13 Hidden Timesucks You Can Eliminate to Focus on the Essential

June 28th, 2010 § 0 comments

The surprising truth about not doing things that don’t matter

Written by Everett Bogue | Follow me on Twitter.

A few days ago I read Glen’s post on Viperchill about how he passed 10,000 subscribers by choosing what not to do with his business.

I’ve taken a very similar approach to building my own minimalist business, so I thought I’d share what I’ve discovered.

As a benchmark for the success of these strategies: my business revenue this month broke into the low five-digits, recently this blog passed 4,000 subscribers (not quite Viperchill benchmarks, but I can’t pretend to be as brilliant as Glen), and 50,000 monthly visitors.

That being said, I don’t really pay attention, or put any stock into statistics like subscriber counts and visitors and you shouldn’t either. I’ve seen plenty of 4,000+ subscriber blogs that weren’t saying anything important or making any change in the world.

I just thought I’d share these strategies for success anyway in the hopes that it can help you grow your blogging platform as well.

Why what you don’t do is more important than what you do.

I’ve become convinced that what you don’t do with your time is a lot more important than what you decide to do with it.

Empty space in time is a lot more useful than a frantically booked schedule.

As Derek Sivers said on this blog, if you aren’t “HELL YEAH” about something, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it. Because if you don’t, you’ll have time to do something you really care about.

The reason I’m doing this is because I see a lot of people who are also building minimalist businesses who are also doing a lot of things that they don’t need to do.

The irony is that by choosing what not to do you can enjoy a lot more success than if you try to do everything.

When you run around frantically trying every strategy in the book in the hopes that something will work, inevitably nothing will actually work.

All of these strategies may not apply to you, but I hope that one or two can inspire you to save an additional 2-3 hours a week while conducting your business.

Here are 13 things that I’ve decided not to do in order grow my minimalist business.

1. Write about topics I don’t care about.

Many people create content about subjects they aren’t really passionate about. The problem with that is we can tell you don’t care, so we tune it out.

In the digital world there’s plenty of useless noise already, why should we listen to something that you’re saying but don’t care about? So we tune it out.

I decided early on with my minimalist business not to write things if I wasn’t 100% passionate about what I was saying. This means I post a lot less than other people, but it also gives me a lot of free time to do important things like sipping coffee and thinking about what I’m actually passionate about.

2. Write long responses to everyone who emails me.

As your business grows, you start to get incredibly large amounts of email. Most people choose to spend incredible amounts of time responding to all of this email, I’ve decided instead to not do that.

This frees up another 2-3 hours a day –and that’s current estimates, imagine if I had twice as many people reading and sending me emails?

I still send 1-2 sentence responses to most people (and if you get more, that’s because what you said really made me want to help you individually.) Instead of spending 2-3 hours responding to every unsolicited message, I spend my time helping people who I really care about grow their own business.

Bonus: When I first started receiving large amounts of email I added a list of requirements for people who needed to contact me on my contact form. This helped cut down the noise considerably.

3. Respond to every comment.

I decided from the start of this blog that every comment I receive doesn’t necessarily need a response.

This isn’t because I don’t care, because I really do, it’s just that when you focus all of your attention on making a relatively small pool of readers (I estimate 5%) feel appreciated, you end up spending a lot of time doing it. When you put a priority on responding to every comment, you just end up getting a lot more comments.

That’s one way of measuring success, but I personally don’t think it’s a good one. When you spend all of your time waiting around for a new comment to drop in your cue, you end up not doing important things in your life like reading books that blow your mind, creating content that matters, or simply enjoying life.

This is why A-list bloggers eventually turn off their comments, because it isn’t a necessary metric for success.

Obviously take this with a grain of salt, as many other people do build successful blogs around conversations, I’m just mentioning it here because I estimate it frees up 2-4 hours a day that I’d otherwise spend reacting. This allows me to create work that I think really helps people instead.

4. Debate topics with a non-committal devil’s advocate perspective.

Many people debate things just because they think they should, not because they really care.

For example, sometimes I see people arguing that cars are necessary to human life, even though for millions of years we didn’t have cars and millions of people do just fine without them. It just doesn’t make sense to debate that any longer, these people need to sell their cars and start making the world a better place to live in — they’re just afraid to do it, or aren’t making the easy choice to move to a walkable city.

When you take an oppositional perspective, even if it’s not what you believe, you’re mostly just wasting people’s time. Speak from what you believe, and you avoid that situation.

Try starting your argument the sentence: “I believe that…” instead of “I’m just being annoying but…” The first is a much more productive and healthier way to approach a conversation, it also makes people like you more — because it makes you more believable, as you’re talking from your heart instead of some weird hypothetical place that even you don’t care about.

There are obviously so many other opportunities to play devils advocate even if you don’t care or you aren’t right. Why argue about something even if you aren’t right? Spend that time enjoying the day instead.

5. Post twelve times a day.

Some bloggers think that in order to grow their business they need to post once a day, some even think they need to post twelve or forty times a day. This is silly, because if you post that much you end up just annoying people with information that isn’t important.

Filling quotas is filling quotas, it isn’t doing work that matters. If I don’t have something important to say that will help people, I simply don’t write anything. This means eventually I might go for weeks at a time without posting to the blog, because I have more important things to do –like taking mini-retirements.

6. Check email constantly.

There’s been a lot of debate about the idea that we need go check our email constantly in order to stay on top of things.

I made the decision to not check my email more than once or twice a day, and this frees up another hour or two that I’d spend hitting the refresh button on gmail.

By not checking email, I have additional time to create scalable works that really help people, and then I can spend the rest of my time pursuing quality free time like learning to sail on the bay, or reading books on how to live aboard a sail boat and sail around the world.

I know a lot of people disagree with me, they think that spending 8 hours a day hitting the refresh button on their email is important. I really think this is a personal choice, one that I’ve taken because it inevitably leads to my work being greater. Some people are different, other businesses are based around reaction times, to each their own.

This strategy simply works for me. If you haven’t tried it, I’d suggest giving it a shot for a week and you’ll see your ability to make work double or even triple in the same amount of time.

7. Work more than two hours a day.

Many people think that working a lot will earn them more money, but I’ve found this is the opposite of true.

Yes, I realize that some jobs pay by the hour, but I’m convinced these are designed to keep people down. When I used to work 60 hour weeks, I could barely afford to pay my bills.

When you’re super-tired you want to spend more money to make you happy, and also when you’re tired you can’t come up with ideas that create huge amounts of revenue. I realize that this isn’t a strategy that works for everyone, but working less than 2 hours a day works for me, so I do it.

Eventually I hope to scale this down to 4 hours or less of work a week as I develop more passive income sources. This will allow me to spend more time doing what is truly important to me, like cooking good food for dinner. The bonus of working less is that you can get paid more per hour.

For instance, this month I just worked out that I was paid approximately $250 per hour of my time that I spend doing real work. That doesn’t happen if you spend all day working, because productivity has diminishing returns as time goes on.

8. Write something just because it will be popular.

Many people create with the idea that it will be popular with the world. This means they end up creating something they aren’t truly passionate about, which ends up not impressing anybody. This isn’t high school anymore, you don’t need to pretend to be like everyone else.

Because the Internet destroyed all of the boundaries between people in time and space, there’s no reason to create something you aren’t 100% enthusiastic about. The funny thing is, creating junk you think will interest people generally ends up interesting no one.

9. Sit at a desk.

A lot of people think that sitting at a desk for twelve hours a day is the solution to paying the bills.

I never sit at a desk, in fact, I don’t even own one! I find all sorts of nice places to sit down at, such as many of the local coffee shops in Oakland and San Francisco. Sometimes I sit at the bar in my kitchen and work while I’m sipping coffee I just made for myself. Sometimes I even work in bed! You can’t do those things if you’re sitting at a desk under fluorescent lights.

10. Follow everyone back on Twitter.

When you start to build a popular platform for getting your message to the world, you’ll eventually start to get lots and lots of followers on Twitter.

The thing is, if you follow all of these people back, it’s impossible to hear the important stuff coming from people who matter to you.

I only follow people who I really care about on Twitter, people who are doing work that I want to read. Yes, this means that I miss out on some stuff, but instead of spending all day reading tweets (which I’d have to do if I followed everyone back.) I can focus on the work that matters.

11. Respond to angry haters.

When your work becomes more popular, if you’re saying anything important, you’ll inevitably have haters. For everything I write at least 10% of the reaction is people telling me that I’m crazy. Now, I could spend all day responding to crazy people (most of whom are wrong) who think I’m nuts, or I could get real actual work that matters done. I choose to tune out the haters and focus on the important. This strategy works for others as well.

12. Try every strategy on Problogger.

If you read popular blogs such as Problogger, you begin to realize that there are 235,654,434 different strategies for growing your blog.

You can’t try them all, or you’ll end up doing one thing every day until you die and nothing will ever work. Instead, you have to test out a few of the best strategies and stick to them until they show results (or kill them off if they don’t.)

For instance, I’ve found that guest posting doesn’t really work as a way to grow my blog. Maybe it works for you, but it hasn’t for me. I’ve found that doing Interviews is a good way to grow my blog, so that’s an approach I take. Try things out, if they don’t work don’t do them.

13. Consume unimportant information.

The Internet is filled with unimportant information that people really want you to read right now, this moment, or you’ll be missing out. Well, the thing is if you spend all day reading everything you come across on the Internet, you end up not doing anything important at all. There is infinite data out there, and you only have finite mind-space. It’s important to realize that you can only consume so much, and so you need to focus on what you’re truly interested in. Subscribe to only the blogs that really help you. Learn to stop reading things when you aren’t getting any real information.

My real goal for writing this post.

I could go on and on about how not to spend your time. In fact, I had twenty-seven more bullet points ready to go that I just deleted — because I want to save your time and mine.

The point is that building a platform for your business is about focusing your attention on what is important to you. A huge part of that is eliminating the unnecessary and focusing on the essential.

This are just a few ways that you can do that. I admit they aren’t for everyone, and some of them are very difficult to fit into a modern workflow, especially if you work for someone else.

If you find you’re doing something that takes up 2-3 hours of your day, take a moment to justify whether or not that activity is really giving your business the return on investment that you need. If it isn’t bringing in money, you might be better off not engaging in the activity.

Everyone needs to decide for themselves what is important.

Be decisive with your time, and you’ll start to find that you only need to work 10 hours or less a week to bring in the same amount of money that you do working 50 hours a week right now.

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