Note: I wrote this post for aspiring affiliate marketers and those who want to make money online, but the lesson applies equally well to working on fiction writing.
Becoming an affiliate marketer has tremendous upsides: You are your own boss, you keep all your earnings, and you get to spend your time and energy on your hobbies and passions. But with those benefits comes a terrible cost: Your new freedom makes it easy to procrastinate on getting your work done.
This is not a problem unique to affiliate marketing, but it is particularly prevalent for us Internet entrepreneurs because we have no boss to hold us in check and, in general, if we skip a day, there are no concrete or immediate consequences.
One of the most important keys to achieving massive financial success as an affiliate marketer is learning how to get work done every day without any of the usual incentives. For most, this means getting writing done each day—to get traffic to your website and sales on your affiliate products, you need to create written content consistently.
Part of the beauty of getting work done consistently is that you will stop stressing about your procrastination, and when you enjoy other parts of your life and your day you get to do so guilt-free, because you are already getting your work done.
I am here to help you relearn how to get work done as an affiliate marketer. Here’s the first and most important lesson I learned for being a productive affiliate marketer:
Set a schedule, not a deadline.
Most of us, when we start out, set goals in the form of deadlines:
- I will get 1,000 daily visitors by November 3rd.
- I will get 100 product reviews written this year.
- I will make $5,000 within 100 days.
At first glance, these look like legitimate goals. If I want 10,000 daily visitors by November 3rd, I just need to put in the right amount of work to get that done…right?
Wrong. I do not know how much work that is. I have no plan for when I will get that work done, and I will end up putting in an hour here and there until it’s November 3rd and I’ve not even gotten 1,000 visitors total since I started.
The key to long-term success is consistent daily work. Though writing 400 words of an article every day is unsexy and seems unimpressive, that will amount to 120 standard-length articles in the next year. (For comparison, you are 400 words into this post already.) 120 webpages drawing traffic, generating readership, and leading to affiliate sales, all from at most half an hour of work a day.
My point is not that you should only work half an hour a day, but rather that the goal I will work for 30 minutes each morning is massively more effective and useful than any of the above deadlines.
The first step of taking control of your work life is choosing a time and a place to get a reasonable, achievable amount of work done. It is important that the time you do your work be both consistent—the same time very day—and in the morning. There are a couple reasons for this: The morning is when the majority of people have the most motivation and the most energy; and the rest of the day is easy and enjoyable when you have already accomplished the most important work in your day.
Picture these two scenarios:
- You wake up. Tonight, you have to write 1,000 words of an article on refrigerators. For the next 12 hours, you are free to do whatever you want. You go buy groceries, make some food, go walk your dog, watch some TV…and all along tonight’s work weighs on you. Until night comes, you know you haven’t accomplished anything with your day. Finally, the time comes to write, and you are tired. You want to sit down, play a video game, and then go to sleep. Or…
- You wake up. You grab a cup of coffee or water, and sit at your desk. You have your Word document already open, because you left it open last night. After disconnecting your Internet, you start writing, and you only stop once you hit 1,000 words. Then you make breakfast and do whatever you want the rest of the day, and all the while you know that even if you do nothing else with your day, you will have gotten your most important work done, and made tangible progress on your goals.
I have lived both of these lives, and the latter makes me far, far happier and lets me get a ton more done. Even if I don’t spend several hours on any given day getting writing done, I get 1,000-1,500 words done in the morning, and the rest of the day I have a proverbial skip in my step knowing that I am making real progress.
And it is so much easier to get work done right in the morning. If you aren’t used to it, the first week might be a bit tough—you may end up negotiating with yourself, saying “I’ll write in two hours, and I’ll write an extra 200 words”, but if you are willing to postpone your work past the beginning of the day, your willpower is just going to keep decreasing over the course of the day and you won’t end up writing at all. And then the next day you won’t be in the habit of starting work in the morning, so you just won’t even try.
This is why I recommend living your work life by a guideline: Never miss two consecutive days. One day of not writing is an abnormality, an irrelevant data point in a life of work. Two days starts a pattern, though, and turns far too easily into three days.
The second step to gaining control over your work life is to recognize the power of slow, steady progress. Even so little as 500 words a day is two full articles a week, and over a hundred in a year—and 500 words in a day is easily achievable. Meanwhile, if you try to get two articles a week done by writing 4,000 words every Friday and nothing the other six days…your Fridays are going to be super hard, the writing quality will likely be pretty low, and you will come to dread Fridays.
As author James Clear likes to say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. Lay the bricks for your work every day, and that consistent progress truly will accumulate to become much more massive than you would expect.
The longest essay I ever wrote for school was about 12,000 words long. I spent two days on it, 6,000 words each day plus research and revising, and the entire next week I was practically comatose from exhaustion.
In contrast, one summer I wrote an 80,000 word book in two months, and it still surprises me that I did that. But I was able to because I only made myself write 1,300 words a day, which took me about an hour every morning. That was not a busy summer, but it was a productive one.
The third and final step to taking control of your work life is to make your daily morning work a habit. Habits are the bedrock of living a healthy and productive life, and no small part of my work here on BradyDill.com is intended to help you develop the skills and know-how necessary to identify a habit you want to install in your life and successfully make it a part of your daily routine.
Brushing your teeth is a habit you (hopefully) engage in every day. What’s remarkable about brushing your teeth is that it takes no willpower—at night, and perhaps in the morning, you spend a couple minutes working on your long-term dental hygiene and health, and it’s nothing to you. The reason it takes no willpower is that you have successfully built into your life the habit of brushing your teeth—it’s just what you do before you go to sleep. There’s no negotiating, no thought expended on it, nothing.
This is what you need to do with getting daily work done on your website. You need to build the habit of starting to write articles, preferably in the morning, so that it automatically occurs without costing you any willpower or energy. I am currently in the process of writing several posts detailing how to ingrain this habit in your life, but for now I will give you a brief rundown of what works and what doesn’t work:
- Don’t set a specific time, e.g. 9:00 AM, to start working, because if you miss it even by a little bit you are unlikely to start working. Instead, start working each day after a morning habit you already have in place. For instance, every morning, I grab the pot of coffee I have in my refrigerator and pour myself a mug; then, I sit down at my desk, open up Scrivener (my word processor), and turn off my Internet so I can get work done. The reason this works so well is that I have now linked my habit of starting to work every day with a habit I already have in place: drinking my morning coffee. Of course, we don’t lead identical lives, so for you this can be any morning habit—what is important is that you link the habit of working to an already existing habit that will take no effort for you to continue doing every morning. This could be brushing your teeth, eating breakfast, or anything else you consistently do after waking up.
Use one or two of the following methods to keep clear and unambiguous track of your new habit of working every morning:
- Get a blank calendar, place it on the wall next to your workspace, and put a huge black or red ‘X’ in each square of a day you successfully started working. (Don’t worry about how long you worked yet—right now, you are just doing whatever it takes to ingrain the habit of starting to get work done every morning. Starting is the hardest part, and once one has started it is pretty easy to keep the ball rolling and get some real work done.) This will create a chain (’XXXXXXXX’) on your calendar, and your only job is not to break the chain.
- Get a glass jar or cup and put it next to your desk. Every day that you start working, put a paper clip in that jar. It’s remarkably satisfying to watch the pile grow. If you want, you can put a paper clip in at more rapid intervals: every 250 words written, every article published, every affiliate sale made.
- Download a habit tracking app on your phone. The best two are Momentum and Habitica.
- Avoid punishing yourself too harshly for missing a single day. What is most important, by far, is that you avoid ever missing two days in a row (unless you’ve deliberately scheduled in a vacation ahead-of-time, in which case simply also schedule the day you will resume the habit of morning work). One day is an aberration; two days, and you are in danger of letting the habit go altogether.
- Cut yourself off almost entirely from the outside world while getting work done. Getting interrupted by anybody or anything can completely wreck your productivity for up to an hour after the interruption. The only time somebody should be able to contact you is in case of an emergency.
- To do this, put a sign up on the door of the room you’re working on asking not to be disturbed, if you have roommates. Put your phone on Do-Not-Disturb and throw it into the other side of the room. Email your coworkers or friends that your are typically unavailable in the mornings, and that you will respond to their emails and texts after 2 PM. Really put in the work to make sure you are able to have some deep, productive focus while working in the morning.
This is by no means a complete summary of the science of habit-building, nor is it my last post on the subject. Not by a long shot. Hopefully, however, I have managed to help you get an idea of what needs to be done to build the habit of getting real work done into your daily life.