Productivity is the sometimes elusive, but always sough after skill people want to develop. When you work for yourself, as we do in affiliate marketing, productivity is not just something to shoot for…it's an essential skill to develop.

Being ‘productive' can mean the difference between just earning a living online and becoming a big player. With a few tweaks and enough self discipline, anyone can increase their earnings and sometimes even lower their workload in the process.

Before I get into the meat of this post I just want to clarify what I mean by productivity. I don't mean developing some plan to work more hours, or pull off a string of 20 hour work days. I'm talking about organizing your workflow so you can get more done in a shorter amount of time. This whole idea of ‘grinding' 24 hours a day sounds cool, but in reality I can guarantee anyone that works even 15 hours a day is usually not that productive. I hope to show you how to get more done in 5 hours than an average affiliate does in 15.

Step 1 – treat this as a job

This is one that I admit to struggling with. In a perfect world, I would stick to a schedule and to-do list day in and day out. This sounds easy in theory, but is harder to implement because one of the things we like about online marketing is not being held to a schedule. Really, this is just something we have to get over. Start out by blocking out your work and some personal time. This doesn't have to be super rigid at first, just get in the habit of some sort of routine. Humans need some amount of structure in their lives, and when your working for yourself this task is up to you.

Step 2 – Start using lists

I am a huge fan of to-do lists. I find I work much faster and efficiently if I make one each night for the next day. This could be done with something as simple as pen and paper, but there are some tools I like to use;

Evernote – Much more than a to do list, I use this for organizing notes, ideas, projects and more.

Workflowy – A cool free list program that works on kind of a tree structure.

Mind mapping is something I have never really got into, but some people swear by it. A couple programs to check out are;

Bubbl

Free Mind

Xmind

What I do is make a list as my last task of the day, for what I want to accomplish tomorrow. Super easy, and it really helps.

Step 3 – Goof off, but only a little

How much time do you spend chatting, checking starts, email, Facebook, or reading forums and blogs? If you're like 95% of affiliates its way too much. Still, that stuff is important but most of us do it way too much. Most of us would benefit from making some rules for these tasks. When your making your schedule to check these things, keep in mind why your doing it, what your getting out of it, and how important it really is.

You could make a schedule and reasoning along these lines;

– I will check my email once in the morning and once at night. The world isn't going to end if I don't check it for 8 hours.

– I'll browse Facebook once while I have my morning coffee…I really just want to read people stupid statuses a little, anything beyond that is a waste of time.

– Depending on my campaigns, I won't check stats all day. Your not going to increase your conversions no matter how much you reload the page.

– I will take an hour or two once a week to read through my favorite blogs. Nobody is going to write some super $1m secret your going to miss out on, I promise.

– I'll actually turn on and off my chat. Not just go invisible, which leads to ‘ well, I'll only answer it if so and so messages me'. Honestly, the biggest affiliates usually do not use an instant messenger, read forums, blogs, etc.

You can also use some tools for some extra help staying on task. A couple to check out are;

Leech Block (FF Extension)

Concentrate – For Mac

Step 4 – Stop Multitasking

Multitasking is one of the worst things you can do as an affiliate. As productive as it sounds, it's the exact opposite. Things like having multiple monitors seems great because you can have more programs or windows open, but all it really does is dilute your focus and attention. Most people just have chat or social media sites open in their second monitor anyway. Some people won't agree with me on this, but try it for a few weeks and see what you think.

Focus on one task at a time. You'll find you work faster, and with greater accuracy than if you try to do two things at the same time.

Step 5 – Further reading

Check out this blog post from Zen Habits about productivity, really good stuff.

Read about the Pomodoro technique

The 2nd part of this post, I'm going to share some gadgets, supplements, and other goodies for even greater productivity.