how to use your time more effectively (this great Zen Habits post, for example), so I’m not going to waste your time regurgitating what’s already out there.

In this post I’m going to describe the 5 practices that have made the biggest difference in my personal productivity, and have allowed me to get a lot more done.

5 Daily Productivity Practices to Boost Your Online Business

Here are the practices that I’ve followed over the past year to really get things done:

1.      Establish your priorities for the next day the night before.

If your home life is like mine, mornings can be hectic. That’s why it’s best to plan your priorities for the next day the night before. Set aside some time before you go to bed – it doesn’t have to be a lot, just 5 minutes – and identify the one thing you’d like to get done the next day.

But don’t just identify any task – focus on getting one IMPORTANT thing done, not something that is just “busy work”.

So how do you distinguish between important tasks and frivolous stuff?

If you’re trying to build an online business (and if you’re not, why the heck are you reading my blog?), ask yourself these two questions:

1. Will this task increase traffic to my site(s)?

2. Will this task DIRECTLY result in increased revenue?

Note: checking your personal Facebook account will not increase your revenue!

Here are some things that WILL increase your revenue:

– developing a new information product

– identifying new affiliate offers to promote

– adding one more message to your autoresponder sequence (i.e. promoting a product that is a great fit for what your target audience is looking for)

– adding more Adsense blocks to your site(s) (note that Google allows three ad blocks per web page)

– split-testing copy in your ads, sales pages, etc

Make sure your to-do list is realistic. Because I have a lot of demands in my time, I strive to get just one major thing done per day that will push my business forward. I have a list of secondary tasks, but won’t be disappointed if I don’t get those things done.

2.      Make your first job of the day to complete one important task.

Do NOT make your first job to look at your email inbox! Checking your email first thing will probably throw you off focus – especially if there’s an unexpected “emergency” that you have to tend to. (Let’s be realistic – if it truly is an emergency, the person on the other end of the email will call you!)

Completing an important task first thing in the morning will not only push your business forward in a tangible way, it will (a) give you the confidence, and (b) establish the momentum, that will help you to get even more done over the remainder of the day.

3.      Allocate a specific amount of time to complete a task.

You’ve probably heard of Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.

So what happens if you suddenly have less time to complete a task? You still get that task done, right?

The point is this: if you allocate 1 hour to do keyword research, your brain will (usually) find a way to get that research done in 1 hour. And the obvious corollary: if you don’t dedicate a specific amount of time to complete a task, you’ll often just keep going and going.

So when prioritizing your tasks for the next day, assign a time that you would like to get that work done in.

4.      Do NOT multi-task!

I think this is one of the biggest myths of our time – the idea that a productive person is a “multi-tasker”.

In my experience, this could not be further from the truth, because when I multitask, I do a bunch of little things poorly, instead of focusing on doing one thing well.

So if your goal for the day is to research 5 online niche forums, turn off your email, Facebook, etc. and focus on getting that one task done within a set amount of time.

Once that’s done, step away from the computer and run up and down the stairs a few times. (You laugh, but I actually do this! It really clears my mind and rejuvenates.)

5.      Check email only twice a day.

Slaying the email dragon is one of the core productivity tips from Tim Ferris’ Four Hour Workweek (a highly recommended read, if you haven’t picked it up yet).

Email is truly a mixed blessing. As Jakob Nielsen has discussed in his excellent research reports, many of us have a special relationship with our email inbox.

Despite the downsides (spam; emails from our boss), we still maintain an intimacy with our inbox that has yet to be surpassed by any online medium (although social networking sites – especially Facebook – seem to be heading in that direction).

Email is the online channel that many of us first used to communicate with friends and loved ones, receive pictures from far-flung relatives, and read bad jokes from colleagues.

But the positive side of our inboxes has been overshadowed in recent years by the addiction to email that many people have – and the need to check email every 5 minutes.

The problem with “emailoholism” is that frequently checking email breaks any rhythm we have going in completing important tasks. A typical scenario: you’re writing a document for your boss, and writer’s block sets in – so you flip over to your inbox to see if you have any “interesting” new emails.

So how do you slay the mighty email dragon? Set specific times during the day that you will check email (a maximum of two, if possible). Ideally, you want to check email first in mid- to late-morning, after accomplishing your most important task for the day (or at least getting a big chunk of it done).

And what do you do after checking your email? Close your inbox completely! It might be hard to do it at first, but take my word for it, with practice you can get there!

Summing Up

Knowledge without action is as good as no knowledge at all, in my opinion. But without some extra time on your hands, taking the action necessary to grow your online business is very difficult, indeed.

In this post I covered the five daily practices that have increased my productivity, and helped me to increase online revenue:  establish your priorities for the next day the night before; make your first job of the day to complete one important task; allocate a specific amount of time to complete a task; do NOT multi-task; and check email only twice a day.

So, how do you stay productive?

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  1. Blair Golson says

    Great points, but I’ve got a question: How can you get away with checking email only twice a day if your work-flow demands a continual back-and-forth or refinement of ideas that takes place primarily by email?

    • Moe says

      Great question, Blair – thanks for asking.

      Personally, the way I get around that is to tell whoever I’m working with that I’ll only be available during a certain timeframe.

      For example, I’m currently trying out a VA (virtual assistant) who I’m hoping to hire to perform ongoing web research, content-posting, and other jobs for me.

      Despite the fact that she’ll need ongoing feedback from me in the initial days, I’ve specified two hours during the day that I’ll be available.

      I realize that in corporate environments negotiating this kind of set up is not as easy. But I think if you explain the rationale behind it, at least some people will agree that it makes sense, and agree to it.


  2. says

    Crap, this is my second email check for the day.

    Seriously, a couple of those ideas were speaking loudly to me, and in good faith, I am going to implement two of them tomorrow. We (I) spend too much time looking around at cool shiny stuff that the productivity decreases. And I so badly want to succeed, so thanks for the info.

  3. says

    Moe mate!!

    You are my doppelganger I have decided. Granted you are a few years ahead – but when I read the title, and got the email (which was the third check for the day LOL) I thought you were talking directly to me. I’m like yep ‘2 kids: Check. no spare time: check
    Fulltime job: well I have two kids: check LOL

    Great tips here and certainly something to take on board moving forward (did I just use the words ‘moving forward’ in a sentence?!?!)

    started the link building process… as you can see… (ignore the site though, just plugged up Amazon, still working on content and SEO)

    • Moe says


      Your site looks great (I especially like the Amazon reviews at the end of each product listing – interesting to see how that will influence sales). I look forward to seeing how this case study unfolds.

      Now I’m off to the Webster’s Dictionary site, to look up the word “doppelganger”… 😉


  4. says

    Moe, you are the second person to say this to me in the past week. So I guess I should start listening ah? Oh and BTW, my email client stays open all day, I use Outlook. Guess I’ll have to start closing the thing if I’m to get anything done.

    • Moe says

      Don, great idea to close your email client. My own efforts to ignore the client (but keep it open) resulted in a sad game of peek-a-boo. So now I just close the thing entirely for as long as possible!


  5. says

    You are so right – “multi-tasking” is one of the biggest myths of our time – you do one thing well, and in depth, or you do several things badly and look busy. Sorry if I’ve upset all the women out there!

    • Moe says


      Thanks for your comment – I completely agree with your point about doing several things badly and looking busy.

      But I don’t think this is something that only applies to women!


  6. says

    Check email twice? Perhaps it could be clarified that you should check non-business email twice a day. In my business I get email all day that needs to be responded too. I am reminded to be organized the night before and that I should avoid multitasking.

    Good article.


    • Moe says

      @Bill – thanks for your perspective. Regardless of the routine that we adopt individually, I think it’s important to recognize that email can be a huge obstacle to productivity – and that to get things done we need to start taking control of the “email beast”.


  7. says

    You have some great suggestions here, especially concerning the email. It’s so easy to get totally distracted in email, especially when you are receiving emails with links to sites that have information regarding training, whitepapers, articles etc related to your profession or niche.

    One tool that I have found very valuable to help manage my time is an online to-do list manager called Remember the Milk. http://rememberthemilk.com. RTM has a lot of great features including setting task priorities, tags, email reminders(which you will see twice a day..ha), task sharing, notes, calender integration, sharing task with others, and more.

  8. says

    I would have to disagree with you on the multi-task aspect. While not with 2 mums, I do have a full time job, a volunteer job, plus other activities through out the week.

    The main time I get a lot of work ‘done’ is on the go while on public transport. In fact when my site first started before is hiatus its main ‘update’ times was my commute. Now because the commute is smaller I normally use it for comment runs, and do the meaty work in an hr or so every day.

    So I would say if you can multi task DO SO!

    Email wise, cures of the BlackBerry (or benefit) I always have them with me, though it doesnt slow me down much as I prioritise what needs action and hit it at the end of my day when I work online.

    Apart form that some cool tips I will take away with me.

    • Moe says

      Thanks for your thoughts, Donace. But when you’re doing work on public transport, I wouldn’t consider that multi-tasking. Whether you’re updating your site or responding to comments, you’re still focusing on one task while someone else is doing the driving!

      To clarify: I think it’s extremely important to focus on completing one task at a time. (In other words: don’t try to do three things at once, like checking email and chatting on Skype while writing a blog post).



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