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Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 2

Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 2
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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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Leon Ho

Founder of Lifehack

Book summary: A Technique for Producing Ideas 10 Ways to Extend Laptop Battery Life Bob Parsons on His 16 Rules for Survival Free note taking templates and techniques Fifty Essential Topics on Economics

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1 3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively 2 How to Master the Art of Prioritization 3 How to Stay Motivated and Reach Your Big Goals in Life 4 How to Stop Procrastinating: 11 Practical Ways for Procrastinators 5 11 Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Results

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

3 Techniques for Setting Priorities Effectively

It is easy, in the onrush of life, to become a reactor – to respond to everything that comes up, the moment it comes up, and give it your undivided attention until the next thing comes up.

This is, of course, a recipe for madness. The feeling of loss of control over what you do and when is enough to drive you over the edge, and if that doesn’t get you, the wreckage of unfinished projects you leave in your wake will surely catch up with you.

Having an inbox and processing it in a systematic way can help you gain back some of that control. But once you’ve processed out your inbox and listed all the tasks you need to get cracking on, you still have to figure out what to do the very next instant. On which of those tasks will your time best be spent, and which ones can wait?

When we don’t set priorities, we tend to follow the path of least resistance. (And following the path of least resistance, as the late, great Utah Phillips reminded us, is what makes the river crooked!) That is, we’ll pick and sort through the things we need to do and work on the easiest ones – leaving the more difficult and less fun tasks for a “later” that, in many cases, never comes – or, worse, comes just before the action needs to be finished, throwing us into a whirlwind of activity, stress, and regret.

This is why setting priorities is so important.

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3 Effective Approaches to Set Priorities

There are three basic approaches to setting priorities, each of which probably suits different kinds of personalities. The first is for procrastinators, people who put off unpleasant tasks. The second is for people who thrive on accomplishment, who need a stream of small victories to get through the day. And the third is for the more analytic types, who need to know that they’re working on the objectively most important thing possible at this moment. In order, then, they are:

1. Eat a Frog

There’s an old saying to the effect that if you wake up in the morning and eat a live frog, you can go through the day knowing that the worst thing that can possibly happen to you that day has already passed. In other words, the day can only get better!

Popularized in Brian Tracy’s book Eat That Frog!, the idea here is that you tackle the biggest, hardest, and least appealing task first thing every day, so you can move through the rest of the day knowing that the worst has already passed.

When you’ve got a fat old frog on your plate, you’ve really got to knuckle down. Another old saying says that when you’ve got to eat a frog, don’t spend too much time looking at it! It pays to keep this in mind if you’re the kind of person that procrastinates by “planning your attack” and “psyching yourself up” for half the day. Just open wide and chomp that frog, buddy! Otherwise, you’ll almost surely talk yourself out of doing anything at all.

2. Move Big Rocks

Maybe you’re not a procrastinator so much as a fiddler, someone who fills her or his time fussing over little tasks. You’re busy busy busy all the time, but somehow, nothing important ever seems to get done.

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You need the wisdom of the pickle jar. Take a pickle jar and fill it up with sand. Now try to put a handful of rocks in there. You can’t, right? There’s no room.

If it’s important to put the rocks in the jar, you’ve got to put the rocks in first. Fill the jar with rocks, now try pouring in some pebbles. See how they roll in and fill up the available space? Now throw in a couple handfuls of gravel. Again, it slides right into the cracks. Finally, pour in some sand.

For the metaphorically impaired, the pickle jar is all the time you have in a day. You can fill it up with meaningless little busy-work tasks, leaving no room for the big stuff, or you can do the big stuff first, then the smaller stuff, and finally fill in the spare moments with the useless stuff.

To put it into practice, sit down tonight before you go to bed and write down the three most important tasks you have to get done tomorrow. Don’t try to fit everything you need, or think you need, to do, just the three most important ones.

In the morning, take out your list and attack the first “Big Rock”. Work on it until it’s done or you can’t make any further progress. Then move on to the second, and then the third. Once you’ve finished them all, you can start in with the little stuff, knowing you’ve made good progress on all the big stuff. And if you don’t get to the little stuff? You’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you accomplished three big things. At the end of the day, nobody’s ever wished they’d spent more time arranging their pencil drawer instead of writing their novel, or printing mailing labels instead of landing a big client.

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3. Covey Quadrants

If you just can’t relax unless you absolutely know you’re working on the most important thing you could be working on at every instant, Stephen Covey’s quadrant system as written in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change might be for you.

Covey suggests you divide a piece of paper into four sections, drawing a line across and a line from top to bottom. Into each of those quadrants, you put your tasks according to whether they are:

  1. Important and Urgent
  2. Important and Not Urgent
  3. Not Important but Urgent
  4. Not Important and Not Urgent

    The quadrant III and IV stuff is where we get bogged down in the trivial: phone calls, interruptions, meetings (QIII) and busy work, shooting the breeze, and other time wasters (QIV). Although some of this stuff might have some social value, if it interferes with your ability to do the things that are important to you, they need to go.

    Quadrant I and II are the tasks that are important to us. QI are crises, impending deadlines, and other work that needs to be done right now or terrible things will happen. If you’re really on top of your time management, you can minimize Q1 tasks, but you can never eliminate them – a car accident, someone getting ill, a natural disaster, these things all demand immediate action and are rarely planned for.

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    You’d like to spend as much time as possible in Quadrant II, plugging away at tasks that are important with plenty of time to really get into them and do the best possible job. This is the stuff that the QIII and QIV stuff takes time away from, so after you’ve plotted out your tasks on the Covey quadrant grid, according to your own sense of what’s important and what isn’t, work as much as possible on items in Quadrant II (and Quadrant I tasks when they arise).

    Getting to Know You

    Spend some time trying each of these approaches on for size. It’s hard to say what might work best for any given person – what fits one like a glove will be too binding and restrictive for another, and too loose and unstructured for a third. You’ll find you also need to spend some time figuring out what makes something important to you – what goals are your actions intended to move you towards.

    In the end, setting priorities is an exercise in self-knowledge. You need to know what tasks you’ll treat as a pleasure and which ones like torture, what tasks lead to your objectives and which ones lead you astray or, at best, have you spinning your wheels and going nowhere.

    These three are the best-known and most time-tested strategies out there, but maybe you’ve got a different idea you’d like to share? Tell us how you set your priorities in the comments.

    More Tips for Effective Prioritization

    Featured photo credit: Mille Sanders via unsplash.com

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