Recently, I was asked by a good friend of mine to write a post about time-management and organization. Let me preface by saying I am not, contrary to popular belief, some sort of super-human prioritizer and organizer. I am human. I do sleep. But I also constantly work on ways to efficiently manage my time and, in short, maximize the hours available to me in a given day. Here I’ve included FIVE things you can (easily) start doing today that will enhance your online productivity.
1) Wake Up Earlier
What’s the number one thing I do that most people don’t? I wake up early. Really early. You’ll typically find me awake and getting things done around sunrise, even on weekends. The hours of 5am-9am are the most productive for yours truly. While the world sleeps, I grab a cup of coffee and can work without interruptions. No one’s Tweeting, no emails are coming in, so minimizing distractions (more on this later) is much easier by default.
While waking up at 5am on a Saturday might seem absolutely insane – you can start setting your alarm a little earlier – try 30 minutes. Go nuts this weekend and wake up at 6am, work until about 8:30, and then start your day. See how much better you feel knowing that you were productive before your spouse and kids saw the light of day. When I set out to write this post – my initial thought was to tell you that “sleeping is for suckers” – I won’t go that far, but you don’t need me to tell you that there are only so many hours in a day, and life’s too short for someone as motivated as you to sleep it all away, right?
2) Know When to Walk Away
It’s my belief that this is the single-most important lesson to learn – whether we’re talking about writing a blog, working on a project, both online and offline, knowing when to walk away is imperative to not only success, but in maintaining your sanity. I’ve had conversations with many bloggers who tell me when they start a blog, they have to finish it, right then and there. From beginning to end, no matter how long it takes, they want to get everything written, edited, and ready to publish in one fell swoop.
I’m here to tell you that this is hardly ever realistic. When you work like this, you end up wasting far too much precious time. Writers block is usually a result of over-thinking things. You start a blog idea and you sit there, staring at the words, wondering what to say next. Time ticks by and you’ve accomplished nothing, but because you’re determined to get everything done in one sitting, you justify the time you’ve wasted.
Don’t let this happen to you anymore. Next time you’re faced with a situation like this, save your draft, close out of your word processor, and move on to something else. You’re ideas will be there when you’re ready, and usually, the best content is written in stages, when you’re able to tackle it with a fresh mind from multiple angles. If you’ve ever written a post late at night and hit publish, only to wake up the next morning and ask yourself, “What the heck was I thinking” - you know exactly why finishing it all in one sitting may not be the best strategy.
3) Use Google Reader
This seems like a no brainer, right? Wrong. You would be amazed at the number of people I’ve talked to who either 1) Don’t use Google Reader (or some other blog-reader) or 2) Have no clue what Google Reader is. Seriously guys – if you are a blogger and/or blog reader, Google Reader is a MUST for both organization and blogging strategy. There are many out there who read blogs soley based on the recommendations of other people (on Twitter, Facebook, etc). This will work for a while, and to each his own, but for me personally, I want to be able to get all of the blog content I know and love in one place. Like checking email, Twitter, Facebook, etc – logging into my Google Reader every morning to see what new posts are up has become a part of my “routine” (you’ll hear me use this word a lot from here on out).
If you were paying attention above, I mentioned that Google Reader is a valuable strategic tool. Why? Commenting on other blogs (relevant, thoughtful comments, folks) is a huge way to direct traffic back to your neck of the woods. Something for you to take with you and use moving forward: Be (one of) the first to comment on a big-name blog (Brogan, Mashable, etc) and see what kind of traffic it directs back to you. Being one of the first to comment means that EVERYONE else coming through will see your comment, or at least your name. More impressions means more chances of click-throughs. It’s not rocket-science. Keep an eye on your Google Reader and be one of the first to pounce when you see new article has been published.
4) Schedule Time for Blogging
Blogging is an investment. Let me repeat: BLOGGING IS AN INVESTMENT. There are many, many people out there who start a blog with the idea that it is going to be amazing. That everyone will want to read it because, honestly, who wouldn’t want to read what you have to say? You may be right, you may be an amazing writer, but if you have your head this high in the clouds, and you think that your blog will sell itself, you’ll never get very far and you’re only kidding yourself.
Think of your blog like a new car. A car needs tune-ups, maintenance, attention, and gas to keep it moving. If you’re coasting along, 10,000 miles past due for an oil change, the car isn’t going to run very well. You need to put your foot on the gas and keep it there, meanwhile giving it the regular maintenance it deserves. Sure, there are going to be times when you have to lay off the accelerator, and every once in a while you’ll get a flat tire – it’s only natural for things to cool off every once in a while, life has a funny way of getting in the way sometimes. BUT, don’t neglect it altogether and ruin the transmission.
The point of my analogy is that in order to keep a blog running, to see growth within your community, you MUST invest real time and effort into it. Schedule time out of your day/week to sit down and focus on nothing but your blog and providing it with “fuel” to keep it running. POST CONSISTENTLY and develop a schedule and routine your readers can rely on. There’s no right or wrong as to how often you should post, but it’s unanimous that consistency breeds success.
5) Eliminate All Distractions
Last but not least in this rundown of tactics you can (and should) start putting into action for yourself today – is doing everything you can to eliminate (or at least reduce) distractions.
Right now, as I type this, I have Google Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Excel, Word, TweetDeck, Skype, Outlook, & Gchat all open on my desktop! As a result, this post has taken way longer than it should to write. I’m going sentence by sentence, jumping around different browser windows, adding info into Excel, checking emails and IM’s as they come in – it’s chaos.
One thing I do for myself (another reason why I love early mornings) is to engage in ONE activity at a time – and keep everything else closed. Have you ever worked on a project somewhere that you couldn’t get Internet? How much did you get done? Probably a lot. It’s amazing what we can do when there’s nothing else to do. Simulate this by unplugging from all of the potential distractions and focusing on ONE thing at a time. We’re quick to say “I’m an efficient multi-tasker”, but I believe the greater strength is in the ability to focus undivided attention to completion of ONE project.
What time-management and organization techniques do you commit to? Share your ideas, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments below.