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The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich / (by Timothy Ferriss, 2008) -

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The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich /        (by Timothy Ferriss, 2008) -

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich / (by Timothy Ferriss, 2008) -

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The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich / (by Timothy Ferriss, 2008) -
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2008
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Timothy Ferriss
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Ray Porter
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upper-intermediate
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08:21:14
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich / :

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: The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

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First and Foremost FAQDOUBTERS READ THIS Is lifestyle design for you? Chances are good that it is. Here are some of the most common doubts and fears that people have before taking the leap and joining the New Rich: Do I have to quit or hate my job? Do I have to be a risk-taker? No on all three counts. From using Jedi mind tricks to disappear from the office to designing businesses that finance your lifestyle, there are paths for every comfort level. How does a Fortune 500 employee explore the hidden jewels of China for a month and use technology to cover his tracks? How do you create a hands-off business that generates $80K per month with no management? Its all here. Do I have to be a single twenty-something? Not at all. This book is for anyone who is sick of the deferred-life plan and wants to live life large instead of postpone it. Case studies range from a Lamborghini-driving 21-year-old to a single mother who traveled the world for five months with her two children. If youre sick of the standard menu of options and prepared to enter a world of infinite options, this book is for you. Do I have to travel? I just want more time. No. Its just one option. The objective is to create freedom of time and place and use both however you want. Do I need to be born rich? No. My parents have never made more than $50,000 per year combined, and Ive worked since age 14. Im no Rockefeller and you neednt be either. Do I need to be an Ivy League graduate? Nope. Most of the role models in this book didnt go to the Harvards of the world, and some are dropouts. Top academic institutions are wonderful, but there are unrecognized benefits to not coming out of one. Grads from top schools are funneled into high-income 80-hour-per-week jobs, and 1530 years of soul-crushing work has been accepted as the default path. How do I know? Ive been there and seen the destruction. This book reverses it. MY STORY AND WHY YOU NEED THIS BOOK Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. MARK TWAIN Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination. OSCAR WILDE, Irish dramatist and novelist My hands were sweating again. Staring down at the floor to avoid the blinding ceiling lights, I was supposedly one of the best in the world, but it just didnt register. My partner Alicia shifted from foot to foot as we stood in line with nine other couples, all chosen from over 1,000 competitors from 29 countries and four continents. It was the last day of the Tango World Championship semifinals, and this was our final run in front of the judges, television cameras, and cheering crowds. The other couples had an average of 15 years together. For us, it was the culmination of 5 months of nonstop 6-hour practices, and finally, it was showtime. How are you doing? Alicia, a seasoned professional dancer, asked me in her distinctly Argentine Spanish. Fantastic. Awesome. Lets just enjoy the music. Forget the crowdtheyre not even here. That wasnt entirely true. It was hard to even fathom 50,000 spectators and coordinators in La Rural, even if it was the biggest exhibition hall in Buenos Aires. Through the thick haze of cigarette smoke, you could barely make out the huge undulating mass in the stands, and everywhere there was exposed floor, except the sacred 30? x 40? space in the middle of it all. I adjusted my pin-striped suit and fussed with my blue silk handkerchief until it was obvious that I was just fidgeting. Are you nervous? Im not nervous. Im excited. Im just going to have fun and let the rest follow. Number 152, youre up. Our chaperone had done his job, and now it was our turn. I whispered an inside joke to Alicia as we stepped on the hardwood platform: TranquiloTake it easy. She laughed, and at just that moment, I thought to myself, What on earth would I be doing right now, if I hadnt left my job and the U.S. over a year ago? The thought vanished as quickly as it had appeared when the announcer came over the loudspeaker and the crowd erupted to match him: Pareja numero 152, Timothy Ferriss y Alicia Monti, Ciudad de Buenos Aires!!! We were on, and I was beaming. THE MOST FUNDAMENTAL of American questions is hard for me to answer these days, and luckily so. If it werent, you wouldnt be holding this book in your hands. So, what do you do? Assuming you can find me (hard to do), and depending on when you ask me (Id prefer you didnt), I could be racing motorcycles in Europe, scuba diving off a private island in Panama, resting under a palm tree between kickboxing sessions in Thailand, or dancing tango in Buenos Aires. The beauty is, Im not a multimillionaire, nor do I particularly care to be. I never enjoyed answering this cocktail question because it reflects an epidemic I was long part of: job descriptions as self-descriptions. If someone asks me now and is anything but absolutely sincere, I explain my lifestyle of mysterious means simply. Im a drug dealer. Pretty much a conversation ender. Its only half true, besides. The whole truth would take too long. How can I possibly explain that what I do with my time and what I do for money are completely different things? That I work less than four hours per week and make more per month than I used to make in a year? For the first time, Im going to tell you the real story. It involves a quiet subculture of people called the New Rich. What does an igloo-dwelling millionaire do that a cubicle-dweller doesnt? Follow an uncommon set of rules. How does a lifelong blue-chip employee escape to travel the world for a month without his boss even noticing? He uses technology to hide the fact. Gold is getting old. The New Rich (NR) are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility. This is an art and a science we will refer to as Lifestyle Design (LD). Ive spent the last three years traveling among those who live in worlds currently beyond your imagination. Rather than hating reality, Ill show you how to bend it to your will. Its easier than it sounds. My journey from grossly overworked and severely underpaid office worker to member of the NR is at once stranger than fiction andnow that Ive deciphered the codesimple to duplicate. There is a recipe. Life doesnt have to be so damn hard. It really doesnt. Most people, my past self included, have spent too much time convincing themselves that life has to be hard, a resignation to 9-to-5 drudgery in exchange for (sometimes) relaxing weekends and the occasional keep-it-short-or-get-fired vacation. The truth, at least the truth I live and will share in this book, is quite different. From leveraging currency differences to outsourcing your life and disappearing, Ill show you how a small underground uses economic sleight-of-hand to do what most consider impossible. If youve picked up this book, chances are that you dont want to sit behind a desk until you are 62. Whether your dream is escaping the rat race, real-life fantasy travel, long-term wandering, setting world records, or simply a dramatic career change, this book will give you all the tools you need to make it a reality in the here-and-now instead of in the often elusive retirement. There is a way to get the rewards for a life of hard work without waiting until the end. How? It begins with a simple distinction most people missone I missed for 25 years. People dont want to be millionairesthey want to experience what they believe only millions can buy. Ski chalets, butlers, and exotic travel often enter the picture. Perhaps rubbing cocoa butter on your belly in a hammock while you listen to waves rhythmically lapping against the deck of your thatched-roof bungalow? Sounds nice. $1,000,000 in the bank isnt the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows. The question is then, How can one achieve the millionaire lifestyle of complete freedom without first having $1,000,000? In the last five years, I have answered this question for myself, and this book will answer it for you. I will show you exactly how I have separated income from time and created my ideal lifestyle in the process, traveling the world and enjoying the best this planet has to offer. How on earth did I go from 14-hour days and $40,000 per year to 4-hour weeks and $40,000-plus per month? It helps to know where it all started. Strangely enough, it was in a class of soon-to-be investment bankers. In 2002, I was asked by Ed Zschau, ?bermentor and my former professor of High-tech Entrepreneurship at Princeton University, to come back and speak to the same class about my business adventures in the real world. I was stuck. There were already decamillionaires speaking to the same class, and even though I had built a highly profitable sports supplement company, I marched to a distinctly different drummer. Over the ensuing days, however, I realized that everyone seemed to be discussing how to build large and successful companies, sell out, and live the good life. Fair enough. The question no one really seemed to be asking or answering was, Why do it all in the first place? What is the pot of gold that justifies spending the best years of your life hoping for happiness in the last? The lectures I ultimately developed, titled Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit, began with a simple premise: Test the most basic assumptions of the work-life equation. How do your decisions change if retirement isnt an option? What if you could use a mini-retirement to sample your deferred-life plan reward before working 40 years for it? Is it really necessary to work like a slave to live like a millionaire? Little did I know where questions like these would take me. The uncommon conclusion? The commonsense rules of the real world are a fragile collection of socially reinforced illusions. This book will teach you how to see and seize the options others do not. What makes this book different? First, Im not going to spend much time on the problem. Im going to assume you are suffering from time famine, creeping dread, orworst casea tolerable and comfortable existence doing something unfulfilling. The last is most common and most insidious. Second, this book is not about saving and will not recommend you abandon your daily glass of red wine for a million dollars 50 years from now. Id rather have the wine. I wont ask you to choose between enjoyment today or money later. I believe you can have both now. The goal is fun and profit. Third, this book is not about finding your dream job. I will take as a given that, for most people, somewhere between six and seven billion of them, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time. The vast majority of people will never find a job that can be an unending source of fulfillment, so that is not the goal here; to free time and automate income is. I OPEN EACH class with an explanation of the singular importance of being a dealmaker. The manifesto of the dealmaker is simple: Reality is negotiable. Outside of science and law, all rules can be bent or broken, and it doesnt require being unethical. The DEAL of deal making is also an acronym for the process of becoming a member of the New Rich. The steps and strategies can be used with incredible resultswhether you are an employee or an entrepreneur. Can you do everything Ive done with a boss? No. Can you use the same principles to double your income, cut your hours in half, or at least double the usual vacation time? Most definitely. Here is the step-by-step process youll use to reinvent yourself: D for Definition turns misguided common sense upside down and introduces the rules and objectives of the new game. It replaces self-defeating assumptions and explains concepts such as relative wealth and eustress.1 Who are the NR and how do they operate? This section explains the overall lifestyle design recipethe fundamentalsbefore we add the three ingredients. E for Elimination kills the obsolete notion of time management once and for all. It shows exactly how I used the words of an often-forgotten Italian economist to turn 12-hour days into two-hour days in 48 hours. Increase your per-hour results ten times or more with counterintuitive NR techniques for cultivating selective ignorance, developing a low-information diet, and otherwise ignoring the unimportant. This section provides the first of the three luxury lifestyle design ingredients: time. A for Automation puts cash flow on autopilot using geographic arbitrage, outsourcing, and rules of nondecision. From bracketing to the routines of ultrasuccessful NR, its all here. This section provides the second ingredient of luxury lifestyle design: income. L for Liberation is the mobile manifesto for the globally inclined. The concept of mini-retirements is introduced, as are the means for flawless remote control and escaping the boss. Liberation is not about cheap travel; it is about forever breaking the bonds that confine you to a single location. This section delivers the third and final ingredient for luxury lifestyle design: mobility. I should note that most bosses are less than pleased if you spend one hour in the office each day, and employees should therefore read the steps in the entrepreneurially minded DEAL order but implement them as DELA. If you decide to remain in your current job, it is necessary to create freedom of location before you cut your work hours by 80%. Even if you have never considered becoming an entrepreneur in the modern sense, the DEAL process will turn you into an entrepreneur in the purer sense as first coined by French economist J. B. Say in 1800one who shifts economic resources out of an area of lower and into an area of higher yield. Last but not least, much of what I recommend will seem impossible and even offensive to basic common senseI expect that. Resolve now to test the concepts as an exercise in lateral thinking. If you try it, youll see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, and you wont ever go back. Take a deep breath and let me show you my world. And remembertranquilo. Its time to have fun and let the rest follow. TIM FERRISS Tokyo, Japan September 29, 2006 1. Uncommon terms are defined throughout this book as concepts are introduced. If something is unclear or you need a quick reference, please visit www.fourhourblog.com for an extensive glossary and other resources. CHRONOLOGY OF A PATHOLOGY An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field. NIELS BOHR, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid. HEINRICH HEINE, German critic and poet This book will teach you the precise principles I have used to become the following: Princeton University guest lecturer in high-tech entrepreneurship First American in history to hold a Guinness World Record in tango Advisor to more than 30 world-record holders in professional and Olympic sports Wired magazines Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008 National Chinese kickboxing champion Horseback archer (yabusame) in Nikko, Japan Political asylum researcher and activist MTV breakdancer in Taiwan Hurling competitor in Ireland Actor on hit TV series in mainland China and Hong Kong (Human Cargo) How I got to this point is a tad less glamorous: 1977 Born 6 weeks premature and given a 10% chance of living. I survive instead and grow so fat that I cant roll onto my stomach. A muscular imbalance of the eyes makes me look in opposite directions, and my mother refers to me affectionately as tuna fish. So far so good. 1983 Nearly fail kindergarten because I refuse to learn the alphabet. My teacher refuses to explain why I should learn it, opting instead for Im the teacherthats why. I tell her thats stupid and ask her to leave me alone so I can focus on drawing sharks. She sends me to the bad table instead and makes me eat a bar of soap. Disdain for authority begins. 1991 My first job. Ah, the memories. Im hired for minimum wage as the cleaner at an ice cream parlor and quickly realize that the big bosss methods duplicate effort. I do it my way, finish in one hour instead of eight, and spend the rest of the time reading kung-fu magazines and practicing karate kicks outside. I am fired in a record three days, left with the parting comment, Maybe someday youll understand the value of hard work. It seems I still dont. 1993 I volunteer for a one-year exchange program in Japan, where people work themselves to deatha phenomenon called karooshiand are said to want to be Shinto when born, Christian when married, and Buddhist when they die. I conclude that most people are really confused about life. One evening, intending to ask my host mother to wake me the next morning (okosu), I ask her to violently rape me (okasu). She is very confused. 1996 I manage to slip undetected into Princeton, despite SAT scores 40% lower than the average and my high school admissions counselor telling me to be more realistic. I conclude Im just not good at reality. I major in neuroscience and then switch to East Asian studies to avoid putting printer jacks on cat heads. 1997 Millionaire time! I create an audiobook called How I Beat the Ivy League, use all my money from three summer jobs to manufacture 500 tapes, and proceed to sell exactly none. I will allow my mother to throw them out only in 2006, just nine years of denial later. Such is the joy of baseless overconfidence. 1998 After four shot-putters kick a friends head in, I quit bouncing, the highest-paying job on campus, and develop a speed-reading seminar. I plaster campus with hundreds of god-awful neon green flyers that read, triple your reading speed in 3 hours! and prototypical Princeton students proceed to write bullsh*t on every single one. I sell 32 spots at $50 each for the 3-hour event, and $533 per hour convinces me that finding a market before designing a product is smarter than the reverse. Two months later, Im bored to tears of speed-reading and close up shop. I hate services and need a product to ship. Fall 1998 A huge thesis dispute and the acute fear of becoming an investment banker drive me to commit academic suicide and inform the registrar that I am quitting school until further notice. My dad is convinced that Ill never go back, and Im convinced that my life is over. My mom thinks its no big deal and that there is no need to be a drama queen. Spring 1999 In three months, I accept and quit jobs as a curriculum designer at Berlitz, the worlds largest publisher of foreign-language materials, and as an analyst at a three-person political asylum research firm. Naturally, I then fly to Taiwan to create a gym chain out of thin air and get shut down by Triads, Chinese mafia. I return to the U.S. defeated and decide to learn kickboxing, winning the national championship four weeks later with the ugliest and most unorthodox style ever witnessed. Fall 2000 Confidence restored and thesis completely undone, I return to Princeton. My life does not end, and it seems the yearlong delay has worked out in my favor. Twenty-somethings now have David Koreshlike abilities. My friend sells a company for $450 million, and I decide to head west to sunny California to make my billions. Despite the hottest job market in the history of the world, I manage to go jobless until three months after graduation, when I pull out my trump card and send one start-up CEO 32 consecutive e-mails. He finally gives in and puts me in sales. Spring 2001 TrueSAN Networks has gone from a 15-person nobody to the number one privately held data storage company (how is that measured?) with 150 employees (what are they all doing?). I am ordered by a newly appointed sales director to start with A in the phone book and dial for dollars. I ask him in the most tactful way possible why we are doing it like retards. He says, Because I say so. Not a good start. Fall 2001 After a year of 12-hour days, I find out that Im the second-lowest-paid person in the company aside from the receptionist. I resort to aggressively surfing the web full-time. One afternoon, having run out of obscene video clips to forward, I investigate how hard it would be to start a sports nutrition company. Turns out that you can outsource everything from manufacturing to ad design. Two weeks and $5,000 of credit card debt later, I have my first batch in production and a live website. Good thing, too, as Im fired exactly one week later. 20022003 BrainQUICKEN LLC has taken off, and Im now making more than $40K per month instead of $40K per year. The only problem is that I hate life and now work 12-hour-plus days 7 days a week. Kinda painted myself into a corner. I take a one-week vacation to Florence, Italy, with my family and spend 10 hours a day in an Internet caf? freaking out. Sh*t balls. I begin teaching Princeton students how to build successful (i.e., profitable) companies. Winter 2004 The impossible happens and Im approached by an infomercial production company and an Israeli conglomerate (huh?) interested in buying my baby BrainQUICKEN. I simplify, eliminate, and otherwise clean house to make myself expendable. Miraculously, BQ doesnt fall apart, but both deals do. Back to Groundhog Day. Soon thereafter, both companies attempt to replicate my product and lose millions of dollars. June 2004 I decide that, even if my company implodes, I need to escape before I go Howard Hughes. I turn everything upside down andbackpack in handgo to JFK Airport in New York City, buying the first one-way ticket to Europe I can find. I land in London and intend to continue on to Spain for four weeks of recharging my batteries before returning to the salt mines. I start my relaxation by promptly having a nervous breakdown the first morning. July 20042005 Four weeks turn into eight, and I decide to stay overseas indefinitely for a final exam in automation and experimental living, limiting e-mail to one hour each Monday morning. As soon as I remove myself as a bottleneck, profits increase 40%. What on earth do you do when you no longer have work as an excuse to be hyperactive and avoid the big questions? Be terrified and hold on to your ass with both hands, apparently. September 2006 I return to the U.S. in an odd, Zen-like state after methodically destroying all of my assumptions about what can and cannot be done. Drug Dealing for Fun and Profit has evolved into a class on ideal lifestyle design. The new message is simple: Ive seen the promised land, and there is good news. You can have it all. Step I: D is for Definition Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. ALBERT EINSTEIN Cautions and Comparisons HOW TO BURN $1,000,000 A NIGHT These individuals have riches just as we say that we have a fever, when really the fever has us. SENECA (4 B.C.A.D. 65) I also have in mind that seemingly wealthy, but most terribly impoverished class of all, who have accumulated dross, but know not how to use it, or get rid of it, and thus have forged their own golden or silver fetters. HENRY DAVID THOREAU (18171862) 1:00 A.M. CST / 30,000 FEET OVER LAS VEGAS H is friends, drunk to the point of speaking in tongues, were asleep. It was just the two of us now in first-class. He extended his hand to introduce himself, and an enormousLooney Tunes enormousdiamond ring appeared from the ether as his fingers crossed under my reading light. Mark was a legitimate magnate. He had, at different times, run practically all the gas stations, convenience stores, and gambling in South Carolina. He confessed with a half smile that, in an average trip to Sin City, he and his fellow weekend warriors might lose an average of $500,000 to $1,000,000each. Nice. He sat up in his seat as the conversation drifted to my travels, but I was more interested in his astounding record of printing money. So, of all your businesses, which did you like the most? The answer took less than a second of thought. None of them. He explained that he had spent more than 30 years with people he didnt like to buy things he didnt need. Life had become a succession of trophy wiveshe was on lucky number threeexpensive cars, and other empty bragging rights. Mark was one of the living dead. This is exactly where we dont want to end up. Apples and Oranges: A Comparison S o, what makes the difference? What separates the New Rich, characterized by options, from the Deferrers (D), those who save it all for the end only to find that life has passed them by? It begins at the beginning. The New Rich can be separated from the crowd based on their goals, which reflect very distinct priorities and life philosophies. Note how subtle differences in wording completely change the necessary actions for fulfilling what at a glance appear to be similar goals. These are not limited to business owners. Even the first, as I will show later, applies to employees. D:To work for yourself. NR:To have others work for you. D:To work when you want to. NR:To prevent work for works sake, and to do the minimum necessary for maximum effect (minimum effective load). D:To retire early or young. NR:To distribute recovery periods and adventures (mini-retirements) throughout life on a regular basis and recognize that inactivity is not the goal. Doing that which excites you is. D:To buy all the things you want to have. NR:To do all the things you want to do, and be all the things you want to be. If this includes some tools and gadgets, so be it, but they are either means to an end or bonuses, not the focus. D:To be the boss instead of the employee; to be in charge. NR:To be neither the boss nor the employee, but the owner. To own the trains and have someone else ensure they run on time. D:To make a ton of money. NR:To make a ton of money with specific reasons and defined dreams to chase, timelines and steps included. What are you working for? D:To have more. NR:To have more quality and less clutter. To have huge financial reserves but recognize that most material wants are justifications for spending time on the things that dont really matter, including buying things and preparing to buy things. You spent two weeks negotiating your new Infiniti with the dealership and got $10,000 off? Thats great. Does your life have a purpose? Are you contributing anything useful to this world, or just shuffling papers, banging on a keyboard, and coming home to a drunken existence on the weekends? D:To reach the big pay-off, whether IPO, acquisition, retirement, or other pot of gold. NR:To think big but ensure payday comes every day: cash flow first, big payday second. D:To have freedom from doing that which you dislike. NR:To have freedom from doing that which you dislike, but also the freedom and resolve to pursue your dreams without reverting to work for works sake (W4W). After years of repetitive work, you will often need to dig hard to find your passions, redefine your dreams, and revive hobbies that you let atrophy to near extinction. The goal is not to simply eliminate the bad, which does nothing more than leave you with a vacuum, but to pursue and experience the best in the world. Getting Off the Wrong Train The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool. RICHARD P. FEYNMAN, Nobel Prizewinning physicist E nough is enough. Lemmings no more. The blind quest for cash is a fools errand. Ive chartered private planes over the Andes, enjoyed many of the best wines in the world in between world-class ski runs, and lived like a king, lounging by the infinity pool of a private villa. Heres the little secret I rarely tell: It all cost less than rent in the U.S. If you can free your time and location, your money is automatically worth 310 times as much. This has nothing to do with currency rates. Being financially rich and having the ability to live like a millionaire are fundamentally two very different things. Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of Ws you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it. I call this the freedom multiplier. Using this as our criterion, the 80-hour-per-week, $500,000-per-year investment banker is less powerful than the employed NR who works ? the hours for $40,000, but has complete freedom of when, where, and how to live. The formers $500,000 may be worth less than $40,000 and the latters $40,000 worth more than $500,000 when we run the numbers and look at the lifestyle output of their money. Optionsthe ability to chooseis real power. This book is all about how to see and create those options with the least effort and cost. It just so happens, paradoxically, that you can make more moneya lot more moneyby doing half of what you are doing now. So, Who Are the NR? The employee who rearranges his schedule and negotiates a remote work agreement to achieve 90% of the results in one-tenth of the time, which frees him to practice cross-country skiing and take road trips with his family two weeks per month. The business owner who eliminates the least profitable customers and projects, outsources all operations entirely, and travels the world collecting rare documents, all while working remotely on a website to showcase her own illustration work. The student who elects to risk it allwhich is nothingto establish an online video rental service that delivers $5,000 per month in income from a small niche of Blu-ray aficionados, a two-hour-per-week side project that allows him to work full-time as an animal rights lobbyist. The options are limitless, but each path begins with the same first step: replacing assumptions. To join the movement, you will need to learn a new lexicon and recalibrate direction using a compass for an unusual world. From inverting responsibility to jettisoning the entire concept of success, we need to change the rules. New Players for a New Game: Global and Unrestricted TURIN, ITALY Civilization had too many rules for me, so I did my best to rewrite them. BILL COSBY A s he rotated 360 degrees through the air, the deafening noise turned to silence. Dale Begg-Smith executed the backflip perfectlyskis crossed in an X over his headand landed in the record books as he slid across the finish. It was February 16, 2006, and he was now a mogul-skiing gold medalist at the Turin Winter Olympics. Unlike other full-time athletes, he will never have to return to a dead-end job after his moment of glory, nor will he look back at this day as the climax of his only passion. After all, he was only 21 years old and drove a black Lamborghini. Born a Canadian and something of a late bloomer, Dale found his calling, an Internet-based IT company, at the age of 13. Fortunately, he had a more-experienced mentor and partner to guide him: his 15-year-old brother, Jason. Created to fund their dreams of standing atop the Olympic podium, it would, only two years later, become the third-largest company of its kind in the world. While Dales teammates were hitting the slopes for extra sessions, he was often buying sake for clients in Tokyo. In a world of work harder, not smarter, it came to pass that his coaches felt he was spending too much time on his business and not enough time in training, despite his results. Rather than choose between his business or his dream, Dale chose to move laterally with both, from either/or to both/and. He wasnt spending too much time on his business; he and his brother were spending too much time with Canucks. In 2002, they moved to the ski capital of the world, Australia, where the team was smaller, more flexible, and coached by a legend. Three short years later, he received citizenship, went head-to-head against former teammates, and became the third Aussie in history to win winter gold. In the land of wallabies and big surf, Dale has since gone postal. Literally. Right next to the Elvis Presley commemorative edition, you can buy stamps with his face on them. Fame has its perks, as does looking outside the choices presented to you. There are always lateral options. NEW CALEDOINA, SOUTH PACIFIC OCEAN Once you say youre going to settle for second, thats what happens to you in life. JOHN F. KENNEDY S ome people remain convinced that just a bit more money will make things right. Their goals are arbitrary moving targets: $300,000 in the bank, $1,000,000 in the portfolio, $100,000 a year instead of $50,000, etc. Julies goal made intrinsic sense: come back with the same number of children she had left with. She reclined in her seat and glanced across the aisle past her sleeping husband, Marc, counting as she had done thousands of timesone, two, three. So far so good. In 12 hours, they would all be back in Paris, safe and sound. That was assuming the plane from New Caledonia held together, of course. New Caledonia? Nestled in the tropics of the Coral Sea, New Caledonia was a French territory and where Julie and Marc had just sold the sailboat that took them 15,000 miles around the world. Of course, recouping their initial investment had been part of the plan. All said and done, their 15-month exploration of the globe, from the gondola-rich waterways of Venice to the tribal shores of Polynesia, had cost between $18,000 and $19,000. Less than rent and baguettes in Paris. Most people would consider this impossible. Then again, most people dont know that more than 300 families set sail from France each year to do the same. The trip had been a dream for almost two decades, relegated to the back of the line behind an ever-growing list of responsibilities. Each passing moment brought a new list of reasons for putting it off. One day, Julie realized that if she didnt do it now, she would never do it. The rationalizations, legitimate or not, would just continue to add up and make it harder to convince herself that escape was possible. One year of preparation and one 30-day trial run with her husband later, they set sail on the trip of a lifetime. Julie realized almost as soon as the anchor lifted that, far from being a reason not to travel and seek adventure, children are perhaps the best reason of all to do both. Pre-trip, her three little boys had fought like banshees at the drop of a hat. In the process of learning to coexist in a floating bedroom, they learned patience, as much for themselves as for the sanity of their parents. Pre-trip, books were about as appealing as eating sand. Given the alternative of staring at a wall on the open sea, all three learned to love books. Pulling them out of school for one academic year and exposing them to new environments had proven to be the best investment in their education to date. Now sitting in the plane, Julie looked out at the clouds as the wing cut past them, already thinking of their next plans: to find a place in the mountains and ski all year long, using income from a sail-rigging workshop to fund the slopes and more travel. Now that she had done it once, she had the itch. LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION I was done with driving across town to collect my son from child- care only to slide across icy highways trying to get back to work with him in tow to finish my work. My mini-retirement brought us both to live at an alternative boarding school full of creative lifestyle redesigning children and staff in a gorgeous Florida forest with a spring-fed pond and plenty of sunshine. You can easily search for alternative schools or traditional schools that might accept your children during your stay. Alternative schools often see themselves as supportive communities and are exceptionally welcoming. You might even find an opportunity to work at a school where you could experience a new environment with your child. DEB Tim, Your book and blog have inspired me to quit my job, write two e-books, sky dive, backpack through South America, sell all the clutter in my life, and host an annual convention of the worlds top dating instructors (my primary business venture, third year running). The best part? I cant even buy a drink yet. Thank you so much, bro! ANTHONY Rules That Change the Rules EVERYTHING POPULAR IS WRONG I cant give you a surefire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time. HERBERT BAYARD SWOPE, American editor and journalist; first recipient of the Pulitzer Prize Everything popular is wrong. OSCAR WILDE, The Importance of Being Earnest Beating the Game, Not Playing the Game I n 1999, sometime after quitting my second unfulfilling job and eating peanut-butter sandwiches for comfort, I won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing (Sanshou) National Championships. It wasnt because I was good at punching and kicking. God forbid. That seemed a bit dangerous, considering I did it on a dare and had four weeks of preparation. Besides, I have a watermelon headits a big target. I won by reading the rules and looking for unexploited opportunities, of which there were two: 1. Weigh-ins were the day prior to competition: Using dehydration techniques commonly practiced by elite powerlifters and Olympic wrestlers, I lost 28 pounds in 18 hours, weighed in at 165 pounds, and then hyperhydrated back to 193 pounds.2 Its hard to fight someone from three weight classes above you. Poor little guys. 2. There was a technicality in the fine print: If one combatant fell off the elevated platform three times in a single round, his opponent won by default. I decided to use this technicality as my principal technique and push people off. As you might imagine, this did not make the judges the happiest Chinese Ive ever seen. The result? I won all of my matches by technical knock-out (TKO) and went home national champion, something 99% of those with 510 years of experience had been unable to do. But, isnt pushing people out of the ring pushing the boundaries of ethics? Not at allits no more than doing the uncommon within the rules. The important distinction is that between official rules and self-imposed rules. Consider the following example, from the official website of the Olympic movement (www.olympic.org). The 1968 Mexico City Olympics marked the international debut of Dick Fosbury and his celebrated Fosbury flop, which would soon revolutionize high-jumping. At the time, jumpers swung their outside foot up and over the bar [called the straddle, much like a hurdle jump, it allowed you to land on your feet]. Fosburys technique began by racing up to the bar at great speed and taking off from his right (or outside) foot. Then he twisted his body so that he went over the bar head-first with his back to the bar. While the coaches of the world shook their heads in disbelief, the Mexico City audience was absolutely captivated by Fosbury and shouted, Ol?! as he cleared the bar. Fosbury cleared every height through 2.22 metres without a miss and then achieved a personal record of 2.24 metres to win the gold medal. By 1980, 13 of the 16 Olympic finalists were using the Fosbury flop. The weight-cutting techniques and off-platform throwing I used are now standard features of Sanshou competition. I didnt cause it, I just foresaw it as inevitable, as did others who tested this superior approach. Now its par for the course. Sports evolve when sacred cows are killed, when basic assumptions are tested. The same is true in life and in lifestyles. Challenging the Status Quo vs. Being Stupid M ost people walk down the street on their legs. Does that mean I walk down the street on my hands? Do I wear my underwear outside of my pants in the name of being different? Not usually, no. Then again, walking on my legs and keeping my thong on the inside have worked just fine thus far. I dont fix it if it isnt broken. Different is better when it is more effective or more fun. If everyone is defining a problem or solving it one way and the results are subpar, this is the time to ask, What if I did the opposite? Dont follow a model that doesnt work. If the recipe sucks, it doesnt matter how good a cook you are. When I was in data storage sales, my first gig out of college, I realized that most cold calls didnt get to the intended person for one reason: gatekeepers. If I simply made all my calls from 8:008:30 A.M. and 6:006:30 P.M., for a total of one hour, I was able to avoid secretaries and book more than twice as many meetings as the senior sales executives who called from 95. In other words, I got twice the results for 1/8 the time. From Japan to Monaco, from globetrotting single mothers to multimillionaire racecar drivers, the basic rules of successful NR are surprisingly uniform and predictably divergent from what the rest of the world is doing. The following rules are the fundamental differentiators to keep in mind throughout this book. 1. Retirement Is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance. Retirement planning is like life insurance. It should be viewed as nothing more than a hedge against the absolute worst-case scenario: in this case, becoming physically incapable of working and needing a reservoir of capital to survive. Retirement as a goal or final redemption is flawed for at least three solid reasons: a.It is predicated on the assumption that you dislike what you are doing during the most physically capable years of your life. This is a nonstarternothing can justify that sacrifice. b.Most people will never be able to retire and maintain even a hotdogs-for-dinner standard of living. Even one million is chump change in a world where traditional retirement could span 30 years and inflation lowers your purchasing power 24% per year. The math doesnt work.3The golden years become lower-middle-class life revisited. Thats a bittersweet ending. c.If the math does work, it means that you are one ambitious, hardworking machine. If thats the case, guess what? One week into retirement, youll be so damn bored that youll want to stick bicycle spokes in your eyes. Youll probably opt to look for a new job or start another company. Kinda defeats the purpose of waiting, doesnt it? Im not saying dont plan for the worst caseI have maxed out 401(k)s and IRAs I use primarily for tax purposesbut dont mistake retirement for the goal. 2. Interest and Energy Are Cyclical. If I offered you $10,000,000 to work 24 hours a day for 15 years and then retire, would you do it? Of course notyou couldnt. It is unsustainable, just as what most define as a career: doing the same thing for 8 hours per day until you break down or have enough cash to permanently stop. How else can my 30-year-old friends all look like a cross between Donald Trump and Joan Rivers? Its horrendouspremature aging fueled by triple bypass frappuccinos and impossible workloads. Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly. The NR aims to distribute mini-retirements throughout life instead of hoarding the recovery and enjoyment for the fools gold of retirement. By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. Its the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too. Personally, I now aim for one month of overseas relocation or high-intensity learning (tango, fighting, whatever) for every two months of work projects. 3. Less Is Not Laziness. Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity. Few people choose to (or are able to) measure the results of their actions and thus measure their contribution in time. More time equals more self-worth and more reinforcement from those above and around them. The NR, despite fewer hours in the office, produce more meaningful results than the next dozen non-NR combined. Lets define laziness anewto endure a non-ideal existence, to let circumstance or others decide life for you, or to amass a fortune while passing through life like a spectator from an office window. The size of your bank account doesnt change this, nor does the number of hours you log in handling unimportant e-mail or minutiae. Focus on being productive instead of busy. 4. The Timing Is Never Right. I once asked my mom how she decided when to have her first child, little ol me. The answer was simple: It was something we wanted, and we decided there was no point in putting it off. The timing is never right to have a baby. And so it is. For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesnt conspire against you, but it doesnt go out of its way to line up all the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. Someday is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If its important to you and you want to do it eventually, just do it and correct course along the way. 5. Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission. If it isnt going to devastate those around you, try it and then justify it. Peoplewhether parents, partners, or bossesdeny things on an emotional basis that they can learn to accept after the fact. If the potential damage is moderate or in any way reversible, dont give people the chance to say no. Most people are fast to stop you before you get started but hesitant to get in the way if youre moving. Get good at being a troublemaker and saying sorry when you really screw up. 6. Emphasize Strengths, Dont Fix Weaknesses. Most people are good at a handful of things and utterly miserable at most. I am great at product creation and marketing but terrible at most of the things that follow. My body is designed to lift heavy objects and throw them, and thats it. I ignored this for a long time. I tried swimming and looked like a drowning monkey. I tried basketball and looked like a caveman. Then I became a fighter and took off. It is far more lucrative and fun to leverage your strengths instead of attempting to fix all the chinks in your armor. The choice is between multiplication of results using strengths or incremental improvement fixing weaknesses that will, at best, become mediocre. Focus on better use of your best weapons instead of constant repair. 7. Things in Excess Become Their Opposite. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. In excess, most endeavors and possessions take on the characteristics of their opposite. Thus: Pacifists become militants. Freedom fighters become tyrants. Blessings become curses. Help becomes hindrance. More becomes less.4 Too much, too many, and too often of what you want becomes what you dont want. This is true of possessions and even time. Lifestyle Design is thus not interested in creating an excess of idle time, which is poisonous, but the positive use of free time, defined simply as doing what you want as opposed to what you feel obligated to do. 8. Money Alone Is Not the Solution. There is much to be said for the power of money as currency (Im a fan myself), but adding more of it just isnt the answer as often as wed like to think. In part, its laziness. If only I had more money is the easiest way to postpone the intense self-examination and decision-making necessary to create a life of enjoymentnow and not later. By using money as the scapegoat and work as our all-consuming routine, we are able to conveniently disallow ourselves the time to do otherwise: John, Id love to talk about the gaping void I feel in my life, the hopelessness that hits me like a punch in the eye every time I start my computer in the morning, but I have so much work to do! Ive got at least three hours of unimportant e-mail to reply to before calling the prospects who said no yesterday. Gotta run! Busy yourself with the routine of the money wheel, pretend its the fix-all, and you artfully create a constant distraction that prevents you from seeing just how pointless it is. Deep down, you know its all an illusion, but with everyone participating in the same game of make-believe, its easy to forget. The problem is more than money. 9. Relative Income Is More Important Than Absolute Income. Among dietitians and nutritionists, there is some debate over the value of a calorie. Is a calorie a calorie, much like a rose is a rose? Is fat loss as simple as expending more calories than you consume, or is the source of those calories important? Based on work with top athletes, I know the answer to be the latter. What about income? Is a dollar is a dollar is a dollar? The New Rich dont think so. Lets look at this like a fifth-grade math problem. Two hardworking chaps are headed toward each other. Chap A moving at 80 hours per week and Chap B moving at 10 hours per week. They both make $50,000 per year. Who will be richer when they pass in the middle of the night? If you said B, you would be correct, and this is the difference between absolute and relative income. Absolute income is measured using one holy and inalterable variable: the raw and almighty dollar. Jane Doe makes $100,000 per year and is thus twice as rich as John Doe, who makes $50,000 per year. Relative income uses two variables: the dollar and time, usually hours. The whole per year concept is arbitrary and makes it easy to trick yourself. Lets look at the real trade. Jane Doe makes $100,000 per year, $2,000 for each of 50 weeks per year, and works 80 hours per week. Jane Doe thus makes $25 per hour. John Doe makes $50,000 per year, $1,000 for each of 50 weeks per year, but works 10 hours per week and hence makes $100 per hour. In relative income, John is four times richer. Of course, relative income has to add up to the minimum amount necessary to actualize your goals. If I make $100 per hour but only work one hour per week, its going to be hard for me to run amuck like a superstar. Assuming that the total absolute income is where it needs to be to live my dreams (not an arbitrary point of comparison with the Joneses), relative income is the real measurement of wealth for the New Rich. The top New Rich mavericks make at least $5,000 per hour. Out of college, I started at about $5. Ill get you closer to the former. 10. Distress Is Bad, Eustress Is Good. Unbeknownst to most fun-loving bipeds, not all stress is bad. Indeed, the New Rich dont aim to eliminate all stress. Not in the least. There are two separate types of stress, each as different as euphoria and its seldom-mentioned opposite, dysphoria. Distress refers to harmful stimuli that make you weaker, less confident, and less able. Destructive criticism, abusive bosses, and smashing your face on a curb are examples of this. These are things we want to avoid. Eustress, on the other hand, is a word most of you have probably never heard. Eu-, a Greek prefix for healthy, is used in the same sense in the word euphoria. Role models who push us to exceed our limits, physical training that removes our spare tires, and risks that expand our sphere of comfortable action are all examples of eustressstress that is healthful and the stimulus for growth. People who avoid all criticism fail. Its destructive criticism we need to avoid, not criticism in all forms. Similarly, there is no progress without eustress, and the more eustress we can create or apply to our lives, the sooner we can actualize our dreams. The trick is telling the two apart. The New Rich are equally aggressive in removing distress and finding eustress. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS 1.How has being realistic or responsible kept you from the life you want? 2.How has doing what you should resulted in subpar experiences or regret for not having done something else? 3.Look at what youre currently doing and ask yourself, What would happen if I did the opposite of the people around me? What will I sacrifice if I continue on this track for 5, 10, or 20 years? 2. Most people will assume this type of weight manipulation is impossible, so Ive provided sample photographs at www.fourhourblog.com. Do NOT try this at home. I did it all under medical supervision. 3. Living Well (Barrons, March 20, 2006, Suzanne McGee). 4. Goldian VandenBroeck, ed. From Less Is More: An Anthology of Ancient and Modern Voices Raised in Praise of Simplicity (Inner Traditions, 1996). Dodging Bullets FEAR-SETTING AND ESCAPING PARALYSIS Many a false step was made by standing still. FORTUNE COOKIE Named must your fear be before banish it you can. YODA, from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL T wenty feet and closing. Run! Ruuuuuuuuuun! Hans didnt speak Portuguese, but the meaning was clear enoughhaul ass. His sneakers gripped firmly on the jagged rock, and he drove his chest forward toward 3,000 feet of nothing. He held his breath on the final step, and the panic drove him to near unconsciousness. His vision blurred at the edges, closing to a single pinpoint of light, and then he floated. The all-consuming celestial blue of the horizon hit his visual field an instant after he realized that the thermal updraft had caught him and the wings of the paraglider. Fear was behind him on the mountaintop, and thousands of feet above the resplendent green rain forest and pristine white beaches of Copacabana, Hans Keeling had seen the light. That was Sunday. On Monday, Hans returned to his law office in Century City, Los Angeless posh corporate haven, and promptly handed in his three-week notice. For nearly five years, he had faced his alarm clock with the same dread: I have to do this for another 4045 years? He had once slept under his desk at the office after a punishing half-done project, only to wake up and continue on it the next morning. That same morning, he had made himself a promise: two more times and Im out of here. Strike number three came the day before he left for his Brazilian vacation. We all make these promises to ourselves, and Hans had done it before as well, but things were now somehow different. He was different. He had realized something while arcing in slow circles toward the earthrisks werent that scary once you took them. His colleagues told him what he expected to hear: He was throwing it all away. He was an attorney on his way to the topwhat the hell did he want? Hans didnt know exactly what he wanted, but he had tasted it. On the other hand, he did know what bored him to tears, and he was done with it. No more passing days as the living dead, no more dinners where his colleagues compared cars, riding on the sugar high of a new BMW purchase until someone bought a more expensive Mercedes. It was over. Immediately, a strange shift beganHans felt, for the first time in a long time, at peace with himself and what he was doing. He had always been terrified of plane turbulence, as if he might die with the best inside of him, but now he could fly through a violent storm sleeping like a baby. Strange indeed. More than a year later, he was still getting unsolicited job offers from law firms, but by then had started Nexus Surf,5 a premier surf-adventure company based in the tropical paradise of Florianopolis, Brazil. He had met his dream girl, a Carioca with caramel-colored skin named Tatiana, and spent most of his time relaxing under palm trees or treating clients to the best times of their lives. Is this what he had been so afraid of? These days, he often sees his former self in the underjoyed and overworked professionals he takes out on the waves. Waiting for the swell, the true emotions come out: God, I wish I could do what you do. His reply is always the same: You can. The setting sun reflects off the surface of the water, providing a Zen-like setting for a message he knows is true: Its not giving up to put your current path on indefinite pause. He could pick up his law career exactly where he left off if he wanted to, but that is the furthest thing from his mind. As they paddle back to shore after an awesome session, his clients get ahold of themselves and regain their composure. They set foot on shore, and reality sinks its fangs in: I would, but I cant really throw it all away. He has to laugh. The Power of Pessimism: Defining the Nightmare Action may not always bring happiness, but there is no happiness without action. BENJAMIN DISRAELI, former British Prime Minister T o door not to do? To try or not to try? Most people will vote no, whether they consider themselves brave or not. Uncertainty and the prospect of failure can be very scary noises in the shadows. Most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty. For years, I set goals, made resolutions to change direction, and nothing came of either. I was just as insecure and scared as the rest of the world. The simple solution came to me accidentally four years ago. At that time, I had more money than I knew what to do withI was making $70K or so per monthand I was completely miserable, worse than ever. I had no time and was working myself to death. I had started my own company, only to realize it would be nearly impossible to sell.6Oops. I felt trapped and stupid at the same time. I should be able to figure this out, I thought. Why am I such an idiot? Why cant I make this work?! Buckle up and stop being such a (insert expletive)! Whats wrong with me? The truth was, nothing was wrong with me. I hadnt reached my limit; Id reached the limit of my business model at the time. It wasnt the driver, it was the vehicle. Critical mistakes in its infancy would never let me sell it. I could hire magic elves and connect my brain to a supercomputerit didnt matter. My little baby had some serious birth defects. The question then became, How do I free myself from this Frankenstein while making it self-sustaining? How do I pry myself from the tentacles of workaholism and the fear that it would fall to pieces without my 15-hour days? How do I escape this self-made prison? A trip, I decided. A sabbatical year around the world. So I took the trip, right? Well, Ill get to that. First, I felt it prudent to dance around with my shame, embarrassment, and anger for six months, all the while playing an endless loop of reasons why my cop-out fantasy trip could never work. One of my more productive periods, for sure. Then, one day, in my bliss of envisioning how bad my future suffering would be, I hit upon a gem of an idea. It was surely a highlight of my dont happy, be worry phase: Why dont I decide exactly what my nightmare would bethe worst thing that could possibly happen as a result of my trip? Well, my business could fail while Im overseas, for sure. Probably would. A legal warning letter would accidentally not get forwarded and I would get sued. My business would be shut down, and inventory would spoil on the shelves while Im picking my toes in solitary misery on some cold shore in Ireland. Crying in the rain, I imagine. My bank account would crater by 80% and certainly my car and motorcycle in storage would be stolen. I suppose someone would probably spit on my head from a high-rise balcony while Im feeding food scraps to a stray dog, which would then spook and bite me squarely on the face. God, life is a cruel, hard bitch. Conquering Fear = Defining Fear Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with course and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: Is this the condition that I feared? SENECA T hen a funny thing happened. In my undying quest to make myself miserable, I accidentally began to backpedal. As soon as I cut through the vague unease and ambiguous anxiety by defining my nightmare, the worst-case scenario, I wasnt as worried about taking a trip. Suddenly, I started thinking of simple steps I could take to salvage my remaining resources and get back on track if all hell struck at once. I could always take a temporary bartending job to pay the rent if I had to. I could sell some furniture and cut back on eating out. I could steal lunch money from the kindergarteners who passed by my apartment every morning. The options were many. I realized it wouldnt be that hard to get back to where I was, let alone survive. None of these things would be fatalnot even close. Mere panty pinches on the journey of life. I realized that on a scale of 110, 1 being nothing and 10 being permanently life-changing, my so-called worst-case scenario might have a temporary impact of 3 or 4. I believe this is true of most people and most would-be holy sh*t, my life is over disasters. Keep in mind that this is the one-in-a-million disaster nightmare. On the other hand, if I realized my best-case scenario, or even a probable-case scenario, it would easily have a permanent 9 or 10 positive life-changing effect. In other words, I was risking an unlikely and temporary 3 or 4 for a probable and permanent 9 or 10, and I could easily recover my baseline workaholic prison with a bit of extra work if I wanted to. This all equated to a significant realization: There was practically no risk, only huge life-changing upside potential, and I could resume my previous course without any more effort than I was already putting forth. That is when I made the decision to take the trip and bought a one-way ticket to Europe. I started planning my adventures and eliminating my physical and psychological baggage. None of my disasters came to pass, and my life has been a near fairy tale since. The business did better than ever, and I practically forgot about it as it financed my travels around the world in style for 15 months. Uncovering Fear Disguised as Optimism Theres no difference between a pessimist who says, Oh, its hopeless, so dont bother doing anything, and an optimist who says, Dont bother doing anything, its going to turn out fine anyway. Either way, nothing happens. YVON CHOUINARD,7 founder of Patagonia F ear comes in many forms, and we usually dont call it by its four-letter name. Fear itself is quite fear-inducing. Most intelligent people in the world dress it up as something else: optimistic denial. Most who avoid quitting their jobs entertain the thought that their course will improve with time or increases in income. This seems valid and is a tempting hallucination when a job is boring or uninspiring instead of pure hell. Pure hell forces action, but anything less can be endured with enough clever rationalization. Do you really think it will improve or is it wishful thinking and an excuse for inaction? If you were confident in improvement, would you really be questioning things so? Generally not. This is fear of the unknown disguised as optimism. Are you better off than you were one year ago, one month ago, or one week ago? If not, things will not improve by themselves. If you are kidding yourself, it is time to stop and plan for a jump. Barring any James Dean ending, your life is going to be LONG. Nine to five for your working lifetime of 4050 years is a long-ass time if the rescue doesnt come. About 500 months of solid work. How many do you have to go? Its probably time to cut your losses. Someone Call the Ma?tre D You have comfort. You dont have luxury. And dont tell me that money plays a part. The luxury I advocate has nothing to do with money. It cannot be bought. It is the reward of those who have no fear of discomfort. JEAN COCTEAU, French poet, novelist, boxing manager, and filmmaker, whose collaborations were the inspiration for the term surrealism S ometimes timing is perfect. There are hundreds of cars circling a parking lot, and someone pulls out of a spot 10 feet from the entrance just as you reach his or her bumper. Another Christmas miracle! Other times, the timing could be better. The phone rings during sex and seems to ring for a half hour. The UPS guy shows up 10 minutes later. Bad timing can spoil the fun. Jean-Marc Hachey landed in West Africa as a volunteer, with high hopes of lending a helping hand. In that sense, his timing was great. He arrived in Ghana in the early 1980s, in the middle of a coup d?tat, at the peak of hyperinflation, and just in time for the worst drought in a decade. For these same reasons, some people would consider his timing quite poor from a more selfish survival standpoint. He had also missed the memo. The national menu had changed, and they were out of luxuries like bread and clean water. He would be surviving for four months on a slushlike concoction of corn meal and spinach. Not what most of us would order at the movie theater. WOW, I CAN SURVIVE. J ean-Marc had passed the point of no return, but it didnt matter. After two weeks of adjusting to the breakfast, lunch, and dinner (Mush ? la Ghana), he had no desire to escape. The most basic of foods and good friends proved to be the only real necessities, and what would seem like a disaster from the outside was the most life-affirming epiphany hed ever experienced: The worst really wasnt that bad. To enjoy life, you dont need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just arent as serious as you make them out to be. Now 48, Jean-Marc lives in a nice home in Ontario, but could live without it. He has cash, but could fall into poverty tomorrow and it wouldnt matter. Some of his fondest memories still include nothing but friends and gruel. He is dedicated to creating special moments for himself and his family and is utterly unconcerned with retirement. Hes already lived 20 years of partial retirement in perfect health. Dont save it all for the end. There is every reason not to. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. MARK TWAIN I f you are nervous about making the jump or simply putting it off out of fear of the unknown, here is your antidote. Write down your answers, and keep in mind that thinking a lot will not prove as fruitful or as prolific as simply brain vomiting on the page. Write and do not editaim for volume. Spend a few minutes on each answer. 1.Define your nightmare, the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you are considering. What doubt, fears, and what-ifs pop up as you consider the big changes you canor needto make? Envision them in painstaking detail. Would it be the end of your life? What would be the permanent impact, if any, on a scale of 110? Are these things really permanent? How likely do you think it is that they would actually happen? 2.What steps could you take to repair the damage or get things back on the upswing, even if temporarily? Chances are, its easier than you imagine. How could you get things back under control? 3.What are the outcomes or benefits, both temporary and permanent, of more probable scenarios? Now that youve defined the nightmare, what are the more probable or definite positive outcomes, whether internal (confidence, self-esteem, etc.) or external? What would the impact of these more-likely outcomes be on a scale of 110? How likely is it that you could produce at least a moderately good outcome? Have less intelligent people done this before and pulled it off? 4.If you were fired from your job today, what would you do to get things under financial control? Imagine this scenario and run through questions 13 above. If you quit your job to test other options, how could you later get back on the same career track if you absolutely had to? 5.What are you putting off out of fear? Usually, what we most fear doing is what we most need to do. That phone call, that conversation, whatever the action might beit is fear of unknown outcomes that prevents us from doing what we need to do. Define the worst case, accept it, and do it. Ill repeat something you might consider tattooing on your forehead: What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do. As I have heard said, a persons success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have. Resolve to do one thing every day that you fear. I got into this habit by attempting to contact celebrities and famous businesspeople for advice. 6.What is it costing youfinancially, emotionally, and physicallyto postpone action? Dont only evaluate the potential downside of action. It is equally important to measure the atrocious cost of inaction. If you dont pursue those things that excite you, where will you be in one year, five years, and ten years? How will you feel having allowed circumstance to impose itself upon you and having allowed ten more years of your finite life to pass doing what you know will not fulfill you? If you telescope out 10 years and know with 100% certainty that it is a path of disappointment and regret, and if we define risk as the likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome, inaction is the greatest risk of all. 7.What are you waiting for? If you cannot answer this without resorting to the previously rejected concept of good timing, the answer is simple: Youre afraid, just like the rest of the world. Measure the cost of inaction, realize the unlikelihood and re-pairability of most missteps, and develop the most important habit of those who excel and enjoy doing so: action. 5. www.nexussurf.com 6. This turned out to be yet another self-imposed limitation and false construct. BrainQUICKEN was acquired by a private equity firm in 2009. The process is described on www.fourhourblog.com. 7. http://www.tpl.org/tier3_cd.cfm?content_item_id=5307andfolder_id=1545. System Reset BEING UNREASONABLE AND UNAMBIGUOUS Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the Cat. I dont much care where said Alice. Then it doesnt matter which way you go, said the Cat. LEWIS CARROLL, Alice in Wonderland The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. GEORGE BERNARD SHAW, Maxims for Revolutionists SPRING 2005 / PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY I had to bribe them. What other choice did I have? They formed a circle around me, and, while the names differed, the question was one and the same: Whats the challenge? All eyes were on me. My lecture at Princeton University had just ended with excitement and enthusiasm. At the same time, I knew that most students would go out and promptly do the opposite of what I preached. Most of them would be putting in 80-hour weeks as high-paid coffee fetchers unless I showed that the principles from class could actually be applied. Hence the challenge. I was offering a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world to anyone who could complete an undefined challenge in the most impressive fashion possible. Results plus style. I told them to meet me after class if interested, and here they were, nearly 20 out of 60 students. The task was designed to test their comfort zones while forcing them to use some of the tactics I teach. It was simplicity itself: Contact three seemingly impossible-to-reach peopleJ.Lo, Bill Clinton, J. D. Salinger, I dont careand get at least one to reply to three questions. Of 20 students, all frothing at the mouth to win a free spin across the globe, how many completed the challenge? Exactly none. Not a one. There were many excuses: Its not that easy to get someone to I have a big paper due, and I would love to, but theres no way I can. There was but one real reason, however, repeated over and over again in different words: It was a difficult challenge, perhaps impossible, and the other students would outdo them. Since all of them overestimated the competition, no one even showed up. According to the rules I had set, if someone had sent me no more than an illegible one-paragraph response, I would have been obligated to give them the prize. This result both fascinated and depressed me. The following year, the outcome was quite different. I told the above cautionary tale and 6 out of 17 finished the challenge in less than 48 hours. Was the second class better? No. In fact, there were more capable students in the first class, but they did nothing. Firepower up the wazoo and no trigger finger. The second group just embraced what I told them before they started, which was Doing the Unrealistic Is Easier Than Doing the Realistic F rom contacting billionaires to rubbing elbows with celebritiesthe second group of students did bothits as easy as believing it can be done. Its lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for realistic goals, paradoxically making them the most time-and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise $1,000,000 than it is $100,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s. If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is, too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think. Unreasonable and unrealistic goals are easier to achieve for yet another reason. Having an unusually large goal is an adrenaline infusion that provides the endurance to overcome the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with any goal. Realistic goals, goals restricted to the average ambition level, are uninspiring and will only fuel you through the first or second problem, at which point you throw in the towel. If the potential payoff is mediocre or average, so is your effort. Ill run through walls to get a catamaran trip through the Greek islands, but I might not change my brand of cereal for a weekend trip through Columbus, Ohio. If I choose the latter because it is realistic, I wont have the enthusiasm to jump even the smallest hurdle to accomplish it. With beautiful, crystal-clear Greek waters and delicious wine on the brain, Im prepared to do battle for a dream that is worth dreaming. Even though their difficulty of achievement on a scale of 110 appears to be a 10 and a 2 respectively, Columbus is more likely to fall through. The fishing is best where the fewest go, and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone else is aiming for base hits. There is just less competition for bigger goals. Doing big things begins with asking for them properly. What Do You Want? A Better Question, First of All M ost people will never know what they want. I dont know what I want. If you ask me what I want to do in the next five months for language learning, on the other hand, I do know. Its a matter of specificity. What do you want? is too imprecise to produce a meaningful and actionable answer. Forget about it. What are your goals? is similarly fated for confusion and guesswork. To rephrase the question, we need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Lets assume we have 10 goals and we achieve themwhat is the desired outcome that makes all the effort worthwhile? The most common response is what I also would have suggested five years ago: happiness. I no longer believe this is a good answer. Happiness can be bought with a bottle of wine and has become ambiguous through overuse. There is a more precise alternative that reflects what I believe the actual objective is. Bear with me. What is the opposite of happiness? Sadness? No. Just as love and hate are two sides of the same coin, so are happiness and sadness. Crying out of happiness is a perfect illustration of this. The opposite of love is indifference, and the opposite of happiness isheres the clincherboredom. Excitement is the more practical synonym for happiness, and it is precisely what you should strive to chase. It is the cure-all. When people suggest you follow your passion or your bliss, I propose that they are, in fact, referring to the same singular concept: excitement. This brings us full circle. The question you should be asking isnt, What do I want? or What are my goals? but What would excite me? Adult-Onset ADD: Adventure Deficit Disorder S omewhere between college graduation and your second job, a chorus enters your internal dialogue: Be realistic and stop pretending. Life isnt like the movies. If youre five years old and say you want to be an astronaut, your parents tell you that you can be anything you want to be. Its harmless, like telling a child that Santa Claus exists. If youre 25 and announce you want to start a new circus, the response is different: Be realistic; become a lawyer or an accountant or a doctor, have babies, and raise them to repeat the cycle. If you do manage to ignore the doubters and start your own business, for example, ADD doesnt disappear. It just takes a different form. When I started BrainQUICKEN LLC in 2001, it was with a clear goal in mind: Make $1,000 per day whether I was banging my head on a laptop or cutting my toenails on the beach. It was to be an automated source of cash flow. If you look at my chronology, it is obvious that this didnt happen until a meltdown forced it, despite the requisite income. Why? The goal wasnt specific enough. I hadnt defined alternate activities that would replace the initial workload. Therefore, I just continued working, even though there was no financial need. I needed to feel productive and had no other vehicles. This is how most people work until death: Ill just work until I have X dollars and then do what I want. If you dont define the what I want alternate activities, the X figure will increase indefinitely to avoid the fear-inducing uncertainty of this void. This is when both employees and entrepreneurs become fat men in red BMWs. The Fat Man in the Red BMW Convertible T here have been several points in my lifeamong them, just before I was fired from TrueSAN and just before I escaped the U.S. to avoid taking an Uzi into McDonaldsat which I saw my future as another fat man in a midlife-crisis BMW. I simply looked at those who were 1520 years ahead of me on the same track, whether a director of sales or an entrepreneur in the same industry, and it scared the hell out of me. It was such an acute phobia, and such a perfect metaphor for the sum of all fears, that it became a pattern interrupt between myself and fellow lifestyle designer and entrepreneur Douglas Price. Doug and I traveled parallel paths for nearly five years, facing the same challenges and self-doubt and thus keeping a close psychological eye on each other. Our down periods seem to alternate, making us a good team. Whenever one of us began to set our sights lower, lose faith, or accept reality, the other would chime in via phone or e-mail like an A A sponsor: Dude, are you turning into the bald fat man in the red BMW convertible? The prospect was terrifying enough that we always got our asses and priorities back on track immediately. The worst that could happen wasnt crashing and burning, it was accepting terminal boredom as a tolerable status quo. Rememberboredom is the enemy, not some abstract failure. Correcting Course: Get Unrealistic T here is a process that I have used, and still use, to reignite life or correct course when the Fat Man in the BMW rears his ugly head. In some form or another, it is the same process used by the most impressive NR I have met around the world: dreamlining. Dreamlining is so named because it applies timelines to what most would consider dreams. It is much like goal-setting but differs in several fundamental respects: 1.The goals shift from ambiguous wants to defined steps. 2.The goals have to be unrealistic to be effective. 3.It focuses on activities that will fill the vacuum created when work is removed. Living like a millionaire requires doing interesting things and not just owning enviable things. Now its your turn to think big. How to Get George Bush Sr. or the CEO of Google on the Phone The article below, titled Fail Better and written by Adam Gottesfeld, explores how I teach Princeton students to connect with luminary-level business mentors and celebrities of various types. Ive edited it for length in a few places. People are fond of using the its not what you know, its who you know adage as an excuse for inaction, as if all successful people are born with powerful friends. Nonsense. Heres how normal people build supernormal networks. Fail Better BY ADAM GOTTESFELD MOST PRINCETON students love to procrastinate in writing their deans date [term] papers. Ryan Marrinan 07, from Los Angeles, was no exception. But while the majority of undergraduates fill their time by updating their Facebook profiles or watching videos on YouTube, Marrinan was discussing Soto Zen Buddhism via e-mail with Randy Komisar, a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and asking Google CEO Eric Schmidt via e-mail when he had been happiest in his life. (Schmidts answer: Tomorrow.) Prior to his e-mail, Marrinan had never contacted Komisar. He had met Schmidt, a Princeton University trustee, only briefly at an academic affairs meeting of the trustees in November. A self-described naturally shy kid, Marrinan said he would never have dared to randomly e-mail two of the most powerful men in Silicon Valley if it werent for Tim Ferriss, who offered a guest lecture in Professor Ed Zschaus High-Tech Entrepreneurship class. Ferriss challenged Marrinan and his fellow seniors to contact high-profile celebrities and CEOs and get their answers to questions they have always wanted to ask. For extra incentive, Ferriss promised the student who could contact the most hard-to-reach name and ask the most intriguing question a round-trip plane ticket anywhere in the world. I believe that success can be measured in the number of uncomfortable conversations youre willing to have. I felt that if I could help students overcome the fear of rejection with cold-calling and cold e-mail, it would serve them forever, Ferriss said. Its easy to sell yourself short, but when you see classmates getting responses from people like [former president] George Bush, the CEOs of Disney, Comcast, Google, and HP, and dozens of other impossible-to-reach people, it forces you to reconsider your self-set limitations. Ferriss lectures to the students of High-Tech Entrepreneurship each semester about creating a startup and designing the ideal lifestyle. I participate in this contest every day, said Ferriss. I do what I always do: find a personal e-mail if possible, often through their little-known personal blogs, send a two- to three-paragraph e-mail which explains that I am familiar with their work, and ask one simple-to-answer but thought-provoking question in that e-mail related to their work or life philosophies. The goal is to start a dialogue so they take the time to answer future e-mailsnot to ask for help. That can only come after at least three or four genuine e-mail exchanges. With textbook execution of the Tim Ferriss Technique, as he put it, Marrinan was able to strike up a bond with Komisar. In his initial e-mail, he talked about reading one of Komisars Harvard Business Review articles and feeling inspired to ask him, When were you happiest in your life? After Komisar replied with references to Tibetan Buddhism, Marrinan responded, Just as words are inadequate to explain true happiness, so too are words inadequate to express my thanks. His e-mail included his personal translation of a French poem by Taisen Deshimaru, the former European head of Soto Zen. An e-mail relationship was formed, and Komisar even e-mailed Marrinan a few days later with a link to a New York Times article on happiness. Contacting Schmidt proved more challenging. For Marrinan, the toughest part was getting Schmidts personal e-mail address. He e-mailed a Princeton dean asking for it. No response. Two weeks later, he e-mailed the same dean again, defending his request by reminding her that he had previously met Schmidt. The dean said no, but Marrinan refused to give up. He e-mailed her a third time. Have you ever made an exception? he asked. The dean finally gave in, he said, and provided him with Schmidts e-mail. I know some of my classmates pursued the alternative scattershot technique with some success, but thats not my bag, Marrinan said, explaining his perseverance. I deal with rejection by persisting, not by taking my business elsewhere. My maxim comes from Samuel Beckett, a personal hero of mine: Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. You wont believe what you can accomplish by attempting the impossible with the courage to repeatedly fail better. Nathan Kaplan, another participant in the contest, was most proud of the way that he was able to contact former Newark mayor Sharpe James. Because James had made a campaign contribution to Al Sharpton, the website www.fundrace.org listed Jamess home address. Kaplan then input Jamess address into an online serach-by-address phone directory, through which he received the former mayors phone number. Kaplan left a message for James, and a few days later finally got to ask him about childhood education. Ferriss is proud of the effort students have put into his contest. Most people can do absolutely awe-inspiring things, he said. Sometimes they just need a little nudge. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom. VIKTOR FRANKL, Auschwitz survivor and founder of Logotherapy, Mans Search for Meaning Life is too short to be small. BENJAMIN DISRAELI D reamlining will be fun, and it will be hard. The harder it is, the more you need it. To save time, I recommend using the automatic calculators and forms at www.fourhourblog.com. Refer to the model worksheet as you complete the following steps: 1. What would you do if there were no way you could fail? If you were 10 times smarter than the rest of the world? Create two timelines6 months and 12 monthsand list up to five things you dream of having (including, but not limited to, material wants: house, car, clothing, etc.), being (be a great cook, be fluent in Chinese, etc.), and doing (visiting Thailand, tracing your roots overseas, racing ostriches, etc.) in that order. If you have difficulty identifying what you want in some categories, as most will, consider what you hate or fear in each and write down the opposite. Do not limit yourself, and do not concern yourself with how these things will be accomplished. For now, its unimportant. This is an exercise in reversing repression. Be sure not to judge or fool yourself. If you really want a Ferrari, dont put down solving world hunger out of guilt. For some, the dream will be fame, for others fortune or prestige. All people have their vices and insecurities. If something will improve your feeling of self-worth, put it down. I have a racing motorcycle, and quite apart from the fact that I love speed, it just makes me feel like a cool dude. There is nothing wrong with that. Put it all down. 2. Drawing a blank? For all their bitching about whats holding them back, most people have a lot of trouble coming up with the defined dreams theyre being held from. This is particularly true with the doing category. In that case, consider these questions: a.What would you do, day to day, if you had $100 million in the bank? b.What would make you most excited to wake up in the morning to another day? Dont rushthink about it for a few minutes. If still blocked, fill in the five doing spots with the following: one place to visit one thing to do before you die (a memory of a lifetime) one thing to do daily one thing to do weekly one thing youve always wanted to learn 3. What does being entail doing? Convert each being into a doing to make it actionable. Identify an action that would characterize this state of being or a task that would mean you had achieved it. People find it easier to brainstorm being first, but this column is just a temporary holding spot for doing actions. Here are a few examples: Great cook make Christmas dinner without help Fluent in Chinese have a five-minute conversation with a Chinese co-worker 4. What are the four dreams that would change it all? Using the 6-month timeline, star or otherwise highlight the four most exciting and/or important dreams from all columns. Repeat the process with the 12-month timeline if desired. 5. Determine the cost of these dreams and calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for both timelines. If financeable, what is the cost per month for each of the four dreams (rent, mortgage, payment plan installments, etc.)? Start thinking of income and expense in terms of monthly cash flowdollars in and dollars outinstead of grand totals. Things often cost much, much less than expected. For example, a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder, fresh off the showroom floor at $260,000, can be had for $2,897.80 per month. I found my personal favorite, an Aston Martin DB9 with 1,000 miles on it, through eBay for $136,000$2,003.10 per month. How about a Round-the-World trip (Los Angeles Tokyo Singapore Bangkok Delhi or Bombay London Frankfurt Los Angeles) for $1,399? For some of these costs, the Tools and Tricks at the end of Chapter 14 will help. Last, calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for realizing these dreamlines. This is how to do it: First, total each of the columns A, B, and C, counting only the four selected dreams. Some of these column totals could be zero, which is fine. Next, add your total monthly expenses x 1.3 (the 1.3 represents your expenses plus a 30% buffer for safety or savings). This grand total is your TMI and the target to keep in mind for the rest of the book. I like to further divide this TMI by 30 to get my TDITarget Daily Income. I find it easier to work with a daily goal. Online calculators on our companion site do all the work for you and make this step a cinch. Chances are that the figure is lower than expected, and it often decreases over time as you trade more and more having for once-in-a-lifetime doing. Mobility encourages this trend. Even if the total is intimidating, dont fret in the least. I have helped students get to more than $10,000 per month in extra income within three months. Sample Dreamline Dreamline (Go to www.fourhourblog.com for larger printable worksheets and online calculators.) Dreamline MathAnother Good Option T here could be a different way of handling monthly and one-time goals. Ill use your example of an Aston Martins monthly payment, a personal assistants monthly payment, and a trip to the Croatian coast. While the first two should certainly be totaled and included in your target monthly income, the trip is something that should be divided by the number of months between now and the dreamlines total time. Thus if you had a six-month dreamline: Aston Martin = 2,003 per month Personal assistant = 400 per month Croatian trip = 934 total, and thus 934/6 per month Right now in the book and in the spreadsheet we have (2003 400 934) x 1.3 monthly expenses = Target Monthly Income (or TMI). But I think it should be (2003 400 934/6 x 1.3 monthly expenses = TMI. Or, more generally: [Monthly Goals (One-Time Goals / Total Months)] x 1.3 monthly expenses = TMI. JARED, president, SET Consulting 6. Determine three steps for each of the four dreams in just the 6-month timeline and take the first step now. Im not a big believer in long-term planning and far-off goals. In fact, I generally set 3-month and 6-month dreamlines. The variables change too much and in-the-future distance becomes an excuse for postponing action. The objective of this exercise isnt, therefore, to outline every step from start to finish, but to define the end goal, the required vehicle to achieve them (TMI, TDI), and build momentum with critical first steps. From that point, its a matter of freeing time and generating the TMI, which the following chapters cover. First, lets focus on those critical first steps. Define three steps for each dream that will get you closer to its actualization. Set actionssimple, well-defined actionsfor now, tomorrow (complete before 11 A.M.) and the day after (again completed before 11 A.M.). Once you have three steps for each of the four goals, complete the three actions in the now column. Do it now. Each should be simple enough to do in five minutes or less. If not, rachet it down. If its the middle of the night and you cant call someone, do something else now, such as send an e-mail, and set the call for first thing tomorrow. If the next stage is some form of research, get in touch with someone who knows the answer instead of spending too much time in books or online, which can turn into paralysis by analysis. The best first step, the one I recommend, is finding someone whos done it and ask for advice on how to do the same. Its not hard. Other options include setting a meeting or phone call with a trainer, mentor, or salesperson to build momentum. Can you schedule a private class or a commitment that youll feel bad about canceling? Use guilt to your advantage. Tomorrow becomes never. No matter how small the task, take the first step now! COMFORT CHALLENGE T he most important actions are never comfortable. Fortunately, it is possible to condition yourself to discomfort and overcome it. Ive trained myself to propose solutions instead of ask for them, to elicit desired responses instead of react, and to be assertive without burning bridges. To have an uncommon lifestyle, you need to develop the uncommon habit of making decisions, both for yourself and for others. From this chapter forward, Ill take you through progressively more uncomfortable exercises, simple and small. Some of the exercises will appear deceptively easy and even irrelevant (such as the next) until you try them. Look at it as a game and expect some butterflies and sweatthats the whole point. For most of these exercises, the duration is two days. Mark the exercise of the day on your calendar so you dont forget, and dont attempt more than one Comfort Challenge at a time. Remember: There is a direct correlation between an increased sphere of comfort and getting what you want. Here we go. Learn to Eye Gaze (2 days) My friend Michael Ellsberg invented a singles event called Eye Gazing. It is similar to speed dating but different in one fundamental respectno speaking is permitted. It involves gazing into the eyes of each partner for three minutes at a time. If you go to such an event, it becomes clear how uncomfortable most people are doing this. For the next two days, practice gazing into the eyes of otherswhether people you pass on the street or conversational partnersuntil they break contact. Hints: 1.Focus on one eye and be sure to blink occasionally so you dont look like a psychopath or get your ass kicked. 2.In conversation, maintain eye contact when you are speaking. Its easy to do while listening. 3.Practice with people bigger or more confident than yourself. If a passerby asks you what the hell youre staring at, just smile and respond, Sorry about that. I thought you were an old friend of mine. Step II: E is for Elimination One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity. BRUCE LEE The End of Time Management ILLUSIONS AND ITALIANS Perfection is not when there is no more to add, but no more to take away. ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUP?RY, pioneer of international postal flight and author of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) It is vain to do with more what can be done with less. WILLIAM OF OCCAM (13001350), originator of Occams Razor Just a few words on time management: Forget all about it. In the strictest sense, you shouldnt be trying to do more in each day, trying to fill every second with a work fidget of some type. It took me a long time to figure this out. I used to be very fond of the results-by-volume approach. Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions. The options are almost limitless for creating busyness: You could call a few hundred unqualified sales leads, reorganize your Outlook contacts, walk across the office to request documents you dont really need, or fuss with your BlackBerry for a few hours when you should be prioritizing. In fact, if you want to move up the ladder in most of corporate America, and assuming they dont really check what you are doing (lets be honest), just run around the office holding a cell phone to your head and carrying papers. Now, that is one busy employee! Give them a raise. Unfortunately for the NR, this behavior wont get you out of the office or put you on an airplane to Brazil. Bad dog. Hit yourself with a newspaper and cut it out. After all, there is a far better option, and it will do more than simply increase your resultsit will multiply them. Believe it or not, it is not only possible to accomplish more by doing less, it is mandatory. Enter the world of elimination. How You Will Use Productivity N ow that you have defined what you want to do with your time, you have to free that time. The trick, of course, is to do so while maintaining or increasing your income. The intention of this chapter, and what you will experience if you follow the instructions, is an increase in personal productivity between 100 and 500%. The principles are the same for both employees and entrepreneurs, but the purpose of this increased productivity is completely different. First, the employee. The employee is increasing productivity to increase negotiating leverage for two simultaneous objectives: pay raises and a remote working arrangement. Recall that, as indicated in the first chapter of this book, the general process of joining the New Rich is D-E-A-L, in that order, but that employees intent on remaining employees for now need to implement the process as D-E-L-A. The reason relates to environment. They need to Liberate themselves from the office environment before they can work ten hours a week, for example, because the expectation in that environment is that you will be in constant motion from 95. Even if you produce twice the results you had in the past, if youre working a quarter of the hours of your colleagues, there is a good chance of receiving a pink slip. Even if you work 10 hours a week and produce twice the results of people working 40, the collective request will be, Work 40 hours a week and produce 8 times the results. This is an endless game and one you want to avoid. Hence the need for Liberation first. If youre an employee, this chapter will increase your value and make it more painful for the company to fire you than to grant raises and a remote working agreement. That is your goal. Once the latter is accomplished, you can drop hours without bureaucratic interference and use the resultant free time to fulfill dreamlines. The entrepreneurs goals are less complex, as he or she is generally the direct beneficiary of increased profit. The goal is to decrease the amount of work you perform while increasing revenue. This will set the stage for replacing yourself with Automation, which in turn permits Liberation. For both tracks, some definitions are in order. Being Effective vs. Being Efficient E ffectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe. I would consider the best door-to-door salesperson efficientthat is, refined and excellent at selling door-to-door without wasting timebut utterly ineffective. He or she would sell more using a better vehicle such as e-mail or direct mail. This is also true for the person who checks e-mail 30 times per day and develops an elaborate system of folder rules and sophisticated techniques for ensuring that each of those 30 brain farts moves as quickly as possible. I was a specialist at such professional wheel-spinning. It is efficient on some perverse level, but far from effective. Here are two truisms to keep in mind: 1.Doing something unimportant well does not make it important. 2.Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important. From this moment forward, remember this: What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things. To find the right things, well need to go to the garden. Pareto and His Garden: 80/20 and Freedom from Futility What gets measured gets managed. PETER DRUCKER, management theorist, author of 31 books, recipient of Presidential Medal of Freedom F our years ago, an economist changed my life forever. Its a shame I never had a chance to buy him a drink. My dear Vilfredo died almost 100 years ago. Vilfredo Pareto was a wily and controversial economist-cum-sociologist who lived from 1848 to 1923. An engineer by training, he started his varied career managing coal mines and later succeeded L?on Walras as the chair of political economy at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. His seminal work, Cours deconomie politique, included a then little-explored law of income distribution that would later bear his name: Paretos Law or the Pareto Distribution, in the last decade also popularly called the 80/20 Principle. The mathematical formula he used to demonstrate a grossly uneven but predictable distribution of wealth in society80% of the wealth and income was produced and possessed by 20% of the populationalso applied outside of economics. Indeed, it could be found almost everywhere. Eighty percent of Paretos garden peas were produced by 20% of the peapods he had planted, for example. Paretos Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. Alternative ways to phrase this, depending on the context, include: 80% of the consequences flow from 20% of the causes. 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time. 80% of company profits come from 20% of the products and customers. 80% of all stock market gains are realized by 20% of the investors and 20% of an individual portfolio. The list is infinitely long and diverse, and the ratio is often skewed even more severely: 90/10, 95/5, and 99/1 are not uncommon, but the minimum ratio to seek is 80/20. When I came across Paretos work one late evening, I had been slaving away with 15-hour days seven days per week, feeling completely overwhelmed and generally helpless. I would wake up before dawn to make calls to the United Kingdom, handle the U.S. during the normal 95 day, and then work until near midnight making calls to Japan and New Zealand. I was stuck on a runaway freight train with no brakes, shoveling coal into the furnace for lack of a better option. Faced with certain burnout or giving Paretos ideas a trial run, I opted for the latter. The next morning, I began a dissection of my business and personal life through the lenses of two questions: 1.Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness? 2.Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness? For the entire day, I put aside everything seemingly urgent and did the most intense truth-baring analysis possible, applying these questions to everything from my friends to customers and advertising to relaxation activities. Dont expect to find youre doing everything rightthe truth often hurts. The goal is to find your inefficiencies in order to eliminate them and to find your strengths so you can multiply them. In the 24 hours that followed, I made several simple but emotionally difficult decisions that literally changed my life forever and enabled the lifestyle I now enjoy. The first decision I made is an excellent example of how dramatic and fast the ROI of this analytical fat-cutting can be: I stopped contacting 95% of my customers and fired 2%, leaving me with the top 3% of producers to profile and duplicate. Out of more than 120 wholesale customers, a mere 5 were bringing in 95% of the revenue. I was spending 98% of my time chasing the remainder, as the aforementioned 5 ordered regularly without any follow-up calls, persuasion, or cajoling. In other words, I was working because I felt as though I should be doing something from 95. I didnt realize that working every hour from 95 isnt the goal; its simply the structure most people use, whether its necessary or not. I had a severe case of work-for-work (W4W), the most-hated acronym in the NR vocabulary. All, and I mean 100%, of my problems and complaints came from this unproductive majority, with the exception of two large customers who were simply world-class experts of the here is the fire I started, now you put it out approach to business. I put all of these unproductive customers on passive mode: If they ordered, greatlet them fax in the order. If not, I would do absolutely no chasing: no phone calls, no e-mail, nothing. That left the two larger customers to deal with, who were professional ball breakers but contributed about 10% to the bottom line at the time. Youll always have a few of these, and it is a quandary that causes all sorts of problems, not the least of which are self-hatred and depression. Up to that point, I had taken their browbeating, insults, time-consuming arguments, and tirades as a cost of doing business. I realized during the 80/20 analysis that these two people were the source of nearly all my unhappiness and anger throughout the day, and it usually spilled over into my personal time, keeping me up at night with the usual I should have said X, Y, and Z to that penis self-flagellation. I finally concluded the obvious: The effect on my self-esteem and state of mind just wasnt worth the financial gain. I didnt need the money for any precise reason, and I had assumed I needed to take it. The customers are always right, arent they? Part of doing business, right? Hell, no. Not for the NR, anyway. I fired their asses and enjoyed every second of it. The first conversation went like this: Customer: What the [email protected]$? I ordered two cases and they arrived two days late. [Note: He had sent the order to the wrong person via the wrong medium, despite repeated reminders.] You guys are the most disorganized bunch of idiots Ive ever worked with. I have 20 years of experience in this industry, and this is the worst. Any NRin this case, me: I will kill you. Be afraid, be very afraid. I wish. I did rehearse that a million times in my mental theater, but it actually went something more like this: Im sorry to hear that. You know, Ive been taking your insults for a while now, and its unfortunate that it seems we wont be able to do business anymore. Id recommend you take a good look at where this unhappiness and anger is actually coming from. In any case, I wish you well. If you would like to order product, well be happy to supply it, but only if you can conduct yourself without profanity and unnecessary insults. You have our fax number. All the best and have a nice day. [Click.] I did this once via phone and once through e-mail. So what happened? I lost one customer, but the other corrected course and simply faxed orders, again and again and again. Problem solved, minimum revenue lost. I was immediately 10 times happier. I then identified the common characteristics of my top-five customers and secured three or so similarly profiled buyers in the following week. Remember, more customers is not automatically more income. More customers is not the goal and often translates into 90% more housekeeping and a paltry 13% increase in income. Make no mistake, maximum income from minimal necessary effort (including minimum number of customers) is the primary goal. I duplicated my strengths, in this case my top producers, and focused on increasing the size and frequency of their orders. The end result? I went from chasing and appeasing 120 customers to simply receiving large orders from 8, with absolutely no pleading phone calls or e-mail haranguing. My monthly income increased from $30K to $60K in four weeks and my weekly hours immediately dropped from over 80 to approximately 15. Most important, I was happy with myself and felt both optimistic and liberated for the first time in over two years. In the ensuing weeks, I applied the 80/20 Principle to dozens of areas, including the following: 1. Advertising I identified the advertising that was generating 80% or more of revenue, identified the commonalities among them, and multiplied them, eliminating all the rest at the same time. My advertising costs dropped over 70% and my direct sales income nearly doubled from a monthly $15K to $25K in 8 weeks. It would have doubled immediately had I been using radio, newspapers, or television instead of magazines with long lead times. 2. Online Affiliates and Partners I fired more than 250 low-yield online affiliates or put them in holding patterns to focus instead on the two affiliates who were generating 90% of the income. My management time decreased from 510 hours per week to 1 hour per month. Online partner income increased more than 50% in that same month. Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of lazinesslazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selectivedoing lessis the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest. Of course, before you can separate the wheat from the chaff and eliminate activities in a new environment (whether a new job or an entrepreneurial venture), you will need to try a lot to identify what pulls the most weight. Throw it all up on the wall and see what sticks. Thats part of the process, but it should not take more than a month or two. Its easy to get caught in a flood of minutiae, and the key to not feeling rushed is remembering that lack of time is actually lack of priorities. Take time to stop and smell the roses, orin this caseto count the pea pods. The 95 Illusion and Parkinsons Law I saw a bank that said 24-Hour Banking, but I dont have that much time. STEVEN WRIGHT, comedian I f youre an employee, spending time on nonsense is, to some extent, not your fault. There is often no incentive to use time well unless you are paid on commission. The world has agreed to shuffle papers between 9:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M., and since youre trapped in the office for that period of servitude, you are compelled to create activities to fill that time. Time is wasted because there is so much time available. Its understandable. Now that you have the new goal of negotiating a remote work arrangement instead of just collecting a paycheck, its time to revisit the status quo and become effective. The best employees have the most leverage. For the entrepreneur, the wasteful use of time is a matter of bad habit and imitation. I am no exception. Most entrepreneurs were once employees and come from the 95 culture. Thus they adopt the same schedule, whether or not they function at 9:00 A.M. or need 8 hours to generate their target income. This schedule is a collective social agreement and a dinosaur legacy of the results-by-volume approach. How is it possible that all the people in the world need exactly 8 hours to accomplish their work? It isnt. 95 is arbitrary. You dont need 8 hours per day to become a legitimate millionairelet alone have the means to live like one. Eight hours per week is often excessive, but I dont expect all of you to believe me just yet. I know you probably feel as I did for a long time: There just arent enough hours in the day. But lets consider a few things we can probably agree on. Since we have 8 hours to fill, we fill 8 hours. If we had 15, we would fill 15. If we have an emergency and need to suddenly leave work in 2 hours but have pending deadlines, we miraculously complete those assignments in 2 hours. It is all related to a law that was introduced to me by Ed Zschau in the spring of 2000. I had arrived to class nervous and unable to concentrate. The final paper, worth a full 25% of the semesters grade, was due in 24 hours. One of the options, and that which I had chosen, was to interview the top executives of a start-up and provide an in-depth analysis of their business model. The corporate powers that be had decided last minute that I couldnt interview two key figures or use their information due to confidentiality issues and pre-IPO precautions. Game over. I approached Ed after class to deliver the bad news. Ed, I think Im going to need an extension on the paper. I explained the situation, and Ed smiled before he replied without so much as a hint of concern. I think youll be OK. Entrepreneurs are those who make things happen, right? Twenty-four hours later and one minute before the deadline, as his assistant was locking the office, I handed in a 30-page final paper. It was based on a different company I had found, interviewed, and dissected with an intense all-nighter and enough caffeine to get an entire Olympic track team disqualified. It ended up being one of the best papers Id written in four years, and I received an A. Before I left the classroom the previous day, Ed had given me some parting advice: Parkinsons Law. Parkinsons Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. If I give you a week to complete the same task, its six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. If I give you two months, God forbid, it becomes a mental monster. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus. This presents a very curious phenomenon. There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other: 1.Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20). 2.Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinsons Law). The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines. If you havent identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important. Even if you know whats critical, without deadlines that create focus, the minor tasks forced upon you (or invented, in the case of the entrepreneur) will swell to consume time until another bit of minutiae jumps in to replace it, leaving you at the end of the day with nothing accomplished. How else could dropping off a package at UPS, setting a few appointments, and checking e-mail consume an entire 95 day? Dont feel bad. I spent months jumping from one interruption to the next, feeling run by my business instead of the other way around. THE 80/20 PRINCIPLE and Parkinsons Law are the two cornerstone concepts that will be revisited in different forms throughout this entire section. Most inputs are useless and time is wasted in proportion to the amount that is available. Fat-free performance and time freedom begins with limiting intake overload. In the next chapter, well put you on the real breakfast of champions: the Low-Information Diet. A Dozen Cupcakes and One Question Love of bustle is not industry. SENECA MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIFORNIA. S aturdays are my days off, I offered to the crowd of strangers staring at me, friends of a friend. It was true. Can you eat All-Bran and chicken seven days a week? Me neither. Dont be so judgmental. Between my tenth and twelfth cupcakes, I plopped down on the couch to revel in the sugar high until the clock struck midnight and sent me back to my adultsville SundayFriday diet. There was another party guest seated next to me on a chair, nursing a glass of wine, not his twelfth but certainly not his first, and we struck up a conversation. As usual, I had to struggle to answer What do you do? and, as usual, my answer left someone to wonder whether I was a pathological liar or a criminal. How was it possible to spend so little time on income generation? Its a good question. Its THE question. In almost all respects, Charney had it all. He was happily married with a two-year-old son and another due to arrive in three months. He was a successful technology salesman, and though he wanted to earn $500,000 more per year as all do, his finances were solid. He also asked good questions. I had just returned from another trip overseas and was planning a new adventure to Japan. He drilled me for two hours with a refrain: How is it possible to spend so little time on income generation? If youre interested, we can make you a case study and Ill show you how, I offered. Charney was in. The one thing he didnt have was time. One e-mail and five weeks of practice later, Charney had good news: He had accomplished more in the last week than he had in the previous four combined. He did so while taking Monday and Friday off and spending at least 2 more hours per day with his family. From 40 hours per week, he was down to 18 and producing four times the results. Was it from mountaintop retreats and secret kung fu training? Nope. Was it a new Japanese management secret or better software? Nein. I just asked him to do one simple thing consistently without fail. At least three times per day at scheduled times, he had to ask himself the following question: Am I being productive or just active? Charney captured the essence of this with less-abstract wording: Am I inventing things to do to avoid the important? He eliminated all of the activities he used as crutches and began to focus on demonstrating results instead of showing dedication. Dedication is often just meaningless work in disguise. Be ruthless and cut the fat. It is possible to have your cupcake and eat it, too. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS We create stress for ourselves because you feel like you have to do it. You have to. I dont feel that anymore. OPRAH WINFREY, actress and talk-show host, The Oprah Winfrey Show T he key to having more time is doing less, and there are two paths to getting there, both of which should be used together: (1) Define a to-do list and (2) define a not-to-do list. In general terms, there are but two questions: What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness? What 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcome and happiness? Hypothetical cases help to get us started: 1. If you had a heart attack and had to work two hours per day, what would you do? Not five hours, not four hours, not threetwo hours. Its not where I want you to ultimately be, but its a start. Besides, I can hear your brain bubbling already: Thats ridiculous. Impossible! I know, I know. If I told you that you could survive for months, functioning quite well, on four hours of sleep per night, would you believe me? Probably not. Notwithstanding, millions of new mothers do it all the time. This exercise is not optional. The doctor has warned you, after triple-bypass surgery, that if you dont cut down your work to two hours per day for the first three months post-op, you will die. How would you do it? 2. If you had a second heart attack and had to work two hours per week, what would you do? 3. If you had a gun to your head and had to stop doing 4/5 of different time-consuming activities, what would you remove? Simplicity requires ruthlessness. If you had to stop ? of time-consuming activitiese-mail, phone calls, conversations, paperwork, meetings, advertising, customers, suppliers, products, services, etc.what would you eliminate to keep the negative effect on income to a minimum? Used even once per month, this question alone can keep you sane and on track. 4. What are the top-three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though Ive been productive? These are usually used to postpone more important actions (often uncomfortable because there is a chance of failure or rejection). Be honest with yourself, as we all do this on occasion. What are your crutch activities? 5. Who are the 20% of people who produce 80% of your enjoyment and propel you forward, and which 20% cause 80% of your depression, anger, and second-guessing? Identify: Positive friends versus time-consuming friends: Who is helping versus hurting you, and how do you increase your time with the former while decreasing or eliminating your time with the latter? Who is causing me stress disproportionate to the time I spend with them? What will happen if I simply stop interacting with these people? Fear-setting helps here. When do I feel starved for time? What commitments, thoughts, and people can I eliminate to fix this problem? Exact numbers arent needed to realize that we spend too much time with those who poison us with pessimism, sloth, and low expectations of themselves and the world. It is often the case that you have to fire certain friends or retire from particular social circles to have the life you want. This isnt being mean; it is being practical. Poisonous people do not deserve your time. To think otherwise is masochistic. The best way to approach a potential break is simple: Confide in them honestly but tactfully and explain your concerns. If they bite back, your conclusions have been confirmed. Drop them like any other bad habit. If they promise to change, first spend at least two weeks apart to develop other positive influences in your life and diminish psychological dependency. The next trial period should have a set duration and consist of pass-or-fail criteria. If this approach is too confrontational for you, just politely refuse to interact with them. Be in the middle of something when the call comes, and have a prior commitment when the invitation to hang out comes. Once you see the benefits of decreased time with these people, it will be easier to stop communication altogether. Im not going to lie: It sucks. It hurts like pulling out a splinter. But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isnt making you stronger, theyre making you weaker. Remove the splinters and youll thank yourself for it. 6. Learn to ask, If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day? Dont ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer without a clear list of priorities. Youll just read unassociated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day. Compile your to-do list for tomorrow no later than this evening. I dont recommend using Outlook or computerized to-do lists, because it is possible to add an infinite number of items. I use a standard piece of paper folded in half three times, which fits perfectly in the pocket and limits you to noting only a few items. There should never be more than two mission-critical items to complete each day. Never. It just isnt necessary if theyre actually high-impact. If you are stuck trying to decide between multiple items that all seem crucial, as happens to all of us, look at each in turn and ask yourself, If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day? To counter the seemingly urgent, ask yourself: What will happen if I dont do this, and is it worth putting off the important to do it? If you havent already accomplished at least one important task in the day, dont spend the last business hour returning a DVD to avoid a $5 late charge. Get the important task done and pay the $5 fine. 7. Put a Post-it on your computer screen or set an Outlook reminder to alert you at least three times daily with the question: Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important? I also use free time-tracking software called RescueTime (www.rescuetime.com) to alert me when I spend more than an allotted time on certain websites or programs often used to avoid the important (Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, etc.). It also summarizes your time use each week and compares your performance to peers. 8. Do not multitask. Im going to tell you what you already know. Trying to brush your teeth, talk on the phone, and answer e-mail at the same time just doesnt work. Eating while doing online research and instant messaging? Ditto. If you prioritize properly, there is no need to multitask. It is a symptom of task creepdoing more to feel productive while actually accomplishing less. As stated, you should have, at most, two primary goals or tasks per day. Do them separately from start to finish without distraction. Divided attention will result in more frequent interruptions, lapses in concentration, poorer net results, and less gratification. 9. Use Parkinsons Law on a Macro and Micro Level. Use Parkinsons Law to accomplish more in less time. Shorten schedules and deadlines to necessitate focused action instead of deliberation and procrastination. On a weekly and daily macro level, attempt to take Monday and/or Friday off, as well as leave work at 4 P.M. This will focus you to prioritize more effectively and quite possibly develop a social life. If youre under the hawklike watch of a boss, well discuss the nuts and bolts of how to escape in later chapters. On a micro task level, limit the number of items on your to-do list and use impossibly short deadlines to force immediate action while ignoring minutiae. If doing work online or near an online computer, http://e.ggtimer.com/ is a convenient countdown timer. Just type the desired time limit directly into the URL field and hit enter. The http:// can often be omitted. For example: http://e.ggtimer.com/5minutes (or just e.ggtimer.com/5mininsomebrowsers) http://e.ggtimer.com/1hour30minutes30seconds http://e.ggtimer.com/30 (if you just put in a number, it assumes seconds) COMFORT CHALLENGE Learn to Propose (2 Days) Stop asking for opinions and start proposing solutions. Begin with the small things. If someone is going to ask, or asks, Where should we eat? What movie should we watch? What should we do tonight? or anything similar, do NOT reflect it back with, Well, what do you want to ? Offer a solution. Stop the back-and-forth and make a decision. Practice this in both personal and professional environments. Here are a few lines that help (my favorites are the first and last): Can I make a suggestion? I propose Id like to propose I suggest that What do you think? Lets try and then try something else if that doesnt work. LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION Im a musician who got your book because Derek Sivers at CD Baby recommended it. Checking Paretos Law I realized that 78% of my downloads came from just one of my CDs and that 55% of my total download income came from only five songs! It showed me what my fans are looking for and allowed me to showcase those on my web site. Downloads are the way to go. iTunes sells the song and CD Baby direct deposits it to my account. Fully automated once the recording is done. There are some months I can live off download income. Once I finish paying off debt, it should be no problem to travel as an artist and create new fans all over the world and have a cyber income stream. VICTOR JOHNSON As for outsourcing your banking, any company that needs to take checks (cheques) should consider a lock box solution. Just about any bank that does business banking offers it. All checks go to a PO box at the bank, the bank processes the checks and deposits them, and according to your instructions can send you a file of all the checks that are deposited. Normally this can be done in either a flat, Excel or other file type that can interface with any accounting systems from Excel, to Quicken to SAP. Quite cost effective. ANONYMOUS The Low-Information Diet CULTIVATING SELECTIVE IGNORANCE What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it. HERBERT SIMON, recipient of Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics8 and the A.M. Turing Award, the Nobel Prize of Computer Science Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. ALBERT EINSTEIN I hope youre sitting down. Take that sandwich out of your mouth so you dont choke. Cover the babys ears. Im going to tell you something that upsets a lot of people. I never watch the news and have bought one single newspaper in the last five years, in Stansted Airport in London, and only because it gave me a discount on a Diet Pepsi. I would claim to be Amish, but last time I checked, Pepsi wasnt on the menu. How obscene! I call myself an informed and responsible citizen? How do I stay up-to-date with current affairs? Ill answer all of that, but waitit gets better. I usually check business e-mail for about an hour each Monday, and I never check voicemail when abroad. Never ever. But what if someone has an emergency? It doesnt happen. My contacts now know that I dont respond to emergencies, so the emergencies somehow dont exist or dont come to me. Problems, as a rule, solve themselves or disappear if you remove yourself as an information bottleneck and empower others. Cultivating Selective Ignorance There are many things of which a wise man might wish to be ignorant. RALPH WALDO EMERSON (18031882) F rom this point forward, Im going to propose that you develop an uncanny ability to be selectively ignorant. Ignorance may be bliss, but it is also practical. It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable. Most are all three. The first step is to develop and maintain a low-information diet. Just as modern man consumes both too many calories and calories of no nutritional value, information workers eat data both in excess and from the wrong sources. Lifestyle design is based on massive actionoutput. Increased output necessitates decreased input. Most information is time-consuming, negative, irrelevant to your goals, and outside of your influence. I challenge you to look at whatever you read or watched today and tell me that it wasnt at least two of the four. I read the front-page headlines through the newspaper machines as I walk to lunch each day and nothing more. In five years, I havent had a single problem due to this selective ignorance. It gives you something new to ask the rest of the population in lieu of small talk: Tell me, whats new in the world? And, if its that important, youll hear people talking about it. Using my crib notes approach to world affairs, I also retain more than someone who loses the forest for the trees in a sea of extraneous details. From an actionable information standpoint, I consume a maximum of one-third of one industry magazine (Response magazine) and one business magazine (Inc.) per month, for a grand total of approximately four hours. Thats it for results-oriented reading. I read an hour of fiction prior to bed for relaxation. How on earth do I act responsibly? Let me give an example of how I and other NR both consider and obtain information. I voted in the last presidential election,9 despite having been in Berlin. I made my decision in a matter of hours. First, I sent e-mails to educated friends in the U.S. who share my values and asked them who they were voting for and why. Second, I judge people based on actions and not words; thus, I asked friends in Berlin, who had more perspective outside of U.S. media propaganda, how they judged the candidates based on their historical behavior. Last, I watched the presidential debates. That was it. I let other dependable people synthesize hundreds of hours and thousands of pages of media for me. It was like having dozens of personal information assistants, and I didnt have to pay them a single cent. Thats a simple example, you say, but what if you need to learn to do something your friends havent done? Like, say, sell a book to the worlds largest publisher as a first-time author? Funny you should ask. There are two approaches I used: 1. I picked one book out of dozens based on reader reviews and the fact that the authors had actually done what I wanted to do. If the task is how-to in nature, I only read accounts that are how I did it and autobiographical. No speculators or wannabes are worth the time. 2. Using the book to generate intelligent and specific questions, I contacted 10 of the top authors and agents in the world via e-mail and phone, with a response rate of 80%. I only read the sections of the book that were relevant to immediate next steps, which took less than two hours. To develop a template e-mail and call script took approximately four hours, and the actual e-mails and phone calls took less than an hour. This personal contact approach is not only more effective and more efficient than all-you-can-eat info buffets, it also provided me with the major league alliances and mentors necessary to sell this book. Rediscover the power of the forgotten skill called talking. It works. Once again, less is more. How to Read 200% Faster in 10 Minutes T here will be times when, its true, you will have to read. Here are four simple tips that will lessen the damage and increase your speed at least 200% in 10 minutes with no comprehension loss: 1. Two Minutes: Use a pen or finger to trace under each line as you read as fast as possible. Reading is a series of jumping snapshots (called saccades), and using a visual guide prevents regression. 2. Three Minutes: Begin each line focusing on the third word in from the first word, and end each line focusing on the third word in from the last word. This makes use of peripheral vision that is otherwise wasted on margins. For example, even when the highlighted words in the next line are your beginning and ending focal points, the entire sentence is read, just with less eye movement: Once upon a time, an information addict decided to detox. Move in from both sides further and further as it gets easier. 3. Two Minutes: Once comfortable indenting three or four words from both sides, attempt to take only two snapshotsalso known as fixationsper line on the first and last indented words. 4. Three Minutes: Practice reading too fast for comprehension but with good technique (the above three techniques) for five pages prior to reading at a comfortable speed. This will heighten perception and reset your speed limit, much like how 50 mph normally feels fast but seems like slow motion if you drop down from 70 mph on the freeway. To calculate reading speed in words per minute (wpm)and thus progressin a given book, add up the number of words in ten lines and divide by ten to get the average words per line. Multiply this by the number of lines per page and you have the average words per page. Now its simple. If you initially read 1.25 pages in one minute at 330 average words per page, thats 412.5 words per minute. If you then read 3.5 pages after training, its 1,155 words per minute and youre in the top 1% of the worlds fastest readers. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace. ROBERT J. SAWYER, Calculating God 1. Go on an immediate one-week media fast. The world doesnt even hiccup, much less end, when you cut the information umbilical cord. To realize this, its best to use the Band-Aid approach and do it quickly: a one-week media fast. Information is too much like ice cream to do otherwise. Oh, Ill just have a half a spoonful is about as realistic as I just want to jump online for a minute. Go cold turkey. If you want to go back to the 15,000-calorie potato chip information diet afterward, fine, but beginning tomorrow and for at least five full days, here are the rules: No newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, or nonmusic radio. Music is permitted at all times. No news websites whatsoever (cnn.com, drudgereport.com, msn.com,10 etc.). No television at all, except for one hour of pleasure viewing each evening. No reading books, except for this book and one hour of fiction11 pleasure reading prior to bed. No web surfing at the desk unless it is necessary to complete a work task for that day. Necessary means necessary, not nice to have. Unnecessary reading is public enemy number one during this one-week fast. What do you do with all the extra time? Replace the newspaper at breakfast with speaking to your spouse, bonding with your children, or learning the principles in this book. Between 95, complete your top priorities as per the last chapter. If you complete them with time to spare, do the exercises in this book. Recommending this book might seem hypocritical, but its not: The information in these pages is both important and to be applied now, not tomorrow or the day after. Each day at lunch break, and no earlier, get your five-minute news fix. Ask a well-informed colleague or a restaurant waiter, Anything important happening in the world today? I couldnt get the paper today. Stop this as soon as you realize that the answer doesnt affect your actions at all. Most people wont even remember what they spent one to two hours absorbing that morning. Be strict with yourself. I can prescribe the medicine, but you need to take it. Download the Firefox web browser (www.firefox.com) and use LeechBlock to block certain sites entirely for set periods. From their site (http://www.proginosko.com/leechblock.html): You can specify up to six sets of sites to block, with different times and days for each set. You can block sites within fixed time periods (e.g., between 9am and 5pm), after a time limit (e.g., 10 minutes in every hour), or with a combination of time periods and time limit (e.g., 10 minutes in every hour between 9am and 5pm). You can also set a password for access to the extension options, just to slow you down in moments of weakness! 2. Develop the habit of asking yourself, Will I definitely use this information for something immediate and important? Its not enough to use information for somethingit needs to be immediate and important. If no on either count, dont consume it. Information is useless if it is not applied to something important or if you will forget it before you have a chance to apply it. I used to have the habit of reading a book or site to prepare for an event weeks or months in the future, and I would then need to reread the same material when the deadline for action was closer. This is stupid and redundant. Follow your to-do short list and fill in the information gaps as you go. Focus on what digerati Kathy Sierra calls just-in-time information instead of just-in-case information. 3. Practice the art of nonfinishing. This is another one that took me a long time to learn. Starting something doesnt automatically justify finishing it. If you are reading an article that sucks, put it down and dont pick it back up. If you go to a movie and its worse than Matrix III, get the hell out of there before more neurons die. If youre full after half a plate of ribs, put the damn fork down and dont order dessert. More is not better, and stopping something is often 10 times better than finishing it. Develop the habit of nonfinishing that which is boring or unproductive if a boss isnt demanding it. COMFORT CHALLENGE Get Phone Numbers (2 Days) Being sure to maintain eye contact, ask for the phone numbers of at least two (the more you attempt, the less stressful it will be) attractive members of the opposite sex on each day. Girls, this means youre in the game as well, and it doesnt matter if youre 50 . Remember that the real goal is not to get numbers, but to get over the fear of asking, so the outcome is unimportant. If youre in a relationship, sign up to (or pretend to) gather information for Greenpeace. Just toss the numbers if you get them. Go to a mall if you want to get some rapid-fire practicemy preference for getting over the discomfort quicklyand aim to ask three people in a row within five minutes. Feel free to use some variation of the following script: Excuse me. I know this is going to sound strange, but if I dont ask you now, Ill be kicking myself for the rest of the day. Im running to meet a friend [i.e., I have friends and am not a stalker], but I think youre really [extremely, drop-dead] cute [gorgeous, hot]. Could I have your phone number? Im not a psychoI promise. You can give me a fake one if youre not interested. 8. Simon received the Nobel Prize in 1978 for his contribution to organizational decision making: It is impossible to have perfect and complete information at any given time to make a decision. 9. 2004 at the time this was written. 10. LOL. 11. As someone who read exclusively nonfiction for nearly 15 years, I can tell you two things: Its not productive to read two fact-based books at the same time (this is one), and fiction is better than sleeping pills for putting the happenings of the day behind you. Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal Do your own thinking independently. Be the chess player, not the chess piece. RALPH CHARELL Meetings are an addictive, highly self-indulgent activity that corporations and other organizations habitually engage in only because they cannot actually masturbate. DAVE BARRY, Pulitzer Prizewinning American humorist SPRING 2000, PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY 1:35 P.M. I think I understand. Moving on. In the next paragraph, it explains that I had detailed notes and didnt want to miss a single point. 3:45 P.M. OK. That makes sense, but if we look at the following example I paused for a moment mid-sentence. The teaching assistant had both hands on his face. Tim, lets end here for now. Ill be sure to keep these points in mind. He had had enough. Me too, but I knew Id only have to do it once. F or all four years of school, I had a policy. If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice test in a given class, I would bring 23 hours of questions to the graders office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion. This served two important purposes: 1.I learned exactly how the grader evaluated work, including his or her prejudices and pet peeves. 2.The grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A. He or she would never consider giving me a bad grade without exceptional reasons for doing so, as he or she knew Id come aknocking for another three-hour visit. Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time. Think back to your days on the playground. There was always a big bully and countless victims, but there was also that one small kid who fought like hell, thrashing and swinging for the fences. He or she might not have won, but after one or two exhausting exchanges, the bully chose not to bother him or her. It was easier to find someone else. Be that kid. Doing the important and ignoring the trivial is hard because so much of the world seems to conspire to force crap upon you. Fortunately, a few simple routine changes make bothering you much more painful than leaving you in peace. Its time to stop taking information abuse. Not All Evils Are Created Equal F or our purposes, an interruption is anything that prevents the start-to-finish completion of a critical task, and there are three principal offenders: 1.Time wasters: those things that can be ignored with little or no consequence. Common time wasters include meetings, discussions, phone calls, web surfing, and e-mail that are unimportant. 2.Time consumers: repetitive tasks or requests that need to be completed but often interrupt high-level work. Here are a few you might know intimately: reading and responding to e-mail, making and returning phone calls, customer service (order status, product assistance, etc.), financial or sales reporting, personal errands, all necessary repeated actions and tasks. 3.Empowerment failures: instances where someone needs approval to make something small happen. Here are just a few: fixing customer problems (lost shipments, damaged shipments, malfunctions, etc.), customer contact, cash expenditures of all types. Lets look at the prescriptions for all three in turn. Time Wasters: Become an Ignoramus The best defense is a good offense. DAN GABLE, Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and the most successful coach in history; personal record: 29963, with 182 pins T ime wasters are the easiest to eliminate and deflect. It is a matter of limiting access and funneling all communication toward immediate action. First, limit e-mail consumption and production. This is the greatest single interruption in the modern world. 1.Turn off the audible alert if you have one on Outlook or a similar program and turn off automatic send/receive, which delivers e-mail to your inbox as soon as someone sends them. 2.Check e-mail twice per day, once at 12:00 noon or just prior to lunch, and again at 4:00 P.M. 12:00 P.M. and 4:00 P.M. are times that ensure you will have the most responses from previously sent e-mail. Never check e-mail first thing in the morning.12Instead, complete your most important task before 11:00 A.M. to avoid using lunch or reading e-mail as a postponement excuse. LIGHT GRAY INDICATES TIME AVAILABLE FOR HIGH-PRIORITY TASKS. Courtesy of SANDIA Before implementing the twice-daily routine, you must create an e-mail autoresponse that will train your boss, co-workers, suppliers, and clients to be more effective. I would recommend that you do not ask to implement this. Remember one of our ten commandments: Beg for forgiveness; dont ask for permission. If this gives you heart palpitations, speak with your immediate supervisor and propose to trial the approach for one to three days. Cite pending projects and frustration with constant interruptions as the reasons. Feel free to blame it on spam or someone outside of the office. Here is a simple e-mail template that can be used: Greetings, Friends [or Esteemed Colleagues], Due to high workload, I am currently checking and responding to e-mail twice daily at 12:00 p.m. ET [or your time zone] and 4:00 p.m. ET. If you require urgent assistance (please ensure it is urgent) that cannot wait until either 12:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m., please contact me via phone at 5555555555. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better. Sincerely, Tim Ferriss MOVE TO ONCE-PER-DAY as quickly as possible. Emergencies are seldom that. People are poor judges of importance and inflate minutiae to fill time and feel important. This autoresponse is a tool that, far from decreasing collective effectiveness, forces people to re-evaluate their reason for interrupting you and helps them decrease meaningless and time-consuming contact. I was initially terrified of missing important requests and inviting disaster, just as you might be upon reading this recommendation. Nothing happened. Give it a shot and work out the small bumps as you progress. For an extreme example of a personal autoresponder that has never prompted a complaint and allowed me to check e-mail once per week, send an e-mail to [email protected] It has been revised over three years and works like a charm. The second step is to screen incoming and limit outgoing phone calls. 1. Use two telephone numbers if possibleone office line (non urgent) and one cellular (urgent). This could also be two cell phones, or the non-urgent line could be an Internet phone number that routes calls to online voicemail (www.skype.com, for example). Use the cell number in the e-mail autoresponse and answer it at all times unless it is an unknown caller or it is a call you dont want to answer. If in doubt, allow the call to go to voicemail and listen to the voicemail immediately afterward to gauge importance. If it can wait, let it wait. The offending parties have to learn to wait. The office phone should be put on silent mode and allowed to go to voicemail at all times. The voicemail recording should sound familiar: Youve reached the desk of Tim Ferriss. I am currently checking and responding to voicemail twice daily at 12:00 p.m. ET [or your time zone] and 4:00 p.m. ET. If you require assistance with a truly urgent matter that cannot wait until either 12:00 p.m. or 4:00 p.m., please contact me on my cell at 5555555555. Otherwise, please leave a message and I will return it at the next of those two times. Be sure to leave your e-mail address, as I am often able to respond faster that way. Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you better. Have a wonderful day. 2. If someone does call your cell phone, it is presumably urgent and should be treated as such. Do not allow them to consume time otherwise. Its all in the greeting. Compare the following: Jane (receiver):Hello? John (caller): Hi, is this Jane? Jane: This is Jane. John: Hi, Jane, its John. Jane: Oh, hi, John. How are you? (or) Oh, hi, John. Whats going on? John will now digress and lead you into a conversation about nothing, from which you will have to recover and then fish out the ultimate purpose of the call. There is a better approach: Jane: This is Jane speaking. John: Hi, its John. Jane: Hi, John. Im right in the middle of something. How can I help you out? Potential continuation: John: Oh, I can call back. Jane: No, I have a minute. What can I do for you? Dont encourage people to chitchat and dont let them chitchat. Get them to the point immediately. If they meander or try to postpone for a later undefined call, reel them in and get them to come to the point. If they go into a long description of a problem, cut in with, [Name], sorry to interrupt, but I have a call in five minutes. What can I do to help out? You might instead say, [Name], sorry to interrupt, but I have a call in five minutes. Can you send me an e-mail? The third step is to master the art of refusal and avoiding meetings. THE FIRST DAY our new Sales VP arrived at TrueSAN in 2001, he came into the all-company meeting and made an announcement in just about this many words: I am not here to make friends. I have been hired to build a sales team and sell product, and thats what I intend to do. Thanks. So much for small talk. He proceeded to deliver on his promise. The office socializers disliked him for his no-nonsense approach to communication, but everyone respected his time. He wasnt rude without reason, but he was direct and kept the people around him focused. Some didnt consider him charismatic, but no one considered him anything less than spectacularly effective. I remember sitting down in his office for our first one-on-one meeting. Fresh off four years of rigorous academic training, I immediately jumped into explaining the prospect profiles, elaborate planning Id developed, responses to date, and so forth and so on. I had spent at least two hours preparing to make this first impression a good one. He listened with a smile on his face for no more than two minutes and then held up a hand. I stopped. He laughed in a kind-hearted manner and said, Tim, I dont want the story. Just tell me what we need to do. Over the following weeks, he trained me to recognize when I was unfocused or focused on the wrong things, which meant anything that didnt move the top two or three clients one step closer to signing a purchase order. Our meetings were now no more than five minutes long. From this moment forward, resolve to keep those around you focused and avoid all meetings, whether in person or remote, that do not have clear objectives. It is possible to do this tactfully, but expect that some time wasters will be offended the first few times their advances are rejected. Once it is clear that remaining on task is your policy and not subject to change, they will accept it and move on with life. Hard feelings pass. Dont suffer fools or youll become one. It is your job to train those around you to be effective and efficient. No one else will do it for you. Here are a few recommendations: 1. Decide that, given the non-urgent nature of most issues, you will steer people toward the following means of communication, in order of preference: e-mail, phone, and in-person meetings. If someone proposes a meeting, request an e-mail instead and then use the phone as your fallback offer if need be. Cite other immediately pending work tasks as the reason. 2. Respond to voicemail via e-mail whenever possible. This trains people to be concise. Help them develop the habit. Similar to our opening greeting on the phone, e-mail communication should be streamlined to prevent needless back-and-forth. Thus, an e-mail with Can you meet at 4:00 P.M.? would become Can you meet at 4:00 P.M.? If so If not, please advise three other times that work for you. This if then structure becomes more important as you check e-mail less often. Since I only check e-mail once a week, it is critical that no one needs a what if? answered or other information within seven days of a given e-mail I send. If I suspect that a manufacturing order hasnt arrived at the shipping facility, for example, Ill send an e-mail to my shipping facility manager along these lines: Dear Susan Has the new manufacturing shipment arrived? If so, please advise me on If not, please contact John Doe at 5555555 or via e-mail at [email protected] (he is also CCd) and advise on delivery date and tracking. John, if there are any issues with the shipment, please coordinate with Susan, reachable at 5554444, who has the authority to make decisions up to $500 on my behalf. In case of emergency, call me on my cell phone, but I trust you two. Thanks. This prevents most follow-up questions, avoids two separate dialogues, and takes me out of the problem-solving equation. Get into the habit of considering what if then actions can be proposed in any e-mail where you ask a question. 3. Meetings should only be held to make decisions about a predefined situation, not to define the problem. If someone proposes that you meet with them or set a time to talk on the phone, ask that person to send you an e-mail with an agenda to define the purpose: That sounds doable. So I can best prepare, can you please send me an e-mail with an agenda? That is, the topics and questions well need to address? That would be great. Thanks in advance. Dont give them a chance to bail out. The thanks in advance before a retort increases your chances of getting the e-mail. The e-mail medium forces people to define the desired outcome of a meeting or call. Nine times out of ten, a meeting is unnecessary and you can answer the questions, once defined, via e-mail. Impose this habit on others. I havent had an in-person meeting for my business in more than five years and have had fewer than a dozen conference calls, all lasting less than 30 minutes. 4. Speaking of 30 minutes, if you absolutely cannot stop a meeting or call from happening, define the end time. Do not leave these discussions open-ended, and keep them short. If things are well-defined, decisions should not take more than 30 minutes. Cite other commitments at odd times to make them more believable (e.g., 3:20 vs. 3:30) and force people to focus instead of socializing, commiserating, and digressing. If you must join a meeting that is scheduled to last a long time or that is open-ended, inform the organizer that you would like permission to cover your portion first, as you have a commitment in 15 minutes. If you have to, feign an urgent phone call. Get the hell out of there and have someone else update you later. The other option is to be completely transparent and voice your opinion of how unnecessary the meeting is. If you choose this route, be prepared to face fire and offer alternatives. 5. The cubicle is your templedont permit casual visitors. Some suggest using a clear do not disturb sign of some type, but I have found that this is ignored unless you have an office. My approach was to put headphones on, even if I wasnt listening to anything. If someone approached me despite this discouragement, I would pretend to be on the phone. Id put a finger to my lips, say something like, I hear you, and then say into the mic, Can you hold on a second? Next, Id turn to the invader and say, Hi. What can I do for you? I wouldnt let them get back to me but rather force the person to give me a five-second summary and then send me an e-mail if necessary. If headphone games arent your thing, the reflexive response to an invader should be the same as when answering the cell phone: Hi, invader. Im right in the middle of something. How can I be of help? If its not clear within 30 seconds, ask the person to send you an e-mail about the chosen issue; do not offer to send them an e-mail first: Ill be happy to help, but I have to finish this first. Can you send me a quick e-mail to remind me? If you still cannot deflect an invader, give the person a time limit on your availability, which can also be used for phone conversations: OK, I only have two minutes before a call, but whats the situation and what can I do to help? 6. Use the Puppy Dog Close to help your superiors and others develop the no-meeting habit. The Puppy Dog Close in sales is so named because it is based on the pet store sales approach: If someone likes a puppy but is hesitant to make the life-altering purchase, just offer to let them take the pup home and bring it back if they change their minds. Of course, the return seldom happens. The Puppy Dog Close is invaluable whenever you face resistance to permanent changes. Get your foot in the door with a lets just try it once reversible trial. Compare the following: I think youd love this puppy. It will forever add to your responsibilities until he dies 10 years from now. No more care-free vacations, and youll finally get to pick up poop all over the citywhat do you think? vs. Now imagine walking up to your boss in the hallway and clapping a hand on her shoulder: Id like to go to the meeting, but I have a better idea. Lets never have another one, since all we do is waste time and not decide anything useful. vs. The second set of alternatives seem less permanent, and theyre intended to appear so. Repeat this routine and ensure that you achieve more outside of the meeting than the attendees do within it; repeat the disappearing act as often as possible and cite improved productivity to convert this slowly into a permanent routine change. Learn to imitate any good child: Just this once! Please!!! I promise Ill do X! Parents fall for it because kids help adults to fool themselves. It works with bosses, suppliers, customers, and the rest of the world, too. Use it, but dont fall for it. If a boss asks for overtime just this once, he or she will expect it in the future. Time Consumers: Batch and Do Not Falter A schedule defends from chaos and whim. ANNIE DILLARD, winner of Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction, 1975 I f you have never used a commercial printer before, the pricing and lead times could surprise you. Lets assume it costs $310 and takes one week to print 20 customized T-shirts with 4-color logos. How much and how long does it take to print 3 of the same T-shirt? $310 and one week. How is that possible? Simplethe setup charges dont change. It costs the printer the same amount in materials for plate preparation ($150) and the same in labor to man the press itself ($100). The setup is the real time-consumer, and thus the job, despite its small size, needs to be scheduled just like the other, resulting in the same one-week delivery date. The lower economy of scale picks up the rest: The cost for 3 shirts is $20 per shirt x 3 shirts instead of $3 per shirt x 20 shirts. The cost- and time-effective solution, therefore, is to wait until you have a larger order, an approach called batching. Batching is also the solution to our distracting but necessary time consumers, those repetitive tasks that interrupt the most important. If you check mail and make bill payments five times a week, it might take 30 minutes per instance and you respond to a total of 20 letters in two and a half hours. If you do this once per week instead, it might take 60 minutes total and you still respond to a total of 20 letters. People do the former out of fear of emergencies. First, there are seldom real emergencies. Second, of the urgent communication you will receive, missing a deadline is usually reversible and otherwise costs a minimum to correct. There is an inescapable setup time for all tasks, large or minuscule in scale. It is often the same for one as it is for a hundred. There is a psychological switching of gears that can require up to 45 minutes to resume a major task that has been interrupted. More than a quarter of each 95 period (28%) is consumed by such interruptions.13 This is true of all recurring tasks and is precisely why we have already decided to check e-mail and phone calls twice per day at specific predetermined times (between which we let them accumulate). From mid-2004 to 2007, I checked mail no more than once a week, often not for up to four weeks at a time. Nothing was irreparable, and nothing cost more than $300 to fix. This batching has saved me hundreds of hours of redundant work. How much is your time worth? Lets use a hypothetical example: 1. $20 per hour is how much you are paid or value your time. This would be the case, for example, if you are paid $40,000 per year and get two weeks of vacation per year ($40,000 divided by [40 hours per week x 50 = 2,000] = $20/hour). Estimate your hourly income by cutting the last three zeroes off of your annual income and halving the remaining number (e.g., $50,000/year p $25/hour. 2. Estimate the amount of time you will save by grouping similar tasks together and batching them, and calculate how much you have earned by multiplying this hour number by your per-hour rate ($20 here): 3. Test each of the above batching frequencies and determine how much problems cost to fix in each period. If the cost is less than the above dollar amounts, batch even further apart. For example, using our above math, if I check e-mail once per week and that results in an average loss of two sales per week, totaling $80 in lost profit, I will continue checking once per week because $200 (10 hours of time) minus $80 is still a $120 net gain, not to mention the enormous benefits of completing other main tasks in those 10 hours. If you calculate the financial and emotional benefit of completing just one main task (such as landing a major client or completing a life-changing trip), the value of batching is much more than the per-hour savings. If the problems cost more than hours saved, scale back to the next-less-frequent batch schedule. In this case, I would drop from once per week to twice per week (not daily) and attempt to fix the system so that I can return to once per week. Do not work harder when the solution is working smarter. I have batched both personal and business tasks further and further apart as Ive realized just how few real problems come up. Some of my scheduled batches in 2007 were e-mail (Mondays 10:00 A.M.), phone (completely eliminated), laundry (every other Sunday at 10:00 P.M.), credit cards and bills (most are on automatic payment, but I check balances every second Monday after e-mail), strength training (every 4th day for 30 minutes), etc. Empowerment Failure: Rules and Readjustment The vision is really about empowering workers, giving them all the information about whats going on so they can do a lot more than theyve done in the past. BILL GATES, cofounder of Microsoft, richest man in the world E mpowerment failure refers to being unable to accomplish a task without first obtaining permission or information. It is often a case of being micromanaged or micromanaging someone else, both of which consume your time. For the employee, the goal is to have full access to necessary information and as much independent decision-making ability as possible. For the entrepreneur, the goal is to grant as much information and independent decision-making ability to employees or contractors as possible. Customer service is often the epitome of empowerment failure, and a personal example from BrainQUICKEN illustrates just how serious but easily solved the problem can be. In 2002, I had outsourced customer service for order tracking and returns but still handled product-related questions myself. The result? I received more than 200 e-mail per day, spending all hours between 95 responding to them, and the volume was growing at a rate of more than 10% per week! I had to cancel advertising and limit shipments, as additional customer service would have been the final nail in the coffin. It wasnt a scalable model. Remember this word, as it will be important later. It wasnt scalable because there was an information and decision bottleneck: me. The clincher? The bulk of the e-mail that landed in my inbox was not product-related at all but requests from the outsourced customer service reps seeking permission for different actions: The customer claims he didnt receive the shipment. What should we do? The customer had a bottle held at customs. Can we reship to a U.S. address? The customer needs the product for a competition in two days. Can we ship overnight, and if so, how much should we charge? It was endless. Hundreds upon hundreds of different situations made it impractical to write a manual, and I didnt have the time or experience to do so regardless. Fortunately, someone did have the experience: the outsourced reps themselves. I sent one single e-mail to all the supervisors that immediately turned 200 e-mail per day into fewer than 20 e-mail per week: Hi All, I would like to establish a new policy for my account that overrides all others. Keep the customer happy. If it is a problem that takes less than $100 to fix, use your judgment and fix it yourself. This is official written permission and a request to fix all problems that cost under $100 without contacting me. I am no longer your customer; my customers are your customer. Dont ask me for permission. Do what you think is right, and well make adjustments as we go along. Thank you, Tim Upon close analysis, it became clear that more than 90% of the issues that prompted e-mail could be resolved for less than $20. I reviewed the financial results of their independent decision-making on a weekly basis for four weeks, then a monthly basis, and then on a quarterly basis. Its amazing how someones IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate that you trust them. The first month cost perhaps $200 more than if I had been micromanaging. In the meantime, I saved more than 100 hours of my own time per month, customers received faster service, returns dropped to less than 3% (the industry average is 1015%), and outsourcers spent less time on my account, all of which resulted in rapid growth, higher profit margins, and happier people on all sides. People are smarter than you think. Give them a chance to prove themselves. If you are a micromanaged employee, have a heart-to-heart with your boss and explain that you want to be more productive and interrupt him or her less. I hate that I have to interrupt you so much and pull you away from more important things I know you have on your plate. I was doing some reading and had some thoughts on how I might be more productive. Do you have a second? Before this conversation, develop a number of rules like the previous example that would allow you to work more autonomously with less approval-seeking. The boss can review the outcome of your decisions on a daily or weekly basis in the initial stages. Suggest a one-week trial and end with Id like to try it. Does that sound like something we could try for a week? or my personal favorite, Is that reasonable? Its hard for people to label things unreasonable. Realize that bosses are supervisors, not slave masters. Establish yourself as a consistent challenger of the status quo and most people will learn to avoid challenging you, particularly if it is in the interest of higher per-hour productivity. If you are a micromanaging entrepreneur, realize that even if you can do something better than the rest of the world, it doesnt mean thats what you should be doing if its part of the minutiae. Empower others to act without interrupting you. SET THE RULES in your favor: Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects. Do not let people interrupt you. Find your focus and youll find your lifestyle. The bottom line is that you only have the rights you fight for. In the next section, Automation, well see how the New Rich create management-free money and eliminate the largest remaining obstacle of all: themselves. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS People think it must be fun to be a super genius, but they dont realize how hard it is to put up with all the idiots in the world. CALVIN, from Calvin and Hobbes B laming idiots for interruptions is like blaming clowns for scaring childrenthey cant help it. Its their nature. Then again, I had (who am I kiddingand have), on occasion, been known to create interruptions out of thin air. If youre anything like me, that makes us both occasional idiots. Learn to recognize and fight the interruption impulse. This is infinitely easier when you have a set of rules, responses, and routines to follow. It is your job to prevent yourself and others from letting the unnecessary and unimportant prevent the start-to-finish completion of the important. This chapter differs from the previous in that the necessary actions, due to the inclusion of examples and templates, have been presented throughout from start to finish. This Q and A will thus be a summary rather than a repetition. The devil is in the details, so be sure to reread this chapter for the specifics. The 50,000-foot review is as follows: 1. Create systems to limit your availability via e-mail and phone and deflect inappropriate contact. Get the autoresponse and voicemail script in place now, and master the various methods of evasion. Replace the habit of How are you? with How can I help you? Get specific and rememberno stories. Focus on immediate actions. Set and practice interruption-killing policies. Avoid meetings whenever possible: Use e-mail instead of face-to-face meetings to solve problems. Beg-off going (this can be accomplished through the Puppy Dog Close). If meetings are unavoidable, keep the following in mind: Go in with a clear set of objectives. Set an end time or leave early. 2. Batch activities to limit setup cost and provide more time for dreamline milestones. What can I routinize by batching? That is, what tasks (whether laundry, groceries, mail, payments, or sales reporting, for example) can I allot to a specific time each day, week, month, quarter, or year so that I dont squander time repeating them more often than is absolutely necessary? 3. Set or request autonomous rules and guidelines with occasional review of results. Eliminate the decision bottleneck for all things that are nonfatal if misperformed. If an employee, believe in yourself enough to ask for more independence on a trial basis. Have practical rules prepared and ask the boss for the sale after surprising him or her with an impromptu presentation. Remember the Puppy Dog Closemake it a one-time trial and reversible. For the entrepreneur or manager, give others the chance to prove themselves. The likelihood of irreversible or expensive problems is minimal and the time savings are guaranteed. Remember, profit is only profitable to the extent that you can use it. For that you need time. TOOLS AND TRICKS Eliminating Paper Distractions, Capturing Everything Evernote (www.evernote.com) This is perhaps the most impressive tool Ive found in the last year, introduced to me by some of the most productive technologists in the world. Evernote has eliminated more than 90% of the paper in my life and eliminated nearly all of the multiple tabs I used to leave open in web browsers, both of which distracted me to no end. It can clear out your entire office clutter in one to three hours. Evernote allows you to easily capture information from anywhere using whatever device is at hand, and everything is then searchable (read: findable) from anywhere. I use it to: Take photographs of everything I might want to remember or find laterbusiness cards, handwritten notes, wine labels, receipts, whiteboard sessions, and more. Evernote identifies the text in all of these pictures automatically, so its all searchable(!), whether from an iPhone, your laptop, or the web. Just as one example, I can store and find the contact information from any business card in seconds (often using the built in iSight camera on Mac to capture it), rather than spending hours inputting it all into contacts or searching through e-mail for that lost phone number. Its mind-numbing how much time this saves. Scan all agreements, paper articles, etc., that would otherwise sit in file folders or on my desk. I use the Mac Fujitsu ScanSnap miniscanner (http://bit.ly/scansnapmac), the best Ive found, which scans all of it directly to Evernote in seconds with one button. Take snapshots of websites, capturing all text and links, so that I can read them offline when traveling or doing later research. Get rid of all those scattered bookmarks, favorites, and open tabs. Screening and Avoiding Unwanted Calls GrandCentral (www.grandcentral.com) and YouMail (www.youmail.com) In a world where your physical address will change more often than your cell phone number (and e-mail), it can be disastrous if your number becomes public or gets in the wrong hands. Enter GrandCentral, which will give you a number with the area code of your choosing that then forwards to your own phone(s). I now give a GrandCentral number to anyone besides family and close friends. Some of the benefits: Identify any incoming number as unwanted, and that caller will then hear a number not in service message when attempting to call you. Customize your voicemail message to individual callers (spouse, boss, colleague, client, etc.) and listen in on messages as theyre being left, so you can pick up if the message is worth the interruption. Call recording is also an option. Use an area code outside of your hometown to prevent people and companies from finding and misusing addresses youd prefer to keep private. Establish do-not-disturb hours, when calls are routed directly to voicemail with no ring. Have voicemail sent to your cell phone as SMS (text messages). YouMail, another option, can also transcribe voicemails and send them to your phone as text messages. Getting calls while stuck in a time-wasting meeting? No problem: Respond to voicemails via SMS during the meeting so youre not stuck returning calls afterward. One Shot, One Kill Scheduling Without E-mail Back-and-Forth Few things are as time-consuming as scheduling via e-mail. Person A: How about Tues. at 3 P.M.? Person B: I can make it. Person C: I have a meeting. How about Thurs.? Person D: Im on a con-call. How about 10 A.M. on Fri.? Use these tools to make scheduling simple and fast instead of another part-time job. Doodle (www.doodle.com) The best free tool Ive found for herding cats (multiple people) for scheduling without excessive e-mail. Create and poll in 30 seconds with the proposed options and forward a link to everyone invited. Check back a few hours later and youll have the best time for the most people. TimeDriver (www.timedriver.com) Let colleagues and clients self-schedule with you based on your availability, which is determined by integration with Outlook or Google Calendar. Embed a schedule now button in e-mail messages and youll never have to tell people when you can make a call or meeting. Let them see whats open and choose. Choosing the Best E-mail Batching Times Xobni (www.xobni.com/special) Xobniinbox spelled backwardsis a free program for putting Outlook on steroids. It offers many features, but the most relevant to this chapter is its ability to identify hotspots, or periods of time when you receive the bulk of e-mail from your most important contacts. These hotspots are batching times that will enable you to keep critical contacts (clients, bosses, etc.) smiling even while you reduce checking e-mail to 13 times per day. It will also populate your contacts automatically by pulling phone numbers, addresses, etc., from separate e-mail buried in the inbox. E-mailing Without Entering the Black Hole of the Inbox Dont enter the black hole of the inbox off hours because youre afraid youll forget something. Use these services instead to keep focused, whether on completing a critical project or simply enjoying the weekend. Jott (www.jott.com) Capture thoughts, create to-dos, and set reminders with a simple toll-free phone call. The service transcribes your message (1530 seconds) and e-mails it to whomever you want, including yourself, or to your Google calendar for automatic scheduling. Jott also enables you to post voice message links to Twitter (www.twitter.com), Facebook (www.facebook.com), and other services that tend to consume hours if you visit the sites themselves. Copy talk (www.copytalk.com) Dictate any message up to four minutes and have the transcription e-mailed to you within hours. Excellent for brainstorming, and the accuracy is astounding. Preventing Web Browsing Completely Freedom (http://www.ibiblio.org/fred/freedom/) Freedom is a free application that disables networking on an Apple computer for 1480 mintues (up to eight hours) at a time. Freedom will free you from the distractions of the Internet, allowing you the focus to get real work done. Freedom enforces freedom; a reboot is the only method for turning Freedom off before the time limit youve set for yourself. The hassle of rebooting means youre less likely to cheat, and youll be more productive. Experiment with the software for short periods of time at first (3060 minutes.) COMFORT CHALLENGE Revisit the Terrible Twos (2 Days) For the next two days, do as all good two-year-olds do and say no to all requests. Dont be selective. Refuse to do all things that wont get you immediately fired. Be selfish. As with the last exercise, the objective isnt an outcomein this case, eliminating just those things that waste timebut the process: getting comfortable with saying no. Potential questions to decline include the following: Do you have a minute? Want to see a movie tonight/tomorrow? Can you help me with X? No should be your default answer to all requests. Dont make up elaborate lies or youll get called on them. A simple I really cantsorry; Ive got too much on my plate right now will do as a catch-all response. LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION Batching toolPO Box: This might be stating the obvious, but one easy way to encourage batching of your mail is to use a PO Box versus getting mail delivered to your house. We got our PO Box to limit access to our physical address online, but it also encourages you to get the mail less and deal with it in batch. Our post office has recycling bins, so at least 60% of the mail doesnt even come home with us. For a while I was only getting and managing the mail once a week, and I found not only did it take less time overall, I did a better job managing it and getting it out of the way versus looking at it and setting it aside for future follow up. LAURA TURNER For families, the four-hour workweek doesnt have to mean four months on a sailboat in the Caribbean unless thats their dream, but even the simple ideal of having time to take a walk in the park every evening or spending weekends together, makes taking actions to implement this program worthwhile. [There are many different approaches for making this work]: Kids have to promise they wont bother Mommy in the evening while she works on the computer, the husband watches the kids in the evening, both parents make plans once a week to have someone take care of the kids, etc. Then close with the huge payoff for the family of having more time to spend with each other. ADRIENNE JENKINS Why not combine a mini-retirement with dentistry (or medical) geoarbitrage and finance your trip with the savings? I lived in Thailand for four months and got root canal treatment and a crown for ? of the price that it costs in Australia. There are many upmarket clinics set up for expats and health travelers in Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam, Goa, etc., with English-speaking dentists. And in Europe many people go to Poland or Hungary. To research, just Google dentist and the country and you will come across practices advertising to foreigners. Talk to expats when youre in the country or on online chat forums for recommendations. Now Im in Australia I still combine my travels with annual dentist checkupsand the savings often finance my airfare. Even between developed countries there are significant cost differences. For example France is far cheaper than the UK and Australia is cheaper than the U.S. [Note from Tim: Learn more about the incredible world of medical tourism and geoarbitrage at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_tourism. Even large insurers like AETNA often cover overseas treatments and surgeries.] ANONYMOUS 12. This habit alone can change your life. It seems small but has an enormous effect. 13. Jonathan B. Spira and Joshua B. Feintuch, The Cost of Not Paying Attention: How Interruptions Impact Knowledge Worker Productivity (Basex, 2005). Step III: A is for Automation SCOTTY: Shes all yours, sir. All systems automated and ready. A chimpanzee and two trainees could run her! CAPTAIN KIRK: Thank you, Mr. Scott. Ill try not to take that personally. STAR TREK Outsourcing Life OFF-LOADING THE REST AND A TASTE OF GEOARBITRAGE14 A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone. HENRY DAVID THOREAU, naturalist If I told you this story, you wouldnt believe me, so Ill let AJ tell it. It will set the stage for even more incredible things to come, all of which you will do yourself. My Outsourced Life A true account by AJ Jacobs, editor-at-large at Esquire magazine (ellipses represent passage of time between entries) IT BEGAN a month ago. I was midway through The World Is Flat, the bestseller by Tom Friedman. I like Friedman, despite his puzzling decision to wear a mustache. His book is all about how outsourcing to India and China is not just for tech support and carmakers but is poised to transform every industry in America, from law to banking to accounting. I dont have a corporation; I dont even have an up-to-date business card. Im a writer and editor working from home, usually in my boxer shorts or, if Im feeling formal, my penguin-themed pajama bottoms. Then again, I think, why should Fortune 500 firms have all the fun? Why cant I join in on the biggest business trend of the new century? Why cant I outsource my low-end tasks? Why cant I outsource my life? The next day I e-mail Brickwork, one of the companies Friedman mentions in his book. Brickworkbased in Bangalore, Indiaoffers remote executive assistants, mostly to financial firms and healthcare companies that want data processed. I explain that Id like to hire someone to help with Esquire-related tasksdoing research, formatting memos, like that. The companys CEO, Vivek Kulkarni, responds, It would be a great pleasure to be talking to a person of your stature. Already Im liking this. Ive never had stature before. In America, I barely command respect from a Bennigans ma?tre d, so its nice to know that in India I have stature. A couple of days later, I get an e-mail from my new remote executive assistant. Dear Jacobs, My name is Honey K. Balani. I would be assisting you in your editorial and personal job. I would try to adapt myself as per your requirements that would lead to desired satisfaction. Desired satisfaction. This is great. Back when I worked at an office, I had assistants, but there was never any talk of desired satisfaction. In fact, if anyone ever used the phrase desired satisfaction, wed all end up in a solemn meeting with HR. I GO OUT to dinner with my friend Misha, who grew up in India, founded a software firm, and subsequently became nauseatingly rich. I tell him about Operation Outsource. You should call Your Man in India, he says. Misha explains that this is a company for Indian businessmen who have moved overseas but who still have parents back in New Delhi or Mumbai. YMII is their overseas concierge serviceit buys movie tickets and cell phones and other sundries for abandoned moms. Perfect. This could kick my outsourcing up to a new level. I can have a nice, clean division of labor: Honey will take care of my business affairs, and YMII can attend to my personal lifepay my bills, make vacation reservations, buy stuff online. Happily, YMII likes the idea, and just like that the support team at Jacobs Inc. has doubled. HONEY HAS completed her first project for me: research on the person Esquire has chosen as the Sexiest Woman Alive. Ive been assigned to write a profile of this woman, and I really dont want to have to slog through all the heavy-breathing fan websites about her. When I open Honeys file, I have this reaction: America is f*cked. There are charts. There are section headers. There is a well-organized breakdown of her pets, measurements, and favorite foods (e.g., swordfish). If all Bangalorians are like Honey, I pity Americans about to graduate college. Theyre up against a hungry, polite, Excel-proficient Indian army. IN FACT, in the next few days, I outsource a whole mess of online errands to Asha (from the personal service YMII): paying my bills, getting stuff from drugstore.com, finding my son a Tickle Me Elmo. (Actually, the store was out of Tickle Me Elmos, so Asha bought a Chicken Dance Elmogood decision.) I had her call Cingular to ask about my cell-phone plan. Im just guessing, but I bet her call was routed from Bangalore to New Jersey and then back to a Cingular employee in Bangalore, which makes me happy for some reason. ITS THE fourth morning of my new, farmed-out life, and when I flip on my computer, my e-mail inbox is already filled with updates from my overseas aides. Its a strange feeling having people work for you while you sleep. Strange, but great. Im not wasting time while I drool on my pillow; things are getting done. HONEY IS my protector. Consider this: For some reason, the Colorado Tourism Board e-mails me all the time. (Most recently, they informed me about a festival in Colorado Springs featuring the worlds most famous harlequin.) I request that Honey gently ask them to stop with the press releases. Heres what she sent: Dear All, Jacobs often receives mails from Colorado news, too often. They are definitely interesting topics. However, these topics are not suitable for Esquire. Further, we do understand that you have taken a lot of initiatives working on these articles and sending it to us. We understand. Unfortunately, these articles and mails are too time consuming to be read. Currently, these mails are not serving right purpose for both of us. Thus, we request to stop sending these mails. We do not mean to demean your research work by this. We hope you understand too. Thanking you, Honey K B That is the best rejection notice in journalism history. Its exceedingly polite, but theres a little undercurrent of indignation. Honey seems almost outraged that Colorado would waste the valuable time of Jacobs. I DECIDE to test the next logical relationship: my marriage. These arguments with my wife are killing mepartly because Julie is a much better debater than I am. Maybe Asha can do better: Hello Asha, My wife got annoyed at me because I forgot to get cash at the automatic bank machine I wonder if you could tell her that I love her, but gently remind her that she too forgets thingsshe has lost her wallet twice in the last month. And she forgot to buy nail clippers for Jasper. AJ I cant tell you what a thrill I got from sending that note. Its pretty hard to get much more passive-aggressive than bickering with your wife via an e-mail from a subcontinent halfway around the world. The next morning, Asha CCd me on the e-mail she sent to Julie. Julie, Do understand your anger that I forgot to pick up the cash at the automatic machine. I have been forgetful and I am sorry about that. But I guess that doesnt change the fact that I love you so much. Love AJ P. S. This is Asha mailing on behalf of Mr. Jacobs. As if that werent enough, she also sent Julie an e-card. I click on it: two teddy bears embracing, with the words, Anytime you need a hug, Ive got one for you. Im sorry. Damn! My outsourcers are too friggin nice! They kept the apology part but took out my little jabs. They are trying to save me from myself. They are superegoing my id. I feel castrated. Julie, on the other hand, seems quite pleased: Thats nice, sweetie. I forgive you. DESPITE THREE weeks with my support team, Im still stressed. Perhaps its the fault of Chicken Dance Elmo, whom my son loves to the point of dry humping, but who is driving me slowly insane. Whatever the reason, I figure its time to conquer another frontier: outsourcing my inner life. First, I try to delegate my therapy. My plan is to give Asha a list of my neuroses and a childhood anecdote or two, have her talk to my shrink for 50 minutes, then relay the advice. Smart, right? My shrink refused. Ethics or something. Fine. Instead, I have Asha send me a meticulously researched memo on stress relief. It had a nice Indian flavor to it, with a couple of yogic postures and some visualization. This was okay, but it didnt seem quite enough. I decided I needed to outsource my worry. For the last few weeks Ive been tearing my hair out because a business deal is taking far too long to close. I asked Honey if she would be interested in tearing her hair out in my stead. Just for a few minutes a day. She thought it was a wonderful idea. I will worry about this every day, she wrote. Do not worry. The outsourcing of my neuroses was one of the most successful experiments of the month. Every time I started to ruminate, Id remind myself that Honey was already on the case, and Id relax. No jokethis alone was worth it. At a Glance: Where You Will Be The future is here. Its just not widely distributed yet. WILLIAM GIBSON, author of Neuromancer; coined term cyberspace in 1984 H ere is a sneak preview of full automation. I woke up this morning, and given that its Monday, I checked my e-mail for one hour after an exquisite Buenos Aires breakfast. Sowmya from India had found a long-lost high school classmate of mine, and Anakool from YMII had put together Excel research reports for retiree happiness and the average annual hours worked in different fields. Interviews for this week had been set by a third Indian virtual assistant, who had also found contact information for the best Kendo schools in Japan and the top salsa teachers in Cuba. In the next e-mail folder, I was pleased to see that my fulfillment account manager in Tennessee, Beth, had resolved nearly two dozen problems in the last weekkeeping our largest clients in China and South Africa smilingand had also coordinated California sales tax filing with my accountants in Michigan. The taxes had been paid via my credit card on file, and a quick glance at my bank accounts confirmed that Shane and the rest of the team at my credit card processor were depositing more cash than last month. All was right in the world of automation. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I closed my laptop with a smile. For an all-you-can-eat buffet breakfast with coffee and orange juice, I paid $4 U.S. The Indian outsourcers cost between $410 U.S. per hour. My domestic outsourcers are paid on performance or when product ships. This creates a curious business phenomenon: Negative cash flow is impossible. Fun things happen when you earn dollars, live on pesos, and compensate in rupees, but thats just the beginning. But Im an Employee! How Does This Help Me? Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If youre a man, you take it. MALCOLM X, Malcolm X Speaks G etting a remote personal assistant is a huge departure point and marks the moment that you learn how to give orders and be commander instead of the commanded. It is small-scale training wheels for the most critical of NR skills: remote management and communication. It is time to learn how to be the boss. It isnt time-consuming. Its low-cost and its low-risk. Whether or not you need someone at this point is immaterial. It is an exercise. It is also a litmus test for entrepreneurship: Can you manage (direct and chastise) other people? Given the proper instruction and practice, I believe so. Most entrepreneurs fail because they jump into the deep end of the pool without learning to swim first. Using a virtual assistant (VA) as a simple exercise with no downside, the basics of management are covered in a 24-week test costing between $100400. This is an investment, not an expense, and the ROI is astounding. It will be repaid in a maximum of 1014 days, after which it is pure timesaving profit. Becoming a member of the NR is not just about working smarter. Its about building a system to replace yourself. This is the first exercise. Even if you have no intention of becoming an entrepreneur, this is the ultimate continuation of our 80/20 and elimination process: Preparing someone to replace you (even if it never happens) will produce an ultrarefined set of rules that will cut remaining fat and redundancy from your schedule. Lingering unimportant tasks will disappear as soon as someone else is being paid to do them. But what about the cost? This is a hurdle that is hard for most. If I can do it better than an assistant, why should I pay them at all? Because the goal is to free your time to focus on bigger and better things. This chapter is a low-cost exercise to get you past this lifestyle limiter. It is absolutely necessary that you realize that you can always do something more cheaply yourself. This doesnt mean you want to spend your time doing it. If you spend your time, worth $2025 per hour, doing something that someone else will do for $10 per hour, its simply a poor use of resources. It is important to take baby steps toward paying others to do work for you. Few do it, which is another reason so few people have their ideal lifestyles. Even if the cost is occasionally more per hour than you currently earn, the trade is often worth it. Lets assume you make $50,000 and thus $25 per hour (working from 95, Monday through Friday, for 50 weeks per year). If you pay a top-notch assistant $30 per hour and he or she saves you one full 8-hour shift per week, your cost (subtracting what youre being paid) is $40 to free an extra day. Would you pay $40 per week to work Monday to Thursday? I would, and I do. Keep in mind that this is a worst-case cost scenario. But what if your boss freaks out? Its largely a non-issue, and prevention is better than cure. There is no ethical or legal reason for the boss to know if you choose non-sensitive tasks. The first option is to assign personal items. Time is time, and if youre spending time on chores and errands that could be spent better elsewhere, a VA will improve life and the management learning curve is similar. Second, you can delegate business tasks that dont include financial information or identify your company. Ready to build an army of assistants? Lets first look at the dark side of delegation. A review is in order to prevent abuses of power and wasteful behavior. Delegation Dangers: Before Getting Started The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency. BILL GATES H ave you ever been given illogical assignments, handed unimportant work, or commanded to do something in the most inefficient fashion possible? Not fun and not productive. Now its your turn to show that you know better. Delegation is to be used as a further step in reduction, not as an excuse to create more movement and add the unimportant. Rememberunless something is well-defined and important, no one should do it. Eliminate before you delegate. Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined. Otherwise, you waste someone elses time instead of your own, which now wastes your hard-earned cash. Hows that for incentive to be effective and efficient? Now youre playing with your own dough. Its something I want you to get comfortable with, and this baby step is small stakes. Did I mention to eliminate before you delegate? For example, it is popular among executives to have assistants read e-mail. In some cases this is valuable. In my case, I use spam filters, autoresponders with FAQs, and automatic forwarding to outsourcers to limit my e-mail obligation to 1020 e-mail responses per week. It takes me 30 minutes per week because I used systemselimination and automationto make it so. Nor do I use an assistant to set meetings and conference calls because I have eliminated meetings. If I need to set the odd 20-minute call for a given month, Ill send one two-sentence e-mail and be done with it. Principle number one is to refine rules and processes before adding people. Using people to leverage a refined process multiplies production; using people as a solution to a poor process multiplies problems. The Menu: A World of Possibilities I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. BISHOP DESMOND TUTU, South African cleric and activist T he next question then becomes, What should you delegate? Its a good question, but I dont want to answer it. I want to watch Family Guy. The truth be told, it is a hell of a lot of work writing about not working. Ritika of Brickwork and Venky of YMII are more than capable of writing this section, so Ill just mention two guidelines and leave the mental hernia of detail work to them. Golden Rule N1: Each delegated task must be both time-consuming and well-defined. If youre running around like a chicken with its head cut off and assign your VA to do that for you, it doesnt improve the order of the universe. Golden Rule N2: On a lighter note, have some fun with it. Have someone in Bangalore or Shanghai send e-mails to friends as your personal concierge to set lunch dates or similar basics. Harass your boss with odd phone calls in strong accents from unknown numbers. Being effective doesnt mean being serious all the time. Its fun being in control for a change. Get a bit of repression off your chest so it doesnt turn into a complex later. Getting Personal and Going Howard Hughes Howard Hughes, the ultrarich filmmaker and eccentric from The Aviator, was notorious for assigning odd tasks to his assistants. Here are a few from Donald Bartletts Howard Hughes: His Life and Madness you might want to consider. 1. After his first plane crash, Hughes confided in a friend that he believed his recovery was due to his consumption of orange juice and its healing properties. He believed that exposure to the air diluted the juices potency, so he demanded that fresh oranges be sliced and juiced in front of him. 2. When Hughes was partaking of the nightlife in Las Vegas, his aides were charged with approaching any girls he took a liking to. If a girl was invited to join the Hughes table and agreed, an aide would pull out a waiver and agreement for her to sign. 3. Hughes had a barber on call 24/7 but had his hair and nails trimmed about once a year. 4. In his hotel-bound years, Hughes was rumored to have instructed assistants to place a single cheeseburger in a specific tree outside his penthouse room at a 4:00 P.M. each day, whether he was there or not. Such a world of possibilities! Just as the Model-T brought transportation to the masses, virtual assistants bring eccentric billionaire behavior within reach of each man, woman, and child. Now, thats progress. W ithout further ado, let me pass the mic. Note that YMII performs both personal and business tasks, whereas Brickwork focuses solely on business projects. Lets start with the important but dull stuff and move quickly from the sublime to the ridiculous. To give a true taste of what to expect, I have not corrected non-native-sounding English. Venky: Dont limit yourself. Just ask us if something is possible. Weve arranged parties, organized caterers, researched summer courses, cleaned up accounting books, created 3D drafts based on blueprints. Just ask us. We could find the closest kid-friendly restaurant to your house for your sons birthday, finding out costs and organizing the birthday party. This frees up your time to work or hang out with your son. What can we not do? We cant do anything that would require our physical presence. But you would be surprised as to how small a set of tasks that is in this day and age. Here are the most common tasks we handle: scheduling interviews and meetings web-research following up on appointments, errands, and tasks online purchases creation of legal documents website maintenance (web design, publishing, uploading files) that doesnt require a professional designer monitoring, editing, and publishing comments for online discussions posting job vacancies on the web document creation proofreading and editing documents for spelling and formatting online research for updating blogs updating the database for Customer Relationship Management Software managing recruitment processes updating invoices and receiving payments voicemail transcription Ritika at Brickwork added the following: market research financial research business plans industry analysis market assessment reports preparing presentations reports and newsletters legal research analytics website development search engine optimization maintaining and updating databases credit scoring managing procurement processes Venky: We have a forgetful client who has us call him all the time with various reminders. One of our clients on a custom plan has us wake him up every morning. Weve done the legwork and found people who fell out of contact after Katrina. Found jobs for clients! My favorite so far: One of our clients has a pair of trousers that he really likes that arent in production anymore. Hes sending them to Bangalore (from London) to have created exact replicas at a tiny fraction of the price. Here are a few other YMII custom requests: Reminding an overzealous client to pay his current parking fines, as well as not speed and collect parking fines. Apologizing and sending flowers and cards to spouses of clients. Charting a diet plan, reminding client on it regularly, ordering groceries based on the specific diet plan. Getting a job for a person who lost his job due to outsourcing a year back. We did the job search, did the cover letters, did the resume tuning, and got the client a job in 30 days. Fixing a broken windowpane of a house in Geneva, Switzerland. Collecting homework information from teachers voicemail and e-mailing it to the client (parents of the kid). Research on how to tie a shoelace meant for a kid (clients son). Find a parking slot for your car in some other city even before you make the trip. Ordered garbage bins for home. Get an authenticated weather forecast and weather report for a particular time in a particular place on a particular day, five years ago. This was to be used as supportive evidence for a lawsuit. Talking to parents in our clients stead. Heres another real example of personal outsourcing from reader David Cross, who got a personal chef at home for less than $5 per meal. Just thinking of the possibilities is enough to make you start drooling. He explains: I wanted to find someone to prepare food I love. I trained as a chef but I am often so busy and as I am the only one in the house who really cooks, I often dont have time to prepare the food that makes me feel the healthiest so I wrote the attached ad and dropped it on Craigslist. This was a very tight focusultraspecificI had just two applicants in two monthsone who was a 2/10 match but the guy we just OKd was a Hare Krishna follower for many years, lived in India, and his sample menu proved he knew what hes doing so we just started him. The food is absolutely awesome. The hourly rate is *extremely reasonable,* hes a five-minute detour when either of us are in town to collect food and I now have delicious Indian food for less than $5 a meal and its as good as anything Ive ever eaten anywhere. Im going to progress to other cuisines now Thai, Italian, Chinese, etc., and it means when I do have time to cook Ill enjoy doing it that much more as I am not the only one cooking! Indian/Asian Vegetarian Cook Needed Date: 20070607, 12:25PM PDT Hello. We are a local, international family who love Indian and Asian vegetarian food. We are looking for a cook experienced in this wonderful cuisine to prepare delicious, fresh, healthy, authentic Indian/Asian vegetarian meals for us. If youve cooked a curry once or twice or need to follow recipes, this position is probably not for you, but if you know Indian vegetarian cooking in depth and can prepare delicious, healthy, fresh, authentic Indian vegetarian food then wed like to hear from you. This could be an ideal opportunity if you are Indian, Pakistani, Punjabi, etc., and are looking for a great way to apply your experience and love of Indian vegetarian food, cooking and culture. Knowledge of Ayurved and how this relates to food and diet is a plus though not essential. Please reply with details of your experience and some dishes you could prepare. If we like what you have to offer, well arrange for you to cook a sample meal or two which we will pay you for and then well see what works out for us all. This is a part-time position. You will be self-employed and responsible for your own taxes, etc. Well pay you an hourly rate we will agree with you plus grocery bills for the food you prepare. You can prepare food in your own place and we can arrange to collect it from you, possibly for us to freeze for later eating. We will work with you to come up with menus and schedules that work out for you and us. Thank you for your interest. Basic Choices: New Delhi or New York? T here are tens of thousands of VAshow on earth do you find the right one? The resources at the end of this chapter will show you where to look, but it is overwhelming and confusing unless you have a few criteria determined in advance. It often helps to begin with the question Where on Earth? Remote or Local? Made in the USA doesnt have the ring it used to. The pros of jumping time zones and visiting third-world currency are twofold: People work while you sleep, and the per-hour expense is less. Time savings and cost savings. Ritika explains the former with an example. One can give the remote personal assistant in India their assignment when they are leaving work at the end of the day in New York City, and they will have the presentation ready the next morning. Because of the time difference with India, assistants can work on it while they are asleep and have it back in their morning. When they wake up, they will find the completed summary in their inbox. These assistants can also help them keep pace with what they want to read, for example. Indian and Chinese VAs, as well as most from other developing countries, will run $415 per hour, the lower end being limited to simple tasks and the higher end including the equivalent of Harvard or Stanford M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s. Need a business plan to raise funding? Brickwork can provide it for between $2,5005,000 instead of $15,00020,000. Foreign assistance isnt just for the small time. I know from firsthand discussions that executives from big five accounting and management consulting firms routinely charge clients six figures for research reports that are then farmed to India for low four figures. In the U.S. or Canada, the per-hour range is often $25100. Seems like an obvious choice, right? Bangalore 100%? Its not. The important metric is cost per completed task, not cost per hour. The biggest challenge with overseas help will be the language barrier, which often quadruples back-and-forth discussion and the ultimate cost. The first time I hired an Indian VA, I made the fundamental mistake of not setting an hour cap for three simple tasks. I checked in later that week and found he had spent 23 hours chasing his tail. He had scheduled one tentative interview for the following week, set at the wrong time! Mind boggling. 23 hours? It ended up costing me, at $10 per hour, $230. The same tasks, assigned later that week to a native English speaker in Canada, were completed in two hours at $25 per hour. $50 for more than four times the results. That said, I later requested another Indian VA from the same firm who was able to duplicate the native speaker results. How do you know which to choose? Thats the beautiful part: You dont. Its a matter of testing a few assistants to both sharpen your communication skills and determine who is worth hiring and who is worth firing. Being a results-based boss isnt as simple as it looks. There are a number of lessons to be learned here. First, per-hour cost is not the ultimate determinant of cost. Look at per-task cost. If you need to spend time restating the task and otherwise managing the VA, determine the time required of you and add this (using your per-hour rate from earlier chapters) to the end sticker price of the task. It can be surprising. As cool as it is to say that you have people working for you in three countries, its uncool to spend time babysitting people who are supposed to make your life easier. Second, the proof is in the pudding. It is impossible to predict how well you will work with a given VA without a trial. Luckily, there are things you can do to improve your odds, and one of them is using a VA firm instead of a solo operator. Solo vs. Support Team Lets suppose you find the perfect VA. He or she is performing all of your noncritical tasks and youve decided to take a much-deserved vacation to Thailand. Its nice to know someone besides you will be manning the wheel and putting out fires for a change. Finally, some relief! Two hours before your flight from Bangkok to Phuket, you receive an e-mail: Your VA is out of commission and will be in the hospital for the next week. Not good. Vacation FUBAR. I dont like being dependent on one person, and I dont recommend it in the least. In the world of high technology, this type of dependency would be referred to as a single point of failureone fragile item upon which all else depends. In the world of IT,15 the term redundancy is used as a selling point for systems that continue to function if there is a malfunction or mechanical failure in any given part. In the context of VAs, redundancy entails having fallback support. I recommend that you hire a VA firm or VAs with backup teams instead of sole operators. Examples abound, of course, of people who have had a single assistant for decades without incident, but I suggest that this is the exception rather than the rule. Better safe than sorry. Besides simple disaster avoidance, a group structure provides a pool of talent that allows you to assign multiple tasks without bothering to find a new person with the qualifications. Brickwork and YMII both exemplify this type of structure and provide a single point of contact, a personal account manager, who then farms out your tasks to the most-capable people in the group and across different shifts. Need graphic design? Covered. Need database management? Covered. I dont like calling and coordinating multiple people. I want one-stop shopping and am willing to pay 10% more to have it. I encourage you to be similarly pound-wise and penny-foolish. Team preference doesnt mean that bigger is better, just that multiple people are better than one person. The best VA I have used to date is an Indian with five backup assistants under him. Three can be more than sufficient, but two is toeing the line. The N1 Fear: Sweetheart, Did You Buy a Porsche in China? I m sure you might have your fears. AJ certainly did: My outsourcers now know an alarming amount about menot just my schedule but my cholesterol, my infertility problems, my Social Security number, my passwords (including the one that is a particularly adolescent curse word). Sometimes I worry that I cant piss off my outsourcers or Ill end up with a $12,000 charge on my MasterCard bill from the Louis Vuitton in Anantapur. The good news is that misuse of financial and confidential information is rare. In all of the interviews I conducted for this section, I could find only one case of information abuse, and I had to search long and hard. It involved an overworked U.S.-based VA who hired freelance help at the last moment. Commit to memory the followingnever use the new hire. Prohibit small-operation VAs from subcontracting work to untested freelancers without your written permission. The more established and higher-end firms, Brickwork in the below example, have security measures that border on excessive and make it simple to pinpoint abusers in the case of a breach: Employees undergo background checks and sign NDAs (nondisclosure agreements) in accordance with the company policy of maintaining confidentiality of client information Electronic access card for entry and exit Credit card information keyed only by select supervisors Removal of paper from the offices is prohibited VLAN-based access restrictions between different teams; this ensures that there is no unauthorized access of information between people of different teams in the organization Regular reporting on printer logs Floppy drives and USB ports disabled BS779 certification for accomplished international security standards 128-bit encryption technology for all data exchange Secure VPN connection I bet there is a fair chance that sensitive data is 100 times safer with Brickwork than on your own computer. Still, information theft is best thought of as inevitable in a digital world, and precautions should be taken with damage control in mind. There are two rules that I use to minimize damage and allow for fast repair. 1. Never use debit cards for online transactions or with remote assistants. Reversing unauthorized credit card charges, particularly with American Express, is painless and near instantaneous. Recovering funds withdrawn from your checking account via unauthorized debit card use takes dozens of hours in paperwork alone and can take months to receive, if approved at all. 2. If your VA will be accessing websites on your behalf, create a new unique login and password to be used on those sites. Most of us reuse both logins and passwords on multiple sites, and taking this precaution limits possible damage. Instruct them to use these unique logins to create accounts on new sites if needed. Note that this is particularly important when using assistants who have access to live commercial websites (developers, programmers, etc.). If information or identity theft hasnt hit you, it will. Use these guidelines and youll realize when it happens that, just like most nightmares, its not that big a deal and is reversible. The Complicated Art of Simplicity: Common Complaints M y assistant is an idiot! It took him 23 hours to book an interview! This was the first complaint I had, for sure. 23 hours! I was heated up for a shouting match. My original e-mail to this first assistant seemed clear enough. Dear Abdul, Here are the first tasks, due at the end of next Tuesday. Please call or e-mail with any questions: 1. Go to this article http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12666060/site/newsweek/, get the phone/e-mail/website contacts for Carol Milligan and Marc and Julie Szekely. Also find the same info for Rob Long here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12652789/site/newsweek/. 2. Schedule 30-minute interviews for Carol, Marc/Julie, and Rob. Use www.myevents.com (username: notreal, password: donttryit) to book them in my calendar for next week any time between 99 ET. 3. Find the name, e-mail, and phone (phone is least important) of workers in the U.S. who have negotiated remote work agreements (telecommuting) despite resistant bosses. Those who have traveled outside the U.S. are ideal. Other keywords could include teleworking and telecommuting. The important factor is that they negotiated with difficult bosses. Please send me links to their profiles or write a paragraph describing why they fit the profile above. Look forward to seeing what you can do. Please e-mail if you dont understand or have questions. Best, Tim The truth isI was at fault. This is not a good debut demand, and I made fatal mistakes even before composing it. If you are an effective person but unaccustomed to issuing commands, assume that most problems at the outset are your fault. It is tempting to immediately point the finger at someone else and huff and puff, but most beginner bosses repeat the same mistakes I made. 1. I accepted the first person the firm provided and made no special requests at the outset. Request someone who has excellent English and indicate that phone calls will be required (even if not). Be fast to request a replacement if there are repeated communication issues. 2. I gave imprecise directions. I asked him to schedule interviews but didnt indicate that it was for an article. He assumed, based on work with previous clients, that I wanted to hire someone and he misspent time compiling spreadsheets and combing online job sites for additional information I didnt need. Sentences should have one possible interpretation and be suitable for a 2nd-grade reading level. This goes for native speakers as well and will make requests clearer. Ten-dollar words disguise imprecision. Note that I asked him to respond if he didnt understand or had questions. This is the wrong approach. Ask foreign VAs to rephrase tasks to confirm understanding before getting started. 3. I gave him a license to waste time. This brings us again to damage control. Request a status update after a few hours of work on a task to ensure that the task is both understood and achievable. Some tasks are, after initial attempts, impossible. 4. I set the deadline a week in advance. Use Parkinsons Law and assign tasks that are to be completed within no more than 72 hours. I have had the best luck with 48 and 24 hours. This is another compelling reason to use a small group (three or more) rather than a single individual who can become overtaxed with last-minute requests from multiple clients. Using short deadlines does not mean avoiding larger tasks (e.g., business plan), but rather breaking them into smaller milestones that can be completed in shorter time frames (outline, competitive research summaries, chapters, etc.). 5. I gave him too many tasks and didnt set an order of importance. I advise sending one task at a time whenever possible and no more than two. If you want to cause your computer to hang or crash, open 20 windows and applications at the same time. If you want to do the same to your assistant, assign him or her a dozen tasks without prioritizing them. Recall our mantra: Eliminate before you delegate. WHAT DOES A good VA task e-mail look like? The following example was recently sent to an Indian VA whose results have been nothing short of spectacular: Dear Sowmya, Thank you. I would like to start with the following task. TASK: I need to find the names and e-mails of editors of mens magazines in the US (for example: maxim, stuff, GQ, esquire, blender, etc.) who also have written books. An example of such a person would be AJ Jacobs who is Editor-at-Large of Esquire (www.ajjacobs.com). I already have his information and need more like him. Can you do this? If not, please advise. Please reply and confirm what you will plan to do to complete this task. DEADLINE: Since Im in a rush, get started after your next e-mail and stop at 3 hours and tell me what results you have. Please begin this task now if possible. The deadline for these 3 hours and reported results is end-of-day ET Monday. Thank you for your fastest reply, Tim Short, sweet, and to the point. Clear writing, and therefore clear commands, come from clear thinking. Think simple. IN THE NEXT several chapters, the communication skills you develop with our virtual assistant experiment will be applied to a much larger and obscenely profitable playing field: automation. The extent to which you will outsource next makes delegation look like finger painting. In the world of automation, not all business models are created equal. How do you assemble a business and coordinate all its parts without lifting a finger? How do you automate cash deposits in your bank account while avoiding the most common problems? It begins with understanding the options, the art of dodging information flow, and what we will call muses. The next chapter is a blueprint for the first step: a product. Go with the Flow H ere is a flowchart of 4HWW from reader Jed Wood, who has used it for faster decision making, more output with less input, and more time with his wife and children. QandA: QUESTIONS AND ACTIONS 1. Get an assistanteven if you dont need one. Develop the comfort of commanding and not being commanded. Begin with a one-time test project or small repetitive task (daily preferred). I advise using domestic help for language-intensive tasks and using foreign assistants in the early stages to improve the general clarity of your communication. Pick one from each group and get started. The following sites, split up geographically, are useful resources. U.S. and Canada ($20/hour ) http://www.iavoa.com (International Association of Virtual Office Assistants). Global directory that includes the U.S. http://www.cvac.ca (Canadian Virtual Assistant Connection) http://www.canadianva.net/files/va-locator.html (Canada) www.onlinebusinessmanager.com North America and International ($4/hour ) www.elance.com (Search virtual assistants, personal assistants, and executive assistants.) The client feedback reviews on Elance enabled me to find my best VA to date, who costs $4/hour. Similar marketplaces with positive reviews include www.guru.com and www.rentacoder.com. India www.tryasksunday.com ($2060 per month for 24/7 concierge, free one-week trial). AskSunday is one of the sophisticated new kids on the personal outsourcing block. Their site was nominated the N2 website of the year in 2007 by Time magazine. Just dial a 212 (NYC) area code and get routed to well-spoken assistants in India and the Philippines. I use this service 80% of the time, as most tasks take less than 10 minues to complete. For longer projects, there are teams available for $12/hour. www.b2kcorp.com ($15/hour ) From Fortune 10 oil companies and Fortune 500 clients to Big 5 accounting firms and U.S. congressmen, Brickwork can handle it all. This is reflected in the costs of this pure suit-and-tie operationbusiness only. No flowers for auntie. www.taskseveryday.com ($6.98/hour for a dedicated virtual assistant) Based in Mumbai, available via phone and e-mail from the U.S., UK, and Australia. Must choose between 20 or 40 hours per week and pre-purchase hours. www.yourmaninindia.com ($6.25/hour ) YMII handles both business and personal tasks and can work with you in real time (there are people on duty 24/7) and complete work while you sleep. English capability and effectiveness vary tremendously across VAs, so interview yours before getting started or assigning important tasks. Important: Following the publication of the first edition of this book, there have been some complaints of lower quality and up to four-week wait lists to become a client. 2. Start small but think big. Tina Forsyth, an online business manager (higher-level VA) who helps six-figure-income clients achieve seven figures with business model redesigns, makes the following recommendations. Look at your to-do listwhat has been sitting on it the longest? Each time you are interrupted or change tasks, ask, Could a VA do this? Examine pain pointswhat causes you the most frustration and boredom? Here are a few common time-consumers in small businesses with online presences. Submitting articles to drive traffic to site and build mailing lists Participating in or moderating discussion forums and message boards Managing affiliate programs Creating content for and publishing newsletters and blog postings Background research components of new marketing initiatives or analysis of current marketing results Dont expect miracles from a single VA, but dont expect too little, either. Let go of the controls a bit. Dont assign crap tasks that end up consuming rather than saving time. It makes little sense to spend 1015 minutes sending an e-mail to India to get a price quote on a plane ticket when you could do the same online in 10 minutes and avoid all the subsequent back-and-forth. Push outside your comfort zonethat is the entire point of the exercise. It is always possible to reclaim a task for yourself if the VA proves incapable, so test the limits of their capabilities. Remember Brickworks suggestion: Dont limit yourself. 3. Identify your top five time-consuming non-work tasks and five personal tasks you could assign for sheer fun. 4. Keep in sync: scheduling and calendars. If you decide to have an assistant schedule appointments and add things to your calendar, it will be important to ensure what you both see is updated. There are several options: BusySync (www.busysync.com) I have two Gmail accounts: one private account for me and one for my assistant, where general e-mail is sent. I use BusySync to synchronize her Google Calendar with iCal (Mac calendar) on my laptop. I have also used SpanningSync (www.spanningsync.com) successfully for the same purpose. WebEx Office (www.weboffice.com) Share your calendar online while masking personal appointments. Can be synchronized with Outlook, and also offers document sharing and other assistant- or team-friendly features. I suggest you compare this to synchronizing your Outlook with an assistants Google Calendar. COMFORT CHALLENGE Use the Criticism Sandwich (2 Days and Weekly) Chances are good that someonebe it a co-worker, boss, customer, or significant otherdoes something irritating or at a subpar level. Rather than avoid the topic out of fear of confrontation, lets chocolate-coat it and ask them to fix it. Once per day for two days, and then each Thursday (M-W is too tense and Friday is too relaxed) for the next three weeks, resolve to use what I call the Criticism Sandwich with someone. Its called the Criticism Sandwich because you first praise the person for something, then deliver the criticism, and then close with topic-shifting praise to exit the sensitive topic. Heres an example with a superior or boss, with keywords and phrases in italics. You: Hi, Mara. Do you have a second? Mara: Sure. Whats up? You: First, I wanted to thank you for helping me with the Meelie Worm account [or whatever]. I really appreciate you showing me how to handle that. Youre really good at fixing the technical issues. Mara: No problem. You: Heres the thing.16 There is a lot of work coming down on everyone, and Im feeling17 a bit overwhelmed. Normally, priorities are really clear to me18 but Ive been having trouble recently figuring out which tasks are highest on the list. Could you help me by pointing out the most important items when a handful need to be done? Im sure its just me,19 but Id really appreciate it, and I think it would help. Mara: Uhh Ill see what I can do. You: That means a lot to me. Thanks. Before I forget,20 last weeks presentation was excellent. Mara: Did you think so? Blah, blah, blah LIFESTYLE DESIGN IN ACTION THE BEST TIMES TO SEND E-MAIL Youve suggested people check e-mail only a few times a day. Heres a twist: I reply to e-mails when its convenient, but I time it to arrive when its also convenient for me. In Outlook you can delay e-mail delivery to any time of day. For example, when I return e-mails at 3 p.m., I dont want my staff instantly zinging me responses or clarifying questions. (This also prevents e-mail chats.) So I hit send, but its delayed to arrive later in the evening or at 8 A.M. when my employees arrive the next day. This is how e-mail was meant to be! Its mail, not a chat service. JIM LARRANAGA 14. To leverage global pricing and currency differences for profit or lifestyle purposes. 15. Information technology. 16. Dont call it a problem if you can avoid it. 17. No one can argue with your feelings, so use this to avoid a debate about external circumstances. 18. Notice how I take you out of the sentence to avoid finger-pointing, even though its implicit. Normally, you make priorities clear sounds like a backhanded insult. If this is a significant other, you can skip this formality, but never use you always do X, which is just a fight starter. 19. Take a little bit of the heat off with this. The point has already been made. 20. Before I forget is a great segue to the closing compliment, which is also a topic shifter and gets you off the sensitive topic without awkwardness.

  • The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days /  .   (by Jeff Kinney, 2010) -   The Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog
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