5 Ways to be Productive During Holiday Down Time

SEOs are an intrinsically disorganized bunch. By our very nature we’re constantly taking in information from a thousand different places at once. It’s what makes us good at our job, but it also means that we’re very easily distracted by, oh wait someone posted a link to a something on oatmeal.

Where was I?

The point is that if we were as good at optimizing our time as we are at optimizing websites, we could all be working a three day week by now.

Now there’s no better time for random procrastination than the holiday season. Clients want to wind down, new business all but grinds to a halt, and we all start doing really “useful” things like cleaning out the stationary cupboard. Well not this year!

Here are five things you can work on over the holiday season that will change how you work next year, saving you time and making you money.

Stop Filing Emails

Here’s what happens when you go to put an email in your clever fancy email filing system


And that’s how you end up with 10,000 emails in your inbox and a feeling of email dread.

Here’s my solution


Yes, you heard me. You need one folder, just 1 – it’s called archive. When you’ve finished a piece of work, you dump your email straight into archive.

I can hear the buts already. “But you’ll never find things again!” Think again!

When you want to find something, just search for it, I’ve been doing this for more than 7 years and I can, without fail, locate an email faster than anyone else, I’m the go-to person for lost emails. To give you a little head start, here’s the full list of Gmail advanced search operators.

Still not convinced? Let me ram the point home: if it takes you 30 seconds to locate the right folder and file your email, and with my method it takes just 10 seconds, someone receiving 50 emails a day could save more than 100 hours a year – that could add up to a 2 week vacation! Convinced now?

Install Rescue Time and Go Pro!

If you don’t make back way more than the $79 dollars you spend on in 1 month it, let me know, because if you’re that productive you really don’t need to be reading this article

RescueTime is like having your better self watching over your normal, in need of coffee and having too much fun on Twitter self. There’s nothing more sobering than sitting working at 8 p.m. on a Friday night then looking at a log of what you’ve done all week and seeing that you’ve spent 20 hours doing sweet Fanny Adams (American translation: nothing).

It allows you to rate how productive an item is, so say browsing Twitter might be less unproductive than doing the Cosmo online quizzes (I could deny it, but I won’t), and averages out how you performed, it will even tell you how productive you are compared to most people, which is a real confidence boost when you know you’re doing well.

If you go pro, you can also set alerts to tell you when you’ve wasted a little too much time, based on your specifications. But don’t be too hard on yourself and make sure you set reasonable expectations or you’ll just get annoyed and turn the alerts off

Finally, and this is the bit I really love, when you absolutely have to get something done, you can set it to block certain distracting sites (again you say which) for a period of time. Until I did this I never realized how many times I visited Twitter without even noticing I was doing it. Scary!

Get Your Clients In Line

You may or may not need this one, here’s a quick test:

  • Do you send out invoices at odd times of the month?
  • Do your client reports take more than a day to do?
  • Do you ever get accused of saying you’re going to do something on the phone that you have no recollection of?

If you answered yes to any of those, it’s time to get your clients in line.

This is a great time of year to email clients and inform them of the new, better ways you’re going to work with them. Change all billing to the 1st and 15th monthly; refine your reporting and automate where possible; and get your calls recorded and transcribed into nice little follow up documents that you can email to clients, avoiding confusion and missed deadlines.

Now is the time to implement any other changes you have that could make your life easier. While you’re at it, why not ask your clients for some feedback on what they would like too? It’s always a winner.

Write Your Own SEO Handbook

No two SEOs work the exact same way, often even within the same agency, and clients often have their own, usually outdated, ideas about what SEO is. Providing clients with information about how you work and what you expect from them up front is essential, but you can also cut out a lot of the back and forth and explaining things 5 times over.

Tell clients your philosophy, and why you work that way. Explain why you’re not going to do ranking reports, or why you insist on having direct communication with their developer. Whatever it is, however you work, create an upfront way of presenting it to your clients, and refer back to it regularly. You’ll have them trained in no time.

Plan Your Perfect Year

It may sound cheesy, but trust me, it’s worth it and no one need ever see but you.

Write down what your next year looks like – clients you want to have, things you want to do in your free time, holidays you want to take, what your average day looks like – spend some time on it, dream a little but be realistic, think about what clients you could do a great job for as well as ones you think you would enjoy working with.

Once you have your story perfect version of you for next year, figure out what you need to do to get there, and do it, start thinking about how you’re going to make those changes and set to making them.

I also like to write a short version and put it somewhere where I will see it often, but not too often. I need it to pop up around March when I’ve forgotten all about it and need a reminder, For me, that means taping it under a random tin of soup (my cupboard is full of soup, which I rarely eat but it always seems like a great idea when I’m at the supermarket). Figure out when you need reminding and place it accordingly, you’ll be thanking me later in the year!

If all of that sounds like just too much hard work, and let’s face it, you’ve worked hard this year and probably deserve the break, here’s a site with origami Christmas ornaments that you can make while you clean out that stationary cupboard. Have fun!

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