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TheDonk

Time Off = Better Ideas, More Motivation, More Success

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by on 07-05-2012 at 06:50 AM (1107 Views)
Edit: This is long. If you aren't grinding, burned out or making less money than you want to be, don't bother reading. If business and life is all good, grab a cocktail instead.

Like a lot of people at PAL, I spent the last several years grinding, working long hours and 'living' very little. When you're broke or young, it's easy to get motivated. But, it's also easy to waste away the years, not even noticing the world that is passing you by. So many of us say it's about balance, but forget that as soon as an email comes in. Back to the grind, and another day behind us.

After said years of grinding, I finally had the chance to take some time off recently. I took almost 3 months off in fact, playing tennis, going on hikes, and a trip to Mexico. I knew I was burned out and needed the time off, but I didn't realize how much time I needed off. When I started my vacation from work, I thought I would need a month off. A month later, I knew I needed another month, and a trip somewhere tropical. So, I planned a trip to Mexico one month from then. The idea was to make the trip the end of my time off, get my motivation back, and get back to work with a fresh mind.

My week in Mexico was spent at the pool drinking Caribbean Breeze's, and reading. Genuine mental downtime. I didn't even take any excursions fishing, ziplining, or anything else. This wasn't a trip for adrenaline rushes, it was a time to chill and be present enough to notice the time passing. In hindsight, I wish I'd made this a two week trip.

On my final night there, I decided it was time to get some things in order. I had recently sold my main site and had been contemplating different projects during my time off. None of them had stood out until that night when I asked myself "what is the most important thing I need to achieve"? Spending money like the gov't was about to take it from me, I knew I needed to start getting income coming back in asap. That meant I had to work on a project that could produce asap as well. All of a sudden, I knew exactly what site I had to work on first. There was no question in my mind, and I haven't wasted any time thinking about other projects since then.

Next, I opened my laptop and wrote a very detailed to-do list, with timelines for each step it would take to finish this site. When it came to content, I didn't guess. I wrote down every static page I want the site to have. I gave time for setting up geo-targeting, customized coding for special features, etc etc.. Then I knew how long it should take to finish the site, and it's given me a goal to shoot for.

When I got back home, that motivation I was seeking still wasn't quite there, but I felt it starting to come back. Each day since, I've been waking up with a little more motivation than the day before. Each day I've been doing a little more work than the day before, and I'm still finding time to goof around. Holy shit, I'm finding balance!

Looking back on it all, things are making a lot more sense to me now. We've all talked about how a trip to the gym makes us more productive, even though at the time we think we're "losing an hour of work." Those trips to the gym are great for the short-term (no argument there), but they can't wear away those months and years of grinding. Have you ever been at the gym listening to Metallica, transferring some of that badass into something like "I'm going to crush those motherf***ers and build the best site and make shitloads of money and .....blah blah blah"? We've all done it, and we're still thinking about work - at the gym! That's not genuine downtime imo.

My freedom has taken a major role in the design of my new site. "Is this going to make me sit at the computer more or less? Will this make it easier or harder to take a vacation? Am I marrying myself to this site, or giving myself more freedom?" The funny thing is, the more I look for time-saving ideas, the better the site is becoming for visitors. Instead of thinking "just get it done", I'm being patient and letting ideas marinate in my head. As a result, each aspect is coming together even better than I had hoped. Not only am I finding ways to save myself hours & hours of weekly maintenance, but I'm also finding more ways to make money, make it easier for visitors to navigate - and giving myself time to implement these ideas into the design. Win - win - win - win.

It's not about what we think we know, it's about being patient & deliberate enough to find out what we don't know. It's about researching other ideas, discovering things we didn't know we needed.

Maybe you've thought of this example before, but have you thought about it like this - The mega companies of the world spend millions on split testing, heat maps, navigation, white space, color schemes, personality of the site, specific words for converting, etc etc...and how many of us use these ideas on our own sites? My guess is that most affiliates at PAL do the same thing I did for several years...get a theme, change up the colors, add a feature or two, and blammo it's done. Either that or we trust a 'designer' to splash pretty colors around...as if we're bloggers talking about Justin Bieber.

Really? We're supposed to bank our businesses on designs that some dude ripped out in 3 days and charged us $69 for? WTF are we thinking? Was that guy privy to website design meetings at Google? Has he gone over the split testing numbers Target did on orange buttons versus green ones? Has he had a first-hand look at the massive, detailed numbers Apple produces on their website? Has that guy ever even looked at a heat map? He might be great at splashing pretty colors around, but from a business standpoint good design is not about pretty colors (it drives me crazy that so few people understand this concept). If he's such a great fucking designer, he'd be making his own riches on his own sites. Again, I'm not talking about making pretty blogs, I'm talking about designs that get visitors to do what we want them to do. Do you realize the pretty colors on your site can be costing you huge revenues? Do you realize how critical your cta buttons are? How much time did you spend researching size, colors, and white space around your cta's before you slapped them all over your site? Some of us have spent time on this, but a lot haven't - or at least not enough.

On my last site, I started to do some research on these ideas and implemented a few things. On my new site, the entire design is based on what I've learned during my three months 'off'. My new design will confuse most affiliates. There are elements they will say are 'boring' or 'not catchy enough'. They'll be wrong. I know it because I've studied it. I know that the $69/theme guy isn't as smart as Apple, Expedia, or Mercedes. There are things to learn from most of these kinds of sites, especially when you clue into a specific thing a lot of them are doing. It's in the details and looking at these sites with a clear head - seeing things you didn't see before. Then, it's about asking "why are all of these sites doing this specific thing?" Given the time to think about these questions, we can usually figure out why - then the light bulb goes on and we realize how important it is (something we never even thought of before). Then we do it on our own sites and reap the rewards. These are things we don't do when we're juggling 100 things on our mental to-do list, shoving down a cheeseburger, and talking to 4 people on Skype all at the same time (you know you do this, lol).

With my recent time off, I now get this too: If we don't take the time to learn these things, the grind is always gonna be there. We can't afford NOT to learn these things, and we cant afford to work day in and day out with 100 things going on. We need real downtime to figure out what really is important, and to get rid of the things that are holding us back.

Without real mental downtime, we can't ask ourselves the right questions. If we can't ask ourselves the right questions, we can't possibly come up with the right answers. When was the last time the only thought in your head was "blue drink or red drink?" When was the last time this was your biggest concern?

For those of you grinding right now...I feel you. Take some time off.
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  1. KevinMcC's Avatar
    Cool read Jess, thanks
  2. Laurence's Avatar
    Very cool article TheDonk, nice job on the newfound motivation. Where did you go in Mexico? I live there at the moment, probably will be moving around some more soon though. Let me know when you're around next time.
  3. TheDonk's Avatar
    Hey Laurence, I was 1/2 way between Cancun and Playa del Carmen...love that area. Where are you at now? I do want to take another trip this year, but maybe try the Dominican this time. Have you been there?

    Thanks Kev!

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