When you first make the move to working for yourself online, it can be a big change.
On social media you’re going to see plenty of folks raving about their incredible digital nomad lifestyle – photos of gorgeous people on a beach, working on a laptop, cocktails nearby…
Well, spoiler alert, that is not an accurate representation of hustling your ass off.
And if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, if you are determined not to fail, then you must hustle hard and work smart.
It’s no good spending eight hours a day cruising Facebook or designing the perfect pins for Pinterest, that doesn’t actually count as work, you need to sit your ass down and make your dream come true through action.
I’ve been relying on my online ventures as my sole source of income since 2015. It’s been a bumpy road and there were many times when I was nearly bankrupt.
I had no funds to fall back on and this meant that I truly had no choice but to succeed.
It wasn’t just that I wouldn’t be able to afford rent or food, that didn’t bother me, I had been The Broke Backpacker for nearly a decade and I was happy in a tent eating rabbit and nettle stew.
The problem was that if I failed, I would be ripped away from the women I loved.
My Persian Gypsy, who I met whilst hitchhiking across Iran, was also a broke backpacker but unlike me, she had a truly challenging passport and her visa fees were constantly a problem.
If we couldn’t make money online, we wouldn’t be able to travel or be together.
This lit a fire under my ass like I have never experienced before.
I was determined to succeed, despite many telling me that it was impossible and I was a fool for trying to make enough money on the internet, with no training or mentor, to support two people’s travels around the world.
I was constantly assailed by doubts but I pushed forwards anyway and after a year of crippling uncertainty and constant evolution, we made it to the promised land.
We hit an income of $5000 a month in 2017. This allowed me to hire writers, buy better software, invest into new ventures and to scale The Broke Backpacker.
18 months later, in September 2018, I was making $70,000 a month online.
It’s important to note that whilst I do work my ass off, I have only been working ‘full time’ on my online businesses since late 2016. Before then, I was still spending at least nine months of the year backpacking around the world. The other three months of the year, I
sold MDMA at festivals worked in a shop.
For the last two years, I’ve spent about seven to eight months of the year hustling hard and the rest of the time I travel. In 2019, I plan on working less and traveling more.
I’ve learned to make the most out of my working time and to be as efficient as possible with my workflow. But it isn’t all about being efficient… it’s important to foster the right mindset for success.
This may sound hippy dippy but it’s crucial if you want to become a better entrepreneur. You need to believe in yourself, reward yourself and to work on a groove of repetitive actions that allows you to consistently unlock your best performance.
Repetition is a sign of ambition, it shows dedication and nobody ever got good at anything without repeating a process again and again and again.
Over the last couple of years working online, I learnt a few very important lessons which helped me become a better entrepreneur and have allowed me to consistently bash out a productive days work.
These ten zen tips may not work for everybody but they have become a crucial part of my personal process to foster a routine which helps me get the most out of working day…
1. Plan a work flow
It’s taken me time to figure out a schedule that works well for me but I now have a set schedule for every day – I open my emails and WhatsApp (which is where I communicate with my team) in the morning and clear them. I then close them both and don’t open my emails again until the next day – I strongly recommend that you keep your inbox closed once you have cleared it or else you will be a slave to your emails.
I then jump into my Trello where I have multiple boards, each one relating to a different project or team, and see what needs my attention. All projects and teams are organised in a way where my input is minimal – I just need to keep assigning workflows and planning projects. Check out the video below for a bit of a walkthrough on how to create a workflow on Trello.
Once I’ve cleared my Trello, I dive into whatever tasks need doing for the day. I have six static whiteboards (check out the link – these are a game changer) in my current apartment and each whiteboard is for a different project, this allows me to keep my workflows separate but visible at the same time.
For myself, I operate a three notebook system – I have a five minute journal I use for recording how I’m feeling and how I am progressing with my fitness and business goals (I’ve made some mods to the classic version), I have a bullet journal which is my master journal and helps me organise my weekly workflow, I have a scrap journal which takes a beating and is replaced frequently, this is where I jot down notes and make lists of things to do that day.
Honestly, coming up with a good workflow is almost entirely trial and error and you’ll need to work out what works for you. I am hyper organised but then again – I’m managing over a dozen people, across multiple ventures and several time zones.
I have set days for taking calls with my partners – Tuesdays and Thursdays. I have set days where I check in on various income streams, email addresses and projects. This allows me to hugely limit procrastination and to ensure that when I’m working, I’m doing something that really needs doing.
I find that planning out my day the night before is invaluable. By planning out my time effectively, I actually have plenty of time to get everything done. I rarely feel rushed or overwhelmed and have plenty of chill time – because I’m not wasting time procrastinating. I’ll be writing in further detail about the tools and systems I use to organise myself and my team, stay tuned for that!
2. Value your time
As an entrepreneur, it’s important that you value your time – even if nobody else does, yet! As you start to get some success in your space you may find many people start reaching out to you. If you respond to everybody it will quickly take up a lot of your time.
Personally, I have email signature templates that help me answer a lot of questions and if an email or pitch isn’t written well, I don’t respond at all. Build systems that allow you to make the most of your time and to avoid being distracted.
This really comes down to being able to say no to people. Once you reach a certain level as an online entrepreneur, your inbox will explode… Every day you will receive emails from people wanting help, wanting advise, wanting to partner, wanting backlinks, wanting to guest post, wanting to advertise on your site, wanting you to review their products or services.
Understand that no matter how good the pitch, no matter how compelling the email; 95% of emails you get are probably not a good fit – they aren’t going to help YOU grow your business, they are just going to help somebody else benefit from your knowledge. Learning to say no can be hard but it’s important that you figure out how to do it.
Finding a tribe of people who you can share ideas and expertise with is a great way to grow as an entrepreneur but understand – if you are the only person dropping knowledge bombs and you are not getting anything in return, this is not a good use of your time. That doesn’t mean you should ONLY hang out with people who can teach you things but it means that there has to be a fair share of value going both ways in any business relationship.
Two of my joint-venture partners pitched me wanting to learn how to make money online, I taught them and now we are in business together. They didn’t have anything to teach me at the time but I got great value out of them as they worked for free, as apprentices, in exchange for the knowledge, training and strategy that I could bring to the table.
If you are working for yourself, your time is your most precious resource, do not squander it.
3. Cut Distractions
Social media is a huge time-sink and distraction. Download Facebook news eradicator, right now!
I’ll let you in on a not particularly well kept secret, I truly hate social media. I could write a whole post about this but suffice to say, if you are constantly checking Facebook or Instagram (or whatever is your poison), you will be wasting a ton of time.
Be strict with yourself, reward yourself with work breaks for sure but do not log onto social media every time you want a work break.
Check the news instead, I probably check the BBC three or four times a day, find a Youtube channel that can teach you something, don’t waste your time on social media… Or, at least, if you’re going to then be strict and have set times for it – do not allow yourself to just check it whenever you want or you will lose some serious work time.
Whilst we’re on the topic, there’s been a ton of research that shows that starting at brightly lit screens before trying to sleep is one of the worst things you can do for your sleep patterns. If you simply can’t kick the habit, download Flux – this turns your screen light from white to yellow during later hours and plays less havoc with your sleep patterns.
4. Find some time to calm your mind
Just as important as getting yourself amped is finding the time to chill the fuck out. You cannot operate consistently in fifth gear, you need to ground yourself every now and again.
I’ve experimented with mediation a lot and have found it isn’t really for me – However, I do get some zen piece of mind when I am doing my yoga or smoking a joint and watching the forest outside my apartment.
Last year, I read Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. This is a very powerful guide and consists of 3-5 page interviews with one hundred world class performers including Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tony Robbins, Chris Sacca and many other leading entrepreneurs and all round awesome people.
These interviews mostly focus on the routines and tactics that these market leaders use in their daily lives. I found one correlation across the vast majority of the interviews – more than 70% of these people had some kind of meditation or mindfulness routine.
I had a pretty good run with Headspace. It’s definitely worth trying out – it has a free trial and if you apply yourself properly, it can be a game changer. Whatever it is you need to do to land yourself some chill, make sure you build 15 minutes of mindfulness into your day.
5. Foster a positive mindset
Working for yourself online can be pretty lonely and it’s important that you work on training your mind to be optimistic and to focus on the positives. This can be hard but it’s absolutely crucial.
Being a hitchhiker actually gave me a great crash course in this and I would always optimistically think ‘a lift is just around the corner’, even if I had been waiting for hours. Grab yourself a copy of The Secret and settle down to read it over a weekend, it’s pretty short and you could probably finish it in just a few hours but it carries a valuable message and explains the concept of the law of attraction.
The law of attraction is the belief that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts people can bring positive or negative experiences into their life. Honestly, I’m a big believer in this and I always try to remain positive and to focus on my wins when shit isn’t going quite as well as it could. I have a set routine in the morning in which I can check out some guaranteed wins and thus start the day feeling positive.
6. Start the Day with Exercise
There is a huge amount of science to support the fact that if you exercise you not only look better, you function better.
I wake up early and get myself to my local Crossfit Box by 7:30 am. I train at least six times a week and when I can, I train twice a day. I also make time for a forty minute yoga routine in the evening which has dramatically improved my flexibility and zen.
Whatever it is that gets you pumped, make sure you find the time to exercise regularly. It is a very worthwhile investment.
Nina recently bought me a TRX system which has been a total game changer and is hands down the best piece of fitness equipment to take traveling.
Whatever exercise works for you – embrace it. If you’re not currently exercising, start.
It’s never too late to begin and you will notice the benefits. Start slow, don’t be overly ambitious, just be consistent in putting the time in and do it for a month, you’ll notice the advantages pretty quickly.
Build your exercise routine into your overall routine – if you can, start the day with stretching, exercise and then a freezing shower – it’ll wake you up and get you pumped.
7. Goal Setting
For aspiring entrepreneurs, this is so important. What is your goal? Where do you want to be in 3 months, in 6 months, in one year? Set yourself ambitious but achievable (through the power of the hustle!) goals and work towards them.
If you don’t set yourself goals, you may struggle to feel as though you have achieved something as you won’t have any point of reference to aim for.
I also tend to set myself some rewards, if you hit Goal X, you reward yourself with epic experience Y.
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8. Hydrate (seriously)
Make the effort to constantly be drinking water. Or coconuts… Honestly, coconuts are awesome. It’s amazing how many people are dehydrated, and how easy it is to become dehydrated, without realising. When you are not properly hydrated, you can’t think at full capacity, problem solving becomes harder, you feel tired – it’s not good! Make the effort to hydrate.
9. Be Grateful
This is so important. Look, at the end of the day – you have the opportunity to try an build an online business for yourself. You have a laptop. You can think about traveling around the world. You are one lucky motherfucker.
But, yeah, I hear ya… it might not always feel like that. I’ve spent a lot of time journalling and writing my personal manifesto in order to really foster that gratitude.
I used to really struggle with being grateful but I’ve made a conscious effort over the last couple of years as I’ve noticed that when I do feel grateful and don’t take my wins for granted, I feel happier.
I have a ‘gratitude whiteboard‘ (seriously, I fucking love whiteboards) on the wall where I keep a running tally of the things that make me happy – whether it’s beers with a friend, a cold coconut or having a successful business. A glance at this board always makes me smile.
I also have ‘the bottle of awesome’ – whenever I have a really epic win, I write it down on a post-it note, fold it over and put it in the bottle. If I’m feeling real down, I open up the bottle and read through a few of my epic wins from the last month.
Starting the day by asking myself which three things I am grateful for, in my journal, is a good way to begin the day on a positive note.
10. Read books – lots of books
Or read blogs. Or listen to podcasts. Whatever. As long as you are constantly learning, that’s the goal. I read religiously, spending my last fifteen to thirty minutes of every day learning about something new. It’s a much better way to wind down before sleep than being on a screen. If you don’t want to read, listen to audiobooks or podcasts.
I’ll be posting a list of some of the best reads for entrepreneurs, soon!
Lucky Number 11. Surround yourself with inspiring people
It took me a very long time to find my tribe of people. I found that by helping others out I was able to build up a strong network of people who could also help me out – whether it was in linking to new products I had launched on Amazon or helping me build links to some of my more obscure niche sites.
There are many great Facebook groups out there where you can meet with other digital nomads and newbie entrepreneurs and exchange info, ideas and resources but here’s the thing… it has to be an exchange. You have to offer value if you want to receive value.
I’ve built up a solid foundation of friends who I can bounce ideas around with. Some of these people were several levels ahead of me when I first met them.
How did I connect with people who were several levels above me? I pitched them and I offered value – I offered to teach them how to invest in cryptocurrency in exchange for some next level SEO knowledge. A few drinks and some cheeky smokes later and we were firm friends.
I’ve never had a mentor and I do think it would have been incredibly valuable… The opportunity has simply not presented itself. I do however have one of the most talented, hard working teams in the travel blogging space…
I don’t know this for sure but I strongly suspect we have the best, and biggest, team out of any of my competitors and I know that we can beat all of my competitors at content output.
I’ve been able to attract real talent to my cause by offering creative deals in which revenue split and equity are offered up alongside, or instead of, a living wage.
I didn’t have the budget to pay some of these guys what they are worth so I incentivised them by offering a cut of whatever increase they could bring to my business. I’ll be talking about this more in another post on how to scale your business and giving you the exact blueprints so that you too can attract talent to help you scale.
I love my team, and I am beyond excited for what 2019 will bring. I do not believe that there are any competitors out there who can match us when it comes to the quality and quantity ratio of the content we are putting out there.
Anyway, I digress! Find your peeps and keep talent close – it takes an army to win a war. And this is what online business is – all out warfare.
To succeed you must build the foundations, you must move fast and you must move efficiently, you must learn to foster a positive mindset so that problems and setbacks roll off you like water.
Put in the groundwork, work smart, get yourself to a point where you can grow and then prepare to scale your business…
There is no time like right now, a few minutes of planning and preparation each day will pay hours worth of dividends in quality work. Make the effort to organise yourself and foster an epic mindset and you will achieve truly epic things…
Did you find these ten zen tips for mastering productivity helpful? Got anything you want to add? Tell me in the comments!