Making Money Online Online Business Passive Income Plan Review

Improving Time Management to Improve Passive Income

While I was figuring out my passive income goals for 2010 – I went thru the tired but true exercise:

  • What went well last year?
  • What went badly?

Oddly enough – it was quite easy for me answer both questions – I think this is an important skill that being in business for yourself develops – one thing I cerainly hadn’t expected to learn while working online was to be much more aware of my own faults and weaknesses. Anyway back to the point – what went well – I haven’t had to get a real job that’s more than good! When someone asked me the other day whether  Iwas going to get a job on my return to NZ – I looked him in the eye and said, why? I made over US$4000 last month – what would I want a job for?

What went badly – well unfortunately that was equally easy to answer  my time management sucks! This is not a new development – but now my inability to focus is costing me money not just an employer! This has to stop and like now.

So what has NOT worked for me so far as time management is concerned;

  1. Public accountability – that was one of the reasons I stated this blog so that I could report and measure progress – after all I totally get about having goals and even about setting up SMART goals No the goal setting wasn’t the problem.
  2. I decided to record all the time I spent online and look at the time wasted. I found a free online time recorder system called SlimTimer that I recommend – the only problem with it was that it couldn’t tell me to turn itself on when I conveniently “forgot” for a week or two!
  3. I tried to get my head around GTD (Get Things Done) system – but frankly it seemed like  I’d have to study for a week to even get to the start – it appeared more a way of life than a way to boost productivity – I wasn’t sure that I was ready for a way of life!

Pomodoro Technique to Rescue?

Several people of a forum a frequent mentioned they had found the Pomodoro Technique helpful – even though they usually struggled with focus – sounds like me I thought –  I will give it a shot – oh and the comprehensive e-book is free – even better!

The system was developed in Italy by a guy who is now an IT Project Manager – but at the time was a student. Its well worth reading the e-book becuase it acutally explains the science behind why it works – with references eve – a slight change of pace to a lot of what you come across these dasys. Any – in essence the Pomodoro technique is:

  • start working on your first task – work on it for 25 minutes then take an approximately 5 minute break;
  • repeat until you have down 4 1/2 hour “pomodoros” (named for the kitchen timer from Italy);
  • then take a longer 20 minute break.
  • if an urgent interruption comes along (say the sudden urge to check your email) – you right it down on an urgent list and keep working. (It will either become another real pomodoro in its own right or it will be a quick task you do in a break, or you forget about it);
  • if a really urgent thing comes along – house burns down or similar – you abandon the pomodoro and have to start again with that particular pomodoro;
  • each task should be at leas 1 pomodoro (30 minutes) long – no task should be longer than 5-7 pomodoros – either group similar tasks together or split larger tasks down to fit this criteria.

My current implemenation of it looks something like this:

  • write a list of everything you need to do (I tend to work in a “this week” or “this month” list);
  • put the top priorities on today’s todo list – with a box per a pomodoro – in black – which get ticked off as I do them. If I have underestimated the time required which – I seem to do more than I realised – I re-estimate by adding more boxes in red so I can see where I under and over estimate. If I have an interurption I use a ” ‘ ” symbol to note it.
  • At the end of the day I retrospectively fill in what I did over the day using Slimtimer and tag the activities as pomodoros – meaning I can easily see just how many hours of my so-called 10 hour days  I was actually doing focussed “pomodoros” (4 or 5 at the start!)

Initially what I found that basically focussing for 1/2 an hour isn’t that hard – in fact it was a lot easier than I thought it was going to be. My issue seems to be more the time wasted in between pomodoros – but I can work on that.

Pomodoro – without the Kitchen Timer

The original is with using a tomatoe shaped wind-up kitchen timer – your grandmother may use one – I personally thought that was what the micowave was for. And in the midst of packing I certainly was not going to buy a kitchen timer! Fortunatly there is a software solution for that. Initially  ithought I wanted a silent timer  – but in some way I find the annoying ticking sound actually makes me focus – not sure if that will work long term but I have it turned  for the moment.

Options for the timer abound – I ltried Pomodeiro and FocusBooster both of which are free and run on the Adobe Air (so will work across most operating systems). Neither really deals with the reporting on the amount of work done though – or not in format I liked. There are quite a number of Pomodoro apps for Macs but the only software I found came close for Windows was PomoTime – I really like this software – again free and a very cute interface unfortunately it had a couple of major flaws for my use: only 7 items on a ToDo list a day and only one ToDo list a day.

However the developer did respond to my comments so mayit will be upgraded.

UPDATE: PomoTime has now been upraded I am using it in preference to manual method I described below – up to 12 items on the daily todo list seems to make all the difference – try it you may like – and its free!

Pomodoro without Software

So currently my sytem looks something like this:

  1. A long todo list – about a week’s worth – on paper.
  2. Daily todo list –  using the paper system described in the original Pomodoro e-book. Different colours when I underestimate tasks – which I appear to do more often than I thought…
  3. Slimitmer – to retrospectively fill in day – using tags to count tasks with pomodores – result can t rack total hours and total hours of pomodores a week

What Pomodoro Technique Has Taught Me So Far

  • not as many internal disruptions – haven’t had to cancel a pomodoro over the first few days;
  • the ticking actually seems to work! Although wish I could disable it during the breaks;
  • I badly underestimate how long keyword research and installing sites takes.

So what do you use for time management – have you heard of the Pomodoro technique before – like it? Used another technique that you’d recommend.?

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Making Money Online Online Business Passive Income Plan Review

Passive Income Goals 2010

I’ve been doing some planning – well its better than doing some work right? Although you many of you, like me, will have sat through the annual corporate planning wank – “failing to plan is a plan to fail” – in the business of making passive income online planning is a often just another way to procrastinate for many people.  After all  planning the next big thing is much more fun that getting a few more backlinks!

Passive Income Planning
Passive Income Planning

Working in IT put me off planning for a quite a long time.   I never had a plan to succeed when I starting trying to earn an online income – I didn’t have a plan at all. Which wasn’t a bad thing  – lets put it this way if you are 16 and have just decided to go to medical school – should you have a plan of which speciality you want to end up in and what income you want to be making by the time you are 30? To be honest you shouldn’t – you have no idea what life is like, haven’t met your life partner yet or had kids or not, you  don’t know any thing about medicine – you have no background knowledge to make a reasonable plan.  Ten years later you may have the basic knowledge (preference for medical speciality, costs involved and lifestyle of that particular speciality, know how much money you need to earn, have a partner or not etc) to make some sort of reasonable plan. If you don’t understand how to make money blogging or how to make money “placing google ads” (both search terms this site has been found for in the last month – I suggest you forget the big picture and go read How to Make Money with HubPages

Last week though – while I was surfing rather than working – I came across a planning post which actually sounded like it might be useful – it was over at The Art of Unconformity- Unconventional Business Goals. To be honest Chris’s business model is nothing like mine – I don’t want a book contact nor do I want to be recognised public speaker and coach. Nor do I want to go to every country in the world – for the sake of crossing it off the list!  Those are all his goals. What I like about him though is that he’s an excellent writer, and a lot more transparent about his business model than most.  His planning model made a lot of sense to me.  I took a couple of days and really thought about my goals for 2010. Now  I am still a reluctant goal setter and I certainly am not doing it for any thing else in my life apart from my business (finding nice beaches with warm water – seems to happen anyway doesn’t need a written plan!). But for my business I came up with three key goals:

Passive Income Goals 2010

  • Make a consistent  profit of US$5000/month of which at least 60% ($3000) should be from residual income websites e.g. affiliates, eBay, Amazon and Adsense
  • Develop website trading business to improve diversification of income sources
  • Develop my own products to improve diversification of income sources

I am sure someone will point out that US$5,000 is not very much – what about planning for the future blah,blah. Well I already did that – my  partner and I have property and and the (rare) winning stock picks so essentially all I am looking at doing is replacing an income not building a nest egg. I am not supporting any kids either – I’ve heard those are expansive! We own our own home. We don’t need flash cars or new clothes – though our dancing and travel habits don’t come cheap! Oh and the goal is in US$ because that is what you get paid in on the Internet – the exchange rate I can’t control – the fact that A$ has appreciated 30% against the US$ in the last year hurts – but there is  nothing I can do about it. You goals have to be within your control – I’d love to plan to win the New Zealand Ballroom Champs next year too – unfortunately that’s not in my control either (too old, too fat, not enough talent etc).

For me the most useful part of the planning exercise was what is not on the list – I spent all day thinking about and researching the market for starting a local SEO business for New Zealand small businesses – in fact if you want to go for that niche knock yourself out – you will have to educate your clients but there is hardly any competition targeting the SME sized market and at the newspapers and Yellow Page advertising rates leaves plenty of room for a profitable service which will save your clients money.   Why am I telling you this? Because I am not going to do it. The more I thought about what I value  about earning income online:

  • keep my own hours, control my  own time;
  • answerable to know one except the Google Gods;
  • dress optional

Would have been severely impacted by working for clients! The more I looked at the streams of income I did have – and matched them against my income goals – made me realise that I was nearly there – in the last five months I’ve averaged $1300/month from passive income sources. In November my actual income (including freelancing and it probably won’t hit that level for a few more months) was over US$4500 – an all time record for me and pretty much what I would make in a professional job in New Zealand. I didn’t need the distraction of starting another business, certainly not one that impacted on mycore values of being answerable to no one!

Its obvious writing it down now – but I have been thinking about the SEO thing off and on now for a year   – now I have come to a decision about it and can move on.

So – I do actually think that if you are just starting off online you don’t need a detailed business plan. )Pan to spend little to no money on gurus and a lot of time on educating yourself. Find one approach which sounds liek it might work for you – and then take action, rinse and repeat.

If however you have been in this game for a year or more – I do think you might want to take a look at Chris’s approach to planning and try out his spreadsheet  – you may be surprised at the results –  I was!

And I like the idea of  doing an annual plan for your passive income business in December not January – why?

  • December is often an outlier income-wise for many  people – looking at Dec to Nov figures rather than Jan-Dec figures will minimise the feel good/deep despair effect those Dec figures will have on you;
  • December is often a disrupted month workwise (even if you aren’t moving countries!) –  go with the flow and do a plan instead of trying to stick with the routine;
  • SEO : in January everone else will be googling “passive income goals for 2010” – or so I hope!

Check out my attempt at improving my time management to actually realise my passive income goals for 2010