This post is based on episode 40 of the ProBlogger podcast.
Are you using your time productively?
Chances are you’ve set yourself some goals as to what you’d like your blogging to be. But reaching that point is going to take time. And the less productive you are with the time you have, the longer it will take to reach those goals.
So this week I’m sharing seven tips I’ve developed over the years that have helped me become more productive.
But first, I want to talk a little about why I needed them.
Showing some personality
For those of you who know about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicators, I’m INFP. That means I’m introverted, intuitive, feeling and perceptive. And while being perceptive has its advantages, it can also be a disadvantage when you need to get stuff done.
Like a lot of ‘perceivers’, I like flexibility and spontaneity. I don’t always need to know what’s happening next. In fact, some of my best work has come from being flexible and spontaneous.
But it also means I can spend a lot of my time jumping from thing to another and not getting much done if I’m not careful. And that why I came up with these seven steps to get me back in track. Starting with…
1. Analyze how you spend your time now
During one of ProBlogger events, blogger and presenter Nicole Avery suggested using a tool called RescueTime. It’s a tool that looks at the applications you use, the websites you visit, etc. and measures how much time you spend on each. It then sorts the information into various categories and shows you the results.
I decided to give it a shot. And after running it on my computer for a week, I discovered I was spending 44% of my time on social media.
Now as a blogger I have an excuse for spending time on social media. I use Facebook quite a bit to drive traffic to my blogs, and to build a community with my readers. But even I could see I was spending far more time on social media than I should have been.
It also told me I was spending 15% of my time in my email account. And so together they were chewing up more than half of my time.
Of course, some people might have a perfectly legitimate reason for spending most of their time on social media, surfing the web or watching YouTube videos. It all comes down to your goals, which is why the next step is so important.
2. Compare how you spend your time to your goals
You might not think me spending 15% of my time is a big deal. After all, isn’t part of blogging about asking questions and increasing your knowledge? Yes, it is. But I wasn’t asking any questions. I was answering them. And while responding to people and helping them solve their problems is important (particularly as a blogger), doing it through emails really wasn’t the best way to spend my time.
And it was the same with social media. I was spending most of my time answering questions and interacting with my readers. Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But one of my goals is to create content that helps make the world a better place. And the more time I spent on social media, the less time I had to create that content.
After looking at how I was spending my time, and comparing it how I needed to spend my time to achieve my goals, I took the next step which was to…
3. Come up with a schedule that works for you
Here’s the first schedule I came up (using Google Calendar) for my ‘ideal’ week.
My schedule starts at 8.00 am, and finishes around 8.30 pm. And as you can see, it includes:
- time with my family at the start and end of each day
- an hour every lunchtime where I can eat and go for a walk (an important part of staying healthy)
- time for creating (first drafts in the mornings, edits and revisions in the afternoons)
- dedicated time to spend on social media (that’s nowhere near 44%).
This schedule immediately made me more productive because I no longer wake up thinking, What will I do today? A quick look at my schedule is all it takes for me to know exactly what I’ll be doing.
I even set up alarms on my phone when I first started using it to help me remember when to move on to the next task.
Admittedly my schedule has changed a little over the years. These days it has a little more ‘white space’ like this one does on Monday where I don’t schedule anything and can be more spontaneous about what I do.
4. Develop workflows, systems and routines
You may have noticed the red strip near the bottom of each column labelled ‘Promote’. That’s where I schedule Facebook and Twitter posts for the following day. I identify posts in my archive that I want to promote, create graphics for them to put on social media, and then schedule them all.
It means I can maintain a presence on social media without having to be on Facebook and Twitter all the time.
And I do it every night of the week.
The first episode of the ProBlogger podcast was my first attempt at podcasting. I had no idea how to record, edit or upload a podcast. I didn’t even have a blog to host it on. But I knew the only way I’d get it done was to do some research and then develop a workflow.
And here’s what I came up with.
Breaking it up into a series of steps made the process seem far less overwhelming. It also helped me master the skills I needed to create a podcast. I quickly go to the point where I didn’t need the list anymore because I’d mastered the skills.
It also helped me become more productive. Going through the checklist, I soon realized I could work on some tasks at the same time.
And when it came time to outsource, I could quickly see what tasks I could hand over to someone else. For example, at around episode 15 I brought someone in to edit the podcast and create the show notes because it was something I didn’t need to do myself.
5. Try to automate as much as possible
Remember that ‘Promote’ strip I talked about earlier? Well, that’s one of the areas where I’ve started using automation. Using an online tool such as CoSchedule I can schedule Facebook and Twitter posts in advance. In fact, the workflow for creating this post includes scheduling five Twitter posts and four Facebook posts.
But I don’t schedule all of my posts. Those green ‘Social’ strips in my schedule are when I spend time on Facebook and Twitter interacting with my audience.
6. Try to delegate what you can’t automate
Of course, you can’t automate everything. While artificial intelligence has come a long way, there are some things that should be left to a human.
But that doesn’t mean you need to be that human.
Over the years I’ve delegated various tasks to other people, and I now have a team of around 10 people. Some are writers and editors. Some help us produce our ebooks. Some help produce the podcast. And some do development work and keep our servers running.
Delegating these tasks to other people means I can focus my time on the things I need to do and the things I’m good at.
7. Start with systems and processes, not tools
As soon as you mention the word ‘productivity’, someone is going to talk about tools. In fact, I once sat through a productivity session at a conference where that was pretty much all they talked about.
Don’t get me wrong. I love learning about new to-do lists and new productivity tools. But if you start with the tool rather than your goals and the systems you’ve created to achieve them, the tool can be more of a hindrance than a help.
And the more time you spend researching the latest tools, the less time you have to actually achieve those goals.
I’m a big believer in developing the systems and then finding tools that help you manage them. Here are some of the tools I’m using at the moment. But don’t think that because I use them that you should use them too. It depends on what systems you have in place.
I use a calendar called Fantastical 2. It’s on my computer, my phone and even my watch, which means I always know where I’m supposed to be.
I also use Evernote for all my ideas and most of my writing. I’ve even started interacting with my team on it.
But for most of those interactions I use Slack, as does everyone else in the team. It’s a great way for us all to communicate with each other.
Over to you
I hope you found these seven tips useful. But I know some of you are productivity junkies. So if you have any other tips for being more productive, please share them in the comments.
Photo by Caleb Martin on Unsplash