Today’s blog post will reveal my biggest goal for 2016, nine niche ideas with huge potential and the most effective productivity technique I’ve used over the last few years. Let’s begin by talking about the productivity technique which is often referred to as the Pomodoro Method. If you’ve followed any kind of productivity guide online in the past then you may already know about this way of working in 25-minute time blocks.
Between each you take a five-minute break, and then work for another 25 minutes.
Generally, Pomodoros happen in ‘rounds’ so you’ll do four of them in a row – not forgetting the five minute break between each – then give yourself a much longer break after the round. I don’t really follow this method at all – I’ll share my own version in a minute – but I don’t think I would be where I am today without the Pomodoro Method. Telling myself to work for “just 25 minutes” is far easier than sitting down and thinking “I have to write a blog post now.”
Millions have found the same to be true for them as well.
As I’m writing this very sentence, the seconds are ticking down on the Pomodoro app on my phone. When a ‘Pom’ is underway, I will not succumb to any distractions.
I won’t answer any calls.
I won’t check another tab in Chrome “just for a second”.
I won’t look at any Tinder notifications my phone might throw out.
In the rare case there is something I really need to check – like someone who never calls has phoned me four times – then I’ll simply hit pause on the Pomodoro app I use (though this is very rare).
The reason I’m telling you about the Pomodoro Method is because I believe there is a huge opportunity to create an amazing website and online community focused around this way of being productive.
And like with most ideas in this series: If you build it, I will use it.
There aren’t going to be a ton of opportunities for everyone to be successful with today’s core angle, so I’ll also be sharing some other niche ideas you can spin off from this concept as well.
I have so much belief in this idea that if someone were to pull off what I’m about to outline in a big way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them have hundreds of thousands of active users in a short period of time.
After all, could you tell me one person you know that doesn’t want to be more productive?
I could totally see my friends and family using this, and it’s rare for website ideas to have that potential without already existing.
Before I get into the specifics, I want to give a little background on how I personally use Pomodoros and how others I know use them, so you can hopefully understand the huge opportunity I’m about to present.
As I explained earlier, Pomodoros are generally done in rounds. People typically do four in a row – that’s 1 hour and 40 minutes of solid work (with 20 minutes rest) – and then take a longer break of 30 minutes, an hour, or more.
This is the general method, but I don’t follow it very closely.
I tend to do at least eight Pomodoros per day, but aim to complete at least ten. While 4 hours and 10 minutes of work (10 x 25 minutes) might not sound like much to be proud about completing in a day, you have to remember it’s about real, focused work on serious tasks without interruption.
I’m not multi-tasking. I’m not taking breaks within the Pomodoro itself. And I’m not starting my timer on things like reading or cleaning up my office. They’re taken very seriously.
This screenshot is from the day this article is going live, but the rest of the post was actually written a few weeks ago.
The four unproductive days represent Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The two biggest spikes represent 12 Pomodoros completed for those days. Today (Thursday) I’m currently on Pomodoro #9 which you can see on the far right.
For me personally, my breaks between Pomodoros are very sporadic. If I’m producing content like I am right now, then it’s likely I won’t take a 5 minute break between Poms but skip the 5 minute break, finish another one, and skip the break after that.
Often when I’m writing I get in the “zone” and I really don’t want to take a break. Getting started for me is the hard part so once I do get going I let momentum take over.
On other days I can take breaks of more than an hour between Pomodoros. Life is not some perfectly structured machine – even when you don’t have a 9-5 job – so things tend to crop up which stop me from flowing one Pom into the next.
As I write this, with 14 minutes and 13 seconds left on the clock, I only have a few hours before I head to Bangkok to shoot a commercial I have been wanting to make for almost a year. Because of that, I won’t be able to get my ten Poms completed.
(I count shooting the commercial as work, but because I don’t believe it’s the best use of my time, I will not track it in the app).
You may be wondering why I, or anyone else, would track how many Poms they complete in a day.
Why not just do as many as I can and be happy with that? Or why not just count them when they’re tough? As a famous bodybuilder once said, “I only count the reps when they start hurting, because that’s when they count.”
Well, I’ve actually found on my most productive days, I’m competitive about them.
I’m not the only person I know who works around Pomodoros. Diggy, my business partner, is obsessed about them too. And because we sometimes work in different cities or at least in different offices or houses, we generally ‘show off’ to each other via a chat app how many Pomodoros we’ve completed in a day.
Here’s one such example:
If my numbers are low, he’ll take a dig at me. If they’re high he’ll be a little more motivated to push on and try to catch up with my numbers for the day before he goes to sleep.
As an aside – for those of you who don’t know us personally – we’re not really that serious about this. When I say we take a dig at each other, it’s just friendly. We don’t really care who wins for the day; we just want to push each other to get work done while we can instead of messing around on the likes of Facebook. Mostly because both have huge goals in life.
While I don’t share my daily Pomodoro count with my brother – we’re on different time zones so I don’t want to wake him up or vice versa – he also relies on them heavily.
Ever since he started working from home he has found them incredibly useful to help keep him going, especially when it’s easy to procrastinate because he really can work at any time of the day.
So where are you going with this rambling story Glen? My apologies, but you really did have to read this backstory to understand the potential of what I’m about to share — especially if you don’t currently use the Pomodoro Method to help with your productivity.
As I’m very much into internet marketing and the overall industry, I’m aware of most of the big blogs in this space. One trend that has grown over the last few years, spurred on by the likes of Pat Flynn and John Lee Dumas, is people sharing their income reports from their online ventures.
I won’t go into the full details of why I’ve grown to dislike them so much here – it could take an entire blog post – but for the most part I find they simply tempt beginners to copy them in promoting the same affiliate products, rather than getting into other niches where they could make a killing as well.
(Side note: I’m a huge fan of John & Pat and I totally understand their own reasons for sharing income reports, but I’m going a different route and would love to see them try it also).
So here’s what I say to anyone who shares a public income report: I would much rather see your grind report.
I would prefer to see how much work you get done each day and be inspired by that, rather than how much income you made because someone chose a to start their new website on a web host you recommended.
I think showing off your true activity levels would be so much more inspiring for beginners, and really show people you mean it when you say things like, “You’ve got to put in the work. You’ve got to take action.”
What if there was an online community where anyone around the world could show off, in public, how many Pomodoros they complete each day.
What if they could be charted over time like in the Pomodoro apps I use?
What if I could see how many Pomodoros other people are doing each day, or have done just today? Especially those who I connect with on Facebook or Twitter to make it even more interesting.
I really can’t imagine this kind of thing would be difficult to put together. Here are a few features of the iPhone app I use daily:
And it cost me $4.99.
It’s doesn’t even have what would no doubt be my favourite feature: A way to export that data into some online community where other people can see how much work I’m doing and I can see how much work they’re doing.
And to take it a step further, just imagine you could see how many people were currently completing Pomodoros LIVE around the world.
Let’s say that you wake up one day and you’re not feeling particularly productive…
You could open up this app or website and see that 654 people are online completing Poms, or a blogger you follow is on three for the day, or your friend is about to finish his first one.
I’m living proof that those with a competitive nature totally get inspired to do more with this kind of set-up. You saw in the screenshot with Diggy above that we’re already competing in a fun way; it’s just that our approach is messy and slow.
That’s a problem for us, and we would love for one of you to build a solution.
To show how serious I am about this, I put together a little Google Charts graph highlighting how simple the reporting can be. We’re not looking for fancy analytics – my $5 app doesn’t have them – just a way to see how much work we’re doing.
Because I’m a big believer in the idea that you can’t cheat the grind, if I’m not getting the results I want to in life, I can look at my chart and see exactly why. I’m either not putting in enough hours, or I’m kidding myself and completing Poms on the wrong (usually easy) tasks.
If you can’t see the graph, please click on over to the post to view it on site.
If you hover over a particular week you’ll see more details about it. I’m not a programmer whatsoever and I created this in two minutes using Google Charts. Pretty cool, no?
It would be awesome to see graphs for:
If anyone reading this goes and makes this website, makes it beautiful and gives me great charts to track overtime, I’ll be your first customer.
In yet another hopeful display of how serious I am, I’ve put up a few mockups of how I think a great website like this would look structurally.
Mockup #1: The Core Interface
The main Pomodoro screen should be as clutter free as possible. You might even want to remove the counts of how many Poms you’ve completed for today and leave that up to the stats page (below).
I really like the idea of showing how many people are online and being productive, which you’ll also find in the Headpsace meditation app I’m a big fan of.
Mockup #2: The Stats Page
Hopefully the image is fairly self-explanatory. Here you can see how well you’re doing on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, and then check in on the progress of other people you follow as well.
In the screenshot we can see Ramsay (@blogtyrant) is on track for an awesome day. Don’t think he’s too productive though; he’s in Australia so he’s hours ahead of everyone else!
Mockup #3: The Group Chat
I’m not great at drawing chat windows in Photoshop but hopefully you get the idea. The left panel could show not only who is online but how many Poms they’ve completed for the day, with a big chat window to give everyone space to encourage each other and talk about what they’re working on.
I imagine this feature alone would be awesome for those who partake in mastermind groups.
There are nearly 300,000 results in Google for “The Pomodoro Technique” and no doubt millions of people who have tried it in their daily lives.
To make this tool really take off and potentially reach those hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of users, I believe that at minimum the three sections I’ve outlined above should be completely free for all users.
They’re enough to get the job done, but if you’re serious about this method of being productive, you may want something a little more. That’s where some additional features might come in handy.
Premium Feature #1: Group Moderation
Instead of just throwing everyone into a chat, make it so that premium users can delete messages they’ve written, assign admin privileges to other users and give them an option to ‘start’ rounds for the entire group, meaning a Pomodoro will start for everyone at the same time.
Premium Feature #2: Link it to an App
The only thing that might personally put me off the above solution is that I’m not always at a PC when I’m doing a Pomodoro or even if I am, I may not have an Internet connection. While an app will be more expensive to put together, we’re looking to build something that could potentially be used by millions here, so I think it’s worth the investment.
Think of apps like Evernote where you can write notes offline and they sync up to the web later.
Premium Feature #3: Allow Us to Make Financial Bets
If you’re in a close group – like I imagine the #marketingcrew group above would be – we could each pitch in say $50 and whoever completes the most Poms in a week or month collects the prize money. While I wouldn’t expect the amounts bet to be life changing, they could be an added incentive to be more productive.
I’m sure getting more work done even at the cost of $50 would totally be worth it. There would be the possibility of ‘cheating’ but the real aim here is to push everyone to produce instead of procrastinate. I can’t imagine any of the people I would likely do this with would fudge their numbers.
Premium Feature #4: Screenshot my Page as Proof I’m Working
I haven’t totally fleshed out in my head how this could be used in a lot of ways, but it could definitely help to hold yourself accountable to make sure even during a Pom you’re not slacking off.
I’m not sure how the technology works exactly, but I know Upwork.com (formerly oDesk) have the ability take random screenshots of a freelancers screen so employers know they’re actually working and not claiming more billable hours than they actually worked.
Though I take all Poms seriously, this could be useful for those just starting with the technique who may even find 25 minutes a long time to focus.
BONUS Marketing Tip: Give Me a Widget!
Let me show the world how many hours I truly put in. How much I grind to achieve the results I get.
I’m proud to be a hard worker, so let me inspire others and show that if they want more from life, they need to put in the hours too. Make it easy to paste the widget into a blog sidebar or even take up an entire page if I were to dedicate one to it.
Add a link back to your website in the bottom of the widget, of course. Even make it an optional affiliate link so I get credit if anyone joins the site as a premium member because of me.
With any niche idea I share, I aim to not only give you one core concept, but suggest other ways that concept could spin off into other industries you may be more interested in.
So instead of just a generic online ‘Pomodoro community’ like I’ve outlined above (now referred to as PomCom’s), you could niche down into smaller industries and grow a passionate audience around similar projects.
For instance, picture a PomCom for writers where the app will actually track their word count during each Pomodoro (by writing directly on the app or website), and then share that in a chart with fellow writers.
This would be amazing for bloggers, book authors, journalists or any other hobby or profession which involves writing as its primary role.
As someone who at times has actively tried to learn the Thai language (tones are difficult!), I would have loved to be part of a PomCom that consisted solely of people learning Thai where I could share how many words I’ve learned each day or at least how many Poms I’ve completed towards learning.
The whole idea being, once again, that you can’t cheat the grind. If I’m not making progress with Thai, I only have to look at how many 25-minute time blocks I’ve dedicated to it to see why. Lack of these will almost certainly result in a lack of progress.
There could be a PomCom for serious cyclists who track how many miles they’re putting in each day on their bikes and comparing them with others online. This wouldn’t necessarily be Pomodoro-related, but it’s just another idea that can ‘branch out’ from the original concept here.
The frameworks I mocked up could still be relevant.
If you see some kind of community you could create that benefits from any kind of progress reporting then don’t feel like you have to be bound by the 25 minute limitation. Do whatever you feel would be more relevant for that specific audience.
A few more PomCom ideas that come to mind include:
If anyone ends up making that original, generic app (or the one specifically for writers) I will be your first paying customer in a heartbeat.
And if I would pay for it, surely someone else would too.
If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll see that yesterday I revealed my biggest goal for 2016: To make ViperChill the best marketing blog in the world.
Now of course this is an entirely subjective goal. The best movie when I was a kid was Matilda but you were probably more fond of something else (just kidding, I know yours was Matilda too).
There’s no real way of determining the best blog in any category so I will purely be judging myself on this one and not expecting to win any kind of award. It’s a goal that has little other purpose than for me to push myself to write the best content I possibly can on a more regular basis. I relaunched this blog in 2009 and I’ve always been infrequent with my posting so it’s more of a challenge to see what I can become, rather than what I can get back in return.
In my recent guide on how to make money online I talked about a personal development blog I used to run and how my sole focus for the site was to reach 10,000 subscribers.
All I wanted to do was reach 10,000 subscribers. It might seem like a weird goal because it doesn’t really tie directly into anything else, but it was something I wanted to achieve. You will find yourself setting ‘strange’ goals like this when money becomes a byproduct of whatever you’re working on.
In 2016 I want ViperChill to become the best marketing blog in the world by my own standards. I don’t mind if anyone agrees with me; it’s more of an internal goal I have for myself.
Now the reason I tell you about this goal is because I want you to watch how much work it takes for me to try and make this happen, and hopefully use my grind as inspiration to work harder on your own challenges this year.
Look at how many articles I write. Look at how active I am on Facebook. Look at how many comments I reply to on every article.
I also want you to be able to see how many Pomodoros I do throughout the year, so someone please make that app and website. If I get anywhere close to my goal it will be by and large thanks to the Pomodoro Method, because I get so much more done with it than without it.
Who knows…maybe the headline for this post will be true in 12 month’s time (at least in my eyes).
As I wrap things up I want to get back to the subject of productivity which spurred on this entire post.
Have you ever had one of those moments where you’ve been working on a problem for a while or trying to understand something and there’s a moment when everything just ‘clicks’ together?
Where something ‘goes off’ in your head like a light bulb and suddenly everything makes a lot more sense? Even stranger is that the answer you’ve been looking for tends to be incredibly simple.
This happened to me earlier last year and ever since then I’ve stopped wondering why I’m not achieving stretch-goals I’ve set for myself and instead I’m actually achieving them.
My click, was simply this: Every single Pomodoro I complete takes me one step closer to my goals. And every day I don’t do as many Pomodoros as I should have, I shouldn’t be surprised why I don’t have what I want within reach.
Now I know this is incredibly simple, so let me explain this a little further because it’s unlikely the ‘click’ happened for you after reading that bolded sentence.
All of the work I now do on a daily basis is purely revolved around completing Pomodoros. If I’m not doing a Pomodoro, I’m not working on the most important tasks I could be doing. And in order to achieve the big goals I have set for myself in this lifetime, I need to keep working on the important things to get there.
So it all comes full circle in a very simple manner: Every single Pomodoro I complete gets me one step closer to my goals.
In my last post I talked about the compound effect and how little things can stack together over time to create much bigger wins. Just make sure you keep hacking away at the little challenges consistently.
For once, I’m a little lost for words on what else to say here. It was just such an incredibly powerful realisation for me to think “the only way I will be successful is if I finish more Poms” and have my whole journey simplified in such a way.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, sorry for wasting your time with the last section. Hopefully my writing ability will improve in 2016. If you did get what I’m saying then I hope it simplified your journey for you as well.
Thank you so much, as always, for reading.
Update: I was interviewed on this very topic by Chris Winfield, sharing my daily productivity process.