How You Can Remain Productive Despite Distractions

In order to better understand how to de-clutter your life, I spoke to Tina Sue, Founder and CEO of Simple Life Media, where she leads a team of fifteen people, focusing on various blog categories including couponing & women, entertainment and personal development. Her current project is “Free Stuff Finder“, where she blogs about her obsessive-compulsive couponing as a mom of two children. The site is read by over one million people every month, has over 100,000 followers on Instagram and 500,000 Facebook fans. In this brief interview, Tina talks about her tips for remaining productive, things that could get in your way from focusing on the project at hand and more.

Dan Schawbel: How do you remain so productive with everything that you do?

Tina Sue: I don’t read the news, watch TV, or spend a lot of time on Facebook so that helps tremendously!

I’m not as productive as I would like to be, but I’m trying. I’m a student of productivity and have used a lot of different techniques. I tend to cycle between techniques based on what’s currently happening in my business.

Here are some tips I use:

  • I schedule everything. If something needs to be done, it’s in the calendar and I force myself to get it done. If it’s not scheduled it’s not real.
  • Everything that I do that’s repeated, I document. So that I can eventually hand that off to someone, or so you have something to reference for yourself such that you can finish it faster next time.
  • When I had more of a project based business, I would take one to three top tasks from the most important project I was working on, and finish those first in the day, before checking email or doing anything else.
  • “Eat the Frog” – Do the thing that you’ve been putting off. There’s a great book of the same title.
  • Write everything down so it’s out of my brain.
  • Close all your browser tabs at the end of every work day, so that when you start in the morning, you start on a clean slate. This is a productivity tip from my friend Derek Sivers. I didn’t believe him until I tried.

Schawbel: What are some things that get in the way of your productivity and how do you handle them?

Sue: My business is in a stage that requires a lot of juggling, and it changes from day to day. It makes it hard to plan. But you learn to adapt. I’ve found helpful to hire dependable people, get a fast computer, and setting up multiple monitors will do wonders. I just recently got two monitors and I’m in love with the additional screen real-estate.

Schawbel: How do you measure productivity? How do you know if you’re being productive or just wasting time?

Sue: I measure productivity by whether or not I’ve reached my goal. When it come to business, I measure my productivity not by how many items I’ve crossed off my list, but by revenue, web site traffic and other key metrics that are important to my business.

Schawbel: To be really successful in business is it necessary to work long hours? Why or why not?

Sue: Sometimes. To be honest, no successful businesses were started by working owners who worked just a few hours a week, unless you had a lot of capital to hire a lot of help. When you’re starting a business, you end up wearing a lot of hats and sometimes you can’t help to work long hours.

It also depends on your definition of what really successful means. To some people, really successful means you start a business that meets your monthly needs and allows you to quit your day job. For others, it could mean building a $10 million company. Those two goals will require different amounts of work and focus.

I could get to the “Quit my job” goal without working long hours. But I don’t think I could get to the second goal without working long hours, at least for some range of time in the life time of that business.

I think that no one will care about your business as much as you. I also believe that really successful businesses require a level of obsession and focus. And that usually translates to some long hours.

Also businesses go in cycles as they grow. I’m currently in a cycle in my business where I am understaffed, and hiring massively. As a result, I’m working long hours. But it must be done. I do have the choice to not work long hours, but then I wouldn’t get to my goals as quick. It’s a trade off.

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Dan Schawbel

Dan Schawbel is the managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and management consulting firm. His new book, a New York Times best seller, is called Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin's Press) and his previous book, Me 2.0, was a #1 international bestseller.

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  • Nicole Bandes

    One of my best tips for remaining productive despite distractions is to plan buffer time. If you make a point of adding buffer time, it is there if you need it and bonus free time if you don’t.

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