[D]o you feel like you’re spinning your wheels in the mud sometimes, getting nowhere fast but feel outta gas? It’s a sense of overwhelm that creeps up on the entrepreneur, online or off. In my case, I know I’ve been killing time lately – and time management is the backbone of a productive work-from-home schedule.
Time management isn’t just for work-from-home types, it’s not even strictly about entrepreneurs for that matter. But since I’m a work-at-home entrepreneur, the effects of not managing my time is the only obstacle keeping me from the next ‘level’ in my lifestyle.
My goal: To make Pat Flynn totally jealous. (I am absolutely kidding, by the way, I love that guy.) Really my goal is simply total financial freedom, not quite there yet.
Time management for me and this business defines the line between sinking or swimming. Currently we’re swimming.
Otherwise, by mismanaging time, I’m left (and you will be left) jumping from urgent to urgent task without making life-defining progress. Been there, done that, got the tattoo.
Proving Time Management Is Not My Thing
Want to find someone who beats me at time management?
Get on a subway, plane, van pool, elevator, bus or any public transport. Even a Rickshaw or Jeepney in the Philippines…Now look at the first person to your immediate left.
That person’s first-born cousin’s 3rd-favorite-Hollywood-actor’s-dog-groomer probably handles his or her time better than I do.
Time management presently eludes me, which is why I need to come clean and write another post to myself on time management.
Becoming a Master of Efficiency
When I was in my last job, I was a master of efficiency. I developed my own system of making the most of my time – I’d do Elance gigs at lunch, which sometimes was extended to 2-3 hours through the nature of the business (it wasn’t my choice, I was waiting on others).
Before that, I ran a remodeling/painting outfit to put food on the table, and I enjoy working with my hands…and before that I ran my own franchise, selling advertising to business owners by cold-calling and meeting with business owners.
The canned presentation was, possibly, the worst idea in all of marketing history – but there you have it. That business sank like the Titanic having children with the Hindenburg.
I won’t bore you with all the details but when I work, I’m a study of efficiency. It’s much like reading the book, one of my faves, called Cheaper by the Dozen, a story of famous industrial efficiency experts the Gilbreths and their family time.
Please don’t take this as bragging rights (I’m not naturally efficient, just when it comes to having a system in place) – I’m just setting the stage here to make a point:
Nowadays I have the efficiency of a zombie with no legs. You know, the crawlie kind you don’t want to see in a dark room when you’re low on ammo and the lights are low?
Yeah. I’m as efficient as that guy. Or gal. Zombie, whatever (now my SEO on this post is entirely jacked).
It’s being online all day, on the internet I think – too much good stuff to read, to watch, to learn…some of it necessary and most of it just for fun. I love reading blogs, Tweeting, G-Plussing or whatever they call it…
And I have developed a nasty pattern of being busy all day without getting work done.
Some of you may recall I talked about the Action Enforcer as a tool to use to get myself on track. I got it when I retired from freelancing, for fear I’d goof off all day. Well…old habits die hard.
My Shocking Discovery: Forgotten Gold in My Bag of Tricks
The other day I was plotting how I was going to change our lives again, by becoming more efficient. One of the things I did was to find my old trusty backpack. It’s nothing special, but I carried it around like some security blanket at work.
I filled it with ideas as I was learning the MMO and SEO trades. What did I fill it with?
Oh – backlinking ideas that I’m just NOW implementing…for one thing… And quite a few promotional strategies that I’ve yet left un-tested. These are mostly backlinking-focused, and I may or may not actually create a product out of those plans, that’s up for debate.
I’m really thinking just keeping that one to myself.
What struck me, though, was one particular piece of paper. See, I’d use a lot of paper at work, so I’d take old scraps and re-use them, write on the back of sheets I needed for work (mostly lists of customers who didn’t pay their bill in the ‘family’ business)…
On one of these sheets, I had a grand idea. That idea was written about 1.4 years ago. It’s become published as Duct Tape SEO and you know what I learned?
That I’m still sitting on a lot of potential money – untested ideas and the like.
It got me thinking about how much time I’ve utterly wasted…and how much MORE money I’d have had I acted on these ideas.
My New Efficiency Plan
First off, having 7 kids doesn’t add to my efficiency (my oldest daughter is out on her own, so I only count 7 though I really have 8). So what this means for me (and did I mention we’re a home-schooling family?) is that every moment counts.
Here’s my new plan…or an old one that I just keep forgetting to implement.
1. Project Goals
Not daily goals really, but project focused goals. This last week I had a goal of getting 5 more reviews up for my winning affiliate website. Glad to say I got it done, and it takes me ages to do a review.
There’s reasons it takes me a while, but needless to say when I write for my affiliate websites, I’m going for top of Google. When I publish, I aim for the kill, so it takes some time to research, put it together, etc.
Having project goals, I break down what I want to do then work backwards. For me, it’s adding another $5k to my monthly income. It’s possible with just one more website in my case.
So break down your projects by the finish line, then break it up, and use tools to keep yourself organized, like:
2. Google Calendar
I love Google Calendar. I set up a daily goal, weekly goal – and I get the emails to remind me. Great stuff, not much to add to it. Another tool I use:
3. Action Enforcer
Oh yeah – it’s been collecting dust as I was writing Duct Tape SEO (in book writing mode, I spend entirely too much time on the PC and just go until I’m spent all day – not recommended).
This tool breaks down my tasks to blocks of time – and yes, I know there’s tons of other tools out there for this, but I find the “reports” feature helps keep me accountable to my wife.
I can email her what I’ve got done, or analyze my progress/lack of it. Scary stuff, but needed in my case.
Get Action Enforcer here. By the way, it’s great for freelancers who wonder how to bid their jobs – time yourself and make more accurate bids.
Daily I set it up and organize my time properly, making sure I’m spending time on the right things. I’m prioritizing by profitability, and every day try to get done with work so I can help my wife with dinner, read to my kids, just relax with the family.
My alternative is to be utterly miserable. I’m forcing myself to be productive with this tool. By the way, if you use a time management tool, then you don’t need this one. This is the only tool for time management I’ve ever used, so I love the thing.
Feel free to share your free alternatives or other options in the comments below.
4. Google Insights for Search
I talk about this tool a lot, but what I’m using it for here is to look at my current projects and re-evaluate my decision-making by looking at what is going to be searched for in the next few months.
Staying ahead of the curve is key here. For example – don’t do Halloween sites right now unless you’re planning a PPC campaign for instant traffic, or similar traffic generation, if you’re using SEO – it’s too late.
Put your time into other projects – check the Google Keyword Tool and see what makes you money in a few months. That’s where you want to develop.
I did this recently and stopped a project I was about to dive into – now I’m in full-on-assault mode for a few of my sites in a very lucrative market.
5. Setting My Homepage
I used to have my homepage set to Gmail. I use Gmail to funnel all my domain-based emails to, so it’s easier to manage. But my problem is that I like people too much.
I swear, if I could get paid to be your online cheerleader, I would – pom poms? Maybe not…Short skirt? Maybe a kilt…but no, not really. But I LOVE talking to people, being encouraging, coaching – and I do that from Gmail.
Recently I had set the Action Enforcer to time my email time and the timer went off when I was in the middle of composing a reply to a friend online…I did the evil thing.
I finished the email and re-set my timer…then I realized I just need to suck it up and be more committed to my business.
Don’t worry about sending me an email: just don’t expect an immediate response. I’m re-organizing my priorities and times of day that I do things that don’t make me money immediately.
The easy way to manage this was to set my calendar as my homepage – that way I see what needs to be done and I set Action Enforcer to police my time.
The difference is astounding – and it cost me nothing to do to reset the homepage.
In most browsers you can find this under the options tab, or Tools > Options in Firefox. It’s a small reminder to myself that I’m not online to make people laugh. I’m not online to make new friends (but I much prefer to chit chat than most anything!)…
I’m here to make money.
Wow that sounds just wrong – but you know what I mean.
I’m not greedy, just needy. Mouths to feed, nest is full of open beaks and I need more worms.
Therefore…I’ve had to refocus by setting my homepage to my Google Calendar.
6. Limiting Social Media Time
I use Hootsuite for my social media management…er…whoops! I mean I pay for Hootsuite (a measly $5.95 a month) but haven’t been using it too much! Hopefully my wife doesn’t read that…that’s like a Frappuccino, however it’s spelled.
Two things I am doing differently:
1) Going to be using Hootsuite since I’m paying for it. It lets me schedule shares out so I’m not actually on the social platforms and getting distracted. (There is a free option as well that beats the gizzards out of Tweet Deck IMHO.)
2) Limiting my “live time” on social media by using a scheduled time for such during working hours.
It’s killing me. I love Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus…but needs to be done.
7. Scheduling Family Time
My new schedule is to work less than I have been. Duct Tape SEO had me working like it was 2010, and it made me a bit miserable, but that’s how I write books…I get obsessive and grind it out.
So to keep my own mood in the ups and not the downs, I’m scheduling more family time. Mandatory.
Work day ends at 6 pm unless it’s Saturday and I need to make up for all the time I’ve goofed off all week (like this last Saturday). I’m trying to regain Sunday as my day off, sorry to report it’s been a working day for a long time now.
I don’t need to work 7 days a week…but all that to say that I’m giving myself a workday schedule: 8am to 6pm, Monday through Saturday. I’ll get off early on Saturday if I’ve met my goals that week.
The reason I’m putting in that time is to punch through the next level in business – work hard now, it pays off in dividends later.
8. Google+ As Accountability
I said this on Google Plus – that I’d check in every week to see how I’ve done and report it. Google+ is open for all as I understand it, so hopefully I can see you there to hold my feet to the fire.
We’ll see how that goes (I stink at schedules). Another difference is holding myself accountable to my wife in a more open way. I’ve been pretty sketchy on that note, and developing bad habits (socializing) while not accomplishing the goals she and I set.
So there’s double accountability for you – and it’s a missing element when you work for yourself. I need accountability so that’s my solution.
9. Turning Off the Ringer
I get a text every time someone RTs my stuff on Twitter, or every time I’m directly addressed. I wanted to get more involved there and get more followers, and not appear so rude…
But I’m not so sure it adds to or detracts from my following. One way or another, I need to turn off my ringer and won’t respond like I have been recently (sorry!). I have a schedule to keep and want to add that next $5k a month in passive income.
10. Following my Big Wins Strategy
Did you read my 5-Part Big Wins Strategy yet? I wrote that as a reminder to myself, and I know it’ll help if I stay true to those priorities.
11. Remembering Where I’m From
Some of you might have found My Story and wondered if I was just being narcissistic. No, I’m again writing to myself a reminder, this one reminds me of where I’m from.
I don’t want to go back to working a J-O-B since a man of my education level (or lack thereof) in this economy winds up as a company Welcome Mat, go-for or otherwise swabbin’ the poopdeck.
I’m done with that. So I wrote that story out to remind me what awaits me if I stop my forward momentum.
I’m sure you have some goals, but have you written them down? Have you written down a “motivation” piece that answers,
Why do you want this so badly? What are you working for?
For me, the pain of the alternative drives me. It’s how my brain works – but feel free to be 100 times more positive in your own motivation piece.
Write it down and let it drive you. I did and it keeps the laziness at bay (the downside of a passive income: laziness).
12. Having an MMO (Make Money Online) Blueprint
Yeah, I know what I’m doing to make money online – but I’m still a student at the same time. I’m not a know-it-all by any stretch. So I’ve made my own blueprint as time goes on.
I’m reading a couple of other books myself, right now debating if I’m even going to publish my own blueprint this year or not: there’s some great resources out there…do we really need another make-money-online ebook?
There are excellent blogs out there, and now Dave with his “Duck Pond” (make money online forum), too – I’m kicking the idea around, has a lot to do with what makes me the most money.
Right now, it’s my own affiliate websites.
Duct Tape SEO makes me steady money but not sure I have the ‘clout’ to pull off a big enough win on another launch when I’m still marketing that book.
Pulling away from website development right now would be suicidal to my business – I have goals to meet and it’s a question of how do I accomplish them sooner, without rushing a half-baked product out the door.
I’d lose focus on the bigger win: developing my current websites and some strategic new ones before year’s end.
So what I’m saying is that if you don’t have a plan down, you need one. I have a plan and I’m reading a couple other plans presently, to expand my own knowledge on affiliate marketing.
More on that later, let me refer you to my blogroll for some places you can start reading, or see my sidebar.
For example, check out Zen Duck Dave’s make money online books.
Whatever you do, having a plan is going to keep you focused on what needs getting done.
13. SEO Tools and Systems
I have an SEO system, Duct Tape SEO, that I’m not only the author of, but I follow that thing on my niche sites. Having that system in place, like a “Make Money Online” (MMO) system, is critical to success.
Otherwise you’re floundering like a fish (pun not intended), wondering what’s the most important thing versus the ‘little win’ that’s not worth the hassle.
The guy with the best tools will lose to the guy with the best systems each and every time, it’s what drives franchises to succeed even if they don’t offer the best food, clothing or shopping experience.
I’m not spelling out my new backlinking system (yet, if ever), but I do have one.
So I suggest you find what works and stick with it. If you prefer traffic generation, then I’d say even then: do what counts most first.
Put all your actions into a system.
(Yes, I still use that system though I’m experimenting with new methods as well, including a minimalist approach.)
If you’d like that, then sign up here and you’ll get the password to that post in a few days:
Tip: Though there are tons of link building tools out there, you can waste money on those that don’t work any more or that just cost too much with little to show for it. To avoid that pain, check out my blogroll to see the one page on the internet I always check before buying…
‘Nuff About Me – What About You?
What are your strategies for making the most use of your time, staying as profitable as you can?
I’m not some time management pro, so any ideas help. Have you found a good method that works to keep you focused and on task?
What about a “making money online” plan – do you have one that you’ve found is working or is that still a gray area for you?
I’m all ears and curious. Not trying to debate people here, just really curious.
Thanks for sharing this post with the social buttons to the left or below the post (hint, hint), and as always, thanks for reading!
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