How to Get More Done This Week Than You Have in the Past Month

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how to get more done

How often do full days slip by without you doing any actual work on your online business? Chances are it’s most of the time… meaning 4-5 days a week where you do absolutely no content creation , back link building, or traffic generation.

It’s an easy cycle to get into… you sit down to “work”, but you need to check your email first. There’s a few interesting offers or blog posts that you decide to read, and before you know it two hours have gone by.

Okay… before you really get started you should probably get a snack and go to the bathroom so that you can put in a few solid hours without having to get up. Once you’re in the kitchen, you decide that you’ll just watch one episode of your favorite show off the DVR before you jump into to a massive work session.

Alright, now that you’ve watched an episode, you’re going to get really productive. But you need to check your email real quick before you get started so that you don’t miss anything. You also check your stats because you might have made a few cents from Adsense or maybe even a Clickbank sale.

You open up Market Samurai or Google Keyword tool to find a good topic for the article you’re going to write. You see a few interesting keywords that you haven’t thought of before… but these are good enough to start a new site on. Your mind starts running wild with ideas about how this new site could make money. You go to Clickbank to see if there’s any related products you could sell, and then you check Amazon as well. It looks good… there’s products to market and it seems you’ve found some really great keywords.

Then your wife/husband/kid/phone interrupts you with an urgent issue.

“No problem” you think… “tomorrow I’m going to get a ton of work done.”

Getting Real Work Done at Home is Actually Very Hard to do

I’m sure the above scenario sounds painfully familiar, or at least parts of it do. Even as I write this blog post, my mouse keeps wanting to open up my Kindle ebook stats after every sentence (my latest addiction).

If you have kids, it’s 10 times worse. I don’t yet, so I’m guessing at that figure but it might even be 20 or 30 times harder to put in a few solid hours than for someone with no kids running around the house.

There’s just something about being at home that makes it harder to do real work for extended periods of time… I’m pretty sure it has something to do with not having anyone there to tell you what to do. In fact, you probably have someone there competing for your time. Your boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse is probably telling you to help with the kids, clean something, or they just want you to hang out with them.

Another problem is that no one takes your “projects” seriously until you’re successful at it. If you’re making millions as a pop star, you’re awesome. But if you tell your friends and family you want to be a famous singer, they roll their eyes and tell you to get a job.

There’s a lot of other scenarios or issues that make it hard to get work done at home, but let’s move on to my best tips for getting things done despite the issues I’ve mentioned.

My Top 5 Productivity Tips For Getting Things Done

  1. Identify your “prime” work time, and take advantage of it: This will be different for everyone. If you have kids and a family, the best thing for you might be to get up an hour or two earlier to work, or maybe after your kids are in bed. If you have an hour or two right when you get home before your spouse does, that is your prime work time, and you cannot afford to use it checking emails or watching TV. The bottom line is, you need to either figure out when your prime work time is, or create some prime work time. Once you know when it is, you do absolutely nothing during that time except real work.
  2. Identify your avoidance loops, and preempt them: An avoidance loop is a series of events or time wasters that you engage in when you’re about to actually get something done. For example, my standard avoidance loop is to check my email, then various stats, then Yahoo, ESPN, and DailyMail to see if anything crazy has happened. Usually nothing has, but there is always some interesting news stories that I end up reading. The first step to avoiding your avoidance loop is to identify it as such. Once you’ve done that, the next time you start your loop, you can step back and realize it, and stop yourself.
  3. Use a timer for solid blocks of work: There’s all kinds of specific productivity techniques out there such as the Pomodoro technique, but I like 50 minute blocks. These blocks are most effective when you identify one single activity. If you’re writing copy for a sales page, then when that timer starts you shouldn’t leave your word processor once during that block. If you’re writing a blog post, shut every other browser tab and do not leave your seat or your WordPress interface for the entire block.
  4. Do not check your email until you’ve completed your key task for the day: Whether you get up early to work on your online business or you work on it at night, when you walk up to your computer, identify the one key task that you need to accomplish for the day. If you’re just starting then this would most likely be writing an article for your site. Once you do sit down and turn on your computer, do not check your email or any other time waster until you’ve completed that key task. If you can make this a habit and something you do everyday, you’ll finally start to make progress. Even just a little real work done day in and day out adds up… most people let several days go by at a time without doing any real work and that just doesn’t cut it.
  5. Plan monthly > weekly > daily: Most people plan way too much or way too little. I have found the most successful way is to identify some key things you want to accomplish in the next month, then break those down into weekly objectives, and then into daily goals. For example, if I’m planning a new site and I want the site up and to have 20 pages of content on it by the end of the month, I would make a week-by-week timeline of what I need to do. Then, it’s easy to break each week down into daily objectives. As I mentioned in this post, I use a Blogger blog to track my goals and plans.

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About The Author

Nate

Nate is a blogger, fitness enthusiast, and designer.

51 Comments

  • Brant

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    This is a solid post, Nate. Athletes spend the majority of their time on “fundamentals” that are tedious and boring. But all fans see are sensational plays that look fun. But when you add all their tedious practice up it ends up producing the results you see on TV. Personally, I think email is the biggest interrupter. If I don’t close my entourage/outlook, it’s hard not to notice each time a new one appears. Next to that is my cell. I have to sometimes just turn it off (or turn it over) so I can’t see who calls, and then just check messages 2 times per day. Simple but not easy!

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      Brant- That’s funny… I have my phone upside down and on silent whenever I’m at my desk. Email definitely is the biggest distractor.

  • Ken

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    Hey Nate,

    Email is a huge distractor. I’m at home working, I saw your email and came here to read your post. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Yes, it’s harder than most people realize to get work done at home. I’ve found that I can get tons more done after about 9 PM. I live alone, so that makes it easier. Don’t know what I would do if I was married and had children.

    I have a good friend who’s pretty successful with his web businesses. He’s married and has two young kids. Last month he got an office outside his home so he could get more work done.

    This is a problem that affects everyone.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      Ken- I’m glad you checked your email this time ๐Ÿ˜‰

      Thanks for reading.

  • Cathy

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    Since I just won from last week, don’t enter me in this week’s contest but I still had to comment ( I also “liked” and google+ it).

    This is something I struggle with at home. Often, it’s something else that needs to be done in the house (laundry, etc) or one of my dogs or kids or grandchild wants attention.

    Sometimes, I’ll pack up my laptop and go to a Starbucks or Panera Bread to get a few hours of uninterrupted work time.

    Just a change in scenery helps sometimes.

    Excellent suggestions Nate and I love the one about using a timer.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      Thanks Cathy. Leaving and going somewhere specifically to work is a good suggestion.

  • No one loves me so I don’t have a problem with my phone : )

    Email and clicking the links inside those emails is my biggest mistake. I do it to check for customer service type emails so think I should look at a separate email for customer service or just make it wait ’till later.

    Second biggest thing for me is not having a to-do list planned for the day ahead. Thanks for the post Nate, don’t think you can ever overdo these kinda posts because it’s always something that can be improved.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      Alan- That’s what I do as well… I look at my email for any problems or urgent things but then I do my main task for the day before I reply to regular emails.

  • aleshia

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    Hey Nate,

    Thanksgiving for this post. You reallybhit the nail on the head about kids and i do have the boyfriend problem because he loves to talk. Ironically he is a writer too so I usually give him his writing time as best I can by getting the kids out of the house. Just wish he would do the same but he works another job.
    I have considered the timer thing but having a 2 month old can really take over..

    All your ideas are great though..I have been trying to plan weekly with no success..I’m now thinking since you mentioned about the keywords that I would plan each day according to A keyword..maybe this will help.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      Aleshia- You’re welcome. It is definitely tough to get as much done as you want…

  • Chris

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    WTF!!!!

    Have you got a webcam on me watching my ‘work’ habits? lol

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      Chris- haha it’s pretty universal I think.

      • Chris

        Reply Reply July 10, 2012

        People being spied on is universal?

        You damn sicko’s! lol

    • Aleshia

      Reply Reply July 9, 2012

      lol

  • Chris Shaul

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    Great Post Nate.

    It reminded me of some key things, including doing your most productive work in a set time, uninterrupted. Three years ago, I ran across David Allen’s GTD methodology. It changed how I do everything. Following the basic steps of Collecting your stuff to do, Processing it and deciding on how and when to do it, getting Organized to clarify things, reviewing your lists to keep your head clear and most important Do what is on your list.

    I use Nozbe ( http://www.gtdsoftware.net/nozbe ) to track my goals, projects, and tasks. It fits GTD perfectly. I find that if you follow GTD principles of getting everything out of your mind, it really helps you to organize what is important and what can wait. The key step though is taking action.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Chris- Thanks for the tip. One thing I kept coming back to among all the planning programs I tried was a comp book. I really like crossing off tasks and then having a record of what I’ve done each day.

      Whatever works…

    • Chris

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Just signed up for nobze Chris,

      Sounds like something I could use!

  • Robin

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    Thanks for this post Nate. I refused to renew my Blackberry subscription last month as it posed a major distraction. I also un-subscibed from a lot of lists because you end up clicking the link and browsing the product they’re hoarding and then thinking if the product would help you or not and then deciding whether or not to buy…you know the cycle. Then there’s my school work and then tests…

    I got a lot done when I did not renew my Blackberry subscription; I dare-say that it was my most productive month. I renewed it again and I’m getting interrupted by the constant pinging. I’m considering flushing it down the toilet…

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Robin- I did the same thing when I was in college. My grades went up when I canceled my data plan on my smartphone because I was checking email literally every two minutes during class.

      Flushing it might not even do it– a few years ago my Blackberry miraculously survived a 12′ dive to the bottom of a pool

  • Sean

    Reply Reply July 9, 2012

    Yeah, my problem is I have GREAT plans on the monthly/weekly scale but if they are not broken down into small daily achievable tasks then subconsciously I am already defeated by the great mountain before me and without too much effort I’ll soon discover myself in front of YouTube watching some stupid video about the mating habits of the north African cane toad.

    But even more than this, sometimes money by itself is not a good motivator – especially when it comes to heavily cognitive tasks such as creating a niche site. For me, I need to remember the greater purpose for doing what I’m doing. This, of course will be different for everyone… But, for me it’s seeing how this effort will one day pay off by providing for my family, or paying for that holiday with my wife or eventually being able to blow that 9-5 gig working for peanuts at my job.

    So, I see it as a combination of firstly, effective planning – down to the day and hour, tasking the important stuff first, but secondly, knowing the greater purpose of what you are working toward – your ultimate goals.

    Having visual triggers in your office like a picture of a new home, a cruise ship in the Bahamas or simply pictures of your kids can help you remember that THIS is really why I’m doing all this – better get back to work!

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Sean- very very accurate description of what happens to all of us.

      My “goal pictures” post that I look at each day on my goal and planning blog is one of the most helpful things, like you mentioned.

      Thanks for the comment.

  • Will

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    Fantastic post Nate, and one I will be reading over and over. I am not sure how you managed to get into my house and watch me, however it truly feels like I am reading ‘a day in the life’ of myself. Lol. Good stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Lol- that made me laugh. A day in the life of Will… not quite, it’s a day in the life of everyone.

  • scott

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    And I thought it was only me. Nice to know so many others are so easily distracted. I began by disconnecting my TV. Next is turning off the phone while I’m working. Guess I should stop watering the money tree too. Easy money doesn’t really grow on trees??? Darn.
    Thanks for the post and to everybody else for the comments.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Scott- yep, it’s not just you. Thanks for reading.

  • Matson Magleby

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    Nate,
    This is a post that I can totally relate to. I work from home and have my kids out of school for the summer. It is so much harder now to get in a productive day. I am trying to balance spending quality time with the kids and locking myself in my office to get work done. Being productive when I am working is that much more important. Thanks for your tips.
    Matson

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Matson- you’re welcome.

      It seems like our minds just comes up with ways to distract us for some crazy reason.

  • Nick Messenger

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    Hi Nate,

    This is a subject that always plugs at my heart strings as it is so very true for so many of us.

    I entirely agree with your reasons Nate but I also feel that a major reason that we don`t get into action is knowledge or rather a lack of!

    I don`t know if this is just me (I hope not!) but when you`re a total newbie to this on-line thingy & you know absolutely nothing at all you then start to learn little by little.

    The problem is you only know snippets of this & that BUT not enough to put together an e-book or a decent size post / article.

    The downward cycle continues because you think read a bit more, learn a bit more but is it ever enough to be brave enough to produce some decent content & NOT total clap trap that can be seen so very regularly!

    I want to be super productive. I want to produce superb content – posts, articles, e-books but I do wonder if I actually know enough to achieve that goal!

    I hope I have made myself clear & not spoken a lot of nonsense!

    What do you think? Who else feels the same way?

    Thank you for your time.

    Nick

    • Chris

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Agree with that totally Nick and on a related thought, it’s DEAD EASY to write a load of claptrap simply to please search engines IMO.

      A stage I certainly (hope I’ve) passed through but one that you also learn from.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Nick- I totally get what you’re saying. I do think that a lot of people, including myself, get into the cycle of thinking that on any given topic, there’s probably a few key things that I don’t know yet that would really make the difference, and so we spend time looking for those instead of taking action.

      In my own experience, the most valuable things I’ve learned were things I realized or uncovered in taking action and spending hours and hours on sites and SEO.

      So, I think a solid strategy for anyone is to limit themselves to one hour a day of “education”, and all other “work time” spent actually working. Of course most people do the opposite of this or even constant “education” and very little work, which leads to no results.

  • Gary

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    LOL! Nate, you’ve just decribed my day!

    Especially about the TV show on the DVR….I have to have a blast of Seinfeld before my mind can tune itself into activity!

    Great post and so true.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Gary- For me it’s actually netflix since I can just open a browser window and watch anything…

      But, I do watch Seinfeld everyday at the gym on the treadmill.

  • Stephen Kavita

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    I was laughing as i read the introduction of this post because it was like you were describing me. Personally, checking stats is one of my major weakness and I should apply the principles you have shared here starting today.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Stephen- stat checking is a disease of mine. It’s the latest thing I’m really trying to cure.

      Thanks for reading.

  • Lovely post and thought povoking.

    I try to get rid of all distractions when I’m working online but I discovered that the best output comes when I’m in high spirit… so i try to get in the spirit before i do anything online.

    Sheyi

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Sheyi- There’s a lot to be said for that… getting in the zone before you work.

      I use my “goal blog” that I linked to to stay focused and remind me what my monthly and weekly goals are.

  • Larraine

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    Hi Nate,

    Excellent post.

    I work at home, alone, (well, I do have my dog for companionship during the day) and am always amazed at how many little things can interrupt my workday – if I allow it.

    I’ll definitely re-read Napoleon Hill’s book, and re-think how I schedule my valuable time.

    Larraine

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 10, 2012

      Larraine- Thank you.

      Yep, the peak time for you work is crucial to actually spend working. Everyone has times of the day when it will be almost impossible to do uninterrupted work, so it’s so important to identify your own peak hours and then to never waste them.

  • Wayne

    Reply Reply July 10, 2012

    Hi Nate,

    I’ve found your tips 5 & 3 have had the most impact in my IM productivity along with following your 60 minutes course and its follow-up. I’ve set an activity target for the month and broken down to a daily target. Next setting the timer for 60 minutes helps to put some solid work in without checking emails and stats or maybe even doing the dishes if I am really trying to put something off.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 11, 2012

      Wayne- The timer thing works great. Your first few “blocks” you’ll be surprised how hard it is not to just do a quick stats check once or look at your email.

  • Your scenarios at the beginning of the post remind me of myself so much lol. This is definitely one of the things that I struggle with the most – putting on the horse blinders and just getting work done. All it takes is one little distraction to lead to another, and then another, and so on. You definitely have some good tips in here that I’m going to try – especially the not checking your email one. Thanks!

    Thomas

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 11, 2012

      I’m glad it was helpful Thomas, thanks for reading.

  • Ariana

    Reply Reply July 13, 2012

    Nate, I’m really liking your blog posts, mainly because they’re founded on your experience and logically presented so we can benefit immediately. So many people fill up their blogs because they need to post regularly about something, and rehash words that have already been said in much better ways, and ration out bits of advice…. but that’s not the case here.
    So, thanks for presenting your experiences in honesty.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 13, 2012

      Ariana- I appreciate that, thanks for reading.

  • Mike

    Reply Reply July 15, 2012

    Hi, my name is Mike. I’m a procrasta-holic. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I am not surprised this is a popular topic! I think everyone who tries to get work done at home runs into this struggle.

    Yes, email is a huge time waster and like someone else said, I had to unsubscribe from most email lists. I used to subscribe to anyone who made good recommendations for products. Now I only stay subscribed to those who offer good advice or information and seldom try to sell me something.

    Ever have one of those months though where EVERYTHING gets in your way. I won’t bore you with the details but last month I had one of those. My computer monitor broke. The new one didn’t work. The 2nd new one didn’t work either! …A front tooth filling came out. The car needed brakes and tires. Etc ad nauseum… I really felt “the Universe” was trying to prevent me from succeeding at IM.

    At times like that you have to really be determined to keep going! I’m still here and working on it. No I’m not wasting time right now, I’m at my J.O.B. for wages… with some down time.

    I have been hearing about that Getting Things Done book. Think I’ll check that out, and the Nozbe account.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply July 15, 2012

      Mike- Yeah I know how that is. 3 months ago I cut off the end of one of my fingers accidentally, and typing was extremely slow and painful for a long time. You gotta just keep pushing.

  • James

    Reply Reply July 15, 2012

    Hey Nate – great post! I have the same problem myself. I get in the loop of – checking my stats, reading my emails, and then reading other peoples blogs to get some ideas and learn some new things. Before I know it I’ve wasted my whole time doing nothing productive and my online business is exactly in the same state as it was when I started the day.

    I really need to stick to a plan and not check my emails or stats while I work for a certain period. I can do that once in awhile but it is just so easily to get distracted nowadays with videos online, games, watching tv shows etc. It is bad.

    I bet if I sticked to a plan everyday I could get more done in a week then a month like you said.

    Thanks for the motivational post.

  • Mike

    Reply Reply July 25, 2012

    Hey folks, I just heard about this book that is supposed to be really good, it’s called The Now Habit. Apparently it’s different than other “stop procrastinating” books in that it helps you understand the psychology behind it and some have reviewed the book and written that this is what helped them snap out of it. Anyway, I’m going to give it a shot – it’s a sort of a classic on this topic so your library should have it, as mine did.

    One tip I read – similar to what Nate says above – is to set out a time of only 2 hours and promise to allow zero distractions for just 2 hours and then you can do whatever you want! For some of us who don’t get 2 solid hours in per day at this point, that might be a real good way to get going; then slowly increase that to 2, 3 or 4 two-hour blocks per day…

    I know that me, once I get going, I can easily work for 10 hours at a time! It’s just a matter of “Getting going”!

  • Mike

    Reply Reply August 30, 2012

    Hi Nate

    Great post buddy. This is a very common problem not only with blogging but working from home in general.

    I found one of the best solutions to this was to plan out my day in detail or the task per hour if you don’t work from home. A good way to motivate yourself much like when doing homework or study is to include treat breaks, so for example work for 50 minutes and have a 10 minute treat break to check emails, stats, etc

  • Jasper

    Reply Reply November 15, 2012

    Nate i feel the same way you and others do it seems like you know all of my habits, wow! This is very helpful and interesting. I need a bigger house because mine is too small maybe one day i can afford to buy one.

  • Alan Hands

    Reply Reply March 11, 2013

    Guilty! Email and news are my biggest issues. And reading interesting blog posts like this! So what am I doing here? Time to go and put some of your tips into practice. Thanks for a great article!

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