Book of the month
Wow. Just wow. The 4-Hour Work Week is the most influential book I've read in years. Author Timothy Ferris, though a self-proclaimed extremist, dishes on slowing down your life, getting out of the rat race, outsourcing menial tasks, ditching your RSS feeds, batch processing email instead of checking it every 15 minutes (if not more), reducing unnecessary information consumption in favor of productivity and real learning, how effectiveness trumps efficiency, and how the idea of "retirement" is grossly flawed. In short as the book description tells, "Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich."
Ferriss defines the new rich as those who favor mobility, experience, and service in favor of materialism. He counsels in great detail how to setup an automated online company for newbies (easier said than done, though possible) and how to focus your daily work efforts without letting fluff work get in the way. Best of all, Ferriss delivers it all in a very grounded, balanced, and hilarious way despite what his sensational title and clever tagline suggest. Overall, the book is unthinkably smart and of value to any person over the age of 18. I resolve from here on out to work smarter while striving to do what I love further still. That and more world travel, of course. :)
Tip of the Day
Breaking goals into pieces. When I think about the Big Picture — losing 40 pounds or saving $10,000 — it’s easy to get discouraged. I almost want to quit before I begin. So break those goals into smaller pieces.
I think all of us could accomplish a lot more of our goals if we worked on them 15 minutes at a time. Seriously. When I do the 15 minutes route, I am amazed at what I actually get accomplished. I use a timer and I totally focus on what’s at hand, whether it be writing an article, getting in some walking, etc. For most activities, I stop at the end of 15 minutes and take a break or do something else, but if I am really rolling, I set the timer for another 15 minutes before taking a break. This idea sounds simplistic, but it makes a difference.
We all have a tendency to look at the entire task and get overwhelmed or think it must all be done as a non-stop progression of tasks…In reality, working on it a little bit each day will get you to the end goal more efficiently and most importantly, you do get there.
Who says we must work 9-5 for five days a week and be miserable in order to earn a proper income? The idea that time and money are a fair trade is ridiculous. Think of providing value for money and your perceptive will start to change. If you are earning $10 per hour in your current job, that means you have agreed to give your time for a fixed rate. In this case you provide one hour of value to your company for $10. Do you think your employer promises his or her customers X number of hours a day devoted to serving them? No, absolutely not. Your employer promises customers the value they pay for, whether it is a high-quality product, friendly customer service solutions or a well-placed ad campaign. The customers are paying for the value they receive, and your company is charging for the value it delivers, so why shouldn’t you be paid for the value you provide? So, what’s your value, $10 per hour or $1,000 for a service you provide (whether that service takes one hour or 20 hours to complete)? I go for the latter.
Send a handwritten note. Whenever someone, particularly someone outside of your immediate working group, does something very helpful for you or has some momentous news, send them a handwritten note. I keep a big pile of blank notes on my desk - thank you notes and congratulations notes. On the inside, I just jot down a quick note thanking them (and reminding them of what the thanks is for) or a congratulations on the event. If I don’t know them really well, I jot down enough info to remind them of who I am, then I sign it and drop it in the mail.
This merely keeps your connection with someone alive over a long period of time, even if you don’t have the chance to interact with them. They’ll remember you, and they’ll value that you took time to remember them. Eventually, they may be able to reach out and help you as well.
Let your email program manage your emails as much as possible. By spending the time to set up your email program properly, you can effectively save a lot of time because of the process you have put into place. When you create your categories and sub-categories, use words and phrases that properly describe what is located there. Simple, organizational techniques will save you time and keep your inbox empty.
Do not read and reply to your emails throughout the day. This is a terrible waste of time. Nothing interrupts productivity worse than switching modes all the time. When you are in focused-productive mode, do not lose that opportunity to accomplish as much as you can until you absolutely have to. The key to productivity is setting up an order to your day and the things you would like to achieve while you are working.
Set a designated time and block of time to deal with your emails every day. If you receive 200 emails a day, it becomes increasingly easier to waste more and more time replying to those emails and reducing your productivity. Try giving yourself only 30 minutes at the end of the day to which you devote your time specifically to handling your email. Why the end of the day? The best time to do your emails is during the least productive time of the day for you. If that is 4:30 p.m., then you want to use that time to handle the less stressful but still important things, like email. When you set aside a fixed amount of time, the emails that are of little importance will not be replied to and you will probably not even notice a difference. Those emails that do require your attention will have more than enough time to be dealt with.
Batch process smaller tasks. It's inevitable that you'll have smaller things you'll need to take care of. Put those off until the afternoon or end of your day, and do them all at once in batches. So do all your phone calls, then all your emails, then all your little paperwork or whatever. Just don't allow these smaller, routine tasks to push back your big ones.
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Do less. Have a full schedule today? Cut it in half. You don’t need to do everything on that list. I took a few items on my list and moved them to next week. Do less (but focus on the important — not urgent — stuff) and you’ll be less stressed out. If you cut your list down and do only half the things you want to do for today, you’ll have a much better day. You’ll thank me.
Spend time with a loved one. Another obvious one, perhaps, but there’s nothing better, really. When I spent even just a few minutes with my two babies this morning, it filled me with a joy unequaled anywhere else in life. Then I spent some time with my wife, after work, and let me just say that’s about as good as it gets too. Even if you don’t have a spouse or kids, there’s someone in your life that you value … make time out of your day today to spend time with them … and not just to watch TV, but to actually be with them, talk with them, bond with them. It works.
Simplify your information stream. I’ve recently gone through the process of eliminating most of my RSS feeds. I also have cut back on the number of emails I respond to. And for more than a year now, I haven’t read a single newspaper, watched television (except DVDs), or read a single magazine. The news no longer gives me any value. Simplify the inputs into your life, and you can simplify the outputs.
Biggest value. Consider the case of two newspaper writers. One is super busy and writes a dozen articles a week. They’re all decent articles, but they’re pretty routine in nature. The second writer writes one article this week, but it gets the front page headline, it’s talked about all around town and blogged about on the Internet, it gets him a journalism award and he becomes a big name in journalism. From this article, he lands a bigger job and a book deal. That example is a bit extreme, but it illustrates the point that some tasks really pay off in the long term, and others just keep you busy and in the long run, don’t matter at all. The first writer could have stayed home all week and slept, and it wouldn’t have changed his world much (except he wouldn’t get paid for that week). Focus on those big tasks, that will make a name for you, that will generate long-term income, that will give you lasting satisfaction and happiness. Those are your Big Rocks. Eliminate the rest.
Invest in your future. If you’re young, you probably don’t think about retirement much. But it’s important. Even if you think you can always plan for retirement later, do it now. The growth of your investments over time will be amazing if you start in your 20s. Start by increasing your 401(k) to the maximum of your company’s match, if that’s available to you. After that, the best bet is probably a Roth IRA. Do a little research, but whatever you do, start now!
Take action now. It’s all good and well to set goals or resolutions, but the best plans are worthless if you don’t act on them. Action is everything. Take action today to make your goal come true. Tomorrow, take another action. In fact, take one action toward your One Goal every day, first thing in the day, and make it the most important thing you do every day. If you do that, there’s almost no way that you won’t achieve that goal. The actions can be small things: making a list, making a call, doing some research (”find five possible venues for the conference”). But take action.
Run errands early. One of the greatest advantages of working from home is the ability to run errands during non peak times--namely, before noon. Not only is there less people, less waiting in lines, and less traffic on the streets, you can get home and still have the rest of the day to work. And of course it’s always better to group errands together. Instead of going to the post office one day, and then the market the next, do them both on the same day. It’s better to spend a whole day running errands, than to take time out every day to run one or two. You don’t break the flow of your work or cover the same ground multiple times.
Uninstall and remove unnecessary programs. This might seem an extreme solution but it’s also an effective one. Removing all the programs, services, tools and software that you don’t use for your work means that you won’t be tempted to spend unproductive time on the computer in your breaks or when your work is done. Unplugging from the internet is the other biggie - reducing that temptation to spend an hour surfing aimlessly - and when you do go online to achieve a specific task, try using your time tracker to give yourself a limit and help focus you on the task at hand. It is also a useful activity to spend time at the beginning of each day to review your planned activities, identify what you’ll do whilst at your computer and more importantly, see what could conceivably be completed away from it.
Post a picture of your goal someplace visible — near your desk or on your refrigerator, for example. Visualizing your goal, exactly how you think it will be when you’ve achieved it, whether it’s financial goals like traveling to Rome or building a dream house, or physical goals like finishing a marathon or getting a flat stomach, is a great motivator and one of the best ways of actualizing your goals. I posted pictures of credit cards with grids on them while paying off debt I enjoyed greatly coloring in each square that was paid off.