Avoid Productivity Busters Like the Plague

Eight days ago I got one of those new DROID phones – the latest do-all gadget from Motorola and Google.  I finally put it down for the first time a few minutes ago.

You’ll notice that there has only been one new post in the past eight days as well.  This is not a coincidence.  It’s hard to type one handed.

During the course of the  last week, I have downloaded and set-as-default numerous new ringtones (currently I am on the ‘Magnum P.I.’ theme song), needlessly activated the turn-by-turn voice directions to locations I’ve driven to a thousand times, checked email incessantly, Tweeted, Facebooked, texted random observations to people that were sitting three feet away from me (I hope they made the L, O, : and ) keys especially sturdy), and pulled the phone from my pocket repeatedly to check my messages because I could swear I’d just felt it vibrate.  Throughout the course of engaging in these compulsively juvenile behaviors, something important occurred to me: this has been one of the most unproductive weeks I’ve had in a long time – which is why I had to work all day on Sunday.

During my days working in retail for a nationwide chain, I had a district manager who was really big on buzzwords and used to hammer them home any time the opportunity presented itself.  While many of them were superficial corporate-speak, one of the things he used to say really stuck in my mind: Avoid productivity busters like the plague.

While on the surface that phrase may seem to be little more than a fancy way of telling you to avoid distractions, there is one distinct difference that sets it apart.  Distractions are a hell of a lot easier to identify and avoid than productivity busters are.

When consciously attempting to avoid distractions, one typically associates such distractions with unexpected interruptions that require immediate action on your part.  In other words – external unanticipated demands for your attention.  While this is fundamentally accurate, a productivity buster is a more subtle, under-the-radar type of influence on the successful use of your time.

It’s easy to close the door to your office, take the battery out of your smart phone,  throw your earbuds in and go to town on the tasks at hand.  I know many business people who employ such isolationist tactics – to varying degrees of success.  But, I also know others who sabotage their own efforts to free themselves.

<rant> If you don’t want to be found, don’t tweet via foursquare where you’re at – no matter how badly you want to be the mayor of your side of the street’s Starbucks.</rant>

But productivity busters are sneakier than that – and it’s harder to realize that they’re hampering your progress until you look at the clock and it’s 3:30 and you can’t figure out where the day went and why you have nothing to show for it.

Most productivity busters lie in our own processes, and it’s up to the individual to identify inefficiencies in your routine.  For some people, the five minutes they intended to take to check Facebook & Twitter quickly balloons into 50 very unproductive and very gone minutes.  For others, it’s the fact that they allow certain tasks to expand beyond their initial purpose.  While the hindrances vary, there is a solution that universally applies.

When I set out to get something done, I’ve learned to employ a policy called JGID – coined by Paul Ferrier, co-founder of Mindscape at Hanon McKendry.  JGID stand for Just Get it Done.  It sounds simpler than it is in practice.

In order to JGID, you have to establish a few things.  The most important thing to do though is to impose deadlines.  The reason this is so critical is the fact that accountability is a huge motivator to get things accomplished.  Set deadlines, and tell someone you respect.  Tell anyone.  Post it to Facebook, Twitter – whatever you need to do to make your intentions known.  As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, if you’re having trouble holding yourself accountable, find someone who will.

Setting deadlines requires establishing milestones for what you want to accomplish.  If you estimate that a multi-phase project is going to take you eight hours to complete, break it down into individual tasks, each with their own deadline.

What this allows you do to is group all of your unproductive time into one chunk.  The fact is, your productivity busters are aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  Your Facebooking, Tweeting, bathroom

Take me for example.  I take a break every single hour and I often take a couple hours for lunch to get some exercise.  That said, it isn’t uncommon for me to be up until 11:00 pm or later wrapping up the day’s tasks.  This routine probably wouldn’t work for most people, but I am not most people.breaks, lunchtime, coffee refills, etc. are all necessary parts of who we are as people.  To cut them out would be to deprive ourselves.  The key is to schedule your productivity busters to where they’re simply healthy breaks in the action.

Between client meetings, meetings at Mindscape, varying kid responsibilities, travel time, etc. my routine on a daily basis is usually different each day.  I, for example don’t exercise daily (although I wish I would).  And, it usually takes a great deal of willpower to peel myself away from the computer at 11:00 pm to go to bed.  But again, back to accountability – I am trying – and I am writing it down so I am more likely to stick to it ?

When I first got my Droid, I hunted for a ringtone to replace the generic ‘DROID’ robotic voice that was set at the default ringtone.  I ran across a free one that was derived from the character ‘Scorpion’ from original ‘Mortal Kombat’ arcade game.  Scorpion’s signature was the spear move, where he would simultaneous growl ‘Get Over Here!!’ while shooting a spear at his opponent.  As homage to my favorite arcade game from my early teen years, I set my alert ring tone to command ‘Get Over Here!!’ anytime I received a text message, email, voice mail or mention on Twitter.

For the next day and a half, I obediently responded to the aggressive demands for my attention anytime I received an electronic message of any kind.  Then it occurred to me the irony of the whole thing:  I was allowing my phone to dictate my life!  It was literally telling me what to do, and when to do it.  I quickly downloaded a new ringtone for my alerts.

Everybody has different perspectives and ideas for how to better use our time.  How have productivity busters made your day less efficient?  How did you recognize them and what did you do about it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

What a Web Marketing Strategy is not

Before we get going, ask yourself this: how much of the following scenario describes your web presence?

You’ve got a website.  You either built it yourself, or you had it designed professionally by a creative firm or freelancer.  Your website functions well and looks pretty good, yet you aren’t getting any traffic.  Or you aren’t getting enough traffic with respect to the popularity of your industry, or you aren’t getting nearly as much traffic as your competitors seem to be, despite the fact that you are considerably ‘bigger’ than they are in the traditional sense.

You’ve got a Twitter and Facebook account set up, and maybe even have secured a few friends and followers.  You’ve invested in a Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising campaign on Google and maybe you’ve even experimented with banner ads on various forums and sites in your industry.  Yet despite all of your efforts, you’ve only seen minimal success online.  And you’re frustrated as hell.

The reality is this: there’s a very distinct difference between deploying a handful of arbitrary tactics and hoping for the best and actually crafting a web marketing strategy based on facts.

Toward the end of a strategy presentation meeting with a client of Mindscape recently, we went into the phase of explaining the various tactics and techniques that should be employed in order to improve the success of their website.  The dialogue is a little generic in the respect that there are only a handful of ways to effectively communicate the processes of article marketing, PPC advertising, on-site elements and calls to action, etc.

After the end of that segment of the presentation, the client was a little perturbed and voiced concern at the fact that this part of the strategy seemed to be less tailored to his business and more of a simple list of ‘to-do’ items that we recommend to every one of our clients.

He then asked how many of those tactics and action items were stuff we recommend to other clients.

“Well that depends on the client.”  I offered immediately.

After a short pause, I went on to explain my initial knee-jerk response to his question.  I told him that the descriptions of the tactics are, for lack of a better expression ‘generic’, but the strategy itself is derived by the fact that we literally spent over 100 hours of research dissecting the 1000-plus keywords relative to his business and his industry, scrutinizing the entities that are currently occupying the online space in which the client wishes to be more competitive.  We analyzed buyer personas, identified the problems visitors are looking to solve, where they’re hanging out online, and how to reach them.  We spent time considering the actions that the client ultimately wants the visitors to his site to take.  We looked at how his current site was set up and devised a plan to make improvements to the website to enhance the overall user experience – and ultimately achieve the goal of the client – which is to get more conversions through his website.

Even though we did recommend about seven different tactics to employ that will greatly improve his chances of success, there were at least a dozen methods of internet marketing techniques that we didn’t touch on, as they were irrelevant to his business model and the chances of those being effective were marginal at best, and the client’s energy and resources would be much better spent in other areas of focus.

So, going back to the opening question, how effecting are your web marketing tactics?  When you’re evaluating a particular course of action, are you taking into consideration:

  • Who your targeted visitors are?
  • Where they hang out online?
  • What problems they’re looking to solve?
  • What actions you’d like the to take once they arrive at your site?

Or, do you simply have a Facebook Fan page because someone told you you should have one?  Are you on Twitter because it’s all the rage right now and everyone seems to love it?  Are you paying $3 a click in a Google Adwords campaign for traffic from a highly competitive keyword? What are those visitors doing when they get to your site?

There are two camps with an internet presence.  There are those who take the time to consider all of the varying factors that play into the decision making process and ultimately make calculated, informed choices – and there are those who set it and forget it.

Which one are you in?

It Feels Impossible Until You do it!!

I just finished listening to an hour long podcast on The Third Tribe between Johnny Truant and Sonia Simone about what it’s like to get started in business and more specifically, how to make money online with little to no knowledge or resources.

About a third of the way through the session, something occurred to me:  with almost everything new, the hardest part is getting started.

I routinely give advice about blogging.  I’ve encountered numerous people who want to start a blog, or a business, or take up a new activity, or any number of challenging courses of action about which they know next to nothing about.

But the path to taking action is filled with self imposed roadblocks.  In an attempt to educate themselves about whatever it is they’re considering, too much information can be a destroyer of dreams.  With Information Overload, there’s a cycle that occurs.  Enthusiasm becomes overpowered by intimidation, which in turn causes petrification, leading to apprehension and ultimately ends with inaction.  In other words, the task seems so daunting that the first step is never taken.

How many times have you thought about starting a blog, or learning to roller-blade, or taking a cooking class?  Why haven’t you done it yet?

The reality of the whole situation is this:  you absolutely know one thing, and that one thing is enough to get you started in literally any challenge you wish to undertake.  And, it isn’t nearly as mysterious as it may seem.  That one thing is the fact that you know that you want to do it.

The problem is, society as a whole discourages risk-taking inherently.  We’re acutely aware of the direst consequences before we do anything that is off the beaten path.  Tell 10 people about your unique idea that is radical and daring, and six of them will tell you you’re nuts, three more won’t say anything out loud but they’ll secretly believe that you’re nuts, and only one out of those 10 people might offer encouragement.  We’ve become conditioned to choose the path of least resistance.  Play if safe and you’ll never have to worry.  We’re taught that the path to security lies in working hard through the best years of our lives; living within the means we’re able to secure while we try to save in order to survive after we’ve no more good years left to sell.

There’s something you have the desire to do, but you’re not doing it.  Why?  Don’t have the time?  The money?  Are you afraid of what will happen if you break from the status quo?  Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek fame advises us to ask the simple question: “What’s the WORST thing that can happen?”

I once heard a motivational speaker hypothesize that the worst case scenario, as you’ve defined it in your mind, never has more than a 3-5% chance of actually coming to fruition.  Why is this?  Because things are usually not as bad as they seem.  While the risk of losing money or resources is legitimate, there’s a greater element at play.  Time is the only finite resource you have.  Money, influence and people are ALL renewable resources.  But the amount of time you have is limited, and you never know how much more of it you have remaining.  So the question is this:  Consider the time you spend doing something safe in return for whatever compensation you receive for doing so.  Is it possible that the risk of wasting your time is a much greater threat to your happiness than what you gain for do so justifies?

“It’s better to regret something you did, than something you didn’t do.”

So What is a Web Marketing Strategy?

The phrase “Internet Marketing” means different things to different people. The definition can refer to a wide variety of people using the web to promote products and services, from people pushing get-rich-quick schemes to miracle fad diets like the Acai Berry ads that you saw all over the web last year. This term can also refer to spammers and other ‘black hat’ types of underhanded behavior as a whole.

While Internet Marketing as a blanket term also would describe the services I provide for companies with ambitions to increase their digital footprint, it’s vague in its definition and often can be misinterpreted as something its not. For that reason, I prefer to refer to my services as “Web Strategy Planning and Development.”

What is it you do Again?

Web Strategy Development is a process. It’s very involved and requires a variety of steps in order to be successful. It isn’t something that can simply be thrown together without much forethought. The first step is the initial evaluation, where I meet with the client and determine among other things what the client’s goals are for the site. Whether it’s generating leads and phone calls or simply converting visits to sales, it is critical to establish what course of action you’d like the user to take. It is also important to identify who the targeted visitors are, how they use the web and the problems they are looking to solve. The companies who the client identifies as it’s main competition is also important.

After the initial brainstorming session, the research process begins. The first stage of this is keyword research. This is a painstaking effort to discover the phrases and words that your prospective visitors are using. This is also critical in determining what problems the targeted audiences are seeking solutions online for.

After the keyword research is completed, the competitor identification process begins. In order to be successful online, it is critical to find out who is currently operating in the online space in which you will be competing. It is crucial to look at the competitors’ websites, their strengths, their weaknesses, their activities and efforts by way of Pay-Per-Click (PPC) campaigns they may be operating, SEO and linkbuilding strategies they may be employing, etc.

It is only once all of the data has been obtained, organized, studied and scrutinized that a web marketing strategy plan can be developed. Without this information, building a website becomes a guessing game; a crapshoot as to whether the design of the website will be effective in executing the companies objectives.

So What is a Web Strategy?

A Web Strategy is a formulated plan to increase the effectiveness of both the website itself and the subsequent marketing efforts based on the results of the researchprocess that must take place first. Web strategies vary from client to client, as no two situations are the same. For some clients, a PPC campaign on Google targeting the relevant keyword phrases to their site is a solid option for driving a fair amount of traffic in a short period of time. Other clients are able to easily rank in the search engines organically due


to the lack of competition in their online space.

For some companies, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are very good ways to drive traffic and engage their prospective visitors; for others however, the use of social media may be much less effective. Other tactics such as banner advertising, article marketing, email marketing, monthly newsletters, blogging, participating on LinkedIn, etc. are all going to apply to the strategy to varying degrees; some methods will be essential, while others will give less than ideal results.

Why Have a Strategy at All?

I once had a friend ask me for advice on how to build a website, as he was about to purchase the popular web development application Adobe Dreamweaver CS4 and he wanted some advice so that he could design a site to support a business he was starting.

I asked my friend, a cabinetmaker by trade if he would recommend that someone with no woodworking experience whatsoever go out and buy a stack of lumber and the fanciest, most expensive table saw he could get his hands on and go to town? Of course he wouldn’t. You don’t just buy some wood and start building cabinets; you have to have a plan.

The thing is, many if not most people who offer website design services simply create a website and turn it live. This service is relatively easy to execute what with all of the latest and greatest webpage creation software. An amateur person or college student with just a basic knowledge of HTML and CSS can create a pretty decent looking page in a relatively short period of time. In and of itself, these entities usually provide a decent bang for the relatively low prices they charge.

Source: todayinart.com

The problem is that most companies and web designers simply build a site, turn it live and hope for the best. They don’t put any forethought into how the users are going to interact with the site, what the user is looking for, how people are going to even find the site in the first place, etc. Furthermore, a lot of companies don’t even know why they need to have a website at all – other than the fact that everyone else has one and because Bill Gates says it’s important. This is especially true for small businesses who have already had a great deal of success without the aid of the Internet.

One of the most important things I tell clients is that a Web Strategy provides structure and direction, which is critical when deciding where to focus your marketing time and resources. Everyone already knows about Twitter and Facebook, but not everyone knows how to establish a presence within these tools, how they should be utilized, what they are not to be used for, etc. Same goes for methods like PPC and email marketing. While people may be familiar with the terms, and even may have a basic working knowledge of those mediums, if their website is severely underperforming, chances are they are not operating the most efficient and effective campaigns.

Another benefit of having a strategy is this: organization. I tell every single client that I have the pleasure of overwhelming with the mountain of information I supply at the strategy presentation this one very important nugget: It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the plethora of opportunities and tasks required to be successful. The thing to always keep in perspective is that this is not an overnight process, or a 30 day process, or even a 90 day process. Web marketing is a never ending cycle of promoting, engaging and enlightening your audience and clientele and doing so better than your competition. The thing to stay focused on is not the the giant task as a whole, but on keeping the momentum going. Always be doing something positive and always make the best use of your resources, and good things will happen for your business.

If You’re Having Trouble Holding Yourself Accountable, Find Someone Who Will!!

I have a good friend we’ll call ‘Tommy’ who, not too long ago ended a very tumultuous relationship after a couple years of dating.  His girlfriend was a lying, manipulative psychopath who treated him badly most of the time, but after they finally broke up, he was so bent out of shape that he couldn’t even eat.  She had cheated for the second time that he knew of and he was finally done with her.

Now I know what you’re thinking: he was better off without her as soon as she was out of the picture and the sooner he moved on the better – and you’d be absolutely correct in that assessment.  This is entirely uncharacteristic of Tommy – he is the type who’d fight and die for any one of his friends on any given day; an ex-college lineman who was the coolest guy imaginable to everyone he was around – but he was definitely not one to cross.  But, as tough of a guy as Tommy is, he also knows how to treat a lady.

It was this that killed him inside.  He treated her well and tried to make her happy – but in the end the relationship ended as those types of relationships do.  Alas, as miserable as Tommy was without her, he knew deep down that she was a toxic person in his life and that he was better off.

Tommy knew she’d come calling back sooner or later.  So he did something smart:  right after the break up he told all of his friends and family about what a bitch his ex-girlfriend had turned out to be.

You see, he knew that eventually she would want him back after a couple weeks.  And sure enough, she did start calling after she realized that he wasn’t going to.  And Tommy knew the temptation to take her back would be tremendous – despite how bad he knew she was for him – but if there’s one thing Tommy has more of than anyone else I know, it’s pride.  And he certainly wouldn’t want to face his friends and family if he took her back despite all the bad things that had occurred between them.Tommy wasn’t looking for sympathy, nor was he trying to vent about what a bad person she was.  Tommy opened up for one reason: accountability.

Pete Brand, another good friend of mine and co-founder of Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, had this to say on his blog recently:

“Most people are afraid to tell anyone what they are looking to accomplish because they are afraid either:

1.  The person they tell will laugh at them and tell them they can’t.

2.  They don’t believe they’ll follow through with their statement.

The bottom line is they are afraid of failing and being mocked for doing so.  It is one thing to keep your plans private and be accountable to yourself.  It is a completely different story to surround yourself with positive people who will encourage you once you’ve announced your goals and plans.  The only trick is to have the ability to find those positive people, and as we’ve pointed out, that can prove itself to be quite a challenge with all the negativity in the world.”

There’s a lot of wisdom in Pete’s words.  How many times have you looked in the mirror and wished the person you saw was 20, or 40, or 100 pounds lighter?  When was the last time you worked on that novel you’ve been writing?  How long has that blanket you’ve been crocheting been cast aside half-finished?  Whatever your aspirations, I am sure you are sacrificing some of them and not achieving all you strive for (unless your name is Tim Ferriss), largely in part due to lack of personal accountability.

Several years ago, Steve Pavlina wrote a post on his blog titled, “Your Personal Accountability System”.  He says:

Systems trump intentions.

Without some systematized method of daily accountability, the natural result will be to stray off course. Then at the end of the year, you look back and say, “If only…” In order to prevent that yearly “if only,” you have to squeeze that annual accountability down into each and every day. When you look back on your day and see you goofed, you can immediately regroup and recommit to doing a better job the next day. Better to do this every single day instead of “going dark” and then being painfully surprised at the end of the year. Purposeful transformation is better than tragic realization.

Talking about your goals and ambitions isn’t easy.  There’s a difference between being driven and being a dreamer – and fear of failure is amplified when everyone you’ve told will know of your failures if you are unsuccessful.  It’s one thing to keep your desires to yourself and simply continue to hope and dream when they aren’t realized.  But when people know, people who are positive and encouraging and selflessly want and are willing to help you to succeed, it changes things.

“There’s not a lack of good ideas, only a lack of follow-through.”