I get more done in a day now than I ever have. I’ve honed my systems, understand my peak working hours, invested time training VA’s, restrict my use of software that actually helps, cracked my Analytics addiction and maintain a laser-like focus on activities that generate revenue.
The best part is I enjoy more time off than I ever have. This year I’ll end up taking close to 6 weeks of vacation. I maintain regular office hours (for the most part) instead of crazy 12 hour days (been there, done that).
It’s taken time to get to this point, but it’s not just having a thriving publishing business that permits this; it’s also a result of working towards being more productive.
I’m not perfect in the productivity department; but I’m better than I was and I suspect I’ll be further ahead in two years from now. Getting more productive is a trial and error process.
If you’re a blogger or website publisher (or aspire to be), check out my hard-learned productivity tips.
Table of Contents
- 1. Forget perfection
- 2. Focus on your most important work during your peak working hours
- 3. Create systems
- 4. Jing videos and screenshots for VA’s and writers
- 5. Focus on best traffic sources
- 6. Don’t use WordPress page builders (for most of your content)
- 7. Have ongoing keyword/article topic lists
- 8. If it can be outsourced, do so (within budget)
- 9. Stop checking Analytics every hour
- 10. Track only most important metrics
- 11. Automate as much as possible
- 12. Don’t worry about website design
- 13. Be judicious with monetization offers
- 14. Don’t waste time fixing up second-rate guest post submissions
- 15. Focus on what’s working
- 16. Bulls make money, bears make money, hogs get slaughtered
- 17. Forget vanity rankings
- 18. Go for easy wins
- 19. Know when to throw in the towel
- 20. Try a bunch of stuff to see what works
- 21. Don’t reinvent the wheel
- 22. There is no best WordPress Theme
- 23. Focus on strategy, not tactics
- 24. Social Media is for making money
- 25. Learn keyboard shortcuts
- 26. Develop other interests in your life
- 27. Like what you do
- 28. Most Important: Use 2 Monitors
1. Forget perfection
“Perfection is the enemy of the good.” That’s a quote by Colin Powell. It’s a great quote. Striving for perfection results in a waste of time. Sure, some jobs such as being a surgeon requires perfection (and even they fall short). But for bloggers, perfection is a total waste.
Remember this: you can always go back and make it better. I’m not advocating to publish a crappy website. There’s a balance. You need to find it. You need to always be assessing whether what you’re doing is the best thing you can be doing to move you toward your goal.
For example, if you’re going after a really long tail keyword with 150 searches per month with little or no competition, you don’t need to make it perfect. Make it good enough. On the flip side, if you’re gunning for a monster keyword, put extra effort into because in this case the reward can be substantial warranting extra effort.
2. Focus on your most important work during your peak working hours
Most people have 3 to 4 hours per day where they get the most done. For me, it’s 8 am to 11 am. During those hours, I limit email, often turn off Skype and ignore my phone. I get three times as much done in those 3 hours than the remaining hours of the day.
During those 3 hours I focus on pushing out content across my sites. Whether I write it or review the scheduled content or review guest posts, my focus is on content production because content is what earns my business revenue. I publish as much as I can during those 3 hours.
At 11 am I eat; after that it’s downhill. That’s when I return calls and emails and hop on Skype. I handle admin stuff, personal stuff, do keyword research, check out software, tinker with monetization… tasks that are secondary.
3. Create systems
A simple example of systems is my content formatting. I format content the same on each site. I train VA’s on the format. I’m a stickler that they adhere to the formats. By formatting content the same, I know exactly where ads will display and the content gets published faster, which means I publish more content.
Another way to systematize is to have VA’s do the same tasks daily. This way they get fast and good at it. I do cross train the more capable VA’s so I can have them fill in when necessary, but generally each VA knows what they are to do each day because it’s the same as the day before.
I often go a week or longer without issuing instructions to VA’s because I’ve set up workflow so that they can handle much of it. When I go on vacation, content gets published. Not as much mind you, but the content machine keeps on rolling.
4. Jing videos and screenshots for VA’s and writers
I’m a huge fan of the Jing video maker and screenshots. The reason I like it so much is I don’t have to wait forever for vids to render. They take merely a couple of minutes to render and provide a shareable link. The videos end up in my Screencast account where I can access them in the future.
The only downside is they can only be up to 5 minutes in length, but for 95% of training videos, this isn’t a problem.
5. Focus on best traffic sources
I used to “be everywhere”. Now I focus on being where there’s traffic for my sites. I test everything in the beginning (i.e. most social media platforms), but now I focus on only those that actually deliver traffic. I’m better off putting extra time into Pinterest than dividing my time among Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter.
6. Don’t use WordPress page builders (for most of your content)
When page builders like Thrive Architect, Elementor, Beaver Builder and Visual Composer hit the scene, I was very excited. Finally an easy way for us non-coders to create great looking web pages in WordPress.
The thing is, these tools are amazing for sales pages, landing pages, opt in pages, home pages and small business websites, but they are not worth the time for regular blog posts.
It takes time to create posts with these tools; more time than the regular visual editor. Unless it’s a very special post, don’t waste time with these for the bulk of your content.
Moreover, I find posts created with these tools can have less than desirable ad placement consequences.
7. Have ongoing keyword/article topic lists
I’m proactive when it comes to keyword research. I always have lists of “to-do” articles. This saves me a tremendous amount of time for guest posters and ensuring I don’t have a content production stoppage.
I enjoy keyword research and do it sporadically throughout the week and keep adding more keywords. Whether you do mega KW research sessions monthly or quarterly or weekly, be sure you have a nice list always in place.
8. If it can be outsourced, do so (within budget)
I realize I’m fortunate to have VA’s. I went without for years and remember the hectic pacing and juggling many tasks on my own.
Once you’re in a position to invest $100 to $400 per month for a VA, do so. Once you do, be disciplined in getting them to do work that they can do. If they can do it, they should even if it means waiting a day or few days. This way you can focus on other work.
9. Stop checking Analytics every hour
I used to check Google Analytics, AdSense and affiliate revenue reports every hour (or more). Talk about a total time suck both in literal time and emotionally.
In fact, the emotional toll is arguably worse than the time it wastes.
By emotional toll, I’m referring the ups and downs of fluctuating traffic and revenue. The fact is traffic and revenue fluctuates from hour-to-hour, day-to-day and week-to-week. By checking metrics constantly, you subject your emotions to these ups and downs which can impact your work.
Of course you need to pay attention to the metrics to see what’s working and if anything is awry, but you don’t need to do it every hour.
10. Track only most important metrics
It’s good to track traffic sources and revenue sources. But you can take it too far. Each online business has distinct key metrics that must be tracked, but you can spend more time than necessary tracking unnecessary metrics.
It’s impossible for me to tell you what you should and shouldn’t track. What I can say is you should be mindful whether what you are tracking and spending time analyzing helps your bottom line.
Analytics and other tracking software can suck you in and before you know it you’ve spent hours looking over numbers when most of what you ended up perusing won’t help you make decisions. The key is whether what you’re analyzing helps you make decisions or not.
11. Automate as much as possible
Software is a double-edged sword. It can save you endless hours of work but can also be a time-suck. You need to find the software that saves you time, but pay attention to software that seems like a good idea but takes up more time than it should.
12. Don’t worry about website design
Way too many bloggers starting out waste weeks designing their website. This is a total waste of time.
In fact, I’ve yet to pay for a custom website design and I own sites that warrant the money.
Premium themes are good enough. They look good and there are so many that with a unique logo and custom color scheme, you can make your site look your own.
13. Be judicious with monetization offers
Once you get some traffic, you will get solicitation emails daily from ad networks and affiliate merchants wanting you to use their services and promote their products.
At first it’s flattering. It’s a sign of having made it. But, don’t respond to every solicitation email. Don’t try every ad network under the sun or promote every product just because you’re invited to.
My rule of thumb when deciding to try a new ad network is they must show me quickly that they offer something unique. If it’s just another set of the usual banner ads, I’m not interested. If it’s something unique that I think could earn well, I give it a shot.
Also, if a colleague recommends an ad network to me, I’ll take a very close look.
14. Don’t waste time fixing up second-rate guest post submissions
If you decide to accept guest posts to be published on your site, do not fall into the trap of accepting sub-par content and then end up using your time and your team to make it better.
You might be thinking that could never happen to you, but it’s amazing how often it’s happened to me. Here’s what happens.
I get the guest post. I’m busy, so I quickly scan it and it looks good.
I send to to VA’s to get it formatted into my site.
Two days later it’s ready for my final review only to discover it’s not nearly as good as it should be. Before I know it, I’ve spend another 3 hours making it better. By that point, I could have written it myself.
However, I stick to my word and when I say I’ll publish something, I do. The mistake is mine. I should have rejected it right off the bat.
15. Focus on what’s working
This is huge. It also takes a while until you can figure this out.
I’ve said this over and over on this blog and that is you need to be flexible. If your site starts ranking for a certain topic or is performing well for some angle but it’s not your initial concept for the site, ditch your initial concept (or shelve it for the time being) and focus on what’s working.
It’s akin to making sure you get invoices out the door in a service based business. Creating and sending invoices is a drag. It can be a lot of work too. It’s way too easy to push it over to next week. The problem is you never get your money; not because clients won’t pay, but because you don’t get invoices out the door.
The same applies to focusing on what’s working. Cash in on your best opportunities. The faster you get money coming in, the more you can reinvest into your site/blog for faster growth.
16. Bulls make money, bears make money, hogs get slaughtered
Most of us bloggers figure if one site is good, 20 is better. Usually trying to build multiple sites at the same time doesn’t work well, especially when starting out. There are exceptions. Three notable exceptions are as follows:
- You are targeting just a few big keywords for each site so they won’t be all the big. In this case you intend to build them and let them age and rise in rankings (with some link building help). In this case building out a small fleet of sites quickly works.
- Your blogging business is partially or entirely a flipping model where you build up sites to a certain revenue and then sell them. In this case, you need a fleet of sites for inventory. You’re not striving to necessarily build them into monster earners, but instead focusing on quickly getting them to a decent revenue and then selling for a nice multiple (rinse and repeat).
- You want a couple sites simmering in the background that you kick along with minimal effort so that in the event you sell your main site or something goes awry, you have fall-back sites to build up… that are primed and ready for growth.
Otherwise, focus on one main site when starting out and set lofty goals. Focus like crazy; you only have so much time and resources, so use it wisely.
17. Forget vanity rankings
Many people who start sites going for search traffic want to rank for a set batch of keywords. They’re usually the “usual suspects” in any niche. They are the main topics that cover the niche.
This is great if you can rank for them. But don’t get hung up on them. If you aren’t ranking, you aren’t banking.
You’re better off going for more obscure keywords that you can rank quickly so you get money coming in faster than banging your head against the wall going for the vanity keywords.
18. Go for easy wins
If you have a topic on your site that is succeeding, leverage that. Find more related keywords for the easy win.
Another approach is to find individual pieces of content that is doing well and making it better so that it can do better (only do this if you can improve it in a way that will get more traffic).
19. Know when to throw in the towel
I’m pretty persistent, but sometimes the best decision is to throw in the towel. Let me give you an example. For 2.5 years I ranked for a sweet keyword. It earned me good money month after month. The thing was it was a good keyword nobody else targeted. I discovered it using my unique approach to keyword research.
Eventually, probably thanks to competitor keyword research software, other sites discovered this beauty of a keyword. Now there are many sites targeting it. One of those sites knocked me from position 1 to position 2. The drop in traffic and revenue was sizeable.
I could have doubled-down and built some links, but I had a hunch that keyword was more important to my competitors. If I built links, they would. I know they wanted it more than me. I decided to throw in the towel because it wasn’t worth it for me to invest time and money on that keyword. At least it wasn’t worth it to me as much as my competitors.
20. Try a bunch of stuff to see what works
When starting out you should invest a bit of time into branching out topically. Try some different things because you never know what will work. Much it may fail, but if one or two concepts or approaches work, scale that up. Be ready to pounce on what works.
21. Don’t reinvent the wheel
If something is working, do more of it and find a way to do more of it with less effort. This ties in with avoiding vanity keywords. We all have preconceived conceptions about what we want our sites to be or to cover, but be prepared and willing to pivot if something you didn’t anticipate is working.
I had to do this big time. Early on I went after keywords I had no business going after. It was a waste of time. Since then, I’ve had surprise successes and now focus on more content that’s working.
22. There is no best WordPress Theme
Yes, I have theme preferences (I like MyThemeShop and Newspaper by Tagdiv). I’ve switched themes more often than I should have, but at the end of the day, avoid switching themes unless your theme is causing you problems. This is especially true when starting out. Your theme really doesn’t matter. Sure, if you have 2 million monthly visitors, you have the luxury to try different designs, but when starting out or even having some success, switching themes, which can take hours or days, is not worth it. Take it from a guy who has changed themes too often.
23. Focus on strategy, not tactics
Strategy is long term thinking that involves systems that gets you to your goal. Tactics are shortcuts that are more often than not distractions that yield little or no results.
I’ve succumbed to many tactics over the years only to regret it because it distracted me from my strategy.
Tactics are often time-consuming too.
A strategy, on the other hand, can be more readily systematized because it’s a long term approach for sustainable and more permanent growth.
We all love shortcuts, but resist the urge. Focus on your strategy.
24. Social Media is for making money
I’m a bit of an anomaly. I don’t do anything with my FB profile. I don’t have personal Pinterest boards. I don’t do much on LinkedIn. I’m not a social media guy and I think that helps me stay focused.
I can see how social media can pull you in and be a major disruption. If you find you easily succumb to blowing 2 hours on social media, especially during your most productive hours, figure out how to turn off notifications or not getting sucked into it at all.
The same applies to forums, surfing the web, watching TV, playing games… eliminate your distractions.
There’s one exception of course and that is if you use social media for traffic… then by all means, use social media.
25. Learn keyboard shortcuts
I know a few keyboard shortcuts, but if you really want to be speed demon, learn as many as you can.
I really should take a couple of hours to learn more than I know because the more time we stay on the keyboard, the better. Moving to grab a mouse or trackpad is inefficient.
26. Develop other interests in your life
I have kids and a wife. My time with them is sacrosanct. I spend evenings, weekends and vacations with them. When I’m with them, I don’t work. The only exception is if a site goes down. Otherwise, they have my attention.
I also go to the gym, mountain bike, read novels, ski, hike and have an active social life.
By having a busy life outside of work, my brain gets a chance to unwind.
My point is you need to turn this stuff off. Admittedly, I turn it off much better now than I did 6 years ago. I’ve come to realize I’m more productive when I disengage from work, both physically and mentally, regularly.
There’s a reason I’m most productive the first 4 hours of the day and more productive Monday through Wednesday. I’m more refreshed during these hours and days. I bet if you pay attention to your productivity and energy levels, you’ll notice a similar pattern (although night-owls may perform at peak levels in the evening).
That said, if you’re working a full time job and building an online business, there’s not much time for anything else. I did that for 2.5 years before I was able to go full time online. I worked constantly between my day job and building sites, but I knew then I couldn’t keep that pace up forever; it was a short term sacrifice that is often necessary. But once you’re full time with your online business, it need not be all-consuming.
27. Like what you do
Create a business you enjoy doing with outcomes that motivate you. If you don’t like blogging or publishing websites, don’t do it. Find something you like. Publishing content isn’t for everyone. If you don’t like it, you’re not going to be as productive as you would be doing something you enjoy.
I’ve been doing this full time since the end of 2011 and I’ve not once considered doing something else. This is my thing; I have no plans to change course. My plans involve growing my business publishing content people like.
28. Most Important: Use 2 Monitors
This tip is ridiculously easy to implement and the resulting increase in productivity is insane (by 20 to 30%). Anyone and everyone who works on a computer should use two monitors as much as possible. Yes, I work on my laptop in coffee shops to mix it up, but I get more done in less time in my office with two monitors. It’s also much easier on my eyes because my second monitor is much larger.
This tip isn’t just for bloggers. It’s for anyone working on a computer.
‘Nuff said… get another monitor.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes that’s “the best blogging email newsletter around.”
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.