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Productivity Interview: Danny Iny from Mirasee

Note: The Productive Marketing Survey is open and we really need your help! It takes 10 minutes, multiple choice, and there are prizes to be won. Click here to access the survey.

Danny has had a monumental year.

He took the Mirasee Blog to over 10,000 readers per month, guest blogged himself into notoriety, wrote and published two books, ran a marathon, got married and is the CEO of his own startup.

I look at Danny with some bewilderment as to how he does it all.

If you were wondering the same thing then check out this audio as part of our Productive Marketing Month, where I ask Danny so spill the beans on how he gets it all done.

We’ve got ten tips, some uncommon wisdom and a blunt two-tip formula for success…

Click here to listen to the audio

Questions asked:

  • Q: How do you do it all? (1:14)
  • Q: How do you force yourself to do the Big Rocks first? (2:42)
  • Q: How do you get from long-term goal to tomorrow’s task list? (4:19)
  • Q: How do you recover when your day goes awry? (6:24)
  • Q: How many hours do you work a week? (7:37)
  • Q: How do you stay on top of email and maintain your crazy-fast response time? (9:56)
  • Q: Do you use any known productivity “systems” for your task management? (12:55)
  • Q: Finish this phrase: “I spend WAAAY too much time on…” (15:46)
  • Q: Finish the phrase: “I don’t spend NEARLY enough time on…”? (17:17)
  • Q: What is your take on Social Media? Time sink? Or effective tool? (21:45)
  • Q: Like any entrepreneur you have many ideas. How do you choose which idea to pursue? (25:00)
  • Q: How do you measure your own success? (29:30)
  • Q: Do you have “work/life” balance and what do you to make sure you keep it? (30:30)

Topics and resources mentioned:

Distilled wisdom from Danny Iny:

  • Tip #1: Structure your day
  • Tip #2: Implement Inbox Zero
  • Tip #3: Spend the productive part of your day doing at least one big thing
  • Tip #4: Break goals into sub-components and identify dependencies
  • Tip #5: Tasks that involve other people are usually your bottleneck. Do them first.
  • Tip #6: Start early!
  • Tip #7: Stop organizing and start doing sh@#!
  • Tip #8: Pick up a book and train your brain to have a long enough attention span to really consume it.
  • Tip #9: Pay attention!
  • Tip #10: Choose projects that helps you get to your next step, or that expand your resources so you can do more

Interview Transcript:

Peter: Hello everyone and welcome to Mirasee’s Productive Marketing Month. I’m Peter Vogopoulous co-founder of Mirasee and look who I have with me today! The other half of Mirasee, Danny Iny. How are you Danny?

Danny: I’m fine! It’s a little weird to see you across Skype instead of across my dining room table, but other than that I’m just great.

Peter: Yeah, this is a bit of a shift for us, I agree. But, you know, who better to ask about business productivity then a man who seems to have accomplished a ton in the last year. I can re-cap it really quickly, as if our readers don’t already know about what you’ve accomplished, but let’s go over them quickly. Besides taking Mirasee, the blog itself to over ten thousand readers, and also quest posting everywhere on the internet that you possibly guest post, you’ve also managed to somehow in there write two books, working on more, if I’m not mistaken. Ran a marathon, got married, and CEO of your own start-up, Bowl of Goals. Did I forget anything? Those are the big ones, I think?

Danny: Probably, but that’s the highlights.

Peter: The marathon was a biggie. Training, getting married. So how do you do all that stuff? How do you fit all that in a year? That’s what everyone I think is looking at with a lot of bewilderment, I think.

Danny: I think it comes down to… You know that old story that Stephen Covey used to tell, the big rocks and the small rocks? You know, so the guy walks into the presenting hall and he has this jar and he puts a bunch of big rocks in it, and he says: “Is it full?” and everyone says: “No.” Or rather they say: “Yes” because they don’t know the story yet, so then he puts some smaller rocks in between the cracks and he says: “Now is it full?” And they say “yes” and a few people say: “No” and then he adds the gravel and then sand and then he adds in water. And the idea is you can always squeeze more in, but the lesson is that you’ve got to start with the big rocks. So if you’re whole day and your whole week and your whole month is about putting out fires and what you’re doing today, then you don’t get a lot done. But if you start with: “Okay, what do I want to get done over the next three months – what does that mean I have to do now?” Or over the next six months or over the next year, and what does that require each time?” And you start with the big rocks then – it’s not all that hard cause nothing is that complex, or that big, or involves that many moving parts necessarily, it just seems that way if you’re like: “Oh crap – I want to do this in like a week! How do I put all of this together?” It’s like – you don’t! It takes a lot longer than that.

Peter: So you know that that story is one that anyone who has messed around a bit with productivity hacks or who has read a little bit about productivity has heard, but, practically, you know what happens is that, you know, you dump the water in the jar first, so how do you, personally, manage to make yourself or force yourself to get those rocks in first? Because everyone just seems to have that as a problem, you have the water and the sand gets in and then the next thing you know we have no more room for rocks! So what do you do personally?

Danny: Well, part of it is the way I try to structure my day, which doesn’t always work out. I mean you know, a day in the life kind of looks like: I get up in the morning, I’ll do a bit of email, then my wife will get up so we’ll have breakfast together and so forth, I’ll get back to email, and I try to clear my inbox and then get back to work. And hopefully the inbox is clear by about nine, nine thirty.

Peter: Which already for many people is a feat in itself.

Danny: Well, it’s a feat, but it’s not as much of a feat as the inbox was clear when I clocked out at whatever time last night, right? So there’s a cycle that works into this, there’s a rhythm to it.

Peter: So go on.

Danny: Sometimes that gets away from me and it takes longer, but ideal that’s done and I try to spend the rest of the morning trying to do at least one big thing, whether that means writing a sales page or writing a blog post, or doing a big part of planning of some project or whatever it is, but some kind of substantive work towards a goal, and I work off a lot of lists. I mean, you’ve seen, I’ve got lists everywhere. But like, one of the big things is before I go to bed the night before, before I clock out, it’s like: “So what do I want to accomplish tomorrow?” And it’s not just, what would be nice, it’s “What do I need to cross off the list?” What do I need, you know, given that I need this done in three months what do I need to get done tomorrow?

Peter: So tell us a little bit more about how you structure that? Okay, so let’s make an assumption. You sit down, and I mean we’ve done this too, so I’ve seen this first hand, we say: “Okay, let’s talk about what we want to do in the next three months.” So you said you figure that, you articulate that first. So how does that translate to “Tomorrow I’m going to be doing this, and therefore that’s going to go on a list that I’m going to keep somewhere, and that’s what I work off of.”

Danny: Well, any project is going to have a bunch of sub-components that have to be done as part of it, and there are going to be dependencies among those sub-components, and that’s just something I’ve always been good at, kind of intuitively getting. So if we look at, I don’t know – Engagement from Scratch!, the book, right? So we needed to come up with a concept for the book, but once that was in place, you know, I had to get the contributors in place and that had to be done quickly because I had to have time to write the content and to go back and forth on it and all that kind of stuff, whereas, you know, whether it’s cover design: a) it could wait, b) I needed the names of the contributors to put on it, whether it’s sponsors, marketing etc. The contributors had to come first. So you start by reaching out to the contributors. Anything that involves over people is usually going to be your bottleneck, and it’s the thing that you have to get done first, and the only thing you need to have done before that is the stuff you need to have ready before you to go to other people. So just kind of look at: What are the components that have to get done in order for this to, for this project to get off the ground, and what depends on what? It’s not, I mean, you know, you look at it high level. It’s not like you can make a list of a hundred steps, it’s like… You know, if we’re talking about a book, you know, there’s the content, there’s the typesetting and layout, there’s the design, there’s the supporting materials in terms of marketing. You’re going to have five or ten things on your list, and you’ll draw some arrows between them. You’ll see what’s got to come first and get the ball rolling on what’s got to come first, and of course, you know, do a quick, high-level, you know: “This one should take this long, this one should take that long.” So, yes, it’s realistic to have the project done in three months, or no, who am I kidding? It’s a six-month project or a nine-month project, or whatever it is.”

Peter: So you plan that out and you’ve got your day, I mean, sometimes despite the best laid plans, things go wrong, maybe you misjudged how long thing take – how do you recover from all that and still stay on track? Because that could really, you know, extend a deadline, or really, things might just take longer than you thought, how do you deal with that?

Danny: With big projects, I try to start working on them before I need to start working on them. Like, right now, I’m working on my two next books, one of which I’m hoping to publish around October, one of which will hopefully be published around, I don’t know, February or so, or March of 2013. And what that means – and, I don’t have a precise timeline of when everything is going to be done, but like, I’m getting a jump on it, sort of thing, so that when I get closer and when the timelines actually start to matter, it won’t be that much of a question mark or an unknown quantity and, you know, you get thrown off, off your timelines for a little bit every so often and it happens. And sometimes you just work extra hours later and more often you get better at, you know just judging how long it’s going to take. I mean the best way to stay on target is to have good estimates of how long things are going to take in the first place.

Peter: Right. Just for the benefit of everyone watching this interview, give us a ballpark, how many hours do you think you spend time working per week?

Danny: It’s funny because that came up in conversation with my sister-in-law the other day. It’s really hard to say, because I don’t have that delineation of work and not work.

Peter: I know, that’s why I said work when you said that, because I almost…

Danny: Like I’ll have my to-do list and it’ll have, you know, write this blog post; it’ll have, review this launch copy or finish this video, and it’ll have, get the groceries and it’ll have, pick up my dry-cleaning and they’re all just things I have to get done. There’s no – I don’t make that distinction. I mean, so, I get up in the morning at around six, six-thirty or whatever it is, you know you’ve got your usual morning routine, you know: you shower, you get organized. Breakfast with my wife, you know, we have toast and tea and we chat. She’s off to work, she works until whenever she works, she’s home around six or seven usually, and I try to clock out around when she gets back and you know, maybe I’ll spend half an hour answering emails later in the evening if there’s a need, and then I’m back at it. I don’t work from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset, I take 24 hours off, and Sunday is loose, it’s a shorter day but I like to get stuff done on Sunday, so it’s like a half workday. And I’ll take breaks during the day. I’ll download and watch TV shows when I’m having lunch or when I’m tired and I just want a break, or I’ll do the dishes and sweep up while I’m listening to Mitch Joel’s podcast or whatever it is. But, I mean, I’m always doing something. I don’t like to just sit and do nothing, it feels weird.

Peter: Yes, the common lament of many, many creative entrepreneurs, and you know that it’s a wonderful thing that you do that sort of switching gears, it’s really important for productivity. A lot of mental energy being used all the time – you need a break once in awhile. One of the famous things about you is, which is almost part of your personal brand is that you are extremely accessible. People will send you an email and you will respond within twenty-four hours. For some people that’s amazing considering, what they rightfully expect the number of emails that you probably get are – how do you do that? How do you stay on top of all that? Is it just the highest priority thing, pretty much, because of the way you’ve defined your brand?

Danny: That’s a – to a certain extent it’s kind of like asking someone: “How do you walk and talk at the same time?” It’s like – I just do! So it’s a hard question to answer, but, here’s what it comes down to: We all have our personal little quirks, I’m you know, mildly, not even enough to be diagnosed, but you know, mildly obsessive compulsive. I don’t like pending “to-do’s” when an email pops into my inbox it’s a “pending to-do” it’s something I need to deal with and I don’t like it just sitting there. And I want to deal with it and I also find it – like, there’s a, just a respect thing. When someone reaches out to communicate with me, I find that it’s rude not to respond. And you know, on a personal level, if someone keeps me waiting for ten minutes, you know, we have an appointment and they don’t – I find it very rude. It’s just, and it’s not because anything is meant by it, it’s just my own personal, you know, perception of, it’s disrespectful of someone’s time. You know, they took the time to write out a question, to send out a request share something that they’re doing and that is deserving of a prompt response. It’s as if they called me on the phone and I’d just be like: “Yeah, yeah, whatever, hang on.” It’s just rude. Now that being said, I’m also; I’m good at switching gears. You know they say that when you multitask, you jump to this, you jump back, you lose your productivity and you’re not focused, and I’m sure that’s true, but I don’t think it’s as bad for me as it is for most people. I do, you know I’ll stop writing my blog post; I’ll jump to the email, answer it, and come back. It does take me a few seconds to get back into it, but it’s not – it’s not a huge disruption as much as I’ve seen it be for some people. But I mean, that doesn’t matter, you can always batch it. You can answer – you can spend the hour writing your post and then get back to your email and catch up, and that’s still almost instantaneous.

Peter: When we started talking about this, I mean, and to some extend you’ve already answered this, I mean, we know you work off of lists, but I’m sure everybody’s wondering if there’s anything more complex than that, because there’s all sorts of productivity hacks out there and systems about getting things done, and various Covey systems and all sorts of other ones. And I know when we first talked about this which was probably a very amusing story too, when we first started talking about productivity marketing Month and we were ort of fleshing this out, and I was asking you if you’d heard of this technique, have you heard of that technique and you were like: “No. No. No.” And I go: “Why, Danny?” and you said: “I’m too busy doing things to know about any of these productivity tools!” So just for the benefit of everyone who expects that you are using some really whizbang super system to get all this stuff done – is it anything more complex than just a list of things to do, really?

Danny: Not really. I mean first of all, I don’t live in the world of productivity management or all that. I really do think I’m too busy, I have too many things to do to be – I find it’s kind of like a hobby, you know in looking at this tool that tool. That’s not my hobby, I have other things to do. But from the little I’ve seen they’re all pretty simple. You have projects and you have tasks. They’re all helping you figure out what is the one next thing you need to do? And they’re all about organizing the things you have to do rather than actually doing them? So the best way to get things done is to sit down and do it. And there’s the whole… You know there’s two ways of looking at a problem. There is the Satisficer and the Maximizer approach. And like, my wife is a Maximizer and I’m a Satisficer and we see the difference sometimes. But a Maximizer wants the best possible value. You know, if you’re shopping around you want to know that you’re getting the best possible deal for your money, the best features etc. etc. A Satisficer looks until you find something that does the job at a cost that you’re willing to pay and then, you know, choose it, do it move on.

Peter: Get on with it.

Danny: Exactly. If it does the job, I’m satisfied, I have other things to do. And I’m kind of like that.

Peter: It’s like trying to get it done rather than trying to get the A is B, the incremental whatever you can get.

Danny: Exactly. Because I know that there’s always the off chance that I’ll find something spectacularly better, but this is what I was looking for, it does the job, you know, knowing what is the one next thing I have to do is pretty much all I need to know. And let’s leave it at that, because the time I spend looking at all these different tools, I could just be getting things done, and that’s much better for shrinking my to-do list.

Peter: What you’ve said there is probably one of those big holy grail items for a whole bunch of people who are probably, you know, stuck and examining this and examining that. Just, you know: Did it do the job? Then good. Take it and move on. It’s probably really good advice that a lot of people should take to heart.

Danny:  I think it’s important to realize that, you know, being productive – it’s not like you reach this like zenith of ultimate productivity and – no, it’s always you know there’s ups and downs, things come and things go, but you’re not going to arrange everything around you, your habits, your tools, your systems, you’re everything so that, you’re just, you’re super-productive. You know, the best way to be productive is to not have a ginormous list of things you need to do at any one time. The best way for that to happen is just to work through it and get shit done.

Peter: Well said! Well said. So I’m going to ask you just a couple of questions, and I’m going to ask you to finish them. The first question is: I spend way too much time on…

Danny: Email.

Peter: Email?

Danny: It would definitely be email. Like, I’ve been pretty good about, you know, I used to read too many blogs and I just cut back in a lot of places where I had to cut back because it was not the best use of my time. I spend, I get several hundred emails a day, and I try to answer them all the same day, ideally within several hours, and it’s taking a lot of time. And it’s something I’m still figuring out how to deal with, it’s taking up more of my day then I’d like. The volume of email I’ve been receiving has grown as Mirasee has grown. It has grown a lot, especially in the last few months since Engagement From Scratch!, which is, you know, as Guy Kawasaki would say: this is what I call a high-quality problem. But it is a problem, so I’m still figuring it out, I mean, what I’m noticing is that in order to keep up, like… I’m still, I’ll answer to the point and I’ll address whatever’s been sent to me, but like, my emails are becoming less verbose and more straight to the point, more direct, more, almost telegraphic. Because, I can’t help it – just limit of time. Like, what I can say, you know, I’m thrilled to receive emails, I’m thrilled that people reach out. Don’t send me a page long email excited about the fact that I responded to you right away, because you’re just exacerbating the problem!

Peter: Second question, are you ready?

Danny: Yep.

Peter: I don’t spend nearly enough time on… Or – I don’t spend enough time on…

Danny: I don’t spend nearly enough time reading books.

Peter: And this is from the person, wait. This is from the person… I’ve spent lots of time in your apartment, in your home, sitting at your dining room table, and I think, there’s always a high probability that the UPS person is going to ring the doorbell and deliver yet another two or three or four books and, this man probably has a library that, you know, the only one I’ve seen around that rivals my own, and he is telling me right now that you don’t read enough? You probably read more than anyone I know!

Danny: Well, yes and no. I mean, I definitely used to read a lot. I’ve always had the challenge that it takes much less time to buy a book then to read it, you know? An unfortunate reality. I don’t read as much as I used to, and it’s mostly a matter of routine. I used to read mostly before bed. I’d go to bed with a book, I’d read for like an hour, and fall asleep, and you know, five, ten hours a week is what I’d try to hit, and I think that, that’s good. Now that I’m married, it’s not working out so well. So again, I know, high quality problems, but I’m still trying to figure out how to work reading into my routine, but I think it’s really important. We live in, and I think this is part of why I’m productive, because I’ve only been thinking about this recently, and I’m reading a very interesting book by Nicholas Carr called The Shallows, he won a Pulitzer prize for it, and it’s about what the internet and the modern way in which we consume a lot of information  written and otherwise, in blog posts and snippets and tiny bits. What it’s doing to our thinking and our ability to focus. And I see this all the time. People are like: “I don’t have time to read this, give me the overview.” And it’s like – you can nod and kind of get it from the overview, but you don’t understand it and play with it in your head and apply it. You don’t really learn something from reading a one page article. I mean, occasionally, but that should be what points you to say: “I should look into this and start reading it.” If it interests you, not: “Oh, I read the post, I get it, I’m an expert now.” It, to a certain extent we’re, you know, information overload is about the fact that we’re drowning in like McIdeas.

Peter: The shallowest of ideas.

Danny: Exactly. And, like, it’s very counterintuitive, but like, if I had to give one piece of advice to someone who wanted to be more productive and it wasn’t just, you know, get shit done, stop trying to organize your stuff and actually do it. I’d say pick up a book, any book that is about a subject that interests you and like, read through the whole thing, train you – and it’s very hard for people who are not in practice – train your brain to have a longer attention span then like, the length of a blog post.

Peter: There are whole niches out there these days, actually, to re-teach children how to read because they tend to sort of skip over the last half of sentences. It seems like there’s been some studies about that and now their, you know part of their training or their re-training on reading is to get them to read all the way through to the period, and I would add to that just along the lines of what you were saying, you know, let’s read and then pause and think about what we just read for a little bit. I think it was some very um, I wish I remember who it was now, but a very powerful executive who basically, does not work from three to five. Assimilates everything that they’ve accumulated during the day including reading, including whatever journals they’ve read, including whatever newspapers they’ve read or whatever books they’ve read. Does whatever work they have to do delegates to whoever they have to delegate, but from three to five they process. They relax the process, which we don’t do nearly enough of.

Danny: No, we really, really don’t. And it’s I mean, Not to say that, by the way, that skimming and absorbing snippets of information is a bad thing, it’s a great thing, and it’s great to be able to say this is relevant, this is not, and go through all this stuff quickly but, that should be the first stage that helps you choose what you’re going to immerse yourself in.

Peter: Well said, well said. Let’s talk about something which, you know, it seems to always come up when we talk about productivity and marketing and time and that is social media. Now, you know, you’re reasonably active on it, you know, blogging for sure, Twitter and other things to somewhat of a lesser extent, but, there are other people out there who are probably you know doing a lot more than what we do at Mirasee but, what is your take on that? I mean there are people who contact us all the time and ask: “Well, should I be doing more of this, or should I be doing more of LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter, and a lot of the time those are just great big time sinks. What’s your take on that and how do you use it to effect.

Danny: Well, I think there’s two questions here. In terms of just, what do I do on social media, the answer is very, very little. Um, I mean, obviously we publish on our blog and I read the comments and I’m attracting as much as I can, but, you know, tie constraints are making it a little less than it used to be. Um, I’m reading a few blogs. People that I like what they’re saying and I like them personally and I’ve built relationships with them and I just find value in what they’re doing, so I still follow a few blogs – a lot less then I used to. I’ll Tweet stuff in terms of sharing content, but I’m not active on Twitter. I don’t see myself as one of those guys who “gets” Twitter, I don’t. I post stuff to Facebook occasionally – I don’t see myself as being active on social media. The only social media I’m really active on is a blog. If someone wants to contact me – send me an email, that is my, my medium of comfort, so I mean, and all this to say but like Mirasee has been doing very well, so it’s not like you can’t do well in the absence of being on every social network under the sun, it’s about find what works for you and do it. And the, it’s not to say you shouldn’t be on Twitter or Facebook or whatever, it’s just you know, whatever is appropriate for what you’re doing, and the higher level lesson here, which applies to being productive in any case, and I think it’s part of why I’m, I am able to get things done fairly effectively is that, I pay more attention. There’s this teaching that I don’t remember where I heard it, it’s the story of this disciple who goes to a Zen Master and he has a book that he was hoping to the Zen Master would sign. He traveled for days and days and was like: “Could you write an inscription for me? Some words of wisdom?” The Zen Mater writes: Attention. The guy takes it back, he looks, is like: “I traveled for days, I was really hoping for a little bit more, would you mind expanding a little bit?” So the Zen master takes it back and he expands it and the guy takes it back and it says: Attention! Attention! Attention! There is really a lot that we can learn that we don’t, just because we’re not paying attention. When you’re doing something, pay attention to what worked. Pay attention to what didn’t work. Pay attention to what was a time suck, and get better at it next time. And the same applies to social media; the same applies to all the things that you have to do all the time. I mean, there are some regularities in our jobs and in our work, whatever they may be. And it’s another of those very core things, other than just sit down and start getting things done, its: Pay Attention. Don’t try to organize, don’t try to make lists and charts and diagrams, just do work and pay attention to what is working. And that applies to social media and it applies to everything else.

Peter: Great! Let’s go a little more high-level and strategic now. You’ve done the book and you’re doing more books and you’ve got the Bowl of Goals and Mirasee, I mean, I know you personally of course, you’re a very creative guy and, you know, we’ve come up with, you know, several ideas at your dining room table that, you know, some we plan on touching one day, some we’ve never touched on, you’ve probably got ten more that you’ve got thinking in the back of your head that you might do. So given that, as a creative, entrepreneurial type, you probably have more ideas then you have time for; what goes into the decision about which ideas you’re going to pursue and therefore that translates into what you want to accomplish in the next few months?

Danny: Well, next three months is a short time frame and I think there’s a danger, a trap you can fall into, especially if you’re, if you have a lot of ideas and you tend to get excited by new ideas, of being easily distracted, and they don’t have to be the same thing, but they often come together. So, just because it’s a good idea doesn’t mean it has to get done in the next three months. So, when you have this new, good idea, first of all think how good of an idea is it? Is it good enough to bump other things I’m doing? Whether they’re in the next three months and the answer is usually no because you can’t accomplish big things if you’re doing everything by the seat of your pants. You need to plan things out, at least a couple of months in advance to have anything of size and substance. But, is it important enough to bump, for example, what I’m doing in two months in three months, whatever? If not, and often it’s not, because the other question is – is it time sensitive? If I don’t get to it now, and I get to it in six months, is that a problem? Sometimes, but not usually. So I’ll write it down on a Post-It and I’ll stick it in my bulletin board there, and I have like, easily half a dozen or a dozen ideas that are up there.

Peter: What makes it worthy to go on that list? Even if it’s six months from now and doesn’t bump anything. You’ve got ten items, what makes a list worthy, or, what makes an item worthy of being put on a Post-It note and put on the wall for consideration in six months?

Danny: Well, on a post-it note, that’s not a very high commitment. So, if it’s interesting and I think it could be fun and I think it might work well, I’ll put it on the Post-It note. In terms of taking it off the post-it note and into my timeline, that’s a much higher level of commitment, and it’s like – how likely… Okay, so when you talk about building a business, you talk about, you hear people talk about the idea of bootstrapping a lot, and I feel like it’s something that’s not very well understood. Bootstrapping is not the same thing as duct-taping, like trying to stitch something together so it works. Bootstrapping is really about looking at what’s at your disposal, all the resources, whether that is money, time, or other things like relationships and rapport and momentum – whatever it may be. Saying: “How can I take what I’ve got right now, and leverage it to a) get to the next step, and b) expand the pool of resources at my disposal so at the next step there will be more that I can do?” And whether or not I bring it down from a post-it into my time-line is whether it can answer yes to those questions. Because, all things being equal, there’s never a shortage of ideas. My resources, my abilities, my skills, everything at my disposal – it’s all going to grow. So by that argument, I’m always better off starting something later than sooner, which is not intuitive at all for an entrepreneur, and I don’t think that way because f you start everything later rather than sooner, you know -nothing gets done. But so, what you want to do sooner is the stuff that’s going to give you even more to work with later.

Peter: Right. Makes total sense. We’re about coming close to the end of our time together; I’m going to ask you just a couple of wrap-up questions Danny.

Danny: Sure.

Peter: How do you measure your own success? What sort of yardstick do you use to say: “I succeed. I succeeded!”?

Danny: I’m not sure I understand the question.

Peter: It’s a toughie. How do you judge yourself, basically? How do you judge yourself that you’ve accomplished what you’ve wanted to accomplish?

Danny: That’s not my model. That’s not how I look at things.

Peter: Share. Share how you do.

Danny: I don’t see, I don’t see projects – projects have, I mean, they were successful, they were not, but I don’t see what I’m doing as having an endpoint. So when things go well, I’ll take a short amount of time to celebrate, then get back to work, and when things don’t go well, I’ll go have a drink or something with my wife, you know, nurse my wounds. But you learn your lessons, you suck it up and get back to work.

Peter: So there’s never a point in time where you say: “Okay, I achieved…” this sort of big – like for Engagement From Scratch!, for example. Like was there a point in time when you sort of said: “Okay, I wrote it, I promoted it and it’s succeeded, and I therefore have decided or decreed that it succeeded.” Or is it just always still a work in progress?

Danny: Yes.

Peter: Yes.

Danny: To both of them. The day that it launched I was nervous and like: “Howe is it going to go?” And I watched people sign up throughout the day and I, you know, sit there hitting refresh and watching the number go up, and we closed the day with eight-hundred and seventy-two people having downloaded the book. And I’m, you know, when you do this long enough you get good at kind of projecting that arc. And I went out for dinner with my wife and we raised a glass of wine and we celebrated and that wss very nice, and you know, and we took a breath: “Ahh, it worked!” Then the next morning you’re back at work! You think about what’s next.

Peter: And you’re very good at that, that’s for sure. So, since you did bring up your wife, lets’ end on that question: Work/Life balance. Do you feel you have it, and what do you do to make sure yo keep it?

Danny: First of all: yes, although my wife may disagree, but, I mean I spend my days doing stuff I like. I get to work on the projects that are exciting to me. When I have a cool idea for something I want to create or something I want to do, I just have to plan it out and then I can do it. Despite all that, and I am very busy, and I do work a lot of hours, but you know, I’ll clock out at the end of the day and spend the evening with my wife, we’ll spend the weekend together. So even when I’m working a lot it doesn’t feel like I’m working crazy hours. I don’t feel like I’m a work-a-holic or overworked all the time. You know, I don’t have a blackberry that beeps me with email all the time and I don’t need that level of connectivity. So, yeah, I think so.

Peter: Good healthy separation it sounds like.

Danny: Well, no separation at all, but I think it’s very healthy.

Peter: Well, it sounds like there was some separation, sounds like you do clock out a little bit, but maybe in the back of your head it’s still running a little bit?

Danny: It’s still running, it’s the stuff you think about. But like, what it comes down to is not about separation, it’s about focus. Whatever you’re doing, give it your attention. And whatever interests you, give it your attention. And it comes down to the same attention span thing that I was talking about before with reading books. Like, don’t train yourself to be distracted by stuff all the time, get into whatever you’re doing. And I’m not saying I’m perfect at this. I’m not. But get used to getting into whatever you’re doing and everything works better.

Peter: Where does somebody start if they want to get into that sort of mental discipline? Does that just come innate to you, is it just part of your own training, or is that just something that is a practiced thing and that’s just the way it has to do?

Danny: I think a lot of it is a practice thing. I mean you’ve got whatever you you’re born with in terms of your starting point, and that you’ve probably got whatever you’re born with in terms of your limit. I mean, I’m never going to be a professional basketball player, it doesn’t mean I’m going to get better at basketball. So, you know, those limits, that starting point aren’t all that relevant for real life for most of us in most cases, you know, none of us want to compete in the productivity Olympics or whatever it is. So you know, just start with, yeah, I’d say two things. 1) Pick something you want to get done every day. You know, wake up in the morning: “What is the one thing I’m doing today?” and just, like, get it done and Read a book. You know? Read a chapter every night or whatever it is. But read, learn to absorb and focus on one idea for an extended period of time. Train your focus. If I had to give just two tips, those would be it, those two tips. Read a book and get shit done.

Peter: There you go everybody: success dissected as told by Danny Iny of Mirasee. Danny, thanks so much for doing this interview, really great, really insightful, lots of great tips, really appreciate it.

Danny: Thank you Peter, it was fun. And I’ll see you back across from my dining room table tomorrow!

Peter: Actually tomorrow night, yeah! Se you then! Bye!

About Peter Vogopoulos

Peter Vogopoulos is a marketing and business coach, university lecturer and co-founder of Firepole Marketing.

27 thoughts on “Productivity Interview: Danny Iny from Mirasee

  1. Well it is a lengthy interview Peter but extremely thought provoking. Tip no 3 to use the best part of the day for big task is really very productive and I practically do it. For tip no 7 i.e stop organizing and start doing may not hold true for many but it is my I have no problem with it. Lot of people spend lots of time in organizing themselves and doing less the actual task at hand. Very good post Peter, cheers and regards.

    • I’m glad you found the interview valuable, Ejaz, thank you for your comment!

      I hear what you’re saying about tip #7 – everyone has a different style, and the key is to find the one that works best for you.

      Great to see you here!

  2. I think coming out with a unique style is the best way to set a mark in today’s marketing world. I quite understand what you’re passing across Danny, you did a great job here. Thanks for helping me learn good stuffs today.

  3. Loved the interview Danny!

    Yes, it surely was long, but always wonderful to hear you and listen to your words of wisdom! I remember when recently you were interviewed by Ana Hoffman – I did listen to that webinar as well, and it was almost as if you were right there. I guess that’s the power of words and the ability to reach to most of us. 🙂

    I agree with most of your points, the best being about starting early and doing your major work when you are most productive. That works for me as well, especially being at home with kids I do need to take out that valuable time for work as well.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Thanks, Harleena, I’m so glad that you liked it!

      And I’m sorry it was long – that’s the trouble with interviews; for them to be really “meaty”, they tend to run long (Derek’s interviews over at Social Triggers are a great example).

      Yeah, the trick, though, is to find the time that is most productive for you. Too many people like to pretend that there’s a universally “best” time for everyone, but that’s just not true – we each have our own rhythms.

    • Hi Harleena,
      There is so much to talk about when you are talking with Danny!
      And as Danny said, finding out when you are most productive is a good way to make sure you get all your complicated stuff done while you are at your best.
      I’m glad you liked the interview.


  4. Danny — I’m a night owl and get a lot of most productive work done late at night when it’s quiet with no interruptions. I think we all work by our own internal clock. I personally don’t know how you did all you did in the past year. Must be some kind of secret sauce you’re using. Of course, working your tail off is going to get you there and not just sitting around thinking about it. A former boss of mine used to say let’s go for the 70% solution. He meant that you’ll never get it perfect. Trying for perfect is another way of procrastinating. Like I am about writing the ebook I’ve been talking about. You’ve given me the inspiration to do one big thing a day and getting it done. Thanks.

  5. Hey Danny,
    A couple of things I really liked here. First, that you didn’t say we shouldn’t do email first thing. I’m a bit like you, there are certain things that I just want to do first, get them out of the way and then I can get to the other stuff. Email and social media interaction for me is a morning thing. My writing type things generally work best mid afternoon/early evening. So that’s when I do them and it works pretty well as far as productivity. Perfectly? No. Room for improvement, probably. But I agree that finding your own rhythm really can work wonders.

    I’m also like you in that I can often switch between tasks without losing all productivity. As you said, some people can’t as well, but I also will often reply quickly to an email, response or comment, while I’m working on something else. If I know I really can’t take the time, if I’m under a strict deadline, I can also choose not to (at least most of the time :-).

    Thanks for some useful ideas and insights as per usual :-).

    • I have always liked reading books, but I hadn’t really thought about doing so as a way to re-train yourself if you lose the ability to concentrate, but it makes a lot of sense. My husb and I often give books as gifts, this is another good reason to keep doing it.

    • I know, that bugs me every time I read it, too, and it’s bandied around everywhere like it’s the holy grail of productivity. How can you separate out being productive from answering emails? (or, put another way, how many productive people do you know with overflowing inboxes?) 😉

  6. This. Was. A phenomenal interview.

    One simple concept, hammered over the course of 34 minutes and 2 seconds: Get Shit Done and Focus 100% on it.

    Don’t think I’ve ever created a comment reply quite like this one because of watching, but I suppose no one else would be able to notice it except for me. Kudos on a great job, once again 🙂


    • Thank you, Arthur, I’m touched, and so glad you found the interview helpful. It’s great to connect – welcome to Firepole Marketing! 🙂

  7. Danny,

    I have been trying to ascertain a good benchmark for success for my new blog, and I see that you list 10,000 visitors a month as a milestone in the beginning of this article. I have nearly 10k visitors (I probably will have 10k by the end of the month) and it’s my blog’s first month. I also see you list 14k monthly readers on the bottom of this page. These are good numbers for a marketing blog?

    • Hey Adam, I wish there was a “one-size-fits-all” answer to your question, but there isn’t. What is “good” can only measured against two things: how much you’re growing relative to the last time you took your temperature, and what your goals are.

      I’d be happy to hear a little more about what you’re doing – shoot me an email to danny (at) firepolemarketing (dot) com if you like. 🙂

  8. I just wanted to say how awesome it is that you have broken down this video into questions with the video time where you can find them, and then including a transcript of the video. It allowed me to save some time; I could listen to you AND read/scan the transcript to find out exactly what I needed to know.
    Also, by including both audio/video AND written, you have reached readers and viewers more effectively because the option for learning is given. As a teacher, this is important. People do not always learn in the same way!
    Another benefit is that people can play the video and then move on to other tasks, such as cooking dinner, thus allowing for multi-tasking!
    Great job! I wish everyone who posts educational videos would do this!

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