How To Get More Done In Less Time

Working as an entrepreneur on the internet (be that as a publisher, an affiliate, a freelance writer, or the thousand other ways to make money online), there are plenty of things that you can do to keep yourself “busy.”

As you’ve probably discovered by now, though, only some of those things put money into your pocket.

It’s very easy to compile a list of things that need to get done, work all day at completing them, and then at the end of the day, realize that you got no “real work” done.

This happens to me quite frequently, and as I’ve discovered, it happens to most internet entrepreneurs. There is plenty to “do,” but only some of it actually grows your business. In other words, only some of it counts.

I’ve tried many different project management tasks, checklists, and ways to keep myself on task, including writing down everything that I do throughout the work day, to keeping a log of all the things that need to get done, to using Bascamp (which is great for collaborating with a team, not so great for managing myself).

Here is what I have found works best for me to get things done and actually “feel” like I got something done throughout the day:

At all times, I keep a file open on my computer that has the things that I’m working on, or the things that need to get done.

I separate them into two groups: fires and growth orders.

Fires are the things that HAVE to get done. I HAVE to put out the fire. But once you put out the fire, all you have done is maintain. Email would be a perfect example of this – you HAVE to answer your emails, but once you do, all you have done is maintain things where they are. You don’t often grow your company by emailing them.

Emailing my list is another fire. Yes, it makes me money when I promote something to my list, but it doesn’t grow the business. It puts cash into the business bank account, but next week it won’t make me anything.

Growth orders, on the other hand, are things that will grow the company and make us money for a long time. They take longer, and I have to work at them in “chunks”, but once they are done, they build a real business.

This may involve writing sales letters, creating new tests on a sales page, building an affiliate program, tweaking an advertisement campaign, and anything else that provides long term results for the company.

To put things into perspective, here are the things on my FIRES list right now:
Fill Out Form For New Merchant Account
Record Next Sales Video For Newest Product
Send Thank You Cards To Five Friends
Prepare Task List For My New Project Manager
Clean Up My Email Inbox
Email Travis About A Clickbank Version For Our Product

And here are the things on my GROWTH ORDERS list right now:
Finish New Salesletter For Lump Sum Profits
Write Next Upsell Sales Letter For Blue Collar Millionaire
Outline Sales Letter For Our Dating Product

As you can see, there are more items on my current FIRES list, because those are the tasks that come up all the time. Take that check to the bank, call that person back, email this, promote this, finish reading that ebook, etc. They need to get done, but they don’t put money in your pocket.

In an ideal world, if you could outsource all of your fires, that would be best. However, we all have fires that we have to put out, even if they are in our personal life or our school life. That does bring up the point, though, that if you are spending all of your time putting our FIRES, then it’s time to bring on some help, or at least tweak your strategy.

Here is the bench mark: spend at least 70% of your time working on growth orders and only 30% of your time putting out fires.

When you spend your time on your growth orders, your business grows and you make more money. Then, at the end of the day, put out all of your fires quickly, one by one.

What most people do is they spend 90% of their time putting out fires as they come up throughout the day (even if it’s just tasks at their day job!) and only 10% of their time even *thinking* about growth. It’s very rare that the average person works on growth at all. Therefore, if you spend the majority of your time actively working on growth order, then you will join the most successful people in your field.

For example, most of the people who purchase my products are looking to start a home based business or grow their existing businesses. My “average” customer purchases the product, goes through part of it, and then does little else, except wonder why he or she didn’t see any results.

The wildly successful ones digest the product quickly, put some things into action, stumble here and there, and then work on the things that they found to be effective.

For him or for her, the “fires” are reading or listening to the product, putting up the website, participating on a forum, and getting answers to his or her questions. The “growth orders” may be working on traffic and/or building follow up sequences, or building buyers lists or whatever it is that puts money into their pocket.

Do you see how focusing on just the fires basically handicaps you from seeing virtually any results?

Here’s an assignment to test this theory out for yourself:

This week, make a list of the things that you are working on in one area of your life. This may be building your business, doing stuff at work, even stuff around the house.

You may be shocked to find that that majority of your time is being spent on stuff that needs to be done, but doesn’t grow anything or produce any lasting results. What would happen if you spent more of your time on growing things, and less on things that could be done in a short amount of focused time?

Since I’m sure that some will argue that fires are necessary and take up a lot of time, I will counter argue with this: fires can usually be put out very quickly, but we let them distract us from more important things, so they take longer. If you reserve one to two hours at the end of the day to put out your fires, you will find that you can complete them all in that time, leaving the rest of the day open for growth.

Tim Ferriss calls this “batching.” That’s the idea of putting your least important tasks all together and then quickly knocking them out, rather than letting them consume your day.

Here’s a summary to tie this together:

Organize the things you’re working on into two categories: fires and growth orders.

When you wake up in the morning, start working on a growth order. Work on it most of the day. Save your fires for the end of your work time.

At the designated time, knock our all of your fires one by one as fast as possible. You are shooting to spend 70% of your time on growth orders and only 30% of your time on fires.

When you focus on growth first, you will achieve more, do more, accomplish more, and feel better about the progress that you are making toward each of your goals.

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17 thoughts on “How To Get More Done In Less Time

  1. I always welcome something that helps add structure. The problem with learning all of this is, as you know, information overload. When that happens, some of us have no idea where the starting point is and what tasks should be next.

    So, thank you for sharing.

  2. Hey Ryan,

    On that topic, Perhaps your support team (or… I’m assuming you probably have an oDesk team) could be better quickened on helping you put out those fires!

    For example, you did two up-sell sales letters for the Lump Sum “Tycoon” addon and I emailed to say that the price on the sales page was $47 but the price at checkout page hosted by ClickBank was $67.

    I emailed them (your support email) within (I think) the same hour that the sales letter went out but it was never resolved.

    I know personally I didn’t buy because of the price difference and I wonder if many others were dissuaded because of that as well. Actually, might be an opportunity to split test and see how people respond to that particular thing.

    You know who Rob Swanson is? He did an interesting thing this weekend with pricing on an info product that I haven’t run across before. I’ll have to tell you about it sometime if I get the chance.

    Anyway, love all your stuff. When I read your blog I feel like I found my long lost bro!

    Cheers man!

    - Daniel

  3. Great post, Ryan! Time is money, and money is time…. I don’t know about you, but I need more of both! LOL!

    Take care,
    CK

  4. The thing that identifies a Man is what is he like when the battle seems so hopeless. The good Man stays strong even if he does not look like it. I have found Ryan to be a good man. If new results are required than do something different. Ryan, you are the Apostle of internet hope. Keep it up!

  5. Great idea. It demands strong discipline. I have a similar system call “to do list” and “Schedule list” but has never quite work out for me. I need to be disciplined and focused

  6. Something else that works great is…”Time Blocks”

    Plan on working on growth orders 15-30 minutes at a time,
    or even a hour with no interuptions. I use an egg timer and
    it really helps to get the work done before that bell goes off :-)

  7. Great and helpful post! Usually I “put out fires” first to get them out of the way so that I can start & concentrate on my “real” work for the day, but by the time I finish the “fires”, I’m too tired to do the real (growth) work! This is a new way of approaching it; I’ll give it a try, thanks!

  8. Food for thought….This is what works for me (even at my real job). I absolutely must keep Outlook, Twitter, Linkedin, and FB *closed* for the large part of the day. Check emails and social networks at specific times of the day (E.g. for me it is 6am, 12pm, 4pm, and 8pm…spending approximately 15-30 mins on these task in each period). I used to keep Outlook open on my second monitor all the time, but what happened is every time I got a new email, I jumped over there to it and either responded right away or clicked a link in the email and started surfing right the net easily loosing anywhere from 15 – 30 mins each time I did this. Email/social networks truly are HUGE time killers and should be avoided except on a planned schedule.

    Again, just my two cents! :) Hope it helps someone else.

    Regards,
    Matt V

  9. Biggest time waster in my day is email. Mine is on all day long, new email, check it out, respond, delete or whatever. From now on, open outlook every two hours and spend the two hours working productively.

  10. Great post Ryan! My biggest problem, i.e., putting out the fires first, are simply getting sidetracked by the news of the day, and email. One story leads to ten more, and next thing I know, 3 hours have gone by. As for the email? Again, sidetracked to numerous
    “neat things” to check out, which lead to 10 other neat things to check out. Another three or four hours have gone by, and by this time, neck is sore, eyes are strained, backside sore from sitting; it’s time for dinner, brain is foggy and the phrase “well, tomorrow for sure” is the justification for walking away. Working hard on trying to correct this!

  11. Growth first – fires later. Completely new way to think about getting organized! Not sure I will do it every day, but just getting a fresh perspective on controlling the to-do list helps.

    A good reminder to not burn up a lot of energy being irritated (frustrated, etc.) and have a plan. Thanks, Ryan!

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