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!
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?