2 Tools That Will Dramatically Improve Your Productivity


Headshot Dan

This is a guest post from Dan Thompson about a couple of powerful topics: Goals & Asana. I was excited when Dan pitched the idea for this post because I am an avid Asana user.

People may argue that setting goals is not really a tool – perhaps it’s not in the traditional sense. But the technique that Dan outlines helps you do a particular task…which is the definition of a tool. Plus, the approach below is more sophisticated than generic goal-setting.

Dan Thompson is affiliate marketer and local SEO consultant. Earlier this year, he wrote an article about local SEO on Matt Woodward’s blog that was the most popular post in January.

You can get at Dan on Twitter @MyLocalSEO1 or Google+.

“In The Beginning You Need to Build Traction, Not Systems.”

Creating traction requires a great deal of attention to detail, a willingness to hustle, patience and a bit of luck.

If you’re one of the few who has managed to grab any amount of traction the next step, which is equally as difficult, is achieving scale.

Today I want to talk to those who have earned a little bit of money but haven’t been able to take the next step.

If you’re still grinding out your first dollar, stop reading this. Bookmark this page, come back to it later. Instead of reading this take action. Do something that will push you one step closer to earning your first dollar.

You need to be in Maker Mode.

What You Will Learn

  • How To Break Your Year Down Into Manageable Sizes
  • Why You Should Use Asana
  • How Asana Can Turn You Into a Proactive, Productive Machine

A Very Brief Background

Like many, I started my online journey while I still had a full time gig. My dedication waxed and waned, ebbed and flowed.

I was lucky in that I picked a good niche that was growing.

When I started in November 2013 my main keyword had ~ 1000 searches per month, today it’s searched 2,400 times per month. Plus, it happened to be a term that converted like a boss.

It never earned outrageous commissions like Doug’s niche site, but it did earn $500-$1000/month for 12 months. I’ve since sold it, and started a new site on the same topic.

Since the end of 2013, I’ve built a dozen niche sites. I started and stopped building a domain finding business, I tried building pure spam sites, I’ve sold physical products on Amazon and I’ve worked for small businesses.

Today most of my energy goes into building a client based global and local SEO business. Building niche sites is virtually on autopilot.

Our business, which includes all of our online endeavors, recently eclipsed $5k/month in revenue. Really it isn’t that impressive, the part that is excites me, is we’ve doubled our revenue in six short months.

The key for us has been breaking down the year into 90-day sprints and understanding that you can’t scale without systems.

The 90-Day Year

This isn’t a concept I came up with; I borrowed it from Todd Herman, a life coach.

The reason why most of us will never take our online endeavors to the next level is because we’re piss poor at goal setting, which inevitably leads to failure. For most of us, our goal setting fails because we get our crystal ball out and try to look too far into the future.

Writing down goals for the year is terrific but what happens when life gets busy? You lose focus and motivation.

So how can we fix this? How can we make it so the same fire burns on the first of May that did in the early stages of January? We break our year down into a time frame our psyche can relate to: 90 days.

Grab a pen and paper.

List out the MOST important projects that you believe will help take your business or site to the next level. I’d recommend listing out 10 to 20. My list covered everything from client acquisition, to organizing my accounting.

Don’t over think this. Write down every project that comes to mind.

If you’re building a niche or authority site this might include goals for outreach campaigns, connecting with influencers, experimenting with paid traffic or creating automated systems.

Once you’ve exhausted your brain narrow that list down to 2-5 projects. This is your North Star for the next 90 days.

Honesty and ambition should guide your decision.

Pick the projects that you honestly believe will propel your site to the next level. I expect that ONE of those tasks will make you a little bit uncomfortable.

Pick your projects ambitiously. By focusing on a handful of major projects you’ll be able to tackle the more challenging ones.

Asana: The Ultimate Tool for To-Do List Junkies

Asana To Do List

I have dozens of notebooks full of to-do lists. I still prefer pencil and paper for my daily to do list, but all of the tasks, which contribute to our North Star projects, get entered into Asana.

I love Asana for two reasons:

1) It keeps us accountable. Both my business partner and myself can see our schedules and how they relate to achieving our 90-day goals.

2) You can see past progress. It’s easy to lose track of the smaller, day-to-day accomplishments when you’re focusing on a revenue target or some other larger goal.

A Concrete Example:

One of our projects for our first year (January 1st to March 31st) is to build systems that will automate building and ranking affiliate sites.

You have your project, you have your due date. Now we need to build in the tasks and the associated sub-tasks.

Site Setup – Standard Operating Procedures

  • Logo Design
  • About Page
  • Contact Us Page
  • Install Theme
  • Install Plugins
  • Add a writer login

Hire A Writer – Standard Operating Procedures

  • Point One
  • Point Two

Content Guidelines – Money Site Writer

  • Point One
  • Point Two

I’ll work backwards from March 31st filling in my calendar with each project and sub-tasks.

Visually, it helps to see what critical tasks I have assigned for each week. If you go through this process and find your calendar is jam packed, consider removing one project from the first year.

Asana Current Calender

The Calendar View Makes It Easy To Move Tasks Around


Obviously those two bullet points alone aren’t world-beaters. We could just as easily use Google Calendar to track your schedule or create to-do lists.

Asana: The Ultimate Roadmap Tool

If you’re building niche sites, you can create a template and repeatedly use that template over and over again. For instance, this is a niche site project we have scheduled for April.

Task and Sub Tasks

Our Road Map For Niche Sites

Asana: Team Communication

We also frequently use Asana to communicate with our VAs or to jot down notes about a certain project. For instance, during our last 90-day brain dump we decided we should get feedback from clients via surveys.

Into Asana it went with a brief description. If the project is larger you can have on-going discussions about it. In this case I just made a quick note to my business partner to PDF the surveys.

I’ve used Asana to communicate with writers that certain articles need to be edited.

My preference for discussion is Skype, but as we grow it’s vital we become less reliant on Skype. Skype usually requires a 5-10 minute break often time interrupting work flow.

How Asana Turns You Into A Proactive Maker Mode Beast

If the majority of your time is spent reacting or in meetings this exercise will be extremely beneficial.

Everyone has tips on how to create more space in your schedule.

Tim Ferris suggests batching projects.

James Clear suggests not reading e-mails before noon.

Neil Patel suggests keeping your schedule light.

These are all strategies to be proactive. When you’re proactive it’s almost impossible to not be in Maker Mode.

When you’re goal setting or creating to-do lists the best version of yourself shows up. The guy that is going to work out 235 times this year. The gal that is determined to learn Español.

By clearly defining the projects, limiting yourself to 90 days all while tracking progress through Asana I guarantee you’ll spend WAY more time in Proactive Maker Mode.

When this becomes extremely powerful is when you begin to scale. If you’re building one or two niche sites you probably don’t need Asana (the 90-day year is still extremely applicable).

When you’re ambitiously building several sites a month or you’re trying to build two authority sites while maintaining a full time job being hyper productive is essential.

Wrapping It Up

Be careful that you’re not subtracting through addition. We all have a finite number of hours and ultimately if a tool isn’t making you more productive you shouldn’t be using that tool.
Six months ago I didn’t need Asana, today it’s a vital part of my running my business.

What project management tools have you tried?

Would you recommend any or do you still prefer excel + Google?

Thanks for the great post, Dan. It is super motivating!

I think mapping out all your projects, thoughts, & ideas is ultra important. It forces you to put thought into your ideas and writing them down makes them permanent so you can analyze them.

You can prioritize them.

That allows you to take action on some of them and you can allow others to wait for their time in the spotlight.

Using Asana is another matter…If the right team is using Asana, then it can streamline your project workflow. It can get you out of your inbox and allow a team to collaborate effectively.

For other people, a new tool like Asana can be a distraction in the form of shiny-object-syndrome. Click here to see my thoughts on Asana…

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