Wednesday, 31 October 2012

It's About Time!

Internet marketing, particularly when you're starting out, can be very time consuming, especially if you can't afford to outsource any of the work.  And, in my experience, many training courses tend to play down the amount of work that's going to be involved.  I'm not just talking here about courses on internet marketing.  When I applied to train as a counsellor, I was invited for an interview at the college.  As with every interview I've ever been to, at the end the interviewer asked me if I had any questions.  I knew that the teaching part of the course involved going to the college one day a week  but said I'd like to know how much work was required in addition.  "About half a day a week" was the reply.  Actually, it turned out to be closer to two and a half days a week and, in the last months of the course, even more.

I've noticed the same sort of trend in some internet marketing courses . . . "you can achieve this in three months working two hours a day".  Well, perhaps some people can.  But I'm equally sure that a lot of people can't.  I think there are several reasons for this . . . firstly, if you're a bit of a perfectionist, like me, you'll want to get everything 'right' before you move onto the next bit - and that, in itself, can slow the process down considerably.  Or maybe your concentration isn't that good or your environment is such that you're constantly interrupted.  Or perhaps you're so new to internet marketing that you have a lot to learn about the basics before you can even start . . . or you can't afford to invest in all the time-saving software and have to take the slower route.  Or possibly you're just disorganised and don't make the best use of your time.

Now some courses will give you a little 'extra' in the form of some sort of time management training.  I've tried a few of these . . . and they've never worked.  For me, and my lifestyle, they are far too rigid.  Yes, indeed, I can plan a timetable but when it comes to it, I can't keep to it.  There's a great line in one of the episodes of the drama series The West Wing.  Josh Lyman is asked about a typical day at the White House, where he is Deputy Chief of Staff.  He says "There's no such thing.  There's a schedule and there's a structure, to be sure.  And to a certain extent it starts out as a nine to five job.  But you can count on it being blown to hell by 9.30."   And I know just how he feels. 

Planning a timetable that's set in stone means you've got to be certain that nothing urgent is going to pop up and need attention.  It also means that you've got to have a rough idea how long each task will take.  And it means clock-watching to ensure that a session where you're working on task A doesn't overrun into time allotted to task B.  And, apart from being distracting, that can be quite annoying if task A is going well and you want to continue until you've finished it.

So I've generally ignored any suggestions of time management schemes . . . until a few weeks ago when someone recommended The Pomodoro Technique to me.  It's a remarkable book written, so I understand, by a young man who was trying to organise his university studies.  The scheme is imaginative and flexible and doesn't require clock watching and - best of all - it works!  I've been using it now for two or three weeks and have found that not only has my productivity improved but I'm also far more aware of how much time certain tasks need, and I'm managing my time very much better.

The scheme entails the use of a kitchen timer (the 'pomodoro' of the title).  Instead of this, I've downloaded a free timer to my computer.  The alarm sounds are programmable . . . so I have beautiful flute music and birdsong telling me when a working period has ended . . . what could be nicer!

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