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 recommend everybody have their own website to 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?
How Much Can You Make Blogging For A Living?
The 10 Best Reasons Why Everyone Should Start Their Own Online Business
Why Blogging Is The Best Business In The World
ZJ Thorne says
I did similar things in my business. Realized that buying/renting software each month for $50 would save me 1-3 hours of time per client. I tried the free version for their two week trial and saw that it was worth it even before I felt comfortable increasing my monthly outlays. I’m very glad I ran that productivity test. It’s been a year on that software and I may consider switching to the more expensive competitor because my needs are outgrowing its abilities.
“Establish a short window for testing your new use of time”
This is the most valuable line in the post for me.
It’s easy to get hung up on a new strategy/technique/tool/project you’ve implemented. You don’t want to see it fail, so you keep going – even though the results aren’t there.
I’m guilty of it countless times.
Thanks for reminding me of the importance of knowing when to let go!
Jason Montoya says
With the launch of my first book, I attempted a Quora answering campaign around the topic of freelancing. It was helpful in preparing me for some subsequent interviews, but it didn’t contribute much for promoting the book.
The biggest success I had, came recently answering questions on the topic of Star Wars The Last Jedi. I had a volume of views and upvotes on the Quora platform, but the translation to my website was fairly marginal. So, it remains I have a love/hate relationship with the social site :-)
Financial Samurai says
Ha! Cool. What I want people to realize is that “the biggest success” really is 98% for Quora and only 2% for you. Having lots of views just makes Quora more money. Hopefully folks can just make their own money!
Jason Montoya says
Yeah, it’s disappointing. Now when I create content on Quora, I think afterward, why didn’t I just publish this on my website? For a side project for helping freelancers, I ended up taking all my quora freelancing answers, improving them, and publishing them as individual blogs. In that sense, it acted as a drafting tool.
I think by planning out things you want to do that are productive will cut down on time wasted. Like this past weekend for example, I spend time with my 2 year old in the morning by reading him books and taking him to the library, worked out, have an afternoon nap, more time hanging out with the baby, working on my blog, and reading a book before I go to bed.
Having daily goals really helps out cut down on unproductive time like watching TV.
Ms ZiYou says
I love your methodical approach Sam, and that you’ve quantified it all so simply. And I had no idea it was *that* easy to top the leader board in a month. Surely San Fran is a competitive area to rank for? You have shown us that it’s easily possible if you know your stuff and can write good content.
The intellectual property rights issue interests me, I assume if you sign up you must be signing all the rights to your content away? Have to say I’ve never really trusted the site, as they make you sign in to read more answers, and I wondered why they were doing that. Getting into blogging has helped me see the dark side of the “free” and how we really are often the product.
Financial Samurai says
Thanks. I’m not sure how easy or hard it is to get 1.1 million views in one month. I was hoping other veteran users would provide some perspective. Maybe it’s a sign that Quora really isn’t very popular.
Peter Koch says
You are right about conversion rate, I have 28k visitors from Quora on 1M views but still, it is a great platform for initial exposure for smaller/newer blogs.
Quora collapsed my 50k views answer once because of “self-plagiarism”. I copied part of my blog post to a Quora answer but forgot to include “originally published here” and boom – answer collapsed. I did not complain.
Financial Samurai says
I wonder how on earth they found out your answer was part of your original blog post?
Peter Koch says
They probably have some Web crawlers that are searching for plagiarism, duplicated content etc.
Cole C Weis says
Hey Sam, Great post!
I had just heard about Quora last month when I read about it on here and I have been giving it a go for the last 4 weeks. After week 2 I was noticing I was starting to get burnt out on the questions that were coming up because a lot of them, I felt, could have been answered quicker by searching Google than asking it on Quora. Thinking that maybe they have requested people to ask questions more to build the number of questions/users on the site without really concerning themselves over the quality of the questions/answers.
This post is especially timely because I have noticed lately I am having a hard time peeling myself away from the TV in the evenings. Normally I fast throughout the day only eating when I get home from work, but since I am extra hungry I eat a lot and end up feeling out of it for 30-45 minutes, which is an amount of time I am comfortable watching TV per day, but that turns into 3-4 hours too often. My goal is to replace that time spent watching TV to time spent working out, writing, or working on some other business/personal goals, such as reading a book or learning a new language.
Financial Samurai says
Flipping the switch on TV is HUGE. Turning 3-4 hours of consuming into producing will probably be your biggest driver for growth imo.
Related: If You Produce Nothing, How Do You Expect To Make Any Money?
I completely agree. I only recently began to understand the producer mindset, opposed to the consumption mindset and waiting for life to change for you. I was always told that if you come in and work hard, you’ll eventually be promoted and find yourself in the job you always wanted. Lately, though, I believe in that less and less. I think this site has been teaching me that you have to create your own thing to be truly successful, otherwise you’ll just be creating wealth for your boss and the owners of your company’s stocks.
I know that feeling. I did that for several years, just zoning out on the couch, strangely addicted to soaps or whatever else was on the box. The good news, it’s an easy habit to break. I’ve cut my tv time down to roughly 1 hour a day and on some weekends I don’t even watch tv (unheard of)! The bad news is you live with a huge regret that you wasted so much time! :(
It was a combination of work shit and this blog that got me off my butt to finish writing my first book. It’s going slow and slower now that I’m working overtime (I need the money) but I see myself getting there by June.
To get out of it you have to work on your frame of mind and figure out what sort of kick in the behind you need! For me, it was realizing I was running out of time! Hope you find your kick in the behind!
Completely agree, quantakiran. Luckily for me, the regret isn’t huge for me because I am normally pretty good about doing yoga, calisthenics, or dog training during the TV shows, so it’s not 100% wasted, even though it’s still MOSTLY wasted time.
It is really all about habits, isn’t it? Just gotta change up the habits we have and alter how we go about our day. If I would choose to go straight from eating to the dog park or on a walk or something, instead of sitting down for a half hour, it would change everything.
This is a great post and just what I needed. I was focusing too much on twitter for the past few weeks. I’m switching back to Pinterest because as a new blogger, it’s more ROI for traffic IMO. Quora sounds interesting and I think once I have enough content on my site and can link to a blog post I’ve written along with a short intro, it’ll be much more useful.
It’s amazing how you became the top viewed in all those categories! The guy who answered 1,200 questions kind of cracks me up. He’s def got dedication, but isn’t working the most efficiently.
Sam, just tried this out today and I’m decently sure I got some clicks since I linked to an obscure post that can’t be found easily and that page got a bunch of hits. Quora is not showing as referral traffic for either Google Analytics or Jetpack for Pinterest. Do you track your link via Bitly or something? Or perhaps I’m doing something else wrong.
Financial Samurai says
Check out Google analytics, and your referral traffic.
Alex C says
I am interested that you made a comment about echo chambers in the FI community. Would love to see that expanded on.
Financial Samurai says
Same people talking about the same things over and over again. Want to change things up.
Great article, Sam. Quite timely as well, as I just gave Quora a try for the first time last week. I have also decided to put a pause on Quora for a few similar and different reasons.
The main reason is that Quora does not allow anonymous users to have accounts. I understand their logic (goal is to have verified experts), but I found it annoying that my very first post was deleted right away (after I put 45 minutes into writing it).
And I completely agree with you that those 45 minutes could probably be better spent elsewhere. Maybe I’ll give Quora another try in the future, but I’m certainly not putting any more time there in the near future.
Joey Graziano says
Thanks for Sharing Sam!
In reference to Step 2, I once fell for the strap of social media debates. In my case, I thought I was doing great work for the world debating people on social media and convincing them of my view points. At the end of the day, I didn’t really win people over. The reverse happened. friends blocked me. This taught be a valuable lesson. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean one is being productive.
I have since blocked social media from my work pc due to the temptations. I have also focused on showing people my opinions using detailed blog posts. This strategy has helped me network with like-minded individuals and grow intellectually.
Identify those time vampires and then eliminate!
Financial Samurai says
Spending any time debating over social media is a waste of time, unless it gives you pleasure. Folks are set in their thoughts. Better to write a post on your site with some meaty reasons for your viewpoint imo.
Brilliant idea to try Quora. Sorry it didn’t pan out quite like you expected, but hopefully this new boost of visitors will stick around.
I greatly admire your ability to step back and do a productivity analysis and to really stick to it. Productivity has always been one of my biggest weaknesses. I don’t know if it’s because I have a short attention span or what, but time always seems to slip away from me, and it’s almost impossible for me to execute on productivity plans unless there’s someone to hold me accountable. Nice work, Sam.
Financial Samurai says
The one thing it has done is boost revenue though, which for many, is the ultimate goal. I just de-emphasize revenue in this post. Also, Quora gives me something easy to do if I want to do something but don’t have the energy to write a full fledged post. I can take something from an existing post and use it as an answer to build back links and traffic.
For some reasons, I’ve always been able to focus on getting something done for an extended period of time. As a parter at a law firm, you’re probably selling yourself short!
Congrats on growing so quickly on Quora.
That really sucks Quora deleted your post without any warning. I’d be furious if that happened to me. Did they ever provide a more specific explanation for why it was removed?
Financial Samurai says
No explanation except “violated our terms of service.” I read it quickly, and the answer is legit. Backed up by 200K+ views and 2,000+ upvotes. Arbitrary rules kill community.
Lily | The Frugal Gene says
Quora deletes answers? Do other people flag it or they have moderators? Completely silly. I also kind of hate that you have to hand over your email and create an account for those answers. Plus the answers you give, they own it. You know you’re worth more than that!! You can just post more of Financial Samurai and take some interesting questions from Quora as inspo x)
Dr. MB says
Here are a few productivity options I use often.
1) Using Roomba- this is awesome since my daughter has long hair and I was getting tired of sweeping regularly.
2) Training your children to do things for themselves so that I do not have to. Builds confidence and self reliance. I notice when I make them clean up, they tend not to make as much of a mess. Win- win
3) Making meal plans- I design certain meals I will eat over and over again and I try to prep these once a week. Simplifies eating a lot.
I love making my life easier. I love how you think in terms of percentages and stats. That is what attracted me to your writing since I think in terms like that all the time.
Financial Samurai says
I like #2. I’m looking forward to instilling the producer mindset in my son.
This worked so great when my nephew lived with me. When his assigned chore was to wash the kitchen floor, he was pretty annoyed if somebody walked on it before it dried or messed it up. Instant change in attitude.
Cole C Weis says
I like #3 the best, Dr. MB, but that’s probably because I don’t have any kids yet. Since I have been fasting lately, I only have to concern myself about food after 2-3 PM until 9. But if I was to be prepping my meals once a week, I would only have to think about food once a week or once per month! And then simply cook enough food each day to feed me between 2-8 PM. Food is one of my biggest expenses and by cooking less, saving more, and freeing up more time to be productive, I would basically be killing 3 birds with one stone.
Dr. MB says
Simplify cooking! It allows for less meal planning, less shopping, less clean up, less food wastage, less cooking, less of staring at one another each day asking “what’s for dinner?”
One of the most effective methods I have seen involved prepping freezer meals and using a crock pot to heat up the meals. With the advent of Instant Pots- you can cook the freezer meals without even defrosting the frozen meals beforehand! Seriously ingenious.
The detectorist says
Did you post any links in your answers Sam? From what I saw, most of the popular networks now delete any kind of topic that contain a link… without even looking.
I used to think highly of Quora, but it seems that they are going straight to the fences with their strategy.
Very thorough framework and smart guidance on productivity! And super impressive results on your 30 day Quora challenge. That really shows how talented you are as a writer and how much knowledge you have. Bummer on the deleted post but glad you were able to get a copy of your content.
>>You would think they’d treat someone who was able to write 70 answers in a month and generate 1.1M views better
I chuckled a bit, because I can relate to this. As a developer that owns a small, but successful software company, I, just for fun, used to answer questions on StackOverflow.Com. I got really tired (really quick) of the admins on that site downvoting or deleting a question or answer I posed. These sites have a way of turning you from a multi-millionaire owner to a berated, undervalued employee real fast.
Thanks for sharing where Quora took you. I’ve seen the trend with other bloggers and wondered if it was worth the time. Sounds like it’s blog size specific. Please post some follow up when you determine stickiness or lack thereof.
Mrs. Defined Sight says
No pain no gain! ~ still in the new blogger phase and trying to build.
Thanks for your thoughts on Quora, and most importantly – your steps to improve productivity!
No need to respond! ~ I feel your pain in step #1.
Mike @ Balanced Dividends says
“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.”
Good point. This and other points highlighted here are similar to other arguments exploring efficiency vs. effectiveness.
I was also considering Quora, but your point about leveraging your own platform resonated with me. It might drive some traffic, but it seems that time and effort are better spent elsewhere.
Thanks for sharing your experience with Quora. I tried for a couple of days, but didn’t put enough time into it. I need to give it 30 days too and see where it goes. It seems so unfocused, though.
I’m not sure where the pain points are for me. Blogging takes a lot of time, but I still enjoy it. I’ll sit down and log my time. A few things probably could be streamlined. Although, it’s okay for now because I have time. Summer will be much more difficult because the kid will be out of school.
Sam I applaud your bias to action when you face adversity and unhappiness. Love your methodilogy of testing with clear goals and timeline set beforehand. I checked out Quora (and made them money I wouldn’t have without you) and found the questions out to you most silly, certainly not the depth and richness of your own reader base. I think you are correct to let your readers respond to most questions to your posts now unless you think your answer adds value.
Glad you turned it off after a while. And I’m glad you were able to recover your Quora answer. Technology can sometimes consume us without us even realizing it. I’ve done similar things on FB and my personal Instagram account in terms of temporarily disabling or scaling it down.
I was planning to start answering more questions on Quora and now, after your feedback, I believe I can do it in a more efficient way. Great info!