How To Make The Most of Your Least Productive Time
Free The Slaves: Escape From Debt, Save Your Future

How To Make The Most of Your Least Productive Time

Everybody talks about mastering the art of staying productive. Not many people willingly accept that such efforts are futile. It’s impossible to stay productive 100% of the time, and this will never change.

Something that I believe to be just as important, if not more so, is what we make of our least productive time.

We all have the capacity to be extremely productive for some part of the day. Even the world’s grandest underachievers. But I believe that to be successful running your own business, to steal a cricket metaphor, your tail has to wag. You have to find a way to maximise what you achieve when you’re not playing very well. This is easier said than done.

Build Momentum with Small Actions

There are days where I find myself staring banally at the screen, not a single pixel tweaking my imagination out of the gutter.

These slumps usually arrive in the mid-afternoon, and if I’m not careful, they’ll ruin the rest of the day. When I find myself drifting badly, I like to set a menial task; something requiring little brainpower that I can tick off within minutes to elicit the tiniest flame of achievement. It could be replying to an email, or cleaning my desktop, or formatting the chapter headings in my latest round of Premium Posts.

The objective of these menial tasks is not to make giant strides on my biggest projects, but simply to regain momentum. A tiny achievement leads to a slightly bigger one. I often find that no matter how much I’m dreading a task, by diving in headfirst and staying focused on it for 5 minutes I can build enough momentum to see it through to the conclusion.

I hate leaving what I’ve started. And that’s a blessing for which I’m eternally grateful.

Forget the scale of the tasks on your to-do list. Break them down by negotiating the first 5 minutes. It’s amazing what a difference small steps can make.

Battle Lack of Direction by Committing Early

Every large project has the potential to drag on while you battle ‘downtime’ and the precarious middle stages. I rarely have trouble committing my ideas to a plan of action, and I’m wise enough to know that immediate action is required to kickstart those plans. I also find it easy to put the finishing touches on my shiny new works.

Where I suffer, and I’m sure I’m not alone, is in the middle stages. Internet Marketers often have a gajillion projects on the mind, including those that they haven’t even started. The most vulnerable phase of any project is the vast chasm between laying the foundations and casting the finishing touches.

How many WordPress installations do you have with page structures in place, finished designs, a sprinkling of content but no sign of activity since 2009?

Some people complete their websites, launch proudly and then erase them from memory. Why? Because they don’t realise that finishing a website is just the beginning. The hard middle part is marketing it, gaining traction and connecting your brand to people who give a shit. Or maybe they do recognise this and have simply given up. It is, after all, the most challenging aspect of any web project.

Maintaining direction while a project drags on is tough.

Being an Internet Marketer who frequently works on websites that are somewhat disconnected from his own passions, I like to take on business partners – passionate individuals who love the concept more than myself. This acts as a driving force. The partner has the determination to maintain the original vision, thus preventing me from abandoning ship.

Even with a partner onboard, every large project must be broken in to smaller goals and milestones. Momentum is the catalyst for nearly everything I do. I like to launch concepts as soon as possible.

When I’m launching my own products, I will get the sales letter written and the website marketed before I even finish the product. Users roam the site, click to buy, but instead of being allowed to pay, they’re told the product is temporarily sold out. In my stats, I see a potential sale. This triggers a surge of motivation as I rush to complete what I started. It’s also an excellent method for measuring demand without committing to the whole shabang.

Note: This applies to SEO, especially. Long gone are the days where I attempt to rank for keywords without running an initial PPC campaign to gauge whether the traffic converts.

Beat Writer’s Block by Mastering Second Gear

Writers live and die by the amount of time they manage to spend in The Zone.

The Zone is a productive state where flow, style and inspiration come together in harmony to produce fireworks on the page. When a writer is locked in to his Zone, it all seems so easy; both to himself, and to his readers. The problem, of course, is getting there.

When you create your to do list the night before, it’s simply not realistic to set tasks under the assumption that you’ll be in The Zone all day. What every writer has to have in his artillery is a second gear. He has to be able to make the most of his least productive time.

For me, in blogging terms, that means throwing ideas, quips and phrases in a draft. It doesn’t matter if the wording is horrible, or if the ideas are disjointed. Perfectionists will spend hours dilly-dallying over the slightest details only to find that by the end of the day, they’ve barely scribbled 500 words.

It’s important to understand that ideas do not exist in any other place but your head. Until you’ve taken the action to commit them to paper, or a WordPress draft, they will lapse in and out of memory, eventually ceasing to exist. For a writer who can only produce while he’s in The Zone, failing to take action on those brief moments of inspiration is a death toll to his output.

Every great writer needs a second gear. He must be able to write without worrying that his drafts are a damning indication of the completed work.

Use second gear to record ideas, get phrases on paper, collect together any irony that could be tied in to your posts as humour. You can’t write great material in second gear, but you can certainly invest the time wisely. When you snap in to The Zone, you’ll demolish the material you prepared earlier, like a jacked up Blue Peter presenter on steroids.

Being Bored is Not An Option

One of the reasons I upgraded from my stack of books to a Kindle was so that I could carry an immense wealth of reading in my coat pocket. I live in London, where trains and buses can suck hours out of the day. If I were to commute in to the city centre, it would take 50 minutes each way. That’s 100 minutes of sitting on a train, avoiding the gaze of strangers, and generally being an unsociable southern urchin.

Instead of wasting that time reading the tube map, or worse – the Evening Standard – I take out the trusty Kindle and plunge in to my 100 pages a day. It’s a simple matter of using every minute in the day to your advantage.

The people who complain about having no time in the day are the very same people who sit in silence, staring morosely at their reflections in the train window. Well no shit, Sherlock. They probably come home to watch X-Factor, too.

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Free The Slaves: Escape From Debt, Save Your Future

The following is a guest post by Oded Gendler. Oded is an online marketer and entrepreneur from Israel. He is the brains and bravado behind the NO B.S.™ Moneymachinefactory.org blog. Follow him on twitter for a dose of ranting and philosophical yadayada @therealoded

From the moment you enter grade school, you are told and indoctrinated: study hard, get good grades, go to a good college or university. Plunge into debt of 50k-100k and spend the next 4 years (at least) in getting a degree. Then of course, comes the internship which you wont get paid for. But it’s all OK! After all that, the fun really begins, because, finally, it’s payback time for all your hard work! You get a job and start at a whopping annual salary of (drum roll please)… 50k, if you are lucky.

I hear people who tried affiliate marketing for 2 weeks invested $500 and decided there is NO WAY to make money from it. I use the term “invested” because even if you lost all your $500 and didn’t make a dime, it was an investment in your education of online marketing. An investment not much different than the tuition you paid for your college degree. The fact a bonafide professor didn’t force feed you rehashed material from the syllabus doesn’t mean your education process is worth less.

In reality, you actually applied yourself and your mind doing the fabulous act of auto-deduction. You learned by yourself! Isn’t that true learning, perhaps even more valuable then the more docile, passive act of being “taught”?

Let me go back to the prevailing status quo and paradigm of what a middle class person should go through. So you’ve got a job. Now it’s time to buy a house and own your first asset. How will you do that, with your past college debt, and a job that by now pays you around 70k per year? The answer? More debt of course. Debt which is of course owned and controlled by the ruling faction – as represented here by the banks.

You are actually bred and indoctrinated into slavery. Modern day slavery. In a modern person’s mind, slavery means black people picking cotton in the plantations. But in reality, modern slavery means “owning” debt (of course you don’t own the debt, the bank owns it, and thus the debt owns you). You actually enslave your future income and salary to the bank. Thus, although you are not whipped by the splintered whip of the taskmaster on a daily basis, you are whipped by the thorn of debt instead. Debt which you must accumulate in order to acquire assets.

Maybe one day you’ll think about quitting your job, wanting to finally realize your old dream of becoming an artist? Maybe you wont even have a choice and you’ll get sacked? Results – lose your house, lifestyle and maybe even your family (will your wife want to stay with a person who cannot provide for her and her children? I’m writing from a male perspective so for all you ladies reading it out there, do consider).

In the US alone there were almost 1.6 million bankruptcy filings in 2010, an increase of 7.4 percent from 2009. There were more people who filed for bankruptcy in 2011 than people diagnosed with cancer, suffering a heart attack or graduating from college. An interesting read regarding these findings is Elizabeth Warren’s book – “The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Mothers and Fathers Are Going Broke”.

The situation isn’t much brighter in the UK either. The Guardian has just published a report by a leading thinktank group stating that middle class families are “unlikely to see their earnings return to pre-recession levels until at least 2020″… but it predicts that the income of the wealthy will continue to rise over the same period.

The odds are absurdly weighted against working class families and in favor of the wealthy. Mitt Romney’s recently published tax returns shows that the Republican candidate income between 2010 and 2011 was 42.6 million dollars. The tax rate Romney paid was 13.9% or 6.2 million dollars (recent Time’s article even states Romney overpaid his taxes by about 44k). How could that be? Yahoo finance explains “The GOP frontrunner acknowledged his federal tax rate is 15%, thanks to a loophole called “carried interest” that helps the GOP frontrunner pay a rate similar to a family earning $50,000”.

With the current trend of affairs, the state will not be able to take care of you when you are old and grey, when you have lost your ability to provide for yourself. What you have in your bank savings (or hiding under your bed mattress) is what you’ll have to maintain you for the rest of your natural life. It’s doubtful even if you’ll have a proper pension. And even if you do, it will most likely not be enough.

Sounds pretty grim right? NO! Your financial future and freedom depends on you. This entire article (as absurd as it may sound) was written in order to inspire you to take action, in order to make you understand reality.

In the past, the choices were much clearer, much simpler. They were black and white. By choosing the life of an employee with all its benefits and comfort, you would receive a monthly salary, paid vacation, dental or health insurance, steady hours and more. In other words stability.

The downside – you’ll never be able to buy that Bugatti, the 10 bedroom beach front house, or staying at the Ty Warner penthouse at the Four Seasons NY. On the contrary, you could have chosen the path of an entrepreneur, risk all you’ve got in terms of time and money. No steady income or insurance. Work 20 hours a day and still end the year broke. Invest years of your life and end with nothing or a mansion. I deliberately choose to portray the two options as extremes.

Today, I believe that, having that option or choice between an employee or an entrepreneur is slowly drawing to an end. Choosing to be an employee might cost you dearly when you reach the end of your working cycle. Your 401k savings will not be enough to maintain your standard of living. The world is slowly reverting to the days of the filthy rich and the filthy poor. The erosion of the middle class and social security is something we cannot deny.

Yes, the world might end by 2012, but just in case it wont. I suggest getting ready for the fact you might live until you are 80+ and perhaps start thinking about your financial status.

Finch: Definitely some very important points to consider. Personally, I don’t think employment and entrepreneurism have to be mutually exclusive. I think it’s possible to balance a job that you love, which may involve working for ‘The Man’, with good investments that take care of your future. Not every kid dreams of running his own business, but every kid should grow up with a solid education in how money works. Thanks for the post, Oded.

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