Deciding to make a living as a webmaster means taking on a lot of the kinds of responsibilities employed workers never have to worry about. Indeed, webmasters rarely fail due to lacking important skills – with a little discipline and hard work, it’s not that hard to learn how to do just about anything online, and making money is often just a matter of continually moving forward. No, most self-employed webmasters fail because they lack basic productivity skills.
It’s not easy being your own boss, and it gets even harder when you do business in a distraction-filled arena like the Internet. Here are some basic tips on creating productive work habits and staying on a predictable path towards success.
1. Work on a Schedule
Whether you have a job and are only running your web projects part-time or have given up the 9 to 5 to completely focus on your online business, it’s absolutely imperative that you maintain a regular schedule. Decide on particular hours that will always be your work hours – don’t just get up every morning telling yourself you’ll get around to work sooner or later.
Because when you do that, work simply doesn’t get done.
Will your hours fluctuate from time to time? Sure, deviations are okay. Part of being your own boss is having the freedom to change up your hours every once in a while when you’d rather be doing something else. But don’t be a complete freewheeling entrepreneur that doesn’t have any idea when he or she works; the lack of a set schedule can quickly ruin you.
Humans thrive on routine – that’s why it’s often said we’re creatures of habit. Your work needs to become a habit, and that happens by creating a regular schedule.
2. Get Up Early
Not only should our work hours be consistent, but I highly recommend scheduling them early in the day.
You don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn, but people tend to be more productive when they get a somewhat early start, and the added benefit is that you’re maintaining a schedule very similar to the rest of the world, so you won’t find yourself working late into the night while others are out having fun.
If you’re not a morning person, you can surely still force yourself to get up around 9 or 10 am. Even on a relaxed schedule like that you could be done working by 6 or 7 pm and ready to enjoy the evening with friends and family. And if something else comes up, it won’t be impossible just to get in your hours later.
3. Set a Timer
One of my favorite productivity tricks is to use a timer while working. I like to organize my work efforts in half-hour or full-hour chunks, where I focus on the task at hand and nothing else. This keeps me from getting sidetracked and gives me a simple goal to work towards – which is nothing more than working until the timer goes off.
It sounds simple, but even committing to a 15-minute chunk of time can just be very motivating. Much easier than pushing yourself to slave away on something for five hours, and once you gain fifteen minutes of momentum you’ll often find working is no longer a chore.
4. Streamline Your Focus
The timer helps with this a lot, but don’t let the many different temptations around the internet keep dragging you away from your work blocks.
Close all windows and tabs on your computer that you’re not using for the task at hand. Sign out of Skype and other messenger programs, and whatever you do, don’t open up a new tab to just “check” your social media on whim.
These damaging decisions can equals days and days of wasted time.
In addition, minimize distractions from the world beyond your computer as well. If you work at home, make sure other family members know not to come knocking on your door during work hours unless it’s an emergency that can’t wait. Turn off your phone and the television. Focus!
5. Outsource & Automate
Sometimes new webmasters can be a little over-optimistic about how much of their work can be delegated or automated, but these things certainly do have their place.
Pay attention to which tasks you perform over and over again that can be broken down into basic steps. These are usually good candidates to be handed over to an employee or some type of software to handle it for you.
As an important caveat, just make sure you actually understand the ins and outs of the process before letting it out of your own power – that way you can always hop in and take control when needed or update yourself with a quick look.
6. Work Out
It seems like it takes more time and energy out of your day, but working out actually increases your productivity. The main key to this is that it’s a great boost in emotional well-being to start your morning, and if you stick to a regular workout these effects can even increase over time.
Not to mention that staying active helps to counterbalance a lot of the underestimated negative physical effects of sitting in front of a computer all day.
7. Take Breaks
Make sure to take breaks from your work. Plugging away at something for hours and hours on end can really wear you down without you even realizing it. I try to take a 10 to 30-minute break after every two hours of focused work.
8. Set Up an Office
Do you have a quiet area specifically designated for getting work done? Or do you just work on your websites lying back in bed or posted up in a recliner or wherever you feel like it?
Having an office set aside is a great way to maintain some “normalcy” in your working life, stay organized, and keep others out of your work space. Save the bed for relaxation time and you’ll get a lot more done – it’s not healthy to lay in bed all the time anyways, and doing so can encourage falling asleep on the job!
Just because you can be lazy and sloppy at work doesn’t mean you should. Instead, get up, get dressed, and head to the office, even if the office is just tucked away in a spare bedroom. Some online entrepreneurs even find after years of working at home that renting an office somewhere is the best thing they can do for their business.
The whole idea is that you need to structure your life as if you have a job even if you work for yourself. You’ll still get to enjoy a lot of the benefits of being your own boss, but you’ll get a lot more work done and make it more likely that you can preserve your new lifestyle for the long run.
Do you have any productivity tips that have helped you in your web business? Share with the rest of us!