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.