This is a guest post by James Wilson. James is an internet marketer with six years of experience in the business.
If you work primarily online, you’re likely all too familiar with the dangers of distraction. Internet distractions abound – social media, games, news, YouTube – but work and family issues can also throw you off your game. It can be difficult to finish one project when other business matters keep stealing your attention.
However, if you can learn to minimize interruptions, organize your work, and plan effectively, you can make yourself more productive and efficient. If you’re familiar with the saying “time is money,” then you know why this is important.
Tip 1: Devote Days to Specific Tasks
While an online business naturally requires you to multitask for much of your day, trying to do too many tasks at once can kill your momentum, break your train of thought and make you less efficient in general. For instance, Robert Plank writes that he typically targets email on Monday, moving on to customer service on Tuesday and so on. A system like his can help you focus on one project and make you less susceptible to interruptions.
Finch: I devote different days to different traffic sources, and also different days to different verticals. My blog posts are usually mid-evening brainfarts when I have nothing else to do.
Tip 2: Close Your Email
Forcing yourself to refrain from constantly checking your email can be difficult, but doing so can save you from wasted time and unneeded distractions. Try setting rules for yourself that limit the number of times you can check your email everyday to two or three. Each time you check your mail, respond to only priority emails. At the end of the week, set aside a few hours to respond to all the other messages in your inbox. To make this easier, organize your emails in Gmail with labels every day, marking those that you’ll reply to on your designated email day.
Tip 3: Organize Your Computer
It’s easy for work-related files to pile up on your computer, and failing to organize them can result in a lot of wasted time as you search through them to find what you need. Use folders to keep track of different projects, labeling each folder according to its contents or using a naming system to help you more easily sort each folder. If you regularly work on more than one device, take advantage of software like Dropbox. Dropbox allows you to access your files from any machine at any location. As long as you have a mobile device or laptop with wireless internet, you can open and update any file without having to constantly send emails to yourself.
Finch: Dropbox is one of the best nomad resources of the 21st century. If you don’t have it, get on the bandwagon.
Tip 4: Stop Surfing the Internet
While this one goes without saying, sometimes you need to remind yourself just how much time surfing the web wastes when you’re trying to work. Learn to control your impulses to get on Facebook, read forums or check the news, making sure to set aside off-work hours for that. Turning off email and chat programs can help you avoid the random, distracting links that your friends send you throughout the day.
Finch: How do any of you get work done on AIM? It’s like dodging productivity bullets. LeechBlock is your best friend for avoiding the time wasting filth.
Tip 5: Set Aside Free Time
Being self-employed makes it easy to slip into a work mindset at all times, but you need to give yourself free time to maintain balance and, maybe more importantly, your sanity. If you make sure to set aside some free time for yourself every evening, you’ll have something to look forward to while you work and will be less likely to fall prey to distractions. During your free time, don’t check your email constantly or think about anything work-related. Having work creep into your leisure time can be just as inefficient as giving into distractions when you should be working.
Tip 6: Set Goals
You can work much easier by setting concrete goals for yourself to accomplish, in both the short and long term. For instance, you could aim to complete a certain project before the end of the week while setting your long term sights on increasing your job income by 100 percent in the next 3 years. Your goals should be specific, measurable and time-bound, providing you with a concrete target and a limited period of time in which to hit that target. Of course, they should be attainable. Setting unreasonable goals for yourself will only lead to further stress.
Tip 7: Create a Daily Action Plan
To help you work toward the goals you’ve set, make a list of every task you need to complete each day. As you finish each item on the list, check it off and move on to the next. This helps keep you on track and makes your work day go faster. After several weeks of making checklists, you can also become better at estimating how much you can expect to accomplish in a single work day, further improving your ability budget time.
Tip 8: Prioritize
In determining which tasks should be tackled first, it can be helpful to remember the adage that states, “80 percent of your profits are derived from 20 percent of your tasks.” The tasks that are most crucial to your profit-making potential should be given top priority. Try to spend most of your time taking care of critical tasks, saving other less important ones until you have more time.
Tip 9: Clean Up Your Work Environment
A messy workspace can promote mental clutter, making it important to keep your physical work environment just as clean and organized as your computer. For many people, simply working in clean and comfortable room can greatly boost productivity. Keeping your workplace orderly can also help you associate it with your professional life, making it easier to work without distraction.
Finch: I also find it helps to have lots of natural light in the room. Working from your mother’s basement is probably not the best way to stay chipper through the day.
Tip 10: Exercise and Eat Right
Staying in shape may seem irrelevant in regards to working online, but neglecting physical fitness can lower your drive, energy and efficiency. Try to spend at least 30 minutes walking, running, playing sports or otherwise working out every day. That may seem like a lot of time to devote to non-work activities, but the investment can pay off by giving you more energy and discipline.
Likewise, a healthy diet can make you feel less sluggish and can put you in a better mood while you work according to the American Dietetic Association.
Finch: Unfortunately, this is true. Try getting a campaign profitable after munching down a Village Pizza XL Meatfeast at 1am. Your posture is also something to pay close attention to, unless you want to follow the much travelled road of successful affiliate at 21, squared eye hunchback at 26. Priorities, affiliasphere!
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Slightly off-topic, but I see Spotify has finally landed in America. Being the long term Spotify fangirl that I am, I have a bunch of invites for those of you in the States who aren’t yet members. Email me if you want one (and trust me, you want one), or add me on Twitter and get in touch.