I bought a gym membership as a poor college student, years ago, tempered with sheer determination to get my money’s worth by using every piece of gym equipment I  could – ellipticals, treadmills, free weights, kettlebells, aerobic balls, ab crunchers, etc.

Huffing and puffing, exerting this much energy didn’t necessarily make me feel good in and of itself – I expected results.  After enough time in a gym you realize some things are far more effective than others. Often, the things that wear you out in a gym can just burning time instead of fat or building muscle.

You shouldn’t spend more than 10% of your day doing these things:

Reading people’s opinions and thoughts on Forums, Boards, and Blogs – Network with others but don’t get caught up in daily banter about every menial change that Google makes. Many of the “guides” and “Top 10” lists are re-hashed information, a lot of which has been mentioned on the Web 1000 times before.   If you’ve seen it before, don’t waste your time commenting or discussing it. Everywhere except Market Misfit, that is.

Seriously though, use your time wisely. Many forums and blogs feature months of brainless comment wars, devoting hours of effort to crafting witty, smug, or ass-kissing comments that could have been used creating something useful.

Look for the innovative, useful topics, or for those requesting for help that you’re capable of helping.  Only comment on useful stuff.

Nit-picking through Analytics – Read less and test more.   As far as most business is concerned, most analytic data available to you is not necessary. Use analytics to determine goals for traffic increases, sales conversions, or raising average order value – metrics-driven data that can be compared and tested.   If what you’re doing isn’t going to make you money, you’re wasting your time. It’s free and easy with Google Website Optimizer if you don’t have an A/B or Multivariate tool in place. I would recommend Always Be Testing – The Complete Guide to Google Website Optimizer.

Well-Intentioned but Lame SEO Software – To follow up with the above, there are dozens of “intelligence” programs you can spend lumps of cash on that will give you endless nifty reports, analytics, algorithms to determine page values, link values, etc.   Most of this information provided doesn’t *DO* anything to enhance your Website.   Food for thought, and be honest:  If the software does not save your time OR do something to make you money, you’re wasting both.   Spend time learning and using these “intelligence” tools and I’ll be ranking in Google before you get a site hosted.

Nit-picking Google Search Results – If you really enjoy SEO like I do, you like to see your Websites appearing in the Search Results.   Personalized search means you’ll probably appear in different positions for everyone, so don’t care if you’re in number 4 or number 6.  Keep building those links.  Rankings do matter, but just run an automatic report and glance at it, or do this on Friday nights with a beer or two.

Running Reports – Unless you’re working for a big corporate client who is satisfied shoveling money your way for fancy-looking reports and metrics, report-running is entirely unprofitable. Not to mention a boring and unfulfillable use of your time. And, if you do have to run reports, do it as automated as possible. Look for software that runs it regularly on a schedule basis and prints it out into a slick PDF or presentation that your clients like so you don’t have to spend time over boring data.

Link Exchanges – The ancient methods of seeking for link exchanges and e-mailing swap requests is now useless. Trade links with your friends, fellow bloggers, and link to the sites you like but think to yourself – when is the last time you went through someone’s link page to see what sites they linked to?   Never. We go to search for what we want. Spend time seeking authority directories and sites that people actually use to find products, writing articles, submitting feeds, and develop your social network online.

Failures to Act – Lack of action is the number one reason why anything fails. It’s common sense if you never started you never succeed. It doesn’t matter how long you study, the individual who acts always succeeds over those who sit on their hands – even if they fail at some point, in which they learn.

As an aspiring fiction writer, I’m a fan of Ray Bradbury’s books. Here’s one of his best quotes about creativity:

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

I’d love to hear any more common time wasters or personal experiences, please comments below if you think of any. And if it’s deemed a waste of time, get back to work. I completely understand. 🙂