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Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 1

Interview with Tim Ferriss of The 4-Hour Workweek – Part 1
Tim Ferriss

If you heard of a new book called The 4-Hour Workweek, you know who is Timothy Ferriss. Tim speaks six languages, runs a multinational firm from wireless locations worldwide, a national champion in Chinese kickboxing, and has been a popular guest lecturer at Princeton University since 2003. Recently his book caught my attention. The title itself is very attractive to me who work at least 40 hours per week (if not more). There are positive reviews about the book around blogosphere, and it is currently on #9 of the Amazon best-seller list. So I sent him a quick email to setup this interview and just get to know him more.

In Part 1 I ask Tim about some general questions, including his view on productivity and 20/80 rules. In Part 2, Tim gives me some great answers on his views on lifestyle, work life, and outsourcing.

Q: Tim, you have done a lot in your life – you are a kickboxing champion, a world record holder in tango, as well as running a multinational firm. What other things have you done in the last few years? Which are the things that you are most proud of?


TTT: There are a few fun ones that stand out, like finally training in kendo in Japan, where I killed myself last September and fulfilled a life-long dream, but I’m definitely most “proud” of conquering two fears.

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Learning to surf in Florianopolis, Brazil, was a huge win for me because I can only use one lung fully (due to being born prematurely), and I’ve always been deathly afraid of drowning. One good friend and I actually reserved a VIP table at the world-famous night club Confraria there — $60-100 USD per night — so I could finish editing my book over red wine and dancing locals at night. It was incredible, and I owe a lot to my friend, Chris, for keeping me from panicking in the water.

Second, writing this book required me to conquer serious inner demons. I was mildly dyslexic at a young age and still have a lot of trouble with dygraphia: miswriting and mixing up letters. Finishing my senior thesis in college almost killed me, and this book was more than twice the length. I’ll just remember the advice my former professor and Pulitzer prize winner John McPhee gave me when I first sold the book: “When it seems like writing is really, really hard, just remember: writing is really, really hard. I sit in front my my typewriter from 9 to 6 each day, and most of the time, I get nothing done.”

      Q: Your launch of your book, The 4-Hour Workweek, is extremely successful. Why do you think it is so popular and the idea is widely accepted?

      TTT: There are a few reasons. First, the topic hit at the right time. Forbes recently reported the new average workweek as 70 hours, and this will only increase. It’s unsustainable, just as I realized in 2004, and people want alternatives to postponing life for 20-30 years for a nebulous “retirement”. The 4-Hour Workweek offers a different menu of options — mini-retirements, outsourcing life, etc. — many of which people haven’t really seen before.

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      Second, I didn’t follow a top-down, Oprah-as-messiah PR and marketing plan. I’d love to be on Oprah, but seeking that stamp of approval is a gamble for a first-time author. For those familiar with Glenn Reynolds book “An Army of Davids”, I embraced a few groups of Davids and took an bottom-up approach, embracing thought leaders where possible, to harness the most efficient word-of-mouth network in the history of the world: social media. I give away plenty of ideas and stir up discussions — and arguments. I just want people to talk, and when you create enough noise, the books move. It hit the NY Times and Wall Street Journal lists based on the first 4 days of sales with no offline PR or advertising, and it’s been in the Amazon top 15 or so for five weeks now. I hoped for this, but I never could have expected it all to come together so well. Plenty of luck involved, I’m sure!

      Q: I love preaching about productivity, but you are taking productivity to the next level – wow, the 4 hour work week. I would say it is the holy grail of work-life. What are your tips to achieve this kind of productivity in your life?

      TTT: Think instead of react. Take frequent breaks and strive to constantly eliminate instead of organize. Create not-to-do lists and cancel, fire, subtract, and eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. If you remove all the static and distraction, priorities become clear, execution becomes a one-item to-do list, and time management isn’t even necessary. Honestly, this is the holy grail. It took me a long time to figure out that, in a digital world of infinite distraction and minutiae, he who has the least number of programs running in mental RAM wins. Every time. I’ve interviewed everyone from gold medalists to CEOs who make $100 million a year, and their one common characteristic is the ability to “single-task” without interruption. It’s deceptively hard if you don’t have a solid method.

      Q: I am a fan of the 20/80 rules, as you are. I realize it is not a scientific formula, but it gives an air-horn alert on what should we really be focusing on. People ask me how to effectively identify the 20% of work which produce the 80% of the output. What are your key factors to assess this?

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      TTT: Before we analyze, we have to answer the question: what are the metrics that matter? The metrics that matter are those that measure your progress towards a well-defined goal. Is it $X in profit? Is it a certain income-to-hours ratio? If you can’t measure it, you don’t understand it. To quote Peter Drucker: “what gets measured gets managed.” Let’s say it’s income-per-hour. I would first apply the 80/20 principle to a few areas: what are the 20% of customers/products/distributors that are producing 80% of the profit?

      Then we do the less common; we apply 80/20 to the negative: what are the 20% of activities and people that consume 80% of your time? Fire high-maintenance, low-profit customers; create communication barriers for time-consuming colleagues; train your boss to value performance over presence with clever documentation, create a not-to-do list of your “crutch tasks”, and outsource the rest.

      There is another approach for determining the critical few. Limit time. Here’s where we apply the lesser-known Parkinson’s Law, which dictates that a task will swell in perceived difficulty and complexity in direct proportion to the time we allot it. For example, if you suddenly find out that you have an emergency and need to leave the office at 2pm, what happens? You miraculously get the most important work done three hours early. In other words, we can use the 80/20 principle and Parkinson’s Law hand-in-hand. We use the 80/20 principle to limits tasks to the important to reduce time. We also use Parkinson’s to reduce time (short deadlines) to limit tasks to the important. Pretty cool — and jaw-droppingly effective — when used together.

      Q: You mentioned elimination is the key element in your productivity system. How is it different than optimizing process or system to save time? What type of people should take one or the other approach, or both together?

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      TTT: I think they’re the same thing — in my world. “Optimize” should mean removing the nonessential and minimally important until you’re left with the bare essentials necessary for producing the target result. This is what Arthur Jones, founder of Nautilus, would call the “minimum effective load”. Think 37 Signals and Occam’s Razor.

      Unfortunately, this word “optimize” is so overused as to be meaningless, so people usually use it to justify endless addition — of features, customers, options, rules, etc. — that complicates instead of simplifies. I wanted to be a comic book artist, a penciler, for almost a decade, and I still stick to the philosophy one New Yorker cartoonist taught me ages ago: when in doubt, black it out. Fewer is better and less is more. Perhaps you have an issue, a product, a situation, or a person that is extremely difficult to fix? Consider just eliminating them.

      We will cover part 2 of this interview tomorrow. Stay tuned!

      More by this author

      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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      Last Updated on August 6, 2020

      35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      35 Top Productivity Apps for iPhone (2020 Updated)

      Over the years here at Lifehack, we’ve discussed plenty of apps that you can use to improve your overall productivity.

      There are certain ones that many of our contributors and editors (past and present) have adopted over the long-term — there are always the stalwarts that stick around. But there are also new apps that crop up every day, adding more and more depth to the app category.

      Some of the apps are incredibly plain and simple, while others are more robust and offer more features than you can shake a stick at. And everyone has the one they prefer.

      It’s been our job (and still is our job) to keep abreast of all of the productivity-type apps out there. As a result — and as a bit of a refresher — we’ve put together a list of 35 best productivity apps for iPhone (all categorized based on their functions) to provide you with an all-in-one resource for you.

      For Getting Things Done

      1. OmniFocus

      This app is, while pricey, considered to be one of the (if not the) most robust and full-featured productivity apps on the market.

      Download it here.

        2. Forest

        Train yourself to put your phone down and stay focused on the task at hand by playing with this planting game. It’s fun and will help you achieve more.

        Download it here.

          3. Things

          Another robust choice, this app is a favorite amongst “productivityists”.[1]

          Download it here.

             

             

            4. Any.Do

            A beautiful-looking app that is both easy on the eyes and your wallet.

            Download it here.

              5. PocketLife Calendar

              This calendar app is specifically designed to be stylish and super easy-to-use. You can organize your life easily with different modern features.

              Download it here.

                6. Asana

                We’ve covered Asana here at Lifehack

                , and it is being actively developed by a strong team committed to making collaborative task management a more efficient and effective experience.

                Download it here.

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                  7. ToDoist

                  This app keeps track of everything – from simple errands to your most important projects – so you can get it all done and enjoy more peace of mind along the way.

                  Download it here.

                     

                     

                    8. Calendars 5

                    This calendar app focuses on events that help you to keep track of upcoming events and tasks easily. It has everything you need to organize, track, and complete your to-dos.

                    Download it here.

                      9. Clear – Tasks, Reminders & To-Do Lists

                      A fun and innovative list-making app that relies on swiping and pinching to make things happen. Clear created a lot of buzz when it launched, and might be the perfect to-do list gateway app for many.

                      Download it here.

                        10. Due

                        A robust reminders app that lets you store and maintain reminders of all types. It’s replaced Reminders for me when it comes to the basics, and it’s worth a look if you want to keep the mundane stuff out of your head and cluttering your mind.

                        Download it here.

                          11. Checkmark 2

                          I use this app

                          for location-based reminders (such as groceries I need to get or single items I need to pick up from various locations). Checkmark is simple to use and valuable addition to my productivity arsenal.

                          Download it here.

                            12. TeuxDeux

                            Created by Tina Roth Eisenberg and Fictive Kin — TeuxDeux is simple and incredibly stellar in terms of design. If you like lists (including the popular “Someday Bucket”) and want to associate dates with tasks, then TeuxDeux will be right up your alley.

                            Download it here.

                               

                               

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                              13. Nirvana

                              For the GTD enthusiasts, there’s Nirvana. Straight from the source: “Nirvana frees your mind to focus on actually getting things done. If you’ve had enough of generic to-do lists, it’s time for Nirvana.”

                              Download it here.

                                14. Priorities

                                An elegant-looking task management app that has received decent reviews,[2] this could be the one for you if you’re not a fan of OmniFocus or Things — especially if you need (or want) to share tasks with others.

                                Download it here.

                                  For Building Habits

                                  15. Productive

                                  With this app, you can plan your habits with an easy-to-use interface, schedule habits for any time of the day, set smart reminders for each time of the day, and stay on track with useful feedback. This app is perfect for anyone who wants to build a habit that sticks.

                                  Download it here.

                                    16. Habitica: Gamified Taskmanager

                                    You can complete tasks and build habits in a more fun way with this app. Input your Habits, your Daily goals, and your To-Do list, and then create a custom avatar. Check off tasks to level up your avatar and unlock features such as armor, pets, skills, and even quests.

                                    Download it here.

                                      17. Streaks

                                      This app follows the model of the popular “don’t break the chain method” in that you use the app to track how you are donig in the pursuit of your goal. Great for goal-setting — and an easy and elegant interface to boot.

                                      Download it here.

                                        18. Remember The Milk

                                        Another popular to-do list app, Remember The Milk has a huge following. It has plenty to offer, including the ability to share tasks with others.

                                        Download it here.

                                          19. Day One Journal

                                          When it comes to journaling, nothing really beats Day One. Its latest update added a slew of features that will make you want to start making journaling a habit.

                                          Download it here.

                                            For Files Organization

                                            20. Evernote

                                            Touted as the world’s most widely-used productivity app, Evernote is an be used simply as a notetaking app or can be customized to be your GTD app of choice — among other things.

                                            Download it here.

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                                              21. Pocket

                                              You can save an article, video, or link you want to read or watch later to Pocket from anywhere including your computer, Safari, email, and your favorite apps like Facebook, Twitter, Flipboard, and Feedly.

                                              Download it here.

                                                22. Sync.Me

                                                This app identifies unknown phone calls, warns you from annoying spam calls, and adds a caller picture to your contacts from Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

                                                Download it here.

                                                  23. Droplr

                                                  One of the most popular file-sharing apps out there today. Straight from the source: “Stay productive on the go. Droplr for iPhone keeps you in sync and makes sharing on the iPhone natural.”

                                                  Download it here.

                                                    24. Dropbox

                                                    Before iCloud, there was Dropbox. And there still is Dropbox, which is still widely used by both Mac and PC users all over the globe. It’s like having a flash drive on your iPhone. A must-have.

                                                    Download it here.

                                                       

                                                      For Working Smarter

                                                      25. Captio

                                                      A simple capture tool. Straight from the developers: “It’s simple. Open Captio and start typing. When you’re done, hit Send. The note is immediately delivered to your email inbox.”

                                                      Download it here.

                                                        26. Drafts

                                                        A tremendous capture tool that allows for simple capture, followed by sending items to various applications such as OmniFocus, Things, and more.

                                                        Download it here.

                                                          27. NoteShelf 2

                                                          This is a perfect note-taking app for you. You can take beautiful handwritten notes, type, annotate PDFs, record audio & create lists. You can organize them into categories or groups.

                                                          Download it here.

                                                            28. Doodle

                                                            This app links directly with the Doodle service, which is one that allows you to plan and organize meetings far more efficiently and effectively. Lifehack contributor Steve Dotto has written about Doodle more in-depth here.

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                                                            Download it here.

                                                              29. TextExpander (Legacy)

                                                              I have saved countless hours of time with TextExpander, and despite its inability to be as robust on iOS as it is on the Mac, it is still a worthy app to have in your arsenal.

                                                              Download it here.

                                                                30. Launch Center Pro

                                                                A quick launcher for the iPhone that doesn’t just launch an app…with some of them it can do much more. This app saves you time by launching complex actions in a single tap.

                                                                Download it here.

                                                                  31. GoodReader

                                                                  This may seem to be an odd one to make this list, but here are plenty of reasons why it is here with this article.

                                                                  Download it here.

                                                                    32. LogMeIn

                                                                    Want to be able to control your Mac from wherever you are? Then get this app.

                                                                    Download it here.

                                                                      For Improving Security

                                                                      33. 1Password

                                                                      There is simply no better password manager out there. I’ve even put together a 1Password Emergency Kit worth looking at here.

                                                                      Download it here.

                                                                        34. LastPass Password Manager

                                                                        You can store passwords and logins, create online shopping profiles, generate strong passwords, track personal information in photo and audio notes.

                                                                        All you have to do is remember your LastPass master password, and LastPass auto-fills web browser and app logins for you.

                                                                        Download it here.

                                                                          35. Truecaller

                                                                          Identify and block spammers, search for unknown numbers, and call friends easily with this app. With a community-based spam list from over 250 million users, you’ll need this app.

                                                                          Download it here.

                                                                            There are plenty of other options out there (and we’ve heard from readers in the past as to what they enjoyed using), but these 40 are among the best.

                                                                            Featured photo credit: William Hook via unsplash.com

                                                                            Reference

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