Busy photo

A few years back, I became friends with another entrepreneur whom I will call Mark. He did a great job of building vertical news websites similar to some of the sites that I have built like American Banking and Market News. If you did not look too closely, you would think that the websites he built and the websites I built were produced by the same company. Although we had very similar businesses at the time, he was never able to gain the traction that my company had. For a while I could not figure out what the difference was between our two companies, until I saw how Mark used his time. Whenever I chatted with him on Skype and asked him what he was working on, he would tell me that he was doing things like working on a logo, trying out different plug-ins on his websites, moderating comments or working on the formatting of his articles. Mark did everything himself and spent a lot of time working on his business, but his time was not well spent at all. Instead of focusing on the core components of his business, where his income is generated, he regularly got distracted by ancillary tasks that did not directly tie into generating revenue. He never put together a team or created systems to help run his business more efficiently. While he was spending a lot of time working, he was never that productive because he was too busy working on the wrong things. 

Productivity and busyness are not the same. In this context, busyness is spending time working on your company without regard to what you are actually accomplishing. Productivity is completing specific tasks that bring you closer to accomplishing your business goals. You must use your time wisely, leverage software, and create a team to be truly productive in your business. There are some weeks where I may do as few as 20 hours of actual work, but I am still using those hours to effectively move my business forward. I rely heavily on software automation and my team members to conduct the day-to-day operations of my business. I work on identifying specific tasks that will move my business forward and have my team members execute those tasks. 

I also use software tools to automate regular and repetitive tasks. For example, I use ManageWP to automatically update WordPress and related plug-ins on my websites instead of manually running updates on each site. Instead of keeping track of individual revenue and expense items, I use software to automatically compile and categorize transactions from Stripe, PayPal, and my bank into a bookkeeping system so I always know how much money my company is or is not making without having to manually put reports together. 

Focus on Key Revenue Generating Tasks 

In order to stay focused on the activities that matter the most in your business, take the time to identify the specific tasks in your business that are directly tied to generating revenue and spend the majority of your time on those tasks. In other words, what needs to happen in order for your company to make money? These tasks are closely tied to revenue generation and will vary depending on what type of Internet business you start, but they will certainly include key marketing and sales activities as well as product delivery and support. 

If you knew that the vast majority of your new customers would come from referrals from your existing customers, you would make sure you spent a lot of time working on collecting referrals, even if it meant some other less important things did not get done. For GoGo Photo Contest, we know that the activities closely tied to revenue generation are those that bring awareness about our product to animal shelters, those that help shelters that have expressed interest in our contest set up their own contests, and those that educate the shelters we partner with to show them how to promote their contest well. There are many other things we could spend our time doing, but as long as we do those three things well, we will make money. It is okay to let your business get a little rough around the edges. Your company will not fall apart if you forget to moderate the comments on your blog or if you do not get around to tweaking your web site’s design. Do not do peripheral tasks well at the expense of doing your key revenue generating poorly. 

Eliminate Distractions When Working 

When you are working on completing a specific task, stay focused. You will be able to get twice as much work done if you focus on completing a single task at a time and remove all potential distractions. You can get rid of distractions by putting your phone on silent, turning off email notifications and closing programs that are likely to interrupt your work, such as Skype. You may also consider using a program that will prevent you from accessing social media sites for a set period of time, like Anti-Social (www.anti-social.cc) or LeechBlock (addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/leechblock/), so that you will not be tempted to take a quick break to check Facebook or Twitter. If you want to measure your productivity and set goals for avoiding distractions, consider using a service like RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com) which will monitor your computer use and tell you what programs and websites you spend the most time on. RescueTime will tell you the hard truth about how much of your computer time you actually use for work and how much time you spend playing games or browsing Facebook and Twitter. 

Improve Productivity with the Pomodoro Technique 

Consider using the Pomodoro Technique if you are having a hard time staying focused or motivating yourself to work on your business. The Pomodoro Technique is a simple system that will enable you to do short bursts of work while mitigating distractions and preventing burn-out. To use the Pomodoro Technique, identify one thing that you want to get done. Set a timer for 25 minutes and work on nothing but that task until the timer rings. When the timer rings, take a five minute break to clear your mind and repeat the process over again. After you have gone through four Pomodoro sessions, take a longer break so that your brain can recharge. This system will help you stay focused because you know that you have a break coming up at the end of the 25 minutes and you are scheduling time to clear your mind in between sprints of working. To learn more about the Pomodoro Technique, visit www.pomodorotechnique.com.

 Action Steps: 

  • Identify the key tasks that cause your company to generate income.
  • Silence your smartphone and turn off all notifications when working.
  • Consider using RescueTime to track your productivity.
  • Try out the Pomodoro Technique.