Productivity and Workflow Timers

One of the dangerous habits in growing this new online business is that there’s a very strong survival instinct to keep on working, and working, and working. In fact, to work way more than I ever did in any corporate career role.

(Note to myself: I can mentally hear a few of my mentors call me out on survival instinct because from their financially independent hilltops, they see it more as the legacy of an addiction to salaried employment. Choke. Splutter; but don’t I get time off in lieu lol!)

Let me explain.

My current online business strategy has five broad categories around which I organize my time and effort. These are:

  1. Online Products and Services.
  2. Targeted Traffic.
  3. Copywriting.
  4. Freedom.
  5. Administration.

In a typical working week I now know that at least 2/3 of the tasks in each category currently require a computer. About half of those require Internet access.

And from observing other successful small (mainly online) business owners I believe the ideal solution for an owner (as opposed to manager) is to have those computer-related tasks supervised and performed automatically or, better still, outsourced to competent others.

But how to get there?

I think there are a number of steps before these can be outsourced or given to interns, virtual assistants and the like:

  • Document the task and it’s intended starting input and end result.
  • Record the time taken to complete the task.
  • Put the documentation securely online.
  • Keep a master physical copy of the doco.
  • Structure the total task work flow to take 40 minutes or less.

The last bullet point is of great interest to me as an educator, coach and business owner. Obviously, I want the tasks done well; that is, to at least the standards specified in the task documentation. No less.

The reason why it’s 40 minutes is simple.

Take 10 minutes to understand the task requirements and get focused on doing x,y,z steps.

Add another 20 minutes to actually do the specific steps.

Reserve the final 10 minutes to double-check and then submit a brief task status (probably via email or online form).

In my own use of this technique I have a piece of software called Time Left; from, and set the countdown timer to 40 minutes. I then drag it to the top right of my screen where it plays a 10 second music clip on counting down from 40 to zero minutes.

After some months of applying this task drill, I have noticed that my on task attention is improving and,in fact, I usually get more alert in the last 15 minutes, because I can see that a 10 minute break is coming!

When the 40 minute period’s over, I put a time stamp in my personal information manager of choice (Infoselect v8) and take a break away from the screen. Maybe go play with my dog or pick some leaves up in the garden.

Beats a walk to the water cooler any day 😉

Upon returning to my desk I restart the timer only when I have another specific task to do (no, this is not quite Chaplin’s Modern Times!)

It doesn’t take long to realize just how much valuable time is wasted away doing inconsequential activities and, boy, are there lots of those! Even when in the comfort and solitude of a home office.

I’ll have more to write about task management across those five business categories. How do you go about task management and being productive in your daily activities?