If you improve productivity it generally means more profit and less time spent working. However, some people take improving productivity too far and end up working all day every day.
Since making investment returns might be getting more difficult, it's good if everybody figures out how to improve productivity. During a downturn, corporations try to squeeze employees to do more after letting go of a bunch of people.
But working more is not my definition of being more productive. Working the the same and generating more output, working less and generating the same output, or working less and generating more output is a much better definition.
We often get stuck in a rut, doing the same thing and expecting things to improve. We're also creatures of habit despite knowing there are better ways to get things done.
One example of being inefficient is tracking your net worth on an excel spreadsheet despite the proliferation of free net worth tracking software. Another example of inefficiency is vegging out in front of the TV instead of also doing something brainless at the same time, like folding laundry. Another example is watching a terrible movie on a 5-hour flight instead of doing some work on a laptop.
In this post I'd like to introduce my 5-step productivity framework using writing answers on Quora as a case study.
Improve Productivity Step #1: Identify The Pain Points
Since running out of energy last year with the birth of my son and daughter, I needed to figure out what were the things that were sucking up my time or causing unnecessary grief. I zeroed in on three things:
1) Responding to comments without getting acknowledgement or a response back when I ask for follow up.
2) Responding to questions when the answer is clearly in the post.
3) Debating about a topic with a reader only to discover they don't have the relevant experience.
At one point, I was seriously deliberating disabling comments or responding to nobody since all these activities takes around three hours a week. Given I try to keep my work load to no more than 25 hours a week, I was wasting 12% of work time.
Improve Productivity Step #2: Replace Wasted Time With Potentially Useful Time
Since identifying my pain points, I've stopped responding to obvious questions, included a warning in my comment system about not approving low value commentary, and decided to use the remaining time answering questions on Quora, a Q&A platform with roughly 100 million users who don't follow Financial Samurai.
My goal is to encourage FS readers to become more involved in the community by providing their own thoughts to other readers' comments. Further, I want readers who have questions to improve their self-sufficiency by typing their questions into my search box or typing “XYZ Question Financial Samurai” in Google. As I've been writing about personal finance since 2009, I've covered most financial topics.
Here are the main benefits I thought of writing on Bay Area-based Quora.
- Tap a new audience that is unfamiliar with Financial Samurai.
- Build link backs to key pillar articles on Financial Samurai.
- Build my reputation in Personal Finance, Real Estate, Investing, and San Francisco
- Meet potentially interesting people online outside of the personal finance blog echo chamber
- Have fun and be intellectually stimulated
Improve Productivity Step #3: Establish A Short Window For Testing
I gave myself 30 days to focus on building my profile on Quora.
In one month, I was able to generate 1.1 million answer views, or 33,333 views a day on average. I answered 70 questions in the 30 day time frame. I'm not sure how good this is, but I think the median number of views a user gets is around 1,000 a day.
The summary shows I answered 84 questions. The additional 14 are answers I wrote years ago when Quora first started. Back then, I thought it was a waste of time since it wasn't very popular and they made you earn credit in order to ask question, which I thought was stupid.
Improve Productivity Step #4: Come Up With Specific Goals You Want To Achieve In The Testing Window
Without specific goals, you'll end up going down a rabbit hole. Improving productivity requires laser focus.
My goals were to:
- Become a “Most Viewed Writer” on the subjects I cared most about: San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Area, Personal Finance, and Real Estate.
- Try to achieve 1 million views
- Stay consistent for 30 days
- Build some rapport with SF media
I became a “Most Viewed Writer” in all subjects I focused on. I'm pleased with my results in the Real Estate section where I achieved the #1 spot with only 13 answers versus the #2 guy with less views, but with 1,242 answers! 1,242 answers is ridiculous and clearly shows an addiction or a lack of efficiency! I don't even know how he finds the time to eat and go to the bathroom answering 41.2 answers a day on average.
In the beginning, it was fun to answer the questions. They kept notifying me that my answers had been sent to their Quora e-mail digest of over 1,000, 2,000, and sometimes 100,000+ people. Positive reinforcement felt great.
But over time, Quora started making me feel like a slave to their system until I finally told myself I had had enough and stopped answering every question I had detailed knowledge about. I became pickier. I turned off Quora notifications on my phone as well.
As a result, I became happier, much the same way people who use Facebook become happier when they delete it from their phone.
Improve Productivity Step #5: Thoroughly Analyze The Results Of Your Efforts
After 1.1M views, I only received around 20,000 visits from Quora to Financial Samurai. That's only a 1.9% click through rate. It's better than nothing, but not really a good conversion.
Think about all the time spent answering questions to only get 1.9% of the traffic while Quora gets to keep 98.1% of the traffic. Further they get to control and reuse your content. I can easily spend $500 in advertisement on Facebook to get 20,000 visitors to Financial Samurai instead.
Do note that having a large site does not preclude you from being able to also generate 1.1M views in a month either. If you can generate 1.1M views on Quora and have a site that gets just 20,000 visitors a month, you will likely double your traffic. Unfortunately for me, traffic only increased by ~2% because I already generate about 1M visitors a month on Financial Samurai.
The only immediate positive I experienced with Quora seems to be a boost in online revenue. Although Quora boosted my online January traffic by only ~2%, my online revenue improved by 10% because of new visitors. Further, there will probably be some long term benefit for now having ~1,700+ followers on Quora and 84+ answers on their platform for their users and search engines to find and read.
Why I No Longer Plan To Focus On Quora
On the 23rd day of Quora answering, I got a notification out of the blue that one of my answers, which I had spent around 30 minutes to write and had 220K views and 2,277 upvotes was deleted due to a “violation of their writing policy,” which I had not read. It was odd because the answer was no different in format from all the other answers I had written.
You would think that an answer with this many upvotes and views would be a good thing for the community, but somehow it was flagged, probably by a competing answerer to the question. Quora didn't even ask me if I could edit the post to comply with their policy. They just outright deleted my work.
What A Damn Waste Of Time Quora Is
My initial reaction was not anger that I lost the view count, but annoyance that I had wasted my time and lost my content. After all, my month long goal was to save time or improve my use of time. As a writer, good content should not be wasted.
Luckily, I was able to click a link to view what they deleted, copied the answer and created a new page on Financial Samurai with my deleted answer: Do Wealthy People Think About Retiring At A Young Age? Phew, it feels so good to have saved my work and add my own recommendations at the end without fear of deletion.
Know this. If you are writing on Quora, you are making Quora rich. You are improving their content and traffic. Instead, you should be writing on your own platform and making yourself rich. I recommendto own their own brand and own their own content and traffic.
You would think they'd treat someone who was able to write 70 answers in a month and generate 1.1M views better, but they haven't even bothered to respond to my appeal.
If I knew Quora wouldn't delete my answers, I would continue to give Quora a go. But their apparent random deletion of a popular answer with no response makes spending any significant amount of time on their platform risky and inefficient. Therefore, the smarter move is to first publish on Financial Samurai and then use some of my content to republish shorter answers on Quora if I have nothing else better to do with my life.
I plan to now write little to nothing on Quora for the next 30 days to see how much organic views and traffic I achieve from my existing answers.
Productivity Steps Review
I hope my case study gives you an idea of how to improve productivity in something you care about. If you've been doing anything for several years, I'm pretty sure there's a better way of doing it today.
- Identify the pain points
- Replace wasted time with a potential better use of time
- Establish a short window for testing your new use of time
- Come up with specific objectives for your new use of time
- Thoroughly analyze the results and make logical next decisions
Having a productivity mindset is also important for reaching financial freedom. With such a mindset, you will focus on how to generate more passive income streams to buttress your active income streams so that you might one day be free. It is amazing once you can get your money working hard for you, so you don't have to.
Readers, what are some pain points you've experienced and how did you go about improving your productivity? Any readers out there spending their time making Quora rich instead of themselves?
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