How to Increase your own productivity

I run a blog about a blog, and it keeps me really busy so I often hear my friends saying that there’s not enough time available to do everything they truly want to do: to start that dream project, to get a better degree, to research the possibility of changing a job. If I said to them: “You can have that, but you need to stop reading feeds and outsource comment moderation,” most people would respond: “It’s not that simple.”

But it is. If you can eliminate three hours of the inessential from your week, and doing your dream takes three hours a week, you can have it. I’m not suggesting that you do all the below, but I’d like you to ask yourself each question and consider the pros and cons of your answer. How much time would you save? What’s the trade-off? A mental exercise rather than a prescriptive list, I want you to start thinking about where elimination fits in your routine.

What if you stopped moderating comments?
Here’s an experiment to conduct for a week: note down the number of comments you moderate over a week, then write down the number of comments you had to mark as spam or delete. If the number of offending comments is very small, you could consider turning off comment moderation. You’ll probably be reading the comments on posts anyway, and can delete any spam you see at that point.

What if you paid someone to moderate comments for you?
comments once a day is about 40 minutes work each week (at most), you could probably hire a cheap virtual assistant willing to do this for 10 dollars or so — maybe a little less or a little more, depending on who you hire.

What if you stopped reading feeds?
The likely result: you would save hours each week but your posts would be light on links. You might also miss some good posts. But maybe that’s not the end of the world? If you do an analysis, you’ll probably find that most of the posts you find truly helpful come from just a handful of blogs. If you’re not fond of complete withdrawal, you could prune all your feeds except five or so.

What if you mastered the art of short, polite and to the point email?
A little exercise you can do is to look back on your last 5 sent emails and think: “Could I tick all the same boxes in half the words?” If you can say the same thing in half the time, you’ll cut down the time you spend responding to email by 50%.

What if you checked email less?
I used to check email as soon as I hopped online, but now I wait until I’ve completed the most important tasks for the day (to avoid wasting hours on email and then not having enough time left to do what’s really important). I also find that, for what I do, I don’t receive any emails that can’t wait longer than 24 hours. I would check my emails once every three days if I could, but there are some people I correspond with who require a faster response.

What if you sorted email by importance?
If the fear of keeping people waiting prevents you from batching emails, you can set up a separate account to check daily and forward all mail from your most important correspondents to that address. As soon as you get an email from a VIP it gets forwarded to your ‘important/daily’ account, so you won’t miss anything (but you should only get a couple of emails to deal with on a daily basis). You can then check your original account once every three days, or if you’re confident, once a week.

What if you only checked stats once a week?
Checking statistics is something most bloggers do often, but it’s not something we can directly affect. Sort of like reading the news, it’s interesting, but there’s not much we can do about it. If we look over our stats once a week (on a certain day, maybe) we can detect patterns and conduct a more holistic analysis. If it takes 10 minutes in one sitting as opposed to five minutes every day, you’re saving time and reducing interruptions.

What if you posted less?
Unless you’re only posting two times a week, experiment with posting less for seven days. If you used to post every day, try posting three times. If you posted three times, try posting twice. Try to make the posts more value-packed than usual. At the end of the week, analyze your subscribers and traffic. If the stats were significantly worse than usual, go back to your old posting rhythm. If you find there’s not much change, or things have improved, you may just have discovered a way to save several hours each week. It’s an exercise worth doing.

What if you stopped using social media?
From being active on StumbleUpon to being not so active, I haven’t noticed a change in the number of votes my content gets. I enjoy StumbleUpon, but I haven’t had the time to use it lately. If you’re using social media for the perceived traffic benefit alone, then your efforts are better focused on saving the time and creating value-packed content.

You can get your MBA, you can get a new job, everything is possible.