Are you forever procrastinating? Are you far too easily distracted? Then you need these 10 ways to stop wasting time and actually get stuff done on your blog!
What is the biggest challenge you face as a blogger?
One of the biggest struggles for bloggers is, without a doubt, PROCRASTINATION.
Because… one of the biggest benefits of blogging – being your own boss – is also one of the biggest challenges. With no boss hovering at your shoulder, waiting for you to deliver, it’s oh so easy to put things off, spend far too much time on social media, suddenly find a very important household chore that really ‘needs’ to be done instead of blogging… and then find that yet another week has gone by with very little to show for it! We’ve all been there, right?
I strongly believe that procrastination is the reason why so many bloggers are not successful. In fact, if you look at successful bloggers, you’ll find that one of the things they all seem to have in common is their ability to get stuff done, to use their time wisely and not fritter their precious time away on unnecessary tasks.
If there are any secrets to successful blogging, then using your time wisely is definitely there at the top of the list!
But how? How do you stop getting distracted? How do you stop flitting from one activity to another, ending up with nothing actually DONE at the end of the day? And most importantly, how do you manage to avoid getting suckered in by the seemingly magnetic power of social media???
In this article I am sharing my secrets to avoiding procrastination and spending more of your precious time actually working on your blog and making it a success.
Here’s 10 ways to stop wasting time and actually get stuff done!
1. Focus on one task at a time – don’t flit!
I think if this list was only 1 item long, this would be the 1 point I would make! One of the biggest reasons why we don’t get as much done in the day as we would like to, is because we flit between tasks and never actually complete them! We like to dress this up and claim we are ‘multitasking’, and therefore being ‘super-productive’, but really we are not – we are just flitting!
And flitting between tasks is one of the most effective ways to waste time. Why? Two reasons…
The first is that when we start a new task, it takes time to ‘warm up’ into that task. This is that first 5 or so minutes when we are getting our heads around exactly what we are supposed to be doing and getting started on it. If we keep flitting between tasks, then we spend extra time in that warm up phase.
Think about it, if you do one task until it’s completed, you might spend 5 minutes in that warm up phase. If you flit to and from that task 7 times before it’s completed (easily done, I know, I’ve been there!), that’s a whopping great 35 minutes warming and rewarming up to that task. That’s 30 minutes wasted, right there! Now imagine that 30 minutes multiplied by the 4 or 5 tasks you have on your to do list for today. That’s over 2 hours wasted. Imagine what you could do with an extra 2 hours?
The second is that when we flit, it’s easy to get distracted by something that ISN’T EVEN ON our to do list – that is going to contribute NOTHING towards our blogging aims.
For example, you start work on your new blog post, but then remember you haven’t checked your emails yet today. You flit off to check them and one of them has a link to a blog post which intrigues you… So you flit off to check this blog post… which has a link to a book on Amazon, which you flit off to have a look at… You know what I mean, right?
Focusing on one task at a time means you don’t get into that cycle of being distracted again and again, until you notice it’s already lunchtime and you’ve only written 5 words of that new blog post!
2. Only have one tab open at a time
This tip will really help you with the first. One of the reasons why we get so easily distracted is because we have multiple tabs and documents open at a time… You are busy working on that blog post and then you notice that you have new emails, or a new social media notification… Or an open document reminds you of something else you need to do on it.
By closing all the tabs and documents you have open, apart from the ones you actually need to do the task in hand, you will be far less distracted and far more likely to be able to focus on what you are working on right now.
3. Don’t start the day by checking social media and / or emails
It’s a pretty common way to start the day, isn’t it? First check social media, then emails – or the other way around. The trouble is, this is probably just about the worst thing you can do – for a whole plethora of reasons!
First, social media and email checking is, in itself, a procrastination tool. I think it’s pretty standard to start the day feeling daunted by #allthethings you have to do. Checking social media and email feels like a nice ‘safe’ activity – a nice way to ease yourself into the day… and so we inevitably spend a good long time on it – way more than we actually ‘needed’ to for the sake of the success of our blogs!
Second, social media and emails are a BIG source of distractions! There is so much potential for distraction in your inbox and on social media… If you start the day checking them, it’s quite easy to spend the whole day dealing with things that come up as a result and never actually getting to the things you had planned to do that day!
Third, once you’ve cracked open social media / email. It’s more than likely that you’ll keep them open, allowing them to distract you all day long!
Fourth, for most people (even those who vehemently deny this!), those first couple of hours of the day are the most productive and most creative. Using them to check social media is a big waste! Much better to check social media later when you are starting to flag a little and the best of your brain power has been used up already!
4. Check social media and email once or twice a day ONLY
This one is a total GAME CHANGER! It sounds a bit crazy at first. It’s really not the norm, is it? The norm is to constantly be ‘on’. To check your phone every time it bleeps, deal with emails as soon as they come in, and basically be a slave to notifications, right?
But doing it that way is most definitely not the path to productivity! On the contrary – it’s the way to constant distraction. Constantly being taken away from what you are doing and focusing on something different – with all the extra warming up time and potential to be pulled away completely that that brings!
So instead of being a slave to your social media and emails, become the master of them. Block out one or two ‘appointments’ per day, when you focus exclusively on social media/emails. Go through each one, check it thoroughly, reply to comments and emails and get it properly ‘done’. Then turn off all the tabs and notifications and focus on the next activity on your to do list.
Not only does this make you more productive at your other work, but it also makes you better at dealing with social media and emails. This is especially true of email. If you take the ‘every time an email arrives’ approach to checking emails, by the end of the day you are likely to have a hodgepodge of opened/unopened/actioned/not-actioned emails. This is how most people end up with that big scary inbox of a thousand only-half-dealt-with emails!
Giving your emails your total focus during a specific period in the day means you can deal with email properly – deleting, filing and actioning everything in your inbox in one go and ending the day with a nice clear inbox (and a whole load of smug satisfaction!). For more on this see my post on how to sort out your overflowing inbox for good.
I won’t lie, ignoring notifications and only ‘checking in’ once or twice a day takes a whole bucket load of self-discipline, but it is more than worth it for the massive amount of time you get back – potentially an hour or two per day (it takes a lot longer to deal with your notifications one by one than it does dealing with them ‘en masse’, not to mention the ‘warming up to the task’ savings you get!) and the reduced stress levels.
5. Turn off notifications on your phone
This makes focusing on one task and only checking your notifications twice a day a whole lot easier! If you are constantly listening to your phone go ‘beep’ then you are very likely to cave at some point and ‘check in’.
One option is to turn your phone off completely (maybe even put it in another room!), but I realise this is not an option everyone will feel comfortable with – perhaps you have kids at school or an elderly relative who relies on you and you want to be easy to contact in an emergency.
So instead try turning off all your notifications for social media and emails – both the sound and the little number that winks at you from the home screen! (You can usually do this in the settings). That way, you can keep the sound on for emergency phone calls, but you won’t be distracted by non-urgent beeps from social media!
An alternative, slightly more hardcore approach is to turn the sound off completely when you are working at home and train anyone who might need to contact you in an emergency, to use the landline!
6. Write to do list for each day
This is a huge topic – in fact I’ve written an entire blog post on how to write an effective to do list, but writing a to do list is a huge step towards greater productivity and less time wasting.
An effective to do list will keep you focused on what is important, will help you stay on task (after all, how do you know what task you SHOULD be doing right now if you don’t have a plan?) and it will help you stop getting distracted.
To make your list really work for you (and not the other way around), do these three things: keep it short, number it and write it the night before…
Keep it short
We’ve all had those to do lists which go on to 2 pages, keep growing not shrinking and seem depressing and overwhelming. That’s not an effective to do list! An effective to do list is a short list of what you want to achieve TODAY. Be realistic about your time. What can you fit into the hours you have available today? This will make you way more productive as it forces you to focus on the activities that will actually make a difference to your blog.
This technique is so simple and yet has absolutely revolutionised my life. Once you have your nice short, achievable to do list for the day, number it in the order of most important to least important task, then tackle the tasks in that order. Why is this so effective? Because it stops you spending ages looking at your to do list deciding what you ‘fancy’ doing next (which is invariably the easiest task – e.g. social media!) and it forces you to do the most important things first. This means, even if you haven’t ticked off everything by the end of the day, you’ve at least done the most important tasks.
Write it the night before
Writing your to do list the night before is another deceptively simple, but highly effective, way to ensure you don’t waste time.
It’s effective primarily because you don’t waste time at the start of the day ‘getting down to work’. Instead, you can simply get cracking with whatever task number one is. I swear doing this one tiny thing saves me hours per week!
It comes with a couple of nice side effects too… First, you get back your evenings. I like to write my to do list for the next day when I am ‘supposed’ to stop work for the evening. Before I write my to do list, I feel like I’ve still got loads to do, but once I’ve written it, I realise I can leave most or all of it until tomorrow and take some time off instead of working until bedtime. Taking quality time off is an underrated but highly effective productivity technique!
And for the same reason, it means I sleep better – knowing tomorrow is planned and I don’t have to worry about all the things which I still haven’t done.
Honestly, it’s really worth trying this if you never have. It’s a tiny change, but it can have a BIG impact on your productivity and ultimately your success in blogging!
7. Put EVERYTHING on your to do list
One of the most common comments I hear from bloggers regarding getting distracted / procrastination goes something along the lines of ‘I was just about to start [important blogging task] when I remembered I still hadn’t [done the hoovering/walked the dog/cleaned the bathroom/done the grocery shopping/other important non blogging task…].
Household chores seem to be a common way of procrastination among bloggers. It’s a good way to convince yourself you are doing something that really ‘needs’ to be done, when really you are just putting off getting down to something difficult but worthwhile on your blog!
But the thing is, household chores still do need to get done – you can’t just ignore them (much as we might want to!), so how you avoid letting them derail your blogging time? The answer is actually pretty simple – put them on your to do list! Schedule them in, just like you would any other task. In fact, you can go one step better and put EVERYTHING on your to do list.
This sounds a bit restrictive, but actually the opposite it true – it’s incredibly freeing. Instead of feeling the weight of #allthethings you have to do, instead of feeling distracted or guilty because you’re blogging instead of unloading the dishwasher, you can instead relax, knowing that unloading the dishwasher is scheduled at 12.15pm (fun fact: that’s actually the exact time I do unload the dishwasher every day!).
Once you have everything you ‘need’ to do on your to do list and scheduled in, you can focus single-mindedly on the task you are working on right now, knowing that everything else will happen at the allotted time.
This simple technique has not only released back to me a ton of time, but it’s also massively reduced my stress levels and made me happier too.
8. Eat your frogs!
This is one of my favourite productivity/time-management/anti-procrastination mantras. In fact, I mention it so often on social media, I’m known by some as the ‘frog lady’.
What does it mean? Simply that you should start every day by eating your biggest, ugliest frog first (AKA do your biggest, scariest, most daunting task first), then the rest of the day, everything else will seem easy.
This technique is amazingly effective. How many times have you pretty much spent the whole day ‘avoiding’ that one big scary task you know you need to do, but don’t really want to? As a result, it can totally derail your day… maybe even your week! You spend the ‘avoiding’ time doing all sorts of time-wasting non-tasks (hellooo non-essential household task – I’m talking to you!), instead of just getting on with it and getting it done. Your day is horrible and when you finally bite the bullet, it’s not actually that bad – which is great, except you can’t get that day (slash week!) back that you wasted.
The other way round is so much better. Stick your ‘frog’ as your number 1 task for the day. Don’t even think, just start it, get it done and then you will feel epic AND you’ll still have the rest of the day ahead of you to eat a whole load of smaller frogs!
You can read more about this incredible technique in Eat That Frog* by Brian Tracy.
9. Put it off until tomorrow
I realise that this might sound like the exact opposite of what I’ve just said, but hear me out!
This time I am not talking about your big old frog. You’ve definitely got to eat that up TODAY.
This time I am talking about all those little extra ‘to dos’ that creep in throughout the day. Tasks that arise from your emails and social media. Tasks which you suddenly remember or realise you need to do.
The thing about these tasks is, much like housework and social media, they can seriously throw you off schedule. That new shiny task looks so much more appealing than the boring old frog you are in the middle of eating… it’s super tempting to flit… but DON’T! Stay focused on the task in hand, and instead write that shiny new task on TOMORROW’S to do list, or if you feel it really can’t wait, the bottom of today’s to do list.
Why is this so effective? Two reasons…
First it stops you flitting from one task to another and wasting all that ‘warm up’ time. And second, when you come to plan your next day, you can evaluate it properly in the light of all the other things you need to do tomorrow.
So often that task which seemed absolutely essential when it was threatening to distract you from a boring task you were working on earlier in the day, doesn’t seem half so appealing or important when you re-evaluate it in the light of all the other tasks you could be doing tomorrow.
When writing tomorrow’s to do list, you are in a clearer frame of mind to think rationally – if that task is still worth doing, then add to tomorrow’s to do list. If it’s not then, cross it off and feel smug that you’ve saved yourself all that time!
Want to know more about putting it off until tomorrow? Read more in Mark Forster’s excellent book Do It Tomorrow!*
10. Start with the end in mind
One of my favourite books in the genre of productivity and time management is The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People* by Stephen Covey. And one of his 7 habits is this: start with the end in mind. In other words, know where you are going and what you are trying to achieve BEFORE you waste your time and energy on things which are not going to get you there.
One of the biggest time wasters of all is focusing on tasks that don’t actually get us to where we want to go. And blogging is FULL of these. We do so many blogging related tasks because we think we ‘should’, because other bloggers are doing them, because we haven’t really thought about what our definition of success is.
And the truth is, none of the other techniques in this article will help you, if you are focusing your efforts and energies on the wrong things.
So, start by thinking about what success look like to you and work back from there. Once you know your ‘end’ – what you truly want out of blogging, it’s easy to see which tasks on your to do list are going to help you get there and which are just time-wasters!
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