Categories : Systems & Processes


This article will cover the thorny topic of how to be more productive online.

The barriers to productivity are many:

  • facebook
  • internet browsing
  • email
  • online chat
  • domestic interruptions
  • telephone calls

I’ve discovered that after an interruption it can take on average at least 15 minutes to get back into the flow of working, sometimes longer.

Also, often internet marketing requires that you need to follow a process, sometimes quite convoluted if, for example, you are building a new website or a sales funnel.

This therefore means that you can potentially lose your place in the process or leave the process unfinished if you forget where you were entirely.  My computer is littered with unfinished projects simply  because that when I returned to my computer I have forgotten what I was doing in the last session!

The problem above illustrates why systemisation is so important – if you are implementing a system it should be easy to know how much of the system has been implemented and how much you have left to implement.  If possible, lay your system out in the form of a check-list and tick off each step as you complete it.

In the course of my consulting, I have also discovered several other major barriers to being productive online:

  • slow broadband speed is potentially deadly.  Internet marketing often requires that you upload and download files frequently.  Some of these files can be large like, for example, videos.  This means that you can waste a lot of time waiting for files to upload and download, during which time you can also be distracted.  This is a major productivity killer and, in my opinion. You should invest in the fastest broadband speed available. (When I moved house 3 years ago, having access to fast broadband was a major consideration forb me in the buying process!)
  • I’ve also come across internet marketers that have no proper filing structure on their computer.  Files are littered over their desktop and they have no proper filing system and therefore lose a lot of the information on their computer or struggle to access it.  This too is a major productivity barrier – lesson 101 in internet marketing is to take time to file everything in a properly structured filing system on your computer.
  • Also, make sure that you back up all your computer files and have access to the programme software.  You never know when disaster can strike:
    • house fire
    • hard disc corrupts
    • computer theft
    • flooding
    • computer virus
    • hackers

It is absolutely essential that you have back-up copies of everything so that you do not lose any of your hard work and you can restore your programmes and information as quickly as possible. I use to keep an automated real-time backup of all my files on a remote server i.e. away from my property as I have literally years of work and effort stored on my computer

  • another potential area of lost productivity is not using the right tool for the job.
When I first got married, we had a sloping back garden and I tried to cut our lawn with a hand-pushed lawn mower – it was extremely hard work and I did not look forward to the weekly struggle.  Subsequently I bought a motor mower and the job became quick, easy and satisfying to do – to this day I like to mow my lawn.  The lesson that I learnt that there is often a tool for every job that makes it comparatively easy – this is especially true in internet marketing.  Find out what the big boys in internet marketing are using (take care, this may not always be the same tools that they are selling or recommending for money). For example, you can often ‘right click’ on a web page and view the source code to see what WordPress theme and plugins they are using.  Don’t be ‘cheap’ about acquiring the right tools, potentially they will make you far more productive and time is money.  An example of this, is using Photoshop Actions to make ecovers and graphics – this will save you so much time and money that the large outlay up front to buy the programme can quickly be recouped within your business.  Another example is using Easy Video Suite to make and present your videos – a fantastic tool that I would not like to be without.  Take care, however, each tool that you use in your business has a learning curve attached to it – select your tools carefully, learn how to use them, and create systems for them so that you can outsource work when the time is appropriate to do so.  Your tools are your productivity weapons – keep them up-to-date and learn how to use them with dexterity to produce elegant and sophisticated work. For example, Camtasia, when wielded by a video-jedi, can help you to produce outstanding video works-of-art.

  • Time management is also critical but what does that mean?  To me, it means that you plan your work and work your plan.  It also means that you plan to take regular breaks to rest your eyes and stretch your muscles.  One method that works well is to chunk your time down into smaller chunks.
A year is broken down into quarters, quarters into months, months into weeks, weeks into days and days into hours.  This enables us to work to an overall framework that achieves an annualised goal.  When planning my day,  I like to chunk my time down into hours and work through my prioritised tasks for the day. Planning is all about adapting good  habits – here are some that you might want to consider:

  • in the days between Christmas and the New Year, plan your next 12 months – the detail may be a bit sketchy but you will try to plan an overall framework which moves you closer to your long-term goal
  • I then plan the next quarter in more detail by breaking it down into months and weeks.  At the end of each quarter and month and week take the opportunity to review progress and adjust your forward plans as necessary.
  • On a Sunday evening plan your week ahead
  • Each evening, before you finish work, plan your activities for the following day
  • each morning, fire up a programme like Action Enforcer and break your day down into hourly chunks including breaks.

  • Parkinsons Law says that work will always fill the time available so that if we plan to take a day to complete a task it will fill a day even though if we set a deadline of one hour we could achieve the same result.  Setting deadlines is therefore an important strategy for increasing productivity.  I like to use a tool like Action Enforcer to break down my tasks into hourly chunks and at the same time set deadlines to achieve them – if you do this, you will be surprised by the amount of work you will get done.
  •  At the beginning of this article, I outlined a number of potential time stealers like Facebook, email etc.  Knowing that these are time-stealers, you also need to adopt habits that deal with these problems i.e. only look at Facebook and emails at certain points in the day, turn off chat during working hours, turn off your phone and pass calls  to  answerphone whilst working  if possible or educate staff and customers to only contact you at certain alloted times in the day – they have no automatic right to break your concentration and workflow. Plan to eliminate all interruptions as far as possible.
A free tool that can help you to track how much time you are spending productively online is ‘Rescue Time’.  This tool maps how much time you spend on each website and you can determine which sites were ‘business’ related and which were personal or trivial sites that effectively wasted your time.  You cannot avoid you lack of productivity if every minute is accounted for re-presented to your graphically!

I also want to emphasise the importance of working to a framework rather than in piecemeal chunks.  If we take writing a book as an example, the book is the framework.  We break the book down into chapters and the chapters into sub-headings or topics that fit into our overall plan to deliver either a story or a result.

The same is true of anything  we do in internet marketing – we need to ensure that all our actions fit into an overall framework that delivers a result rather than being piecemeal or random in nature.  The power of working in this way is that everything builds on each other to deliver an awesome result to our customer.  When delivering any of our work to any customer, it is important to explain how this piece of work fits into the overall framework that we have planned to deliver although each piece of work also delivers a particular result in and of itself.  For example, our product may be all about list building but may not cover email marketing or affiliate marketing strategies.  These may be additional products that will be delivered within an overall framework of products that you are planning.

I have seen plenty of marketers that deliver products within a sub-segment of each niche.  For example, they produce mainly Facebook products, YouTube products, Webinar products or SEO products – this is more productive because they can focus, go deep and sell more related products to their existing customers.  Compare this to someone who is trying to be all things to all men and you will see how effective this is when you can focus your point of attack – it works well on the battlefield too!  You also see this with many book authors – they become known as a crime writer or romance or historical biographies – it just makes more producive sense to narrow your point of focus and expertise and become known for something that you are particularly good at or knowledgeable about.

Within any business there are always points of leverage i.e. 20% of actions that produce 80% of results.  If you can identify these and work mainly in these areas then your productivity can increase massively  It is important to take some time to identify what these things are – for me, they are things like:

  • Traffic generation
  • Product creation
  • Email marketing
  • Systemisation
  • Measure and monitoring key performance indicators
  • Planning
  • Copywriting
  • Outsourcing work that has been systemised or where I need to acquire skills.

These are all areas where I can increase my productivity and the financial return on my time.

The one thing that none of us can create more of is time – time is short.  I can say this from the perspective of being in my mid-fifties and wondering how the time has passed so quickly.  It is therefore important to make every day count towards an overall lifetime of achievement and contribution.

I often hear of people flitting from job to job – this is not really the best way to be productive unless this is part of an overall plan to acquire skills towards some lifetime goal like starting a business.  My working career has been dedicated to helping other people to start and grow their own business, in the course of which I have created my own businesses to hone my understanding and skills.  I’m still learning new things every day and my skills and knowledge would have much less power if I suddenly decided to pursue a career in say the health sector.  My productivity would go through the floor for an extended period of time until I had acquired new skills, training and experience in my new role.

So there is a lot to be said for ‘sticking to your last’ which makes it all the more important that you choose wisely to start with so that you can stay the course.  I’ve tried to advise my children to pursue a passion or interest in their career because I truly believe that they will be far more productive by doing something that they really enjoy.

I hope this article has given you some ideas on how to be more productive online and that you will subscribe to my blog in the sidebar to receive more great tips and information.

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Mark Salmon is an internet marketing consultant. Mark creates digital information products about starting and building an online business. Prior to starting his online business, Mark was a corporate banker based in the UK, then ran a business consultancy for around 8 years before deciding that his future was internet marketing. You can connect with Mark at: Mark's Google Plus Page Mark's Facebook Fan Page Mark's YouTube Channel Mark's Blog

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