The internet is such an amazing resource.  You can find just about anything and everything on the internet.  For that very same reason, the internet can be a huge distraction and waste of time.

I’ll admit it.  I’m guilty of reading pointless articles on random topics when I should be writing a new post.  I’ve watched one too many stupid videos on YouTube when I should’ve been building backlinks.

It’s easy to get distracted when these things are right in front of your face all the time.  The key is to learn from your mistakes and continuously refine your time management and organizational skills.

I’ve tried a lot of different things over the years to maximize my efficiency, and some worked great, some were disasters.  Here are some of the things that really work well for me.

SIMPLICITY

Work on one project at a time.  Physically, of course, you can only work on one thing at a time.  If you’re writing an article for your blog, you can’t also be building a new website.  When I say work on one project at a time, I mean if you are creating a website or product or whatever, don’t work on another project until that one is profitable or completed.

It’s tempting to start 10 different projects all at the same time so you can get off to a great start, but, what ultimately happens is all of the projects are mediocre and nothing is as good as it needs to be.

When you dedicate yourself to one project until you achieve your goal, you will be much more efficient.  In addition, you will avoid being paralyzed by too many things to do.  When you have so many things to do that you don’t even know where to start, you waste time trying to decide what you should work on and in most cases, you will look back and say, I should’ve spent my time on that one single project I started in the very beginning.

FILING SYSTEM

Create a good filing system on your computer.  In the world of internet marketing, there are a ton of things you need to keep track of.

For example:

  • Affiliate links
  • Passwords
  • Website resources
  • Content for Your Website
  • Content for Other Websites
  • Ideas
  • Backlinks
  • Keywords
  • Images
  • Analytics
  • Sales/Revenue info
  • And, on and on.

The key to developing a good system simply allows you to find specific information quickly when you need it.  It also helps a lot if you’re consistent when naming your files.

For example, I have a folder just for content for my websites.  When I look for something, I want to know what type of content it is and for which website it is.  So, I name it “BlogContent_SIM_Posted.”  Then I know it’s content for my blog at Superbad Internet Marketing and the content is for articles that have already been posted.

I also have separate documents for ideas, and for works in progress.  Depending on what I’m doing that particular day, I can easily find the information I need.

SPREADSHEETS

Spreadsheets are great tools to use.  This goes back to the filing system but really spreadsheets deserve a separate mention.

If you want to stay on top of your website SEO, a spreadsheet is a great tool to use.  I use it for my keyword lists and I use it for tracking my website pages and backlinks.

I create a simple spreadsheet that keeps track of all the backlinks that I create.  It’s really helpful in the beginning because it’s a visual reminder of what you’ve done and what you haven’t done. It’s also a big help to determine what backlinks are working and what backlinks aren’t working.

I don’t create backlinks for every post.  I only create backlinks for posts that provide a lot  of helpful information and have keyword phrases that are fairly easy to rank for.

Here’s a screenshot of how I set up the spreadsheet. Click the image to enlarge.

Every webpage I create is listed in the left column.  The keywords I plan on targeting for that page are listed in the column directly to the right of the webpage.  Generally, it’s only one or two keywords, but I might add to it later if my analytics tell me it’s ranking for a different keyword phrase.

Every line below a webpage is a backlink to that page.  Every time I create a backlink (except blog comments), I paste the link in the spreadsheet and I document the anchor text used and the date it was created.  If a link is not showing up in Google Webmaster Tools or Yahoo Site Explorer, you need to figure out why.

As time goes on, you might not need to use the spreadsheet as much, but it’s definitely helpful in the very beginning.

You can download a copy of the spreadsheet below in MS Excel and Mac Numbers (zipped).

Just replace my info with your own.

BUNDLE TASKS

Bundling your tasks is an easy change that can keep you more focused and save you a lot of time.  If you bundle your tasks, you complete all similar tasks at one time, so you don’t waste time saving, closing, opening, finding, etc every time you complete that task again.

For example, checking your email.  In the past, I probably checked my email 10 times a day.  I didn’t need to check it 10 times a day, but for some reason, I did.  It was a waste of time, because every time I checked my email, that was time I could’ve been working on something more important.

By bundling, I set aside a certain time of day to check, and respond to, my emails and I do it twice a day.  Once in the afternoon and once in the evening.  I could probably even get away with checking it once per day, but this works pretty well for me.

Creating content is another thing that’s really good for bundling.  Instead of writing an article, or blog post, then posting it on a website, then going back and creating more content and posting it, create a ton of content at once.  If you’re in the frame of mind where you’re writing content, keep going.  Write 5 or 6 articles.  Write 2 or 3 posts.

After you’ve completed them, you can distribute them to your websites, or article directories, or wherever they’re going.  If they’re blog posts, you can schedule them to post automatically whenever you want them to.  This process of bundling is a huge time saver and helps you stay focused when you’re trying to complete tasks.

Bundle as many things as you possibly can.  I can tell you that facebook, Twitter and reading other people’s blogs are very good opportunities for bundling.  Set aside a time to focus on Twitter and stick to that schedule.  Read other blogs only when you have it scheduled.

Do what works for you, but the more things you can bundle, the more efficient you’ll be.

PRIORITIZE

This is a pretty obvious one.  You need to do the most important things first.  But, let’s take it a step further and prioritize with the Pareto Principle.

The Pareto Principle essentially says that 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes.  People apply this theory in different ways, but what it means for prioritizing is that you need to find out what that 20% is.

What do you do that gives you the best results?

What activity is crucial to making money online?

Is it creating content?

Is it creating backlinks?

You need to look at your business and figure out what’s absolutely positively necessary for getting the best results.  When you figure that out, then you can spend 80% of your time on that 20% that is vital to generating revenue.  Eliminate what you can and spend the other 20% of your time on the other stuff – checking emails, designing websites, reading blogs, etc.

PLANNING

For a long time, I would create my To Do list in the morning, after I checked my emails, looked at my pathetic stats and read a few news articles.  I now make my To Do list either the night before, or first thing in the morning before I even turn on my computer.  This change has made an enormous change in my productivity.

When you work for yourself, there isn’t always a sense of urgency to get things done, other than the urgency that comes from making money.  Getting started is half the battle.  When you get started first thing in the morning on the tasks that are most important to your business, you will instantly increase your productivity.

When you turn your computer on, DON’T check your emails first, DON’T get on Twitter, DON’T tell your facebook friends what you had for breakfast.  Plan your MOST IMPORTANT TASKS first, then you can work on the other things.

At least 80% of your work day should be spent on the 20% of tasks that are directly responsible for generating revenue.  After you’ve completed those tasks, focus on the necessary, but non-revenue generating tasks.

BE SPECIFIC WHEN PLANNING

When you create your To Do list for the day, you need to be specific and you need to list what you want to accomplish.  Focusing on what you want to accomplish instead of what to do, makes you think about why you’re doing something.

For example, “spend time on Twitter” is not a great task to include on your To Do list.  Instead try “Retweet 5 helpful posts and reply to 10 people that I respect.”

When you are specific and you focus on what you want to accomplish, there is a clear sense of what needs to be done and when that task is completed.

TIME YOURSELF

In addition to my To Do list, I started a log of what I was actually working on at any given time.  Basically, documenting every minute of my work day.  If my immediate task was write 4 articles, I would write my task down and document the time I started.

This helped me stay focused.  I had one thing to complete in front of me and nothing else.  Documenting what I was working on and how long it was taking to complete, significantly improved my efficiency and time management.

In the example – “Retweet 5 helpful posts and reply to 10 people that I respect,” add a time limit to that, or time yourself.  In the beginning, you might want to time yourself.  That way, you find out how long tasks take and you can use that as a guide.

When I started timing myself, I was shocked at how long certain tasks were taking me.  Not only that, but when I started a task, I realized that I would get distracted by phone calls or emails or food or checking something completely different in the middle of my task.  That’s not a good use of time.

The great thing about timing yourself when you start a task is that the evidence is right in front of you.  If you’re in the middle of a task and you decide to get a quick bite to eat and then you check your email real quick, the timer keeps on ticking.  Your lack of focus is obvious.

Timing myself has helped me a great deal and it’s actually kind of fun trying to improve my times.

GETTING ORGANIZED

Not all of these ideas will work for every situation.  You have to find out what works best for you and your business.  If nothing else, you should always be aware of your systems and continuously refine and improve them.