Working for yourself is entirely different to working in a normal “job”. Whether you are working online full time or just dabbling in your spare time success takes a considerable degree of practise.
And by practise I don’t just mean in the practical skills of keyword research, SEO and so on but also in terms of managing your time, motivating yourself and working as efficiently as possible to achieve as much as possible in a limited period of time.
Over the years I have read a huge number of books on “getting things done” and time management and have tested out all manner of techniques and strategies. Many of these failed dismally whilst others have been assimilated into my everyday working patterns to help me achieve as much as possible as quickly as possible.
In this article then I’d like to tell you about the specific tricks and tips that have proven to work well for me. I would like to actively encourage you to leave a comment at the end of the article with information on how you manage your time and what works well for you.
Time Of Day
Sometimes known as “circadian rythmns” it seems that many of us are more motivated, more creative, more energetic and more focused at specific times of day. Some people, for example, work best at night when everyone else has gone to sleep. I used to be a night-owl like that but now find that I actually work better first thing in the morning.
Those first few hours after I wake up allow me to get 95% of my work done in next to no time, without interruptions and while I am fully awake. By mid-morning I can feel myself slowing down and switching off and having to *force* myself to work while just a few hours before I was “in the zone” and everything seemed effortless.
This is the queue for me to turn off the computer and instead get on with other things. It’s also quite nice I find to do my work first thing in the morning and then be able to enjoy guilt-free play later on in the day rather and worrying about getting back on the computer that evening.
So one useful technique is to try working at different times of day on your internet business. Try getting up a few hours early to see if you work well before you go off to your proper job. Try it as soon as you get home from work or later on in the evening when everyone else in your house has gone to bed.
Test out different times to see what works best for you. There’s no right or wrong answer it’s just a matter of understanding what time of day you find it easiest to work in.
Length Of Work Periods
When I first quit my job to go full-time online I was excited about all the extra time I would have available. If I was earning a full-time income working just a couple of hours a day I thought, if I can now devote 8 or 10 hours a day to my work I should see my income balloon.
Of course, that didn’t quite happen. Infact, my income increased only by a narrow margin. So how come?
The fact is that very few people (anyone?) can remain absolutely focused for hours on end. You might start off inspired and motivated but typically over time you will find yourself achieving less and less and instead just “wasting time” doing things like checking stats, reading email or visiting Facebook and Twitter far too much.
If you’re enjoying yourself then this isn’t necessarily a bad thing but you must also appreciate that you’re not achieving as much as you could/should.
I personally find that I am running at my optimum for only three hours or so a day and after that my productivity drops significantly, so I try to only work for that time. A typical working “day” for me is now around 8am-11am and after that I clock off. I often find that I struggle to write top-quality articles when I force myself, or take longer to do the technical aspects of building and running my sites when I lose this focus and seem to achieve the same amount whether I work 3 hours a day or eight.
Initially I found this an annoyance and a frustration. I was so excited about “going fulltime” and then it didn’t really work out for me. But then I looked at the situation from another viewpoint and decided that if I only got a few really good hours of work done per day, not only would I aim to work only when I felt like it (rather than forcing myself to work longer) but that as my passion started to fade for the day I would turn off my computer and enjoy guilt-free play for the rest of the day.
Sometimes if I have a major project I am trying to finish I may try to force myself to go back onto the computer for a few hours in the afternoon but I always aim to take a good few hours off between sessions to recharge my batteries and clear my head. Indeed, many of my best ideas have come to me when I am totally relaxed and doing something unrelated to work so this technique works well for me.
When you first get into internet marketing and lifestyle design it can be a very exciting time as your head is full of ideas and possibilities and you work hard to make them a reality. However if you’re not careful this initial “launch enthusiasm” can start to drop and you find yourself just working on your sites for the sake of it.
I think it’s important to keep the end goal in sight – to be able to constantly remind yourself about *why* you’re working so hard and what you’re going to do when you succeed.
Let’s say your goal is to be able to spend all day trout fishing, letting your websites take care of your income while you’re out having fun. In this case it would make sense to not only subscribe to some trout fishing magazines and put up some posters in your “office” but also to take the time to actually go fishing yourself.
You don’t have to go daily, or even weekly. But you can use it as a mental reward for all your hard work. Set yourself a target or a goal such as building your site up to 100 pages, or 100 visitors a day, or your first $1000 month and when you get there, reward yourself. This will help to keep you moving in the right direction because you have a very specific goal you’re trying to achieve and it’s something you’re fiercely passionate about.
Separate Work From Fun
While many of us love working online and building our sites and watching our visitor numbers and profits grow it’s also important to remember that this is indeed work. You’re doing this for a reason; and that reason is to free yourself from the necessity to have a “normal” job. To free yourself from financial limitations, office politics and the daily boredom that many people experience in their standard job.
This is about freedom and setting your own schedule. It’s about earning what you deserve and doing the things you want. It’s about life.
So I have found that I achieve most when I think of my internet business as work. I log on each day and achieve things. I focus on my computer rather than doing a few bits and pieces while watching TV or chatting to my girlfriend. When I am online, it is my sole focus.
Then when I finish and log off I go and have my fun; whatever it may be for the day.
In other words when you’re working – work. When you finish – play. And try to keep the two separate wherever possible.
Create A List Each Evening
When you are ready to finish up for the day and go to do something fun I find that it is highly beneficial to take just a few minutes to create a “to do” list for the following day. This helps to keep you focused and ensures that the second you turn on your computer the next day you have goals and things to achieve rather than just kicking your heels trying to decide what you should do today.
Write your list when you finish each day then the following day give it a quick read-through as your computer is warming up then aim to cross as many things off as possible.
Keep Yourself Under Pressure – Record Your Actions
This is probably one of the most under-rated yet beneficial time-management techniques that I have tested. Quite simply I now keep a journal and record how long I have worked for each day and exactly what I have done.
This means that if a week goes by and I have seemingly achieved nothing I can look back over my journal to see where I really spent my time. Equally, it keeps me accountable as I don’t like noting down I worked three hours and only managed to write one article. The longer the list is at the end, the better I feel so it keeps me under pressure to achieve. Try it – I think you’ll be quite surprised by how much it can change your work dynamic!
The 80/20 Principle
We’ve all heard of the 80/20 principle – that 20% of your effort gets 80% of your results but how many people are really applying this ruthlessly to their online ventures?
Looking back last year on my years online and the literally hundreds of sites I have launched I realized that for me 99% of my success online has been as a result of building large, authority, affiliate content sites so that is where I am now focusing virtually all my energy.
Rather than building hundreds of mini sites, or trying out PPC ads or Facebook marketing I am instead building up a small, focused group of high-trust sites on topics I know about and am interested in and going all out on them.
I am putting my effort into what I have proven time and again to work best for me.
A smart move therefore is to take the time to carry out a similar exercise yourself. Consider what really works for you – what really gets results and “brings home the bacon”. Focus on these tasks. And reduce or eliminate those that take lots of time but never really pay off as an investment of your time.
The Helicopter View
I mentioned in a previous article here on Lifestyle Design Unleashed that a smart move can be building an online business through a process of looking for “easy wins”.
Sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in working on the everyday stuff about your website (writing content, moderating comments, building links etc.) that you don’t have time to look at the bigger picture.
It can be very useful sometimes to sit back and take a “helicopter view” of your whole business to see where your sites should be going, what opportunities there are out there that you’re not capitalizing and so on. Are there, for example, hot keywords that you seem to be ranking for, yet don’t have content for? Have you tried different monetization strategies on your sites? Have you started to build a list yet? If not when will the time be right and how will you do it?
Plan out the future of your sites so you know you’re moving along in the right direction rather than just bumbling along each day going wherever your fancy takes you.
There are tools for virtually everything now from designing a site to building links to creating databases and so on. So use them. Don’t waste money on unnecessary tools but equally appreciate that your time is important and the use of tools can help you achieve more in less time – and sometimes to a higher standard – than trying to do everything yourself.
Unlike some people I am not obsessed with outsourcing. I think you need to get a good handle of your websites and everything they entail. You need to understand the long-term plans for them and the technology they run on. But as you start to generate some success and start to see regular income from your efforts it makes sense to consider taking on freelance staff to help you expand your empire as quickly as possible without you needing to work any more hours.