Tim Ferriss

In Part 1 of this interview, I asked Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek, about his productivity methodology – how can he combine 20/80 rules with Parkinson’s Law to effectively produce the best his can, and how does he focus eliminating on nonessential to become more productive.

Now for this part of the interview, we cover areas on how to plan and live on an ideal lifestyle, work life, and also how to scale the results with outsourcing.

Q: You mentioned about it is all about living the lifestyle with limited income. Do you mean it is all about controlling your input to get the output you really need, and use the spare cycles to do what you really want to do? What are your advice for people to idealize their actual lifestyle?

TTT: It’s actually not so much about living with limited income; it’s about determining exactly how much income you need to have your ideal lifestyle, then leveraging time and mobility (geoarbitrage and such) to get there in as short a period as possible, usually a few months. What would you have and do each day if you had $100 million in the bank and had already retired? This is not BS — this is THE question you have to answer. If you want to drive a yellow Lamborghini Gallardo, visit Fiji once a year, and ski in the Andes each winter for a month, add it all up and determine the average monthly cost. Add your current essential fixed expenses to this (there are free calculators for doing all of this), and you have what I call your TMI — Target Monthly Income — and TDI — Target Daily Income. The first step to achieving your ideal lifestyle is defining it and calculating the actual cost. It’s always less than you think.


Here are just two personal examples of what’s possible once we reset the rules: for $250 USD, I spent five days on a private Smithsonian tropical research island with three local fishermen, who caught and cooked all of my food and took me on tours of the best hidden dive spots in Panamá; for $150 USD, I chartered a plane in Mendoza wine country in Argentina and flew over the most beautiful vineyards and snow-capped Andes with a private pilot and personal guide.

I’ve done even more outrageous things in places like Tokyo and Oslo. It’s really possible to do these things now, and it has nothing to do with going to third-world countries. There is no reason to wait 30 years.

Q: What advice do you give if one’s idealization on all about luxury which requires a lot of income to support that, and won’t settle for anything less?

TTT: I can show you how to drive a Ferrari Enzo and Larry Ellison’s famous McLaren F1 for $300. No joke. That said, once people create time abundance, showing off shiny objects becomes a far second priority to answering the question “what the hell do I do with my time?” The big existential questions most people face at college graduation, mid-life crisis, and retirement don’t go away with faster cars, bigger homes, and better martinis. I say go ahead and go nuts for a while with material excess, but if people streamline to the point where income generation only takes 4-10 hours per week, the “what to do” is the real challenge… and reward. I’ve never found an exception.

Q: Do you think this is not suitable to people who are really passionate about their work? I do not mean a workaholic, but someone who is enjoying their work as much as traveling around the world.

TTT: Not at all. The title “The 4-Hour Workweek” is easily misinterpreted, but this book isn’t about idleness at all. It’s actually exactly the opposite. I’m always working on something, but that “something” is damn exciting to me and keeps me up like a kid on Christmas Eve. The 4HWW is about creating an abundance time and spending it on whatever excites or fulfills you most. Take this book launch, for example. I’ve spent a ton of time on it because I’m having an absolute blast. I did none of the really boring stuff, and my learning curve is insanely steep right now. As soon as that plateaus, I’ll disappear to Croatia for a few months or do something else.

But here’s the other issue: there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Ask any pastor suffering from “compassion fatigue” or book editor with too many books on her plate. Even if you love your work, controlling the volume and keeping work and life separate is critical. I think “dream jobs” are a very misleading and dangerous myth.

Q: I have experienced couple outsourcing services and found out I spend a lot of time writing specific instructions for them to complete the work. Do you have examples of task which you have given them to work on? What are your tips to optimize the workflow/process between you and them?

TTT: Hire teams that specialize in one or two functions, and use them for repetitive time-consuming tasks. If you follow just these two guidelines, you avoid training people more than once, you avoid overtaxing them with non-core expertise, and it becomes more of a “set it and forget it” model. Don’t look for a personal Jack-of-all-trades. Think in terms of departments and teams. If you want a great mix of smooth communication and unreal pricing, find Americans in developing countries. I have virtual American MBAs in places like Croatia and Jamaica who charge $5/hour.

I use one group for web design, another for online research and Excel spreadsheets, and another for researching purchase options and making suggestions (for a Baltic States trip or buying a high-altitude simulation chamber, for example, two recent projects of mine). Prevent expensive miscommunication by asking for a written progress report after three hours on any 10-hour+ task.

The range of tasks is truly mind-boggling. Anything you can do in front of a computer or phone can be outsourced, from white papers for a Fortune 10 conglomerate to your personal life. I outsourced all of my online dating for 4 weeks recently as a joke to win a bet. There were teams around the world competing to set me dates on an online calendar. The result? More than 20 dates in three weeks. It’s amazing what you can do. The options are limitless.

Q: Is outsourcing is the only way to scale? You mentioned productizing expertise on the other interview. What exactly do you mean? Do you have any other ideas to scale your efforts?

TTT: Outsourcing is just one option, one small piece. It’s actually entirely optional but too fun for me not to recommend ;)

Let me rephrase the question a bit: how do you scale results without scaling effort? You need external products and processes. Get the expertise out of your head. For the business owner or manager, that might mean a comprehensive FAQ and step-by-step operational manual for each role in the company, or simply a small set of principles and rules you use for fast decision-making that others can duplicate. The switch is from adrenalin- or leader-driven to process-driven. For the employee or freelancer, “productization” simply means capturing your expertise in a physical form, whether a piece of software, a DVD, or a book. Only then are you able to totally separate income from time, remove ass-in-seat time as your limiter, and make $10,000 per day as easily as you make $100. Creating a scalable life isn’t as hard or time-consuming as it seems.

Q: Thank you so much for your time, Tim. Oh, and one last question, since you are a reader of lifehack.org, what are your favorite posts since you subscribed?

TTT: Man, that is hard. Here are two just from the last month that I still have around. “Top Ten Sources of Interruptions,” especially the David Spade Blackberry Intervention; and, as a Firefox geek, the “15 Coolest Firefox Tricks Ever” got me embarrassingly excited. Ah, the small pleasures!

Thanks for getting in touch! Keep up the rocking site.

If you want to get more information on how Tim reduces his work hour and enjoys his life, get a copy of Tim’s book – The 4-Hour Workweek.

Love this article?