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The Three Types of Work

time management skills, business success

Every type of work in the business or financial side of your life falls into one of the following three categories:

1. “Pay the bills” work.

2. “Get rich” work.

3. Overhead work.

Pay the bills (PTB) work is work that accomplishes just that. It pays the bills. That’s all it does. It doesn’t make you rich. It doesn’t make you happy. It may not even enable you to save for retirement. Nope. All it does is maintain your current level of lifestyle. It doesn’t matter if you make $20,000 a year or $250,000 a year, PTB work just maintains your current life. It keeps you from being homeless, but it improves nothing.

Get rich (GR) work is work that either definitely or potentially will increase your future income and/or lifestyle. When you do five hours of GR work, it may not pay you any money that day, that week, or even that month. It may be months or even years later before the GR work pays off. The good news is that when it does pay off, it pays off in far more money and profit than your PTB work. Unlike PTB work, GR work enables you to improve your lifestyle. PTB work maintains. GR work improves.

The problem with GR work is that it doesn’t pay now. It usually pays later. Therefore it’s hard to put GR work into your regular schedule when there’s all this PTB work that needs to get done. Plus your PTB work is guaranteed to pay the electric bill that’s due this week, and GR work won’t. GR work just doesn’t “call” to you like PTB work does. That’s why very few people ever do GR work, even if they intend to.

Lastly, there’s overhead work. Overhead work actually makes no money for you at all, but it’s required anyway. Any time you sit down to do things like balance your checkbook, pay a bill, update your legal work, or work with your accountant to pay your taxes, you’re doing overhead work.

Overhead work really sucks. I personally hate it, but it must get done or you’ll be in big trouble. Early in my business life I was notorious for letting overhead work fall behind…sometimes way behind, and boy did I pay a price for that!

Essentially, PTB = some money now, GR = a lot of money later, and overhead = no money, but big problems if you don’t keep up with it.

Sometimes, though rarely, PTB work and GR work can be the same thing. For example, if you’ve recently started a new business and are still growing it and it’s actually making enough money to pay your bills, then yes, PTB work and GR might be the same thing, at least for a while. Regardless, soon the business will keep you so busy with PTB work at a plateaued level of income, your time in your business will become purely PTB work. Then you’ll have to force yourself to do some regular GR work if you want it to grow.

How To Ensure You Do All Three Types On A Regular Basis

All three types of work must be addressed on a regular basis if you want to be a happy, financially successful person. Not addressing PTB work means you very quickly won’t be able to pay your own bills. Not addressing GR work means you’ll always be stuck at your current income forever (and very likely will run into huge problems when you try to retire). Not addressing overhead work means all kinds of financial chaos, expense, and paperwork down the road.

I’ll share a technique I’ve been using for almost a year now that has been very powerful for me and has really helped me in achieving consistent quality results in my financial life.

Once every two weeks I print out a chart that represents the next 14 days. Each day has four squares by the date. There’s one square for my daily exercise, one for my PTB work, one for my GR work, and one for my current eating regimen. (I’ve lost a lot of weight lately but I’m not done yet!) I always have this sheet of paper prominent on my desk with a pen handy, so I’m always seeing it.

In a given day, I just put a big check mark in a square whenever I complete it. My goal is to get all four squares checked by the end of the day, every day. For Saturdays and Sundays I blackout PTB work so I can take a little break from that. (I’m a hard-working and motivated guy so I still do some GR work on weekends, unless I’m on vacation.)

There’s also one square per week for overhead work, since that kind of work thankfully doesn’t need to be addressed every day. Once a week is good enough.

It’s much simpler than a to-do list (though obviously I use one of those too) but it accomplishes the same thing. More even.

Now life is life, so I don’t check all four squares every single day. Sometimes days are odd, or hectic, or completely focused on one area. Daily perfection is impossible. However at the end of the two weeks the vast, vast majority of those boxes are checked. Then I pat myself on the back and print out a new fresh sheet for the next two weeks. As I mentioned above, the only time I don’t focus on my four squares is on pre-planned relaxation or vacation days.

This one exercise is one of the reasons I get more valuable things done with my time in two weeks than most people do in six months. Doing this forces me to address all three types of work plus my physical health.

It’s awesome. You could try a variation of this technique adapted to the things you need to get done on a daily basis in your life. The key is to not have too many squares per day. I think four should be your maximum, and ideally you should probably have just two or three.

Come up with your own version of this sheet that includes the three types of work in your life, and try it for two weeks. I think you’ll be surprised at the sheer amount of high-value tasks you’ll get done.