We are all busy people living in an increasingly distracting world. Your site is something you usually start in your free time while having a full time job and other family, friends and life commitments. It is good that many people see the opportunity to create sites and work on developing themselves, but it is sad to see the same people using the excuse of being busy to let their sites die shortly after they are launched.
The key is to use your time wisely. If you don’t use your time wisely your output will suffer and you will have difficult time growing your audience. Optimizing your day depends on letting go of the unproductive tasks and time wasters. This infographic shows 8 things you should get rid of today to become a more productive blogger.
Limiting the environment around you
As you see the main theme is: Was I a producer or was I a consumer today? Did I do something today to get closer and reach my dreams or did I just spend another day dreaming and reading about other people and the way they lead their lives. These “producing” activities will for most people be the 20% of activities that bring 80% of results.
Everyone is too busy these days, it is a very popular thing to tell everyone around you in any case. Nobody wants to say I’m not busy or I am bored or I have too much free time on my hands. That is uncool. But if you really look deeper into how you actually spend your “busy” day you will certainly be able to find some free gaps of time where you are either doing some unproductive activities that you can stop at anytime or where you actually have free time to focus on more important tasks.
Many “busy” people spend their other 8 hours doing “important” tasks like watching, listening, reading about and discussing events that are not too relevant with their own lives or their own goals. Some things to consider letting go of:
- Checking the stats non-stop. One very useless habit is to continuously keep checking your site analytics. Once a day or even less frequently is more than enough. Checking more often won’t really change much. Instead you should be doing things that can actually affect the number of visitors your content can get.
- Spending half of your day in social media. Social media can be a useful tool to connect to a new audience and to spread the word about your site. At the same time social media can be a big waste of your time. There’s always a new tweet, there’s always more messages on Facebook. It never stops and if you are not careful you will end up spending most of your day mindlessly browsing around without getting much done. Be focused when working in social media. Use it for ideas, use it to attract a wider audience, use it to connect to influencers. Don’t just use it to consume other people’s content.
- Delaying the creation of new content. Your site relies on your ability to produce content that connects to your audience, drives visitors and views. Your main task is to be spending time on thinking and creating new concepts and new content ideas. If you look at what bloggers can do to make big progress creating great, interesting content that build an audience always tops that list. Never forget that.
- Being a victim of analysis paralysis. It is easy to keep planning, keep researching and endlessly refining your idea. This can be quite unhelpful. It can waste a lot of time. Most plans often have to change when they enter the real world. You should get your ideas live as soon as possible. You should get that valuable feedback from a real audience.
- Working without a deadline. If you don’t have a deadline your tasks may end up expanding so as to fill the time available for their completion. This will prolong the whole process and waste unnecessary time. Make sure to set a time limit for your tasks. This makes you focused and you can finish tasks much quicker than when working without a deadline.
- Being inconsistent. Part of the appeal of visiting a site is knowing that when you get there, it will offer something new to make it worth your while. Publishing a great post today and then not having any new material for next three months does not help. Don’t let your site go stale, stagnant or die. Keep it nourished by keeping a regular content schedule. There is no written rule on how often you should publish, but you should try to be consistent and avoid having long periods of inactivity.
- Working too hard. Working hard is not the same as working smart. Your site is probably only your side project. You are busy with your job and other commitments. Optimize the time you have in order to get the best out of your efforts. Establish a clear objective and a clear goal for your site to help you focus. When you don’t have a goal you are seeing any task as equally important. You may be avoiding tasks that have biggest impact potential. If you align your tasks with your goals you will magically become more productive and you will have enough time.
- Not wanting to automate or delegate. Some bloggers think that they can do it all. This is fine especially early on in your blogging career or on those days where you have all the time to focus. Eventually you may hit a point where it makes sense to automate some things or even outsource some tasks in order for you to stay productive and achieve all the goals that you have. It is important to realize this and not allow your blog to suffer by you refusing to automate or outsource.
To help you become a producer you do need to figure out what your goals and objectives are. This will help you identify the meaningful activities, it will bring some focus to you and will lead you to knowing what tasks and activities you should be focusing your time on. It will help you work smart and not hard.
Pause the input, focus on the output
Some days I just feel like a slave to my interests. I have such a deep desire for knowledge, I am very curious and need to go and know deeper to fill these gaps in my interests. The online world is the world of infinite information and it just amplifies this knowledge need. The amount of interesting material is overwhelming and I never get a sense of completion browsing through it and consuming it all so I spend hours wasted on it. Curiosity can seem like an addiction and this addiction just gets magnified by my attempts to feed it. The sea of knowledge gets deeper as I go further into it.
Some days it feels like I just tick one off the list and it’s over to the next one. Consuming all this information doesn’t necessary mean that I get the knowledge and end using it practically. Having access to and consuming all the information doesn’t make me smarter. Having all the facts doesn’t necessary mean that I have the understanding. Sometimes (or some days most of the time) I cannot even remember or recall too many facts about what I have read and that makes me wonder what the point was of spending time consuming it in the first place. Time is limited and I need to become more efficient with the way I spend my time.
To become productive I must pause the input as much as possible. I must get better at filtering the noise from the signal. This means that I must be more purposeful about the information I am consuming online. What is the intention with consuming a piece of content? What am I looking to get out of it? I have to learn to let go of my curiosity need. I don’t need to feed it all the time. I don’t need to be afraid that I will be missing out.
Following news, politics, or sports can be largely irrelevant to my daily life. Consuming it wastes a lot of time, and thinking about it makes me lose focus from important tasks and then I need to spend time refocusing after consuming news. By not consuming it at all I will not be missing anything relevant in my life and will be freeing a lot of time and energy. If it is such an important news story one way or another the information will get to me.
Reduced capacity to absorb and retain
I seem to have a strong need to be informed all the time even though sometimes it serves no real purpose. Checking emails, checking Twitter / Facebook / Linkedin, reading tons of new articles. This need to be informed seems to have reduced my capacity to absorb and retain what I read. Instead of getting a deeper understanding of a subject, I seem to just be using all the information as a shallow distraction and a waste of time.
Internet is a great tool for finding new information, but with this endless stream of distractions it gets you to a more shallow state of thinking. Do you find yourself reading an article, but forgetting what you have read? Can you remember the interesting tweets, Facebook posts and articles you read just last week? It seems that we are easily distracted and unfocused. We read something because we think it will be useful to us, but while we are reading, our mind wanders and we have so many different thoughts in our heads, which results in us not really getting what we just read. Multitasking and not being focused and concentrated doesn’t really work when you need to learn something or get something done.
Some things in our lives can easily be done with an automatic response – approve/delete comments on your site, scanning your reader, responding to Tweets. On the other hand most things that give a great benefit require awareness, time and consideration before they manifest themselves into real results. For us to get some value out of the information that we consume, it requires some reflection and analysis. It is important to be aware of few things:
- Are you transforming the data you consume into knowledge that you need?
- Are you just a consumer of data, or do you actually use the information?
Removing the noise
Signal is the valuable part of the information, it’s the part I should listen to, the part I should note and learn from. Noise is just noise and there is too much of it online, all the random information that floats around on the web. More sites I bookmark, more feeds I subscribe to, more Twitter accounts I follow, more of this noise I get.
More data (a high noise-to-signal ratio) also means more chance of overreaction to noise and more chance of mistaking the noise for signal. It is noise that I am supposed to forget, get rid of and ignore. It is useless for me and by removing it, filtering it and being more purposeful I can get more of the important signal to listen to.
So how do I remove the noise? It’s not only about getting better at curating the noise. It’s equally important to get on an information diet and ration the supply of new information. Remove some feeds, unsubscribe from some mailing lists and unfollow some Twitter users. I have to think about what do I get the most out of? What helps me the most to achieve the goals I have set for myself?
I need to focus on the output. Constantly looking for inspiration can actually become anti-inspiring, can get me stuck and make me unproductive. I have to keep reminding myself to get into the habit of putting whatever appeals to me in my reading into practice. Taking action produces the appetite for more action and I actually get to try out things and see if they work.
I may read or hear something that gives me an idea but that is not enough unless I take some action accordingly and apply it to my projects. When I apply ideas to my work they truly do become inspiring. I actually turn ideas into reality.
Steps to mindful reading
I have the reading addiction myself. My appetite for knowledge and for reading grows even more as I am feeding it. With internet being such an amazing source of information some days I feel I cannot do anything other than reading more and clicking on further links. There is a danger of you being a slave to the schedule of a book per week and you should be aware of this when committing yourself. So how do you deal with reading in order to actually read mindfully and focus yourself to get something out of the time you spend reading? This is what I would suggest:
- Don’t have a strict schedule
- Pick relevant books that can teach you things (non-fiction instead of fiction, biographies of dead people etc)
- Disconnect. Pay attention. Read slowly. Don’t skim. Make sure to understand what you are reading
- Focus on that one thing you are doing, remove all the distractions. Think and reflect on what you are reading
- As soon as you realize that your mind has wandered off, focus back on what you were reading
- Highlight interesting paragraphs and quotes (if using Kindle this is pretty simple to do and you will have a nice overview of all your highlights)
- Write down notes, ideas and actionable points you get while reading or you will forget them. Keep a doc where you put in all these ideas and sort through the doc regularly to keep it organized. This is especially useful to help you with the writer’s block
- Implement ideas that you got from the things that you have read. Otherwise there is not much good in reading
- Stop. Always be aware of the reading addiction trap in order to make sure to spend more time producing something instead of always consuming something
For something to become true knowledge, it needs a mix of experience, skills, and the theoretical and practical understanding of it. By reading we might get the idea on the theoretical level, but it means nothing without also getting to experience it by practicing it. Doing this you will hopefully optimize the benefits you get from the information that you consume.
Your productivity – 80/20 principle
Do things that are worth doing and let go off things that are not. The idea of letting go of your time wasters comes from the Pareto principle. 80% of the value you get will be from 20% of the things you do. Harnessing the power of the 80/20 principle will trigger an explosion in your productive capacity and will bring you closer to achieving your goals. It will allow you to have time for your full time job and for your family and other commitments.
Above I listed some of the tasks that I consider time-wasters in my own work – they are my 80%. The idea is for you to figure out which of your tasks are in the 20% and then spend most of your time doing those tasks while limiting the rest. Look at the big picture. Concentrate on the things that produce fantastic results and stop wasting time on unproductive things that are irrelevant to your success.
Knowing the best uses of your energy and time is much more important than trying harder, working longer or complaining about not having time. Less is more as the saying goes. My 20% tasks are creating content and marketing. It can be as simple as that. There is a set of very important questions all bloggers should be asking themselves daily in order to identify the results of your efforts:
- How did I spend my day?
- Did I take any steps towards reaching my goals?
- Did I improve my chances today?
- Did I improve my site?
- Did I spread the word about it?
- Have I worked on increasing the readership and increasing the revenue?
It is clear that for a blogger to become successful good prioritization skills are a key. You need to have a talent to distinguish between what needs to be done and what doesn’t. You need to know the difference between make work and real work.
Today is one of the productive days. Today I have decided to stop feeding my addiction to information and use my feelings behind it to produce a post that you are reading now. Here’s hoping to more time spent on the output and less time spent on the input. Here’s hoping to becoming a producer rather than a consumer of information. It is only this way that I will be able to get closer to my goals.