Back in 2013 the founder of this blog, Darren Rowse, tweeted a question asking Problogger followers to share the biggest challenge that they face as a blogger. I think the majority of us can guess what the most common challenge was. You guessed it! It was time, or more specifically: finding time to blog or having enough time to blog.
I am sure Darren could ask this question again in 2017 and he would gain a similar response. Do a quick search for “time management tips for bloggers” and you could spend days reading about tips on how to get more done in your blogging day.
While these types of time management tips can certainly help, they will only get you so far. To truly increase your productivity you need to really understand what you are working towards, that is – what is your goal?
Goal-setting is a key tool to increase productivity and there are numerous studies to show the significant impact goal setting can have. This study by Asmus, Karl,Mohnen and Reinhart found:
“even without financial incentives goal-setting improves worker performance by 12 to 15% compared to the situation where no goals were defined.”
But there is more to it than just setting a goal and wishing for the best. Edwin A Locke, who is frequently referred to as one of the godfathers of goal setting, summarised 30 years of research by himself and others in a paper called Motivation through conscious goal setting, and it provides excellent advice on how we can set goals to increase our productivity.
The more difficult the goal, the greater the achievement.
When setting a goal for yourself, we have all heard the advice of making it achievable and this is something I also agree with. However it can be very easy to set a goal that is achievable and doesn’t actually challenge us. Under those circumstances there is not necessarily any pressure to work as productively as we are capable of.
Setting a goal that is achievable but difficult pushes us to focus our attention on the goal, minimise distractions and look for the most efficient ways to complete our tasks. It is similar to Parkison’s Law which states “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”.
The more specific or explicit the goal, the more precisely performance is regulated.
To be able to impact positively on your productivity your goal needs to be specific and clear. A specific goal can be your decision-making framework; helping you determine where you allocate the time you do have available for blogging.
You may have a goal to “write an e-book in 2017” which will tick the first box in being achievable, but it needs further definition to add specificity and clarity. The goal could instead be framed as “write for the first hour of each work day to complete my e-book by June 2017”.
A goal framed in this way not only tells you what your want the output to be, but it tells you how to do it. So many of us lose time each day procrastinating over what to start work on, losing precious minutes deciding what to do. With a goal like this, your decision is made for you and you can just get to work.
Commitment to goals is most critical, when goals are specific and difficult.
Stating your goal isn’t enough to ensure you will work efficiently towards it, you need to be fully committed to your goal, especially if it is going to be a challenge. Your goal will need to align with your values and be something that you consider to be of worth to work on.
If you are simply choosing a goal like writing an e-book or launching a podcast because that is the current trend in the blogosphere, your commitment to it may not be strong enough to get you through the hard slog it will take to achieve your goal. We are also far more likely to procrastinate and become distracted by social media or urgent but not important tasks, if we are not committed to our chosen goal, which dramatically reduces productivity.
Goal setting is most effective when there is feedback
When you set a goal that is measurable, you will be able to obtain feedback along the way as to how you are progressing. Setting up a tracking and review process so you can monitor the feedback can motivate you to alter your work practices as needed.
In the example of writing an e-book, creating a simple spreadsheet to track how many words you write in each one-hour session and dot point notes on the quality, surroundings, mood of the session etc, can help you track how productive you have been.
You can use trends observed through this to increase your productivity. You may see that your best sessions occur when you work offline, with headphones on and coffee in hand. Replicating your best working conditions each day would be one easy way to increase your output.
Goals stimulate planning
Planning isn’t something that comes naturally to all bloggers, but if you have set yourself a challenging goal, there is a consequential pull to start planning how you will achieve it. With a plan in had to act upon, you will always be more productive than running blind.
Breaking down a sizeable project into work duration chunks will prevent the feeling of overwhelm that can come with a challenge goal. If you have allocated time on an hourly basis to your goal like in this example, break the work down into hourly chunks. This can become your plan you work to each day, saving you time as you know exactly what task you have to complete in your allotted time.
Have you set a goal for 2017?
By ProBlogger Expert Nicole Avery of Planning With Kids.