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An SEO’s Guide to Time Management and Analysis

Time Management

I think we can all agree here…

Managing time is extremely difficult in the SEO world.

So many projects, clients, affiliate sites… but not enough time to deal with them.

I’m a busy guy.

46 live money sites, 4630 PBNs, and three companies does that to a person.

The only possible way I can stay efficient and continue to grow my businesses is through strategic and systematized time management.

calendar snapshot

Typical Work Week

In this article, I’ll be deviating from my normal topic focus about SEO ranking techniques, case studies and test results.

Instead I will be teaching, what I believe to be, the most powerful SEO technique period: the ability to carefully manage time.  Smart time management allows you to work on more projects, get more clients, build more sites, and test more ranking techniques.

What you’re going to be learning is the exact process I’ve developed over the years which will enable you to:

  • See exactly where your time is being spent
  • Determine which are your highest $/hour projects
  • Find out which are your biggest time sinks
  • Figure out your Personal Value per Hour (PVH)
  • Offload all tasks that can be outsourced for less than your value per hour

By the end of this post, you’ll have a solid framework that you can duplicate to see where the biggest time-wasters exist in your life so you can eradicate them in the name of massive productivity.


By all means, I am no pioneer in the areas of time management and personal efficiency.  However, I am a big book nerd (see my recommended reading list) and I know where to look for answers.

I was first introduced to the allure of time management from the oh-so-famous 4-Hour Work Week.  This modern classic for today’s digital nomad opened my eyes to the importance of time efficiency.

Back in 2010, I was an engineer for a software company… or should I say “slave”?

On a typical week, I spent 60+ hours doing inefficient work that was used to sell software using an archaic sales process, while hoping to make people rich… people that weren’t me.

aint nobody meme

Once I broke free of the 9-5 and went full time into the SEO industry, I knew I wanted to do things differently.  I was scorned by the inefficiencies of old school corporate work culture, and wanted to hack my own processes for productivity.

At that point, I sat down and hit the books.

effective executiveThe book that has had the biggest impact with regards to time management is Peter Drucker’s Effective Executive.  In this book, Drucker has an entire chapter on the importance of managing your time.

I selected the key essentials from this book (and others) and came up with a system that enables me to accurately see where my time is going, so I can invest more into the areas that are generating me money and happiness, while surgically removing time-wasters.

Through a few years of trial and error, I’ve perfected the simple but effective process you’re about to learn.

The Quarterly Time-Management Audit

Every 3 months, I sit down and begin the following process.

It takes two weeks to complete, but adds only about 1% to your workload during this time.

By the end of it you’ll be able to see exactly how much time you’re spending in efficient activities, how much time is being wasted, and what you can do to optimize.

Before you begin this endeavor, note that…

Integrity is the key to making this work.  You MUST be consistent.


Make a promise to yourself to stick to it every day.

Phase 1 – Day 1 to Day 14: Track Each Minute of Your Working Day

The purpose of this phase is to track down exactly where your time is going so that you can audit it later using a simple spreadsheet that I’ll soon be providing you.

The night before you start this process, get a piece of paper and a pen lay them down on top of your keyboard.

Get a good night’s sleep and wake up the next day, bright and early, ready for work.

From the second you sit down and the computer and start working, you’re going to write down how each minute is spent.

  • Write down your first task
  • Write down the minute you started doing it
  • Write down the minute you stopped doing it

Typically, I wake up, brush my teeth, meditate and grab some food.  Then the first work-related task I do is on Facebook: replying to tags, answering questions, etc.

My first entry typically looks like this:

First Entry

Then I jump on email.  I like to make sure that each person depends on me for answers has what they need to continue on with their tasks.  I’ll record this down as well:

Record the Next Task

As the day goes on, whenever you start a new task, it gets added to your notes.  In the event that you go back to doing a task a second time (such as below with email), make sure to tack that onto sheet.

Note how there are two time entries for “Email” as I’ve worked on email twice so far:

keep tracking

Easy stuff.

By the end of the day, you’ll have a sheet that looks like this:

Final Result

Call it a day and tuck away your notes for phase 2 of this exercise.

Come tomorrow morning, you’re going to wake up and do the same thing.  In fact, you’re going to continue this forward for a full 14 days, before you move on to phase 2.

Expect to Start Seeing Benefits Already

As you go through this phase of tracking your activity, you’ll begin to experience some intense benefits.

For one, you’re going to be working more efficiently.  When you’re on email-duty, for example, since you’re tracking time, you’ll work faster.


Because your ego doesn’t want you to write down 65 minutes instead of 15 for doing a task because you got distracted watching fail compilations on YouTube.

You’re going to stay focused because you want to write down a small number.  You want to prove to yourself that you’re fast.

The ego is your friend, in this case.

You’ll also notice that you’re batching together your activities more.  When it’s time to do client follow-ups, you’ll naturally want to do them all in a row.

Since you know you have to track time every time you switch between activities, it makes more sense to simply so all your client follow-ups in one session, rather than toggle between that and email and placing backlinks, etc.

Batching is hands-down, one of the best tools in your arsenal to work more efficiently.


We’ll visit this again later after we audit your time expenditure.

Frequently Asked Questions so Far

Q: Why use pen and paper?  Aren’t there apps for this?

A: In my experience, the tactile requirement of actually picking up a piece of pen and repeatedly tracking your tasks on paper instills a muscle memory and makes the task hard to forget.

While an app is supposed to automate the process, you still need to remember to turn it on.  And let me just tell you now; if the app crashes and loses your data after 13 days, you’re probably going to murder someone.

Q: Why do we do this for two weeks?

A: Most likely, each of your weeks varies from one to the next.  One week you might be working intensely on closing clients, and the next you might be working on your own affiliate projects.

By tracking two weeks, we’re capturing a larger sample of your life, and we’ll be taking the average of each of the weeks.

Phase 2 – The Audit of all Audits

Once you’ve gathered two weeks of data, it’s time to start entering it into a master spreadsheet.

This spreadsheet is designed to do two main things:

  • Lay out exactly where you’re spending your time
  • Find out how much time you’re spending in rewarding projects vs. non-rewarding projects

Let’s see how it works.

Fill in the Time Analysis Spreadsheet

For each day of the week that you’ve tracked, simply add in the total number of minutes that you spent on each task.

Here’s what my sheet looks like after entering the first Sunday and Monday of the time tracking phase.

In dark blue, you’ll see my main businesses (or projects) which are broken down into smaller tasks.

step 1 template excel

Continue to fill out each day of the week.

Once you’re done, you’ll be over to scroll over to the right-hand side and see exactly how many hours you spend in each task as well as each project they’re associated with.

step 2

Record How Much Money You Made in the Previous Month

Now here’s the fun part.

Notice the yellow squares.  Here’s where you fill out how much money each of your businesses/projects/clients made for you in the previous month.

(Note: I’m not using real numbers in this example because I’m not an “income report kind of guy”.)

The tool will then calculate exactly how much money per hour you make from each project.

Already we can make some incredible insights.

As you probably know, I’m an affiliate SEO but I do personally take care of a couple of clients outside of my agency The Search Initiative.  Check out the data I just pulled up on these two clients.


The client “FTF” on top is your typical dream client: low maintenance and easy to rank.  Because everything is automated (even the monthly reporting) I spend on average 0.18 hours a week on the project (10.8 minutes per week) and take in $1000/month.  This results in a earning of $1253.92/hour.

On the other hand, client “TYT” has a few more issues.  I’m spending 1.88 hours per week on this project, while also earning $1000/month.  But the value per time is much lower: $122.61/hour.

It becomes easy to see where I should be focused.  Clients like FTF fit the ideal profile and it would be in my best interest to seek out other clients that fit the bill.

It’s also easy to see where I need to do some optimizing.

Now compare this to the time efficiency of JV affiliate sites:


As you already know, once affiliate sites are ranking #1 they require very little effort but can pay off quite considerably.

Sites like PCUI generate $27,586.21 per hour!

This is essentially why I like JV’s so much and hence why I created LeadSpring.

See how I go through my entire business and see where the short comings are and where the big winners lie…


Ready to get started?

Download the Time Tracking Spreadsheet Now

The Final Analysis

Once you have everything laid all out in front of you, it’s time to fully analyze this data to get a real snapshot on where you’re actually spending your time.

Here’s a list of the main things you should look at:

1) How many exact hours per week do you work?

Because you’re tracking exactly how many minutes you’re actually working, as opposed to how much time we’re simply sitting at the computer (there’s a big difference), we can see our inefficiencies.

average hoursAfter this analysis, I can see that I work (on average) 47.06 hours week.

The first question I ask myself is: does this make sense?

Was I actually sitting in the office for 50 hours this week, but really only worked 47.06 hours?

What else was I doing this whole time?

If there’s a big discrepancy, you need to take a long hard look at where your time-wasters lie.

2) What are your biggest time sinks?

Figure out which projects, businesses, affiliate sites, and clients are your biggest time sinks.  Unless they have a high profit/hour ratio or they give you pleasure in doing them (also very important), give them the axe.

3) What are your most efficient profit makers?

Rank each project, business, affiliate site and client by their profit/hour.

Look at the ones that are very time efficient.  Do more of them.

Look at the ones that have low time efficiency.  Outsource them (more on this soon).

Phase 3) Optimize your Time

As you can see, the process is actually very simple.

As long as you track your time and profits accurately, you can make quantitative, data-based decisions about your business, rather than using your intuition which is often wrong.

So now that you know exactly where your time is being wasted, what do you do with those low value, time sinks?

Outsource the Time Wasters

You might have noticed; this spreadsheet helps you calculate your Personal Value per Hour (PVH).


Look at all your projects that have low profit/hour and if you can outsource them for less than your PVH, then you actually make money.

This applies both to business tasks and also personal tasks.

If your value/hour is $300 and it costs you $50 for someone to mow the lawn, why are you still doing it yourself?  Unless you get immense pleasure from creating lovely green rows of grass, outsource it and use that time to work on your business or the activities you love.

Leverage What You Learned from The Exercise Itself

When you were time tracking, I guarantee you were being very efficient with your time.

You weren’t jumping between tasks and you likely weren’t watching cat videos when you knew you were on the clock for tracking how long it took to perform a client audit.

Take these practices and make them habits.

Stay focused when you’re on certain tasks.

Batch your tasks together.  When it’s time for cold emails, do them all at once.

After a certain amount of time in a task, you being to hit a flow state, where everything becomes easier and faster.  Once you’re in a flow state, it becomes very difficult to get back into it once you’ve derailed yourself.  Experts say it takes 25 minutes fully get back into a flow state (read more).

I’ve taught this time tracking process to others and many have adopted this as a full-time activity.

Some people, myself included, enjoy the efficiency of being under-watch.


This blog post, including the videos, took 2 hours and 37 minutes to create, film, and post on my blog.

Does it have high profit per time? Not really.

Nonetheless, I love writing articles for my blog, and I definitely won’t ever outsource any of it.

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it.

And I hope you can leverage what I’ve shared here to take some massive action on improving your time efficiency.



Article by

Matt Diggity

Matt is the founder of Diggity Marketing, LeadSpring, The Search Initiative, The Affiliate Lab, and the Chiang Mai SEO Conference. He actually does SEO too.

79 thoughts on “An SEO’s Guide to Time Management and Analysis”

  1. Wow… This is exactly what I need at this moment… I am really having a hard time where to focus my effort… I always feel that my time is not enough… I will definitely do your process…

  2. I’ve read a lot of time management blogs in my time but I think this is the first that focuses on it from the online entrepreneur angle. It is far more useful getting ideas from industry insider than the generic advice I normal see. Thanks for taking the 2 hours 37 to share. Can’t wait to try it out for myself.

  3. Brilliant – and spooky timing as I was just looking at focusing in on where I spend my time and managing it better!

    Thanks Matt

  4. This is great to see and although parts seem really simple, its only simple when you are showed. I am going to adopt the writing down the minutes of each task, you are right that checking emails may take 5 mins rather than hours!

    Wasting time is the biggest money burner for me by a mile, so cheers for this.

    1. Power through it. It’s an annoying two weeks having to always remember to mark stuff down, but after you’re done… its pure streamlining.

  5. Radhakrishnan Kg

    This is exactly the advice I was looking forward to, Matt. Thanks for sharing. I will soon report my time-blocking ritual with a screenshot.

  6. Thank you, very helpful!
    But I have a question. You say you have more than 4000 PBN domains but how do you actually manage them? I mean how do you remember the expiry date of all of them?
    I actually have just 100 PBN domains and I already have troubles to remember the expiry date of them…

  7. hi,
    is there a link to download the spreadsheet from?
    Would love to do a dry run on it for the next few weeks. A lot of the stuff you mention is so on-point, especially about the wasted time with distractions and lack of focus. Currently juggling multiple clients and our own projects and just starting in the link building as well, so probably the best time to try this.

  8. Very good guide, I enjoyed reading it at the books you’re talking about seem to be a must.

  9. Started to use it minute after reading, thank you!
    (Writing comment – 15 seconds) 😉

  10. It’s very helpful for me Matt. Thank you so much, you are always my hero. I will practice right now

  11. Hi Matt! As everybody above, this is incredible! I was thinking this past weekend on how to improve my time efficiency… i was “feeling” that i was totally unorganized and was trying to find out how to manage it… i had the answer on my e-mail this morning.. I will follow your method here… certainly will work, as all the SEO tips you have shared already! Success man!

  12. Pratik Hambardiker

    Managing the time right is most essential thing. However most of us ignores it and don’t realise that we waste time.

    This was a super post and loved the detailed explanation.

    Would surely follow your regime and share the results.

    Thank you

  13. Sweet post Matt. Gonna implement this.

    For start-up projects is it impossible to judge? Say you start a brand new website and earnings = £0. How do you manage this?

    Also think this would be interesting from a nerd time management POV too.


    1. This is the risk you take with new projects. The income is only an estimate. That’s why its important to only start new endeavors that you truly believe in.

  14. Great article Matt!

    I do something kind of similar, I have a list of things that I MUST do every day. My list use to be much longer but I “trimmed the fat” and only left the things that only I am able to do.

    Then I delegate, delegate, delegate… I look at how much I’m paying the person and how much I’m getting back in return. I try to hire people that can figure things out without my help (or as little help as possible). As your post points out (Time is Money).

    I take the warren buffet approach, I spend a minimum of 5 hours of my day reading. This allows me to come across new information and then hire people to implement it which usually always leads to an increase in profits. This is only possible if I outsource the grunt work and only offer my creative output/direction when necessary which usually take me only an hour or 2 a day.

    I do want to integrate your approach as this most likely lead to more profits!

  15. Hey, Matt.

    Awesome. Really loved it, man!

    Just want to say thanks for this time management guide 🙂

    -Ravijit Chavda

  16. Not bad) thanks for info you are sharing

    do you have own tools to manage pbns and placed links?

  17. Its like you can read my minds 🙂 I bump up this question with my self on how can i manage my time more efficiency, exactly what i need.

    Thanks for sharing!

  18. As usual an awesome post. I am suffering a lot now for tracking my time and using it. I am around using PC 12-15 hours per day while still i can’t complete my work. I am wasting so many times for nothing. This should be something i am looking for. Much appreciated.

    1. 20. I’m not winning.

      Just kidding.

      That said… the time is now. We’re in a very interesting time where lives can be changed with pure determination and smart, creative thinking. I’m capitalizing while I can.

  19. Really Great post, even earlier also I tried to track and manage the time..but always faced problem with consistency…Hope this time I will get it right.

  20. Wow, and I thought I was busy. Great post Matt – very valuable strategy when juggling multiple projects at once.

  21. Really good article Matt! I will definitely try out writing down my tasks for 14 days. It’s really common for me to sit in front of the computer for 8 hours and realise that I only finished 2-3 tasks that should only have taken maximum two hours to complete. Sometimes I find myself just tabbing between various websites without even doing anything. It’s crazy.

    1. Watch, brother. When you’re on the clock, you’re going to behave a lot more efficiently. Your ego won’t let you waste time.

  22. Great post Matt, thanks. This is a real issue at the moment and I’m going to have to put this into practise

  23. Thanks Matt, I imagine this is going to be a real eye opener for me to see how much time is wasted on certain task.

    In regards to your error message that appear in the video’s, this is being caused by running out of memory on your graphics card. As a work around you can disable windows trouble shooting during recording by following these steps:

    In the Start Menu type Action Center in the Search box
    On the left sidebar, click Change Action Center settings
    Untick the Windows Troubleshooting
    Click OK.

    Sorry for geeking out 🙂

  24. That’s an awesome article. But apparently no one noticed (or they didn’t have anything to say) about your Sunday evening’s activity: Tantra Workshop… nice 🙂

  25. This is next level stuff Matt. Saving it to Pocket to read with more focus when I get the “time” 😛

  26. This is my first landing on your site via NathanGotch latest article.
    I loved your site too much that I have bookmarked it in my Feedly reader.

    Though I don’t understand some of your words in time management image on this post yet you are awesome and having a great {or greater than other SEO guys like Brain or Neil or Nathan or Rank }SEO knowledge.

    Cheers Nekraj

  27. Matt,

    In your sheet you are trekking for 1st and 2nd week, what about tracking 3rd and 4th week activity?

    1. Two is enough for me to account for variance. If you’d like to track for longer, please feel free.

  28. You could even use to track the time and its manual. Maybe you can add that as an option

  29. Holy Moly this is amazing. but what is the different between using this spreadsheet and using something like trello?

    Thank You

  30. Fantastic hands-on post!

    Not sure if I understood this correctly, but are you working (like ‘working working’) 47 hours out of 50 hours in office?

    That’s amazing.

    What’s your system with breaks and all? You just take short breaks during the day and don’t waste any time at all on reading, talking to other people etcetera?

  31. I like your mindset but I don’t like your pen. It’s ugly and racist. You should get a new pen. A light brown pen.

    1. This isn’t the first time I’ve been told about my pen discrimination. I will try to be more open minded about pen equality going forward.

  32. Wow. This is so awesome… and inspiring. I waste so much time on god knows what. LOL. Thank you for this!

  33. Agree wholeheartedly… once you have your Personal Value per Hour (PVH) figured out, most everything you do should be measured against it. Thanks for sharing Matt 🙂

  34. As a SEO consultant, I have been struggling to efficiently organize my time, will have to test your suggestion and see how it goes. Thank you for your port Matt.

  35. Thanks for the article Matt. Had it recommended to me by a friend, and I’m glad he did! Excited to see what comes of the exercise.

    Definitely agree with your last section. There are some things in life you want to optimize for income/profit, and others where you get enough out of them that it’s not about that.

  36. Thank you Matt for the article, i was always seeking a way to adapt time management into a practical system and kinda of orient it to SEO industry (more or less). I still like toggle app but it failed me as i was using it as a macos app, i’ll have to use it as web app and try to not close that app by accident and not paying attention that i did. if everything fail i’ll just use your method of golden age of pen and paper

    This comment took 30 sec (just kidding)

  37. Wow thanks Matt! This article is insane!
    I have some question after reading this.

    – Do you use any to do list app/ software to list your daily todo things?

    – Base on your template, maybe the task is just in category model & not specific task. Example in PBN task, there’re a lot of mini-task should be done as: find domain auction, content plan for building pbn…bla bla… Do you do something or write down sub-task in each big task category in anything else like to do list app?

    – Btw, have you ever tried time-blocking & plan your day in Google calendar with exact time for each activity. And do you list personal activitiy in your daily time management, bro?

    1. Do you use any to do list app/ software to list your daily todo things?

      My team and I use a combination of Trello and Google Calendar.

      Base on your template, maybe the task is just in category model & not specific task. Example in PBN task, there’re a lot of mini-task should be done as: find domain auction, content plan for building pbn…bla bla… Do you do something or write down sub-task in each big task category in anything else like to do list app?

      Nah, I like to keep it all on paper when tracking time. If anything takes longer than 5 minutes, note it down. If not, just group it under a general task topic. Saying that, the purpose here is to audit the tasks that take up the majority of your time. Don’t get too hung up on details here.

      Btw, have you ever tried time-blocking & plan your day in Google calendar with exact time for each activity. And do you list personal activitiy in your daily time management, bro?

      Yes and yes.

  38. Thanks Matt, very good article,

    I use the same combination of Trello, Google calendar, RescueTime app, and the Promodoro technique, I always divide my tasks into 25 minutes promodoros and push them in a simple day planner template I have on Google Calendar starting from 8 am to 6 pm (With 2 hours break between).
    I create a separate board for every project I have (Money site, Web design/Development client, SEO, Learning, etc..), and I have a global board that contains the stream of the due tasks from all projects, that stream goes directly to the day planner in Google Calendar. The problem I have is consistency and self-discipline, that’s the biggest challenge I think most people have. I think using the pen and paper along with your technique will be the approach that may help to overcome this.., I will start my two weeks writing things done.


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