How to Work Less to Achieve More

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Described by The New Yorker Magazine as “this generation’s self help guru,” Tim Ferriss is an American author, entrepreneur, angel investor, and public speaker who is perhaps best known for his New York Times bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich and his blog fourhourworkweek.com. Although you may not be familiar with his name you will surely recognize some of the many ventures that he has become a part of since then. Ferriss followed up The 4-Hour Workweek with The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef, both of which were also bestsellers.

The inspiration for success

In 2000 Tim Ferriss founded a sports nutrition company and it was this experience that inspired him to write The 4-Hour Workweek. Although the company was a success, Ferriss found himself extremely stressed and overworked. His girlfriend at the time even gave him a photo saying “Business Hours End at 5 p.m.” to keep at his desk to remind him that he needed to take a break, if for no other reason than for his personal health. One of the principles that Ferriss now sticks to is that businesses should function as what he describes as a “muse”- something that generates cash without consuming time. Ferriss would sell his company a few years later, once his books made enough money to act as a “muse.” This would be Ferriss’ last “real job.”

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Tim’s philosophy

In order to maximize his time and productivity, Ferriss only checks his email once a day and outsources all small daily tasks like online research and paying bills to virtual assistants in India and the Philippines. Using these ideas and tools allowed him to escape his workaholic lifestyle and also gave him the idea for his first book. In both his professional and personal lives Ferriss subscribes to the Pareto principle, which holds that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts, and Parkinson’s Law, which states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” Tim also believes that technology like email and instant messaging overcomplicate life and do more harm than good. He doesn’t believe that people should defer retirement until their later years, instead taking what he calls “mini-retirements” along the way.

If at first you don’t succeed. . .

Ferriss has used this philosophy to achieve an enormous amount of success but it is important to realize that this success didn’t necessarily come easily. The 4-Hour Workweek was rejected by 25 publishers before Ferriss was offered a contract and even then the publisher didn’t accept the book on its own merits but because they believed Ferriss would do anything and everything to make his book a success. In order to do that he took to the internet, marketing his book heavily with the help of bloggers that he had formed relationships with along the way. Since then his book has sold over 1.3 million copies and spent four years on the bestseller list. The author of two more bestsellers, Ferriss now also serves as an investor or advisor to companies like StumbleUpon, Posterous, Evernote and Uber, among others, while holding equity stakes in both Twitter and Facebook.

Now apply this to your life

Although you may not be at the point where you can afford to only check your email once a day there are other ways in which you can apply Tim Ferriss’ philosophy in order to be more productive while also lowering your stress and increasing your free time. Are you generally a disorganized person? Tim uses the Evernote app to keep track of all of his ideas and organize all of his research. You may not be able to hire a remote assistant in India but for things like paying bills you can set it so your bank automatically pays them out every month. Everybody knows about these types of features but not everyone is organized enough to take advantage of them.

You can also benefit from understanding the Pareto principle and Parkinson’s Law and applying them to your situation. We’ve all heard the adage “work smarter not harder” but maybe it’s time to reevaluate your working habits and the fruits of your labor. Are you concentrating your efforts in the right places or are you using up more time to complete assignments than you probably need? If you can identify the area of work that the majority of your results come from then perhaps you can cut out the “fluff” and work more effectively, cutting down the time devoted to work while maximizing your output. It’s difficult to engage in an activity that makes you enough money to live off of while consuming little time but maybe you have a talent or skill that you can monetize for a little extra cushion. Perhaps you’re a talented writer and can write a few articles here or there or maybe you have a knack for computers and can run a repair service on the side. Think long and hard about what your skills are and how you can turn them into cash.pareto_principle

Regardless of the industry you’re a part of or the work you do the takeaway from this is that it’s important to recognize whether you’re getting the greatest bang for your buck. Everybody wants to get more from less and produce more efficiently so it’s time to evaluate where your greatest yields can be achieved and concentrating on the areas or practices that can produce the most for you. If worse comes to worse consider taking a “mini-retirement” every once in a while to see new places and prevent burnout (as if anyone needs a reason to take a break every now and then). For more tips from Tim Ferriss you can get a copy of his book here.

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