Archive for the Low-Information Diet Category
The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.
Tao Te Ching
Is it possible to outsource your life to other countries? By now, you know that I believe it is. But is it necessary to outsource overseas? Can you outsource in languages other than English? What is geoarbitrage really about?
These were some of the topics I covered in “Die 4-Stunden Arbeitswoche” (The 4-Hour Workweek) with Patrick Price for his Swiss-German podcast, NetzNews. The first 30 seconds are in Swiss German, a very cool dialect that sounds nothing like Berlin German, and the rest is in English.
In other news, my first “manifesto” on Seth Godin’s ChangeThis was published this week. The title? The Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-Mail Overload & Triple Productivity in 24 Hours. This free and easy-to-read PDF contains some popular content from the book, but also a ton of template e-mails and bonus tips found nowhere else. Learn to read 3 times faster and cut your volume of e-mail in half. This manifesto is designed to get you there in 24 hours.
Download it here, and pass it on to those who need it!
For those of you interested in the tech tools I use abroad, or how some case studies have negotiated remote work, there is a short interview with me called “Workin’ 9 to…9:48?” in this month’s issue of Outside magazine, which focuses on dream jobs. It’s a very cool issue guaranteed to get you thinking about escape.
Before you can escape, however, you need to stop crap information from invading your life. It finds us through two channels that we’ll crush today: SPAM (which actually stands for “Sh*t Posing As Mail) and junk postal mail. Here are the quick 30-minute fixes for both:
1. Put yourself on the postal “do not call” list by sending a letter to the following address and asking to be removed from all mass and junk mailings:
DMA Mail Preference Service
Post Office Box 603
Carmel, NY 10512-0643
Big thanks to corporate pranking genius John Hargrave, who introduced me to this through his bible of sticking it to the man, Prank the Monkey, one of the most empowering and hysterical books I’ve ever read.
2. Sign up for SpamArrest. I’ve tried several spam filtering programs, and most have been either too lenient or excessively strict. SpamArrest, which I can use for Outlook without installing it on the server (key for many employees who don’t have administrator rights), used in combination with Gmail, has reduced my spam count to 2-4 message per week.
Keep it simple. Good barriers needn’t be complicated and seldom are. Take 30 minutes to trial the above and treat your brain to something like Discovery Channel instead of penis enlargement spam and credit card offers. Stop sorting and start eliminating.
Free Red Bull book launch party tonight in San Francisco!
For those readers in the bay area, come party with me tonight!
Forget cover charges. From 9-11pm tonight (Friday), get into this exclusive party with a proof of purchase of The 4-Hour Workweek! Jam to one of the hottest superstar DJs in CA, David Carvalho, and The Red Bull Energy Team will be there to fuel you all night long: free Red Bull!
It’ll be a wild evening of drinks and dancing with SF’s finest. Just bring your receipt from a local bookstore or Amazon (or a page from the book) and you’re in!
Address and details can be found at www.upcoming.org here.
If you thought washing your hands 32 times a day was fun, just try this! (Chicago O’Hare Airport)
By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
-Robert Frost, American Poet
I’ve long sought a measurement for lifestyle, something better than bank accounts or Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). I was able to take the leap and redesign my own life only once I started asking myself difficult and uncommon questions such as:
How many hours do I work for each day of vacation?
What percentage of my life do I really spend working vs. doing something I want to be doing?
Enter the new world of the Lifestyle Quotient (LQ). If you want to see the real facts of your current work-life (im)balance, check out the world’s first LQ calculator here. The results will probably shock you.
What is your LQ?
What do you guesstimate your boss’s LQ to be?
What about your father or mother’s LQ compared to your own?
If you know someone who is a workaholic in denial, or who thinks an 80-hour workweek is a good way to spend their limited time on this planet, go for a lifestyle intervention and send them the LQ calculator. It might just wake them up faster than a triple-espresso frapuccino.
Other news and goodies:
Think you can’t outsource your love life? Well, I did it — I had groups around the world compete to set me dates. This just made it into the news, and you’ll be hearing much more about it soon!
If you’re interested in travel and languages, I was just interviewed on Gadling about both.
I know some of you have had trouble finding the ebook — I did too! Here is Powell’s page, the easiest I’ve found to use.
Want to learn what I think of using blogs to promote books, or just want a refresher on concepts in the book? Darren Rowse of Problogger.net put up a 3-part interview with me that was a blast to do.
Rohit Bhargava, the head of Interactive Marketing for Ogilvy PR worldwide, put a brief review of the book on his site, which is a must-read for anyone interested in social media.
SXSW presentation attendees! I found out what happened! The mailing house for the publisher (not the publisher themselves) screwed up and held onto your addresses for 10 DAYS before mailing them this past Monday. Your copies of the book should arrive any day, if they haven’t already, and I cannot apologize enough for the confusion. I had no idea this had happened and — had I known — would have put in my mouthpiece and gone to town breaking heads. Sorry about that!
Be sure to check out this month’s issue (May 2007) of Fortune Small Business, where I am profiled in the “How I Work” section. It covers how I limit information intake, fire customers, control voicemail, and otherwise dodge bullets to do one of the things I enjoy most: MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) with professional UFC fighters.
Blame it on my mother, who put me in “kid wrestling” at age 8 to drain the hyperactivity out of me and avoid Tasmanian Devil action at home. It worked like a charm but forever gave me the neck thickness of a small cow.
Getting punched and thrown isn’t everyone’s idea of fun (for those fans out there, my favorite fighter of all-time is Kasushi Sakuraba), but fun is what you make of it. The one ingredient you cannot do without? Time. Learn how to create more of it and do what you want — take a glance at the digital version of this article for free (beginning on page 47).
This guy gets more done than your CTO
(photo credit: Indian Gypsy)
My first article for Huffington Post made it onto the homepage today: Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity. Here is some food for thought:
Millions of Blackberry users in the US were left without their favorite drug from 8pm EST Tuesday to 6am EST Wednesday last week, when technical problems at service provider Research In Motion cut off wireless e-mail access. Some fumed, but others took a deep breath of relief. The brief escape was relished by a growing number of users who have realized that this digital leash often kills productivity instead of increasing it.
Not convinced? Let’s compare Blackberries to the top anti-productivity product of all-time: good old-fashioned marijuana.
In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.
In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking” — shutting out interruption instead of facilitating it — that will save us. What’s the alternative? Checking e-mail once every five minutes, then every minute, then every second? It’s not a scalable coping mechanism.
The world doesn’t hiccup, let alone end, if you check e-mail twice a day instead of twice an hour. If it does, it usually means that your work culture rewards overwork to counter its own ineffectiveness. This is predicated on burnout and not a game worth winning. The next time you get the Crackberry urge, consider the option of being productive instead of being busy. Or, if that’s too abstract, consider grabbing a joint instead — you’ll probably get more done.
AMAZON CHALLENGE: The 4-Hour Workweek has been hovering around #105 for four days on Amazon, and now it’s officially on-sale! Please help me break the #100 barrier — I can’t let The Official Guide for GMAT Review beat me! If you’re even remotely interested in automating and outsourcing your life, I guarantee you this book will open your eyes to some amazing new options: Please help me break the #100 barrier!
I am a strong proponent of “single-tasking” as the defining feature of top performers in a digital world. Social media expert Brian Oberkirch just posted a great list of rules he’s implemented for “firewalling attention”, to quote the inimitable Merlin Mann and Gina Trapani. Here are a few of my favorite picks:
* I’m checking email Dr. Pepper style, at 10, 2, and 4. Batching should help, and also making it a sprint to process my inbox within 10 to 15 minutes. “Reply to” stuff goes in that folder. Stuff I note and might want later goes to “Archive”. Stuff I never need again gets deleted. You can delete a ton of your email. Really. Process voice mails at the same time. (I’ll also do an RSS feed run at these times. I’ll reward myself with a flickr/twitter/mefi review if I’m a good boy.)
* No email review in the morning as I start my machine.
* Turned off all email notifications from social networking sites.
* Stop trying to accomodate a global work schedule. Again, unless it’s really mandatory or unavoidable, I work during my work hours, not those in other parts of the world.
* No answering emails on the weekends, unless absolutely necessary. One review per day on Sat/Sun.
* Dump new contacts immediately into Address Book so I never waste time looking up contact info.
* Make “no” the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.
His full list can be found here. In light of the recent Blackberry blackout and all of the depressing interruption addiction it highlighted, I plan to lobby here in the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, to have Father’s Day (Third Sunday of June) also officially made “E-mail Detox Day,” during which people attempt a 24-hour e-mail fast. The trick to stepping off of the gas pedal is proving to yourself that it can be done.
Anyone interested in helping me make that national (or international)? In the meantime, are there any former Crackberry addicts out there with tips for newbies trying to break the once-every-5-minutes e-mail habit?
Presenting “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” at the Web 2.0 Exposition in SF (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)
Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon… Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google… Tim Ferriss?! Too surreal.
I presented last Sunday at the Ignite portion of the huge Web 2.0 Expo, where two groups of speakers each gave 5-minute presentations of 20 slides. Each slide was set to auto-advance after 15 seconds. There was free beer, it was fun, and — unbenownst to me — attendees voted on their favorite presentation in each group via cell phone using Mozes. I won the first heat and was informed that I would be speaking at the keynote today in front of 3,000 people! Other keynote presenters included Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt.
I’ll be covering “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” in great depth on May 9th, when my manifesto on the same topic will be published through Seth Godin’s ChangeThis. In the meantime, here is part of the Sunday video, which covers: batching e-mail, applying the 80/20 principle to time-consuming customers, outsourcing your life to overseas assistants, and scheduling life to prevent work from filling evenings and weekends.
I just learned that most bookstores in the CA bay area have understocked my book (which launches next Tues.), planning to have only 1 or 2 copies in stock! This is a disaster, as there is already demand and people will need to wait up a week for reorders to arrive, killing the book’s first week of sales.
This first week is CRITICAL for bestseller lists, both local and national. Pre-orders online are equally important, as all pre-orders count for the first week’s national sales.
If you are thinking of getting the book and are not in the CA bay area, please preorder on Amazon. If you are in the bay area, please call one of the below stores to preorder ASAP this week!
The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss (ISBN number 0307353133)
Stacey’s, 581 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 421-4687
Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. (415) 927-0960
Cody’s Books, 1730 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710. (510) 559-9500
Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. (650) 324-4321
If you’re still wondering about the book, please check out the buzz and review and summary posted today by uberdesigner David Seah, whom I’ve never met.
Thanks to all for helping me with this! It’s my first book, and I put more than 2 years of sweat and tears into it. More big news to come soon.
If you don’t yet use Twitter, don’t start. It’s pointless e-mail on steroids. I had to laugh when I saw a post by the one-and-only Robert Scoble on the 19th titled “Productivity up 200%, Twitter Down.”
[Postscript: LOL... I've actually started using Twitter to make occasional one-way announcement to readers, but I don't follow anyone or allow pings. "Anyone who wants can join me for a movie at..." doesn't make a very good blog post :)]
E-mail (and all of its Crackberry/digital leash/Twitter cousins) is the largest single interruption in modern life. In a digital world, creating time therefore hinges on minimizing e-mail. The fastest method I’ve found for controlling the e-mail impulse is to set up an autoresponder that indicates you will be checking e-mail twice per day or less. This is an example of “batching” tasks (performing like tasks at set times, between which you let them accumulate), and your success with batching will depend on two factors:
1. Your ability to train others to respect these intervals
and, much more difficult,
2. Your ability to discipline yourself to follow your own rules
Think your boss won’t go for it? You’d be surprised. Here is one example from a SXSW attendee. His two e-mail to me have been combined with a bit of editing for length.
Here’s what i took away from your presentation (and put into action!):
I sent out an email to everyone in my division letting them know i’ll only be checking email at 11a & 4p. I’ve included my email down below:
In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency I am beginning a new personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I spend more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand. It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.
Going forward I will only be checking/responding to email at 11a and 4p on weekdays. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients and brand identity.
If you need an immediate time-sensitive response… please don’t hesitate to call me. Phones are more fun anyways.
Hopefully this new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part. Cheers & here’s to life outside of my inbox! “
So far the response has been very receptive and supportive. Here’s the quick “reply to all” email response i got from our senior operations manager (he oversees 5 radio stations. and most of the people in the building):
AWESOME time management approach!!! I would love to see more people adopt that policy.
I’m sticking to it and it’s making my days more productive already. As the days are progressing, more people are “on the bus” with respecting my new email policy and i havent had any snags (even with SXSW going on – and i work in Austin radio, so we’re all swamped this week). However, every single person feels like it just wouldn’t work for them if they did it. (“oh, but i’m on too many mailing lists” or “All i do is work in my email box, i have to.” i’m sure you’ve heard it all before).
As far as your presentation… A major thing i took away is applying the concept of 80/20 to my workflow. I’ve always known i waste a great deal of time on things that ultimately aren’t showing the bulk of my ROI. Hearing you present it in a new light enabled me to start actively weeding out the time wasting clients & processes. I do a lot of work that our interns should be doing. So i’ve begun designating responsibility appropriately, thus freeing up my plate for the more relevant tasks. It will be a slow process, but senior management is on the same page with me.
KROX & KBPA – Interactive Brand Manager
Here is a shorter autoresponder another attendee successfully implemented:
Thank you for your email! Due to my current workload I am only checking email at 11am and 4pm. If you need anything immediately please call me on my cell so that I can address this important matter with you. Thank you and have a great day!
My personal e-mail autoresponder limits me to once per day and indicates “I check e-mail once per day, often in the evening. If you need a response before tomorrow, please call me on my cell.” My business e-mail autoresponder, on the other hand, gives me the option to check email once every 7-10 days.
The real hard part, of course, is keeping yourself away from that damn inbox. Get on a strict low-information diet and focus on output instead of input; your wallet and weekends will thank you for it.
This is Part II of a series of posts following SXSW in Austin, where I issued a challenge to attendees: implement at least one principle from my presentation (“The 4-Hour Workweek: Secrets of Doing More with Less in a Digital World”) and report back on results in 48 hours.
Here are two e-mail of close to 100, edited for length, that show how life can be redesigned if you ask a few uncommon questions. The first highlights the importance of defining a target monthly income (TMI) for your ideal lifestyle to avoid excess hours, and the second highlights the importance of avoiding “crutch activities” and following a low-information diet.
Subject: You changed my life… my response to your challenge
Thank you profoundly for your presentation (which I immediately felt the need to share with everyone). I am insanely exhausted and jetlagged: flight got postponed overnight, just got in today, picked up my son, hung out with him, then off to a theater rehearsal. So I have neither time nor energy to fully explain the radical ways I am implementing many of your suggestions. However, I did want to respond before the midnight deadline! So, here’s the brief outline:
* My business partner and I are going to quit our jobs in the immediate future
* We’re starting a new company (the one we were about to start before we got sweet-talked into being employees)
* We have defined the lifestyles we want to live
* We have figured out how much those lifestyles will cost us
* We have determined how many hours we need to bill per week to get there (currently it is only 16 each)
* We are figuring out how to decrease those hours and increase our profits by outsourcing some of that work
* We have already lined up a freelancer to outsource to
* We have identified our goals for our company
* We have set up a time to meet together with both of our spouses to discuss our exit strategy from our jobs and to get their buy in
* And we are insanely excited and can’t wait to free ourselves!
Of course, we have not had time in the last two days to implement all these decisions, but we absolutely will. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
First, thanks for a great presentation at SXSW! I took your message to heart and put it in action immediately… below is a brief description of what I did as a result of your presentation and the results I enjoyed.
During your presentation I had my laptop on and Outlook active. I had several other windows open too. Not long into the presentation I realized what I was doing and put it away to focus on your presentation. As soon as the presentation was over, I started putting what I learned into action by first analyzing what I had the rest of the day on my schedule.
But before I left, I created an autoresponder for my email account to let everyone else know that I was getting serious about my time too. I went to my next presentation and quickly realized that I wasn’t getting what I expected and rather than toiling on my computer or suffering through the presentation, I left. This meant I had an extra hour in my schedule which came right before lunch. My first reaction was to go to a bar I know with wi-fi to get lunch and “work.” But of course, “work” was just an excuse to stay “busy.” On the way to the bar I realized where I was headed and what I was doing again.
The problem I had was identifying what I should do if I wasn’t “working.” What could I do with a 3 hour break in the middle of my day? Well, this also happened to be the most beautiful day during SXSW and I realized that what I wanted to do most in Austin at that moment was go for a run on the river trail near my hotel. It was the first time in years that I went for a run because I wanted to enjoy my day and not because I had to do it as a task on my schedule. It was then that I realized with a little more effort I could do this every day! How cool would that be?
Today was my first day back to work. It was also the first time I didn’t check my email prior to heading to the office. In fact I set 11am as my first time to check email for the day and I stuck to that. In return for not checking my emails, I completed a long awaiting task that I had been reprioritizing for the past two weeks. I also wrapped up a proposal that I had more than a week to work on and scheduled lunch with one of my employees to discuss his professional growth in the agency and how I wanted to use ideas from SXSW to get him to teach to the rest of the agency. Just before going to the lunch I checked my email, answered the important ones and planned my afternoon. I didn’t answer email again until 4pm which is just before I left â€“ an hour and a half early!
Tonight I went for a jog, unpacked my things and got caught up around the house. I then worked on a pet project for a bit which I haven’t had the time to do in the past.
I’m just getting into this and can’t wait to see how the results pan out over the next several months. Thanks again and I can’t wait to read your book!
Coming next: How do bosses and customers respond to autoresponders? Samples that worked and extreme e-mail detox.