We recently talked about how link building is anything but a cookie cutter process. Response was mostly positive, but a few of you have correctly pointed out that it certainly can be boiled down to a process. This is absolutely true, and without careful planning a link building campaign starts to fall apart. Today we’re going to talk about a single element of poor planning that can seriously damage your link building productivity: the temptation to multitask.
Why Multitasking Hurts Your Bottom Line
Multitasking is a covert menace. It makes you feel like you’re getting more done, when in reality your productivity actually suffers. It takes a full 15 minutes to completely recover from a switch between tasks, and it can hurt efficiency by as much as 40 percent. These numbers should make any project manager cringe. In fact, there is preliminary scientific evidence suggesting that multitasking actually hurts our ability to focus when we need to.
In short, multitasking makes us feel busy because it forces our brain to work harder than it needs to. We end up working harder and accomplishing less. If that 40 percent number carries over to SEO, it means that multitasking will cut the number or effectiveness of your links almost in half.
So, what can we do to avoid the prison of multitasking while link building?
1. Separate Tasks
First and foremost, we need to clearly identify the components of our link building strategy that don’t need to be performed simultaneously. For example:
- We don’t need to perform research as we write our guest posts. It’s probably better to do preliminary research before outlining, and in-depth research after outlining and before writing. Trying to research and write at the same time will slow you down.
- It’s not always a good idea to find link prospects and reach out to them in the same sitting. When we’re seeking out prospects, we’re thinking about domain authority, social engagement, traffic, and so on. When we’re doing outreach, we’re supposed to be thinking about rapport, trust, and just general friendliness. Trying to do both at the same time means doing both with sub-par results. In fact, studies have shown that it’s literally impossible to think analytically and empathetically at the same time.
Without proper planning, most of us will end up taking a very scatter-brained approach to link building. We’ll try to think up an idea for an article and then try to write it immediately. Then we’ll open twelve tabs in our browser trying to do research, and maybe open up analytics to get some idea of what’s worked before. Then we’ll remember some blog post we read that said it’s a good idea to involve influencers in the creation of your content, so we’ll do a bit of prospecting and outreach in the hopes of picking up a few quotes that might help the article do well.
All of these are good ideas, but it’s a bad idea to try to do all of them at the same time. Anything that you know you’ll have to do more than once is something that you should do en masse. Consider this hypothetical content/outreach schedule:
- 9:00 Brainstorm article ideas
- 10:00 Choose two ideas and perform preliminary research and then write outlines
- 12:30 Prospect popular experts you will contact for advice, quotes, and information
- 2:00 Check inbox
- 3:00-5:00 Contact prospects
Day 2, 1 week later:
- 9:00 Perform in depth research and post links into last week’s outlines
- 11:00 Check inbox
- 12:30 Take insights, quotes from prospects and paste into article outlines
- 2:00 Write 2 articles
- 4:00 Edit 2 articles
Notice that this schedule would give you two top tier link bait articles in two days of work, complete with loads of input from prospects who will most likely end up linking to you, and an overwhelming amount of research that will separate you from your competitors.
Most of us are lucky to get one genuine link bait article finished in two days of work, and a big part of this is the temptation to multitask. That’s because, instead of designating the work to be done on these two days a week apart, we end up working sporadically on the article throughout the entire week, compulsively checking emails, doing research and editing as we write without an outline, and interrupting ourselves with ideas for new articles.
It’s amazing how much a simple to-do list can streamline things, eliminating all the redundancies and the time lost switching back and forth between tasks.
2. Keep a Journal Handy
I know, it’s pretty old school. But it helps, and here’s why. One of the main reasons we multitask is because we have an idea and we don’t want to forget about it. So, in order to make sure it gets done, we do it right away. And, of course, the end result is that we forget what we were doing beforehand. At best, we remember what we were doing, and it takes 15 minutes to get back into the rhythm of things.
If you keep a journal on hand, and encourage your team members to do the same, you don’t have to let your idea become a distraction. You just write it down and come back to it later. Even when we don’t multitask, stray thoughts can become a distraction. In essence, our brain is “afraid” we’ll forget about something. If you can train your brain to trust that ideas won’t be forgotten, the temptation to multitask or daydream goes away.
3. Set Shorter Deadlines and Focus On the Most Effective
Finally, one of the main reasons we multitask is because we’re, well, bored, and impatient. The human brain is not hard-wired to multitask, but it is hard-wired to seek out novel situations and enjoyable experiences. If we find ourselves multitasking, it’s often because we don’t enjoy the task at hand, and we just want it to be over with.
According to the Harvard Business Review, setting shorter deadlines can actually reduce stress by eliminating the desire to multitask. This sounds bizarre and upside down, but it works. When we give ourselves less time to finish a task, we won’t waste time juggling tasks, and we won’t get bored enough to put ourselves in that situation.
Should it really take longer than an hour to write a 500 word article, even a really good one? Not if you’ve already done the research and written the outline.
Finally, if you simply can’t resist the temptation to multitask for a certain task, it begs the question: is that task worth doing? When we really force ourselves to only do one thing at a time, we quickly realize that many of the things we do are just a waste of time.
It’s the 80/20 rule at work. About 20 percent of our link building efforts are responsible for 80 percent of our results. Most of the time, if we really forced ourselves to sit down and do the other 80 percent of the work with no distractions, no multitasking allowed, we would quickly realize that it wasn’t a very productive use of our time. Then we would focus all of our time on the most effective tasks, and end up quadrupling our results.
The Harvard Business Journal article mentioned above shares a few striking statistics. People distracted by emails or phone calls saw a 10 point drop in their IQ. That’s equivalent to missing a night of sleep, and twice as bad as being high on marijuana. That other task can wait. Build some links.