This is a guest post by Eric Pangburn.
Over the past few years, I’ve begun to seriously explore the possibility of making money on the Internet. With so many opportunities to make money online, many entrepreneurs have already made a similar move. Some either use websites to augment their brick-and-mortar businesses or rely on them as their sole source of income.
Internet: the double-edged sword
One thing that I realized early on is that although the online world offers plenty of opportunities, it brings plenty distractions as well. If you have spent a lot of time online, you already know that much of that time is spent on various activities that may or may not be essential to your business.
In fact, a large chunk of my day is spent reading emails, reading articles, browsing through web pages, and reading and answering forum posts. All these activities can really eat up the hours in a workday. Given all these distractions, it’s a wonder that I can get any work done at all!
Thankfully, I have discovered ways to run a successful business online without getting bogged down with all the distractions of the online world. If you often find yourself struggling with productivity issues online as I have, it may be helpful to modify your approach.
Working during your peak hours
The first thing you should do is to figure out the time of day when you are most productive. Personally, I find that the best time for me to work is in the morning, before all the distractions start to pile up. Depending on your body clock, you may find the evenings or even the wee hours of the morning more conducive to working.
The schedule varies from person to person, but it would be best to schedule most of your online business activities around these hours.
In order to make better use of these “peak hours”, I found it best to get rid of as many distractions as possible. If I really have to check my email or browse work-related websites, I always do so before I begin working in earnest. The point is to separate these “housekeeping” tasks from your actual work, so you don’t get bogged down with the details.
For long periods during the day, I realized that I don’t even have to be online, so I have often gone the extra step and actually turned off my modem or unplugged my Internet connection. It might seem a bit extreme since you are involved in an online business, but the urge to chat with friends, check out a few online shopping sites, or even to play online games, can really eat into the valuable hours that you should be spending at work.
For me, the minor inconvenience of having to plug in when I do need to get online is still a lot less time spent than dealing with all the little distractions that add up when I am connected constantly.
The case for “cyberloafing”
That being said, there may actually be some benefit to occasionally browsing the Internet during the course of a regular workday. In a study conducted by researchers at the National University of Singapore, it was shown that browsing the Internet may help mentally rejuvenate people who have been working for long periods.
The study suggested that engaging in seemingly trivial activities such as reading articles on celebrities, checking out the latest viral videos, and even just general browsing, may actually help boost mental alertness and stamina, and thereby increase productivity. Collectively termed “cyberloafing”, these activities may actually be useful in small, controlled “doses”.
Conversely, checking emails and replying to them is every bit as disruptive to work as you may have expected. The same study shows that the process of checking an email and relying to it often leaves workers feeling worn-out and unable to concentrate. It would seem therefore that the best approach would be to limit access to email while allowing for a bit of random cyberloafing.
Planning out your day
Another potentially helpful technique I have discovered is to plan out my workday beforehand. I realized that when I don’t have a clear idea of the different tasks that I have to accomplish during the day, it becomes too easy to lose track of the hours whittling away at little tasks that do little to improve my bottom line.
By planning out my day to include tasks that should be done in sequence, I am much more likely to get them accomplished than if I had just adopted the “frontal-assault” approach.
Multitasking and the law of diminishing returns
It is interesting to note that one of the major stumbling blocks to online productivity is often considered the opposite. A lot has been made of the benefits of multitasking, but this approach is actually subject to the law of diminishing returns.
For me personally, there are only so many tasks that I can do well at any one time, and the more complex the tasks are, the less likely I can accomplish them in a satisfactory manner when I pack them into a short time-frame.
If I really want to get something done and get it done well, I find that I get the best results by simply buckling down and focusing all my energies on that one specific task.
Let’s face it: working online is often not the ideal situation that many make it out to be. However there is no denying that the online world is a vast and potentially powerful resource that can work wonders for any online business.
The key to making the Internet work for you is to use it as you would a power tool. You will have to wield it with a great degree of control and respect for its capabilities, and restrict its usage to situations when it is most appropriate. By doing so, you will be better able to use this vast resource to your advantage, and minimize the drawbacks that can stand in the way of you achieving your online business goals.
Eric Pangburn was recently featured as the best of NY time blog post of the week. He is a freelance writer focusing on helping others through his Snitch IM Blog. If you want to improve your blog, earn more money, or just come and hear the him snitch out secrets check out his free report of how get more customers today.