It was a sunny day in Sicily.
I was lying on a sunbed, enjoying the perfect Italian sunny weather. After 2 years of working at my Startup, I really needed this week off.
I naively thought that I’ll be able to disconnect and just enjoy. But of course, it did not happen. Knowing myself I have foreseen it, so before leaving London I grabbed a book that I wanted to read for a while already.
The book was Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris.
I didn’t really know Tim apart from the fact that he was famous for writing the 4-hour workweek.
So I started reading and damn this guy is impressive! He has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People” and one of Fortune’s “40 under 40.”
He casually speaks 5 languages, is a national Chinese kickboxing champion and holds a Guinness world record in tango.
Some of his other achievements:
- Princeton University guest lecturer in High-Tech Entrepreneurship and Electrical Engineering
- Finance and Entrepreneurship advisor at Singularity University at NASA Ames, co-founded by Peter Diamandis and Ray Kurzweil.
- Horseback archer (yabusame) in Nikko, Japan
- 2009 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute
- Political asylum researcher
- Wired Magazine’s “Greatest Self-Promoter of 2008”
And I was there, lying on a sunbed, feeling like I have accomplished nothing at all.
But, how? How can this man achieve so much while most of us struggle to meet even 10% of what he has accomplished?
It fascinated me! I’ve been trying to understand what Tim Ferriss does that we don’t, and how we can apply it to our life.
The results turned out to be quite simple, I’ve researched across his podcasts, books, articles, videos and have compiled a list of top 10 things that Tim Ferriss does to stay productive.
1. Meditate every day
Tim talks about meditation a lot, and with reason. Meditation has been scientifically proven to reduce anxiety and depression.
While there are different types of meditation such as focused meditation, mindful meditation..etc. Tim emphasizes transcendental meditation which promotes meditation with the use of mantras.
You should meditate for a minimum of 10–20 minutes every day. Preferably in the mornings, but I do also enjoy doing it before going to sleep.
2. Book an hour every morning for you
We all have morning routines and busy days. But how you start and end your day will determine its quality. If the first thing you do when waking up is grabbing your phone and rushing to work, you will throw your cortisol level off the chart and experience a stressful day.
Tim recommends booking 60 minutes every morning before you check your emails before you grab your phone. This time should be dedicated to you and to internal goals, not for your work or your family.
3. Start your day by writing down your intentions
Tim talks a lot about the 5-minute journal. Writing down what you want to do before the beginning of the day will help you to stay focused and not waste time figuring it out later on. It will help you to remain focused on what matters and not wander through the day improvising on the fly.
Writing down your thoughts can also be therapeutic. But writing down alone is not sufficient, it is also necessary to come back to what you’ve written later and to analyze it and rectify your behavior.
4. Do the right things vs do the things right
What you do is more important than how much you do or how well you do it.
You don’t have to get a lot of things right. If you pick the right targets you will get a very high return on investment.
We are perfectionists by nature. Very often we try to do things well. But the key to productivity is to focus on the right things.
The right thing is something that you can focus on today that will make the most impact in your life. What is the number one thing that, if executed, will make other things easier or irrelevant?
Which one of these will make you satisfied for the day or will create more time or help you in the future. Or, if answering any of the above is hard, which skills will you be able to develop by doing the one thing and that will help you later on?
5. When in doubt, focus on the uncomfortable
If you can’t find the “right thing” to do, chances are you need to focus on the most difficult, the most uncomfortable thing, the one that you were trying to avoid or to postpone.
“When in doubt, the most important to-do is typically the one that makes you the most uncomfortable, often including a chance of rejection, pain or failure.”
6. The 80–20 Rule
We only have one life and 24 hours in a day. But it seems that you need to have several lifetimes to achieve what some of us have accomplished.
In one of his videos, Tim says that he applies the 80–20 rule to everything and that it helped him to achieve mastery in several fields. The 80–20 rule is also known as the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto principle states that for many outcomes roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of the causes.
Following this principle, you need to do 20% of work to achieve 80% of results and it will take you 80% of work to achieve 20% of the remaining results.
This also means that you don’t need to become an expert in something to be able to be comfortable with it. Tim emphasizes the importance of being a generalist vs a specialist. Think of any executive or CEO. They will have a general knowledge of a bit of everything and will act as “glue” between specialists. Good CEOs need to inspire specialists to join them and work for a common vision.
7. Split your day between creative and administrative tasks
Every day you have a finite amount of energy to assign to your tasks. But this energy is not equal. In the morning you will feel more refreshed and you will be able to tackle harder tasks while in the evenings not so much.
Tim advises focusing on creative and intellectually demanding tasks in the morning but to leave the administrative and repetitive ones for the evening.
8. Batch tasks and days
“If you see distraction externally, you end up creating an internally distracted state.”
To make the most of your days batch them. If you need to call your customers, put all your calls in a batch and dedicate a whole day to calling people. If you need to travel, book all your travels during the same period. Assign time blocks where you can focus on the same thing and avoid jumping from one task to another.
Batching tasks and days is an old optimization method that can help you to augment the efficiency of your time.
9. Ask good questions
Successful people have one thing in common, they can ask good questions. Tim says that the questions you ask show how you think and the better the questions the harder you need to think to formulate them.
Asking good questions improves your thinking
Tim advises studying how people ask questions by watching and analyzing famous speakers such as Tony Robbins.
10. Not all days will be productive
Tim is not a superhero and as such he has a lot of unproductive days, like everyone. The key is how you handle them.
If you feel that a day will not be productive don’t push. You’re not in a rush, you’re not in a competition. Appreciate your day for what it is, maybe decide that this day will be a day of gratitude. Do something good for someone you don’t know.
Read a book or just meditate. You’re not a machine, not all days will be productive, and that’s okay.
Thank you for reading!
Tim Ferriss has achieved a lot, but he is not a superhuman. In his blog, he writes that he often has unproductive days, overindulges in coffee, and sometimes feels very lonely. In short, he is human. Like all of us.
But the little things he does everyday build up over time and make Tim the person he is today.
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