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The 30-Day “Epic” Blog Post Challenge

What I’m about to lay out in this post is my plan to not only build a new blog, but set it up so that it can essentially run on “autopilot” for an entire month.

Beyond that, it’ll be a blogging experiment within the concept of “batching” – a term made popular by Tim Ferris’s “The 4-Hour Workweek,” which I have written about at some length before (back when this blog was brand new, quite awhile ago).

I’ll define it here again, just in case you’re new to it:  Batching is the act of grouping together the performance of identical or similar tasks in order to, as a whole, complete the tasks quicker and more efficiently than if each task was performed separately at different times.

Now, let’s get into some more specifics.

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The Art of Batching Niche Site Creation

I discussed this briefly in my last AdSense case study post, but I wanted to dive into a little bit more detail. Batching is a familiar concept to many of you, especially those who have read The 4-Hour Workweek.  Tim Ferriss references it constantly.  For those who don’t know or remember, batching is a productivity technique that essentially helps you work more efficiently.  Here’s a more technical definition:

Batching: The act of grouping together the performance of identical or similar tasks in order to, as a whole, complete the tasks quicker and more efficiently than if each task was performed separately at different times.

Naturally, I had to ask myself: “How can I apply this concept to niche site creation?”

Read more…

Batching & Automation Challenge, Day 12: Recorded Phone Menus with Fonolo.com (Review)

Fonolo Logo

[See previous days of the challenge]

Dealing with a series of phone menus and waiting on hold isn’t something I encounter on a daily basis, but wouldn’t it be nice to automate this annoying process?  Fortunately, a service (FREE!) exists for this.  That service is called Fonolo.

What Fonolo does for you is pretty simple: You set it up to call a company (I recently tried it for calling AT&T), it gets you to the point in the menu where you actually speak to a real person, and then it calls you to connect.  Here’s a simple graphical depiction of the service from their website:

Other things you might want to know about it:

  • They have tons of businesses in their system that you can use this service for (you can search for them here)
  • You can use it with any phone (but they also have an iPhone app).
  • Yes, it’s completely free.
  • You can store account numbers with Fonolo, so that when you’re prompted to type it in, you already have it ready for Fonolo to input.
  • Fonolo creates a detailed call history for each company, with notes and recordings so that you can go back to your call later.

It may not be something you use often, but it’s definitely nice to have something like this in your online “tool kit” so to speak.

Time Savings

Going through phone recording menus and waiting on hold isn’t something I do on a regular basis, so I won’t attempt to quantify the time savings.

Batching & Automation Challenge, Day 11: Social Networking

[Introduction to the Challenge] [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8] [Day 9] [Day 10]

This post is somewhat connected to my previous post about batching your distractions.  Over the past decade, social networking has consumed the world.  If I had to pick one thing that people “waste” the most time on, it wouldn’t be watching TV.  It wouldn’t be playing video games.  It’s social networking. 

Arguably, it’s not a waste of time.  Social networking has a lot of great benefits to a wide range of people all over the world.  Its professional uses are absolutely valuable (especially with sites like LinkedIn), and it can probably be credited with keeping many friends and family connected when they otherwise would have lost touch.  There’s no doubt it’s a powerful element of our society today.

You don’t need me to explain the prevalence of social networking – you were probably on Facebook before you read this blog post, and are probably heading to Twitter afterward.  Let’s dive into what I’m batching today.

Because keeping up with social networking can be very time consuming if you’re a part of multiple networks/sites, there’s a great piece of free software available that you may already be familiar with:  TweetDeck.  No, it isn’t just for Twitter.  TweetDeck connects with your accounts at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn to allow you to see and post updates all from one platform.  This completely eliminates the need to constantly check multiple websites.

If you’re a nerd like me, you have two or more computer monitors.  This is a great program to keep open on your second monitor.  I’m still not sure if this is more of a distraction than a time-saver though.  In addition to TweetDeck’s desktop application, they also support the iPhone and iPad.

Could this possibly cause me to interact more with social networking sites?  Either way, I’m excited about the ability to batch the social networking sites that I frequent the most. 

Time Savings

  • Estimated time spent checking multiple social networking sites separately: 45 minutes/day (5.25 hours/week)
  • Estimated time spent with TweetDeck, batching my social networking sites: 30 minutes/day (3.5 hours/week)
  • Monthly time savings: 6-7 hours

Batching & Automation Challenge, Day 10: Distractions

[Introduction to the Challenge] [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8] [Day 9]

Distractions are a bad thing.  Why would we try to batch them?  Why not just eliminate them?  It’s a nice thought, but it’s not realistic.  I’ve covered distractions and time wasters to some extent in the past (here, here, and here), but I’ve always focused on how to minimize or attempt to eliminate them.

Before you can tackle this batching task, you need to first identify your daily distractions.  We usually think of distractions as negative things, but you’ll see that they are often things we enjoy.  A distraction, for our purposes, is something that impedes the completion of a task, however large or small.  Here are my typical, daily distractions:

  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • Non-work related instant messaging
  • Work related instant messaging
  • Checking the statistics of my website
  • Reading blogs on my Google Reader
  • Checking on my fantasy baseball teams
  • Checking sports scores
  • Checking e-mail
  • Thinking of random business ideas that haven’t gone anywhere yet
  • Talking to people I like
  • Talking to people I don’t like

There’s probably a lot more that I’m not thinking of.

What can we do to minimize the negative impact on productivity that results from the above distractions?  Batch them and schedule them.  It’s simple, and I think it could be effective.  Instead of checking random websites throughout the day or walking around talking to people randomly, pick a time later in the day.  The reason you’ll pick a time later in the day is because people are generally less productive (you’re tired, you’re watching the clock waiting to go home, etc.).  We’ll say… 3:00-4:00.

Before you kill me for suggesting that you don’t work for an entire hour in the afternoon, think about it.  When you’re distracted by something during the day, how much of your time does it take?  You walk around to talk to people – 10 minutes.  You read an article online – another 10 minutes.   Each of these mini-breaks add up, and before you know it, you’ve probably killed an hour easily.  The downside here is that you’re putting down work and picking it back up so much more frequently.  Any kind of efficient groove you get yourself into is promptly thwarted by your distraction.

By batching your distractions and scheduling them, you’re less tempted to let yourself get distracted at random points during the day.  If at 2:00 you have the urge to read Facebook, you hold off, knowing that in an hour, you are allowing yourself to do it.

It doesn’t need to be a rigid system though.  If you “schedule” your distractions for 3:00 and for some reason something comes up, you just push it back.  It’s not like any of these distractions were urgent anyway.

Tip: If you find that you’re really into scheduling your batch of distractions and you work in an environment that uses shared calendars (via Outlook or Google, for meetings, etc.), block off the hour on your calendar so that no one can schedule meetings with you during that time.  It may seem a little ridiculous, but if it keeps you from being distracted throughout the rest of the day, it’s adds value to your productivity.

Time Savings
I don’t think it’s easy to really calculate time savings on distractions.  Some days you’re really busy and barely have 10 minutes for a distraction, while other days you can’t focus and seem to spend the entire day distracted.

  • Estimated time spent with distractions throughout the day: 1.5 hours/day (7.5 hours/week)
  • Estimated time spent with batched and scheduled distractions: 1 hour/day (5 hours/week)
  • Monthly time savings: 5-10 hours (wide range because this one is difficult to measure)

If you haven’t done so yet, please remember to answer my polling question on the top right side of the site! —>

      Batching & Automation Challenge, Day 9: Blog Posting

      [Introduction to the Challenge] [Day 1] [Day 2] [Day 3] [Day 4] [Day 5] [Day 6] [Day 7] [Day 8]

      Something I’ve struggled with recently, as you may have noticed, is blog post frequency.  This is mostly a function of my work schedule (which looks like I probably only have 1 more week of being extremely busy).  However, I do think there’s a partial way around not having enough time to make daily blog posts.

      Blogging platforms such as Blogger (what I currently use) and WordPress (what I plan to move to within the next month) allow you write posts and schedule them to be published at a later time and date.  If I take a typical Sunday night where I might have a bit of free time to blog, I generally think about what my next day’s post will be, even if I already have my next three days in mind and have the time to write them.  What winds up happening is that I write Monday’s post on Sunday, and then don’t get to my other ideas until later in the week, or possibly the next weekend if I’m as busy as I am now.

      To counter this issue, I can batch and automate blog posting.  If I have the time write three blog posts on a Sunday night, I should do them all at once, and schedule them to automatically post on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. 

      Time Savings

      I don’t know if batching my writing saves me much time, but it sure will help to increase my post frequency by forcing me to write more when I have time, which saves me from the days where I simply don’t have the time.  I think there are probably some efficiencies gained by writing in batches, but I also think there are benefits to writing something, putting it down for a few hours or a day, and then picking it back up later to reread before posting.  I’m not out to sacrifice quality for quantity, so I’ll have to play with this idea and see if it’s actually helpful.



      The owner of this website, Eric, is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking http://www.my4hrworkweek.com to Amazon properties including, but not limited to, amazon.com, endless.com, myhabit.com, smallparts.com, or amazonwireless.com.

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