“I must create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s.”
Forget the paperless office — it’s aiming too low.
Let’s take a look at the bigger picture: a paperless life. While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate three other nuisances: answering the phone, checking voicemail, and returning phone calls.
Is this possible? It is. The key to finding means to accomplish the “impossible” is asking the right question: “How would you do ____ for a week if your life depended on it?” Most things considered impossible just haven’t been looked at through the “how” lens of lateral thinking. Here are a few exercise questions for Paperless Life 101:
What would you have to do to never again touch mail?
What would you have to do to never touch another check?
What would you have to do to never touch another dollar?
Consider these questions as real questions. If I offered you a million dollars to do each of these things for a month, could you do it? Here are a just a few potential strategies for doing all three, then we’ll move on to phone games:
1. No more mail:
First, we need to cut out the crap — reduce volume. To begin, get removed from junk mail lists and common commercial mailing lists. There are a few ways to do this: 1) Get remove from the most common junkmail lists (this costs a few dollars in some cases) and check alternative strategies at www.stopjunkmail.org, 2) Use LifeLock, or another identity protection service, which automatically removes you from large mailing lists, one of the most common vehicle for identity theft. Last, we’ll have your mail forwarded to special processing centers, where it is all scanned and emailed to you. One popular service is called Remote Control Mail, and there are two big benefits to the time-focused and mobile-minded: relevant postal mail is funneled into e-mail, so you can check both email and postal mail at once (“batching” both at the same time); you can travel freely whenever and wherever without ever missing a letter.
2. No more checks — this is the easiest and most familiar:
-Set up online banking so you can issue checks directly from your bank, and set up automatic recurring payments
-Give your accountant power of attorney to sign specific checks (for tax documents, etc.) on your behalf. Power of attorney is no joke, so do your homework, but it can be used — as I do — with little risk. This approach not only cuts down on checks but also finance-related mail, which you can then forward to your accountant for handling start-to-finish.
3. No more cash — easier than you think:
I hate cash, and I hate coins even more. Why don’t men’s wallets have pockets? In all cases, getting rid of physical wampum is more about breaking personal habit than overcoming external resistance. For the last several months, I’ve replaced a brick of a wallet with a razor-thin money clip holding four credit cards (Business Platinum AMEX, business Chase Continental Mastercard, personal AMEX, personal Mastercard), one debit card for emergencies, and health/car insurance. I haven’t had a single problem. Some smaller shops will prefer that you cover coffee with cash, for example, but credit is accepted.
Paper cuts fingers and kills forests, but what of the damn 9-to-5 headaches? How can you eliminate the need to answer the phone, check voicemail, or return phone calls? Here are a few quick fixes:
1. No more answering the phone:
Use a service like GrandCentral to listen to voicemail as they’re being left. Each caller is required to announce their name before the call is dialed, and you are able to preview the name and send them to voicemail, where you can listen to their message as they leave it. If you want to speak with them, you can jump in. If not, let them leave a voicemail and — at the set times when you batch — go to step 2.
2. No more voicemail:
Get your voicemail delivered to your e-mail inbox, which then serves as your single communications “funnel”. This would be our single “bucket” in the parlance of David Allen, and our remote control postal mail joins the voicemail here: e-mail, postal mail, and voicemail all in one place. GrandCentral can e-mail audio files, but for those who want text, Simulscribe is a popular option with near 90% transcription accuracy. Stop managing separate inputs from office phone voicemail, cell phone voicemail, and multiple email accounts. Consolidate. To further encourage all people to communicate with you via e-mail, there are two approaches that I’ve used effectively: indicate in your voicemail greeting that people must leave their e-mail address, and respond to them via e-mail; use Jott to send a voice message to them as an e-mail.
3. No more returning calls:
Pinger enables you to send voicemail to people without calling them. Why would you want to do that? From their website:
We’ve all been there-you make a call and think to yourself, “please don’t pick up”, or you call and think “I hope I’m not interrupting…” With Pinger you leave the message at your convenience, and they get it at their convenience. Unlike voicemail, there is no ringing, no annoying prompts, no lengthy greetings — just your message.
None of these strategies are perfect, but they do demonstrate that none of our impossible questions are impossible to answer. Once you frame the question in terms of “how would I…?”, it is entirely possible to stop tolerating most of life’s annoyances and eliminate them altogether.
Did you like this? Please take a second to Digg it here and I’ll focus on more of doing the impossible, tech lifehacks, etc.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)
183 Replies to “How to Do The Impossible: Create a Paperless Life, Never Check Voicemail Again, Never Return Another Phone Call…”
Dude, you’ve been to Latin America, you KNOW that you can not function down there with cash–I want to say something like 80% of all Colombians do not even have a bank account, and the percentage that actually have a credit card is far fewer, and this is generally representative of most Latin American countries, I believe.
Now, there aren’t very MANY places left in the U.S. that only take cash, but there are a few so I still contend that it’s a good idea to keep on you.
Regardless, it was still and interesting and informative post, keep it coming.
Great tips! I’ve been already trying to reduce input in some of these areas…
-Postal Mail: I’ve been making an effort to call individual vendors (catalogues & charities mostly) to stop sending me stuff. It’s a bit time-consuming, but the bulk mail stop services can’t stop these.
-Biz Voicemail: I started using a virtual PBX about 6-months ago for my biz, and LOVE it (RingCentral.com) My clients only have to remember one #, and all my messages/faxes get sent to my blackberry.
Now you’re making me think about consolidating my personal voicemail to an email sevice too. One small step I made was to turn my cellphone v.m. off, and have it forward to my home v.m. instead. (So I’ve got one inbox for personal vm.)
So while I’m off to a good start, you TOTALLY raised the bar with having postal mail emailed out. You are definitly ‘ninja’ with reducing information input!
In Switzerland men’s wallets do have pockets for change. As far as I know we are the only ones to have this. I also hate loose change. Curious to hear whether there are other countries where men’s wallets come standard with a coin pocket.
I need a few more gallons of coffee. LOL… you are absolutely right. I should have qualified my post: these recommendations are definitely targeted at the post-industrial knowledge worker economies (North America, Western Europe, Japan, etc.). Broadband-enabled, credit-based, cell-phone-wielding populations. Trying to use a credit card at a kiosk in Ecuador or restaurant in rural Armenia will get you a nice laugh. “Where’s the closest Bank of America ATM?” will get you an even bigger laugh 😉
Very good observation. Thanks for pointing that out!
but even in Armenia and Ecuador, there are cash-machines. My bank granted me a Mastercard-special that enables me to get money from any cash-machine in the WOLRD without charge! If fees arise, they’ll pay it. Get a deal like that with your bank too, I simply love it. And yes, I also use my Amex wenever cashless is possible, but here in good old Europe it’s not the same, many places will only take cash…
I’m obsessed with the 4HWW and I love your way of living. I’ve implemented a lot of your strategies and am outsourcing almost everything. 1 issue I don’t seem to be able to outsource is that I am on call 24/7. I run a holiday home management business and guests need to be able to get a hold of me at any time during their stay. I would love to know if you have any ideas in regards to this.
Next time you’re in Australia (Margaret River, Western Australia) come stay in one of our homes! I will only come and pick your brain for 1 hour max 🙂
â€œHow would you do ____ for a week if your life depended on it?â€?
WOW! THIS IS HUGE! This is a powerful way to break any habit.
I used to be a total PDA nerd. My last unit broke in France and when I returned to Canada I was curious to see how long I could go entirely without a celphone, since it had already been 7 days incident free.
6 months later I still don’t have one! And I run 2 companies with several employees. If someone would have bet me $1,000 if I could go a month without my phone, I wouldn’t have taken the bet. It just seemed impossible. Today I wonder why I ever needed one. My wife loves it too!
So in my own words “Challenge yourself to [adopt new behavior] for 7 days… then just see what happens. You will have to find new solutions to cope. You might surprise yourself with what you come up with.
Thanks for the repiphany Tim! (re-epiphany)
JOIN MY 4HWW NING!
80/20 rule Web 3.0 tools Outsourcing = 4HWW . Discuss, collaborate, partner up! 4 hour workweek? . Is it Possible? . Do we need $1M/yr to live the millionaire lifestyle?
I’m in the beginnings of setting up my paperless office. Any ideas or need for a document management system for a SOHO/Remote office?
Love the sentiment. I think the best tip though is your challenge â€œHow would you do ____ for a week if your life depended on it?â€? it is this sort of thinking that is required for us to turn conventional lifestyles on their head and build the life we want. Asking yourself this question can unlock a world of possibilities.
I don’t mean to be an arse. But I believe that even in Western Europe it’s not always easy to get by with only a credit card. I’m living in Berlin for example and a lot of bigger places accept debit cards. But a lot of smaller shops, like corner shops, small cafes, ice cream shops only accept cash.
I agree though, the no-cash way would be great. Also because that way it’s easier to track at the end of the month where all your money is went.
Is this just the precursor to project mayhem…
Good stuff, Tim. Like the previous poster, I think the big this is the structural question: “Could I live without this?” The reality — which you’ve so aptly described in your book — is that *most* of what we read and *most* of the e-mail we send/receive and *most* of the conversations we have from day to day (. . . et cetera) are fungible. If it’s fungible, try doing without it altogether.
Just to throw a wrench in the works: you can even do without e-mail, if you have some other key replacement for communications. Example: Hank Paulson has never used e-mail in his life, but when he was running Goldman he would sometimes make 400 calls in a day, many of them to the v.m. boxes of Goldman staff. They knew how to reach him, he knew how to reach them (or just leave a message without talking to them), and lots of stuff got DONE.
We proceed with our cast-iron assumptions until something comes along that shakes them up. More power to you as you *keep* shaking up our assumptions.
I’m a big GTD fan, so I’ve been implementing some of those for a while now, but the whole “no phone calls, everything by email” just doesn’t fly with most clients, at least in my field (design & web design/development). It doesn’t matter if you answer their questions they left you on voicemail by email religiously, they just *want* (not need…) to talk to you. You can definitely get your point across by forwarding all your calls straight to mailbox and answering most of them by email, but somehow it doesn’t satisfy them…
If you have a secret recipe for this case scenario, I sure would love to read about it 🙂
Thanks for the book, take care.
Seems the main marketing man for LifeLock has a sordid past that is catching up with him. It’s a great idea, but integrity is everything in any security business. FYI.
Thanks for changing the RSS feed options so that it sends the whole article and not just the teaser. (At least, I think you changed it…we’ll see with the next post whether it comes through in its entirety too.)
I enjoy your blog but it was driving me nuts to only get the teaser and I was about to ditch it as I refuse to keep the “teaser feeds.” Having to “click through” to the site doesn’t help my batch processing of the blogs I like!
I have a Vonage VoIP phone which I use for all things non-personal. Voicemail goes to one of my e-mail inbox’s. Last month I did not check it once. It turned out all the messages left were completely unimportant!
I wouldn’t recommend Lifelock
BRILLIANT! Tim, you are my new guru – LOL. My hubby and I just sold our beach home in San Diego (after 14 months on the market, I might add)… and we’ve decided to sell off all our belongings, buy an RV, and take a sabbatical (mini-retirement!) for 6, maybe 12 months or more! We’ve got our sites set on Alaska… then the whole of Canada & US. YAH! Sooooo, this blog post on going paperless was perfect timing – we’re getting set up with all these fab resources. Thanks a gazillion!! (And we’re busy devouring your book and CDs too!!) – this is totally changing our lives. 🙂
I’m backwards on the cash thing. I prefer to use cash at most restaurants, as I’ve had my credit card number swiped three times by waiters moonlighting as identity thieves. I tend to reserve my card for the situations when I know it’s not going to leave my sight.
Like you, however, I hate change. Any I collect usually gets dumped immediately in some donation jar (there’s always one around for some cause or the other).
I have a bank branch in my local grocery store, so no ATM fees and no extra trips needed.
I have been thinking some of these things for a long time but have never really come across someone who doesn’t think they are insane – until now. I love the outsourcing ideas. And I have been taking mini retirements for my whole adult life – in fact it is a very Australian thing to do. Loads of people in Australia plan their lives around these.
Good on ya for taking these ideas and trying them out,
Is it true that Earth Class Mail’s only street address is that strange “Beaverton Oregon” one? If so, that’s a major bummer for parcel shipping that don’t go to PO Boxes. They should change their format like UPS Stores so they are all Street Addresses with a suite number that represents the box. I’m not sure how many people would want a Beaverton address vs. a SF addy. 😉
Tim thanks so much for your site. I currently work at a sales floor and have been attempting to work hard blogging at the same time, but the job has been in the way. I listened to your audiobook and I have been taking some serious looks at what I can take out. I realized what consumes my day the most and is the most ineffective work is my phone calls. I work for a $100 million company that has solid leads and I do well, but I have realized I can do more with these leads by doing less. Instead of calling several times a day, I will call once and leave a message. I will alter the times each day for the one call. Before I would call a lot and leave only one initial message and one final message at the end of the two week cycle. I think I can save more time and increase my sales. Any other suggestions you may have I would appreciate it. Thanks for helping to inspire me to change my life.
In Japan most people carry around cash, even for large purchases. Few people have and use credit cards.
Very interesting indeed, as usual…
Living in the UK, I am interested to know if you, or anyone reading this, knows of a service like GrandCentral or Remote Control Mail, which is available to UK residents…?
Can someone email me if they do know! reachjm at googlemail.com
Many thanks guys and gals! Appreciated!!
Tim, thanks for your tips on reducing unwanted crap like junk mail and batching your personal communications together. I’ve taken your advice recently about being removed from commercial mailing lists. As for communications I’ll hold on to my cell phone for now because I find it convenient. Also I consolidated my e-mail addresses recently (I had 5 different ones) and had them all forward to a single Gmail account.
Regarding the comment on eliminating cash I try and use a credit card as much as I can and I’m searching around for one that gives the best rewards for using it (cash back, travel miles, etc).
Cheers, Cpt. Flint
Nice blog entry. I have been cashless for a while. All I carry is my ID & Card. Thats it. The only problem with having a card out at the bar or club is they start a tab and the bill can add up quick when you not pulling out cash to pay for every round of drinks!
I’ve been a ‘phoneless’ business for quite some time, but to be mail-less would be a dream. I’m going through your recommendation later today to set that up. Thanks for the info!
I actually have calls that come in go to a voicemail that says to contact me via email. I go through email once a day. This has been working very well, but now I thing I will do the Simulscribe thing and see how that works as well. I liked having the caller decide how important the call was by requiring them to write down the email I gave them in my greeting, then have them take the second step of having to email me, but who knows how many possible customers I may have lost with this old system? To Simulscribe I go! Thanks again.
I like hard cash, for a number of reasons. If you use cash you are lot less likely to get into debt – apart from when you borrow a tenner off a mate, which is also something you can’t do with a card. Cash keeps you grounded, if you have your weeks wages in cash you know exactly how much money you have to spend and budgeting becomes easier. Cash is accepted *everywhere*. And finally: how would I be able to buy weed without cash?
Congratulations mate on making the bestseller lists, you deserve it.
As about 10% of your visitors are from my neck of the woods (UK) I wondered if a few people from the UK that are implementing Tim’s ideas are interested in meeting up to make friends and spur eachother on? I think 7 is the magic number. There are already 2 of us so we are looking for another 5 people. If you are interested click my name on this comment and use my email address on my site, look forward to talking. Sorry for squatting T.
I have read the 4 hour workweek book of yours and its wonderful. This part is as well covered in that book. I have also put on the review of this book in one of my blogs too.
Very good insight! This was my first time visiting the site – I’m saving it to my favorites now and am putting the book on my list of must reads…
Hey, me too! I love your books, reminds me of a zen habits approach. The books changed my life and made me so much more confident.
I live in the LA and have been on a kick to not eat at
home (time savings in shopping/prep/cleanup increased variety, like mini-vacations), spending most the day in cafes/eating out of small restaurants (around $6 a meal), having cash is required, as typically $10 is the minimum for using…even a debit card (bastards!)
Wallet. check out http://www.nobulges.com/ made of sailcloth. Like you I opt to only carry the minimum cards. Some are mini cards, since I keep local there are also frequent buyer cards which add up to free drinks/meals.
I make it a policy to ‘never let it hit the pocket’
if you do networking or track reciepts, get a portable camera (e.g. Casio EXILIM), and just take pictures, to OCR, put in quicken later. It’s also useful for doing product research, addresses, collect and forget cards (I mean business cards) and the batteries last for weeks.
Oh yeah, BankOfAmerica has e-billing for most major vendors, I’m sure other institutions are the same. Meaning that 100% of my regular bills are recieved in my ‘inbox’ and paid automatically, and you can still view the bills/statements (html PDF), SO much easier than a file cabinet. Saturday I was able to collect the amount kWh and Therms spent on electricity and gas, for the last 6 months in about 15 minutes..
Tim, just wanted to let you know how much I loved the book. I don’t agree with everything in there, but overall it really hit home. I’ve been thinking about starting my own business for at least 10 years, and this book gave me the bump I needed to finally do it (I’ve listened to it twice on audio & purchased the hard copy!).
If you have time, check out what I’m up to at http://www.zenzoomie.com.
On the topic of cool services that increase productivity–check out http://teleflip.com. You can use it to send an SMS message to any US/Canadian cellphone via email, regardless of provider. It’s still free. The replies go back to your inbox.
Here’s the URL to the actual service description:
I prefer Dan Kennedy’s solution. You can fax him. To Phone him you need to fax him for an appointment first. A good fax service can be accessed in any number of ways from any location.
In Victoria, the city now sells cards that work in the parking meters which takes that lump of change out of my pocket as well as saving me from $30 tickets.
hey Charles, yep Dan K has always lived these exact time management philosophies Tim teaches. His NO B.S. time management book is a nice compliment to 4HWW.
BTW… our NING group is about to break 50 members. (2nd biggest 4HWW Ning is 14 members… so 50 is pretty good).
The topics are 4HWW (Lifestyle design,Outsourcing, 80/20 rule), Web 3.0 (mashables, widgets, the future of Linkedin),
Thanks Tim for directing us to NING!
Nice tips. I also don’t like loose change. It’s very annoying. However, like what Andrew said, some don’t have a bank accounts and it would be difficult to do transactions in places where most people use cash.
The today interview was interesting… Did they even want to hear about the 4 hr workweek? Another example of how in this country we waste lots of time talking at each other and not listening to or learning from each other. BTW You looked sane and he looked stressed and angry. That alone is an endorsement for your book!
I’m also tired of answering phone calls. It would be a waste if we don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by those services.
First off, thanks Tim for a great book. I love your willingess, even perhaps obsession with challenging every conventional wisdom assumption in sight.
I also have a specific response for Joel Mueller. If you would like to check out an alternative service to handle parcel mail, check out http://usabox.com/what.asp. USAbox uses Miami addresses. I have never used them, but I have heard good things about them from some other expat communities.
ARGH! Apparently you can’t deeplink the “What is USAbox?” page at http://usabox.com. Go to the home page, check out the What Is link on the upper left.
I own several businesses and used to be tied to my CrackBerry and cellphone. About two weeks ago, my one-year daughter thought it would be cool to place them into the toliet and watch them swirl around a bit. Needless to say, both are no longer functional and I have not missed either one since. In fact, I terminated both and have one VM box (personal and work) that my assist. checks for me and transcribes the important ones to e-mail. Out of all the VMs (about 50 per week), she only sends me 4, of which I usually only need to deal with one.
It is easy to think of excuses why not to put some or all of Ferris’ principles to work-Its hard to think how to make them work because it is counter to our culture and society. I’ve enjoyed the new mindset and “teaching” my employees and customers how to best communicate with me effectively (which is less rather than more).
I enjoyed your video interview and wanted to hear your opinion on “dating.” I think the more a. independent, b. financially wealthy, and c. emotionally healthy you are, the more challenging it is to meet a “qualified” potential mate (I think more-so as a woman).
I’ve got my vision and list of qualities I would like to have in an ideal partnership, and am finding very few venues in which to meet men that are at the same place in life and heart as I am. The pool of eligible men becomes smaller the further up-the-ladder I advance in my life.
Many are either threatened by my success and lifestyle, or looking for someone to take care of them financially.
Had poor experience with online dating sites, though I’ve been a successfull IMer for over 5 years. Something gets lost not being able to look into someones face and feel their energy…
Your thoughts and experiences?
What a great concept. However, I don’t see it ever becoming the norm for most people, especially here in the States. We’re geared to work longer and harder so we can have more “stuff”. But kudos to those who can pull it off.
Credit? Oh boy, Credit is sooooo…how shall I say it…90’s? Cash is still King, especially outside the U.S.
Besides, the average American is buried to the eyebrows in credit card debt, do you really think it’s wise for them to be carrying around more?
Wow. After I tore my wallet apart for any real value, I found that I can get by with just 3 pieces of plastic. My DL, debit card, and a high limit CC. I can’t believe how much excess paper I had weighing it down!! It’s all well and good, but my CC is maxed on school loans 🙁
I need to get my crap in order and get my muse moving. It’s only been a friggin month!!!!!
I spend 4 hours per week dealing with broken promises made by vendors.
One such vendor is Tim Ferriss who promised various “bonuses.”
I have tried every imaginable way to obtain them. Then, I contacted Tim’s support people. I have received emails, etc. suggesting how to get them (none work.) Over 1 month ago I was told his web and technical people would check into this problem.
As a result of bad vendor selection, I spend 4 hours per week trying to get vendors to deliver on promises. If I provided equally lousy service, I could save many hours. Of course, I would quickly have NO CLIENTS OR CUSTOMERS.
If your moderator does not post my comment, I will post it on several sites that discuss fraud
Bill, what bonuses are you trying and failing to obtain?
I’m really sorry to hear that you’ve had some trouble. Are you referring to the reader-only section on http://www.fourhourworkweek.com? We’ve worked really hard — there is a team of four or so who work on the site — to add even more extras than are listed in the book. We are really proud to have less than a 1% inquiry rate from those who attempt to register, but sometimes things do pop up, like glitches related to Firefox 2, spam filters for Earthlink/AOL, etc. We also sometimes take down a bonus to add to it or make improvements. More are on the way.
I apologize if you ran into problems and promise that my tech team is really doing their best. They respond to at least 98% of our tech-related e-mails in 18 hours or so, and we’ve made repeated improvements to the registration area based on user feedback.
In all cases, I can’t stop you from putting us on fraud sites, but I’d ask you not to, as there is no fraud here. Please take a second to give it another shot at http://fourhourworkweek.com/wms/login/login.php and email Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org if you still have problems. We’re really doing our best. Alex and others may also be able to help.
This is GREAT! I was so excited about GrandCentral, then found out that at present time it is invitation only. If anyone has a GrandCentral invitation they would be willing to give me, I would be forever grateful!!
Hi Tim, you are amazingly awesome!!! Thanks for making this book so incredible. I just could gush about you all day long, but I won’t, because I want to address the LifeLock haters:
The articles trash the founder, not the service! What’s your freakin’ problem? The guy left, what more do you want? LifeLock is a great service, and I highly recommend it. Since using it, I get almost no junk mail, and I have verified it’s tough as nails to get credit in my name without my permission. Those articles didn’t have one bad thing to say about lifelock except: “They charge you for something you can do yourself.” WTF! I can cook for myself, but I often eat at restaurants… I can change the oil in my car, but it’s a lot easier to have walmart do it for me. Stop moaning and get a life.
Some good tips, but “tolerating life’s annoyances?”? Don’t many of these basically amount to avoiding human contact e.g. no more voicemail, answering phone, returning calls, etc?!
Hey Tim –
Just wanted to say thanks for writing the 4HWW.
All my life I dreamed of being a Park Ranger. I graduated with a degree in parks and recreation management and was promptly hired by the National Park Service. Lots of really cool experiences and great friends. But after 10 years, I just couldn’t take the bureaucracy, red tape and utter nonsense.
So I quit my job and have since started four different businesses. Now I find myself a slave to email and voicemail. I came across your book at just the right time. Thanks, its really made a difference.
Shortly after reading 4HWW, I came across this quote that reinforced the message of your book:
“In order to seek one’s own direction, one must simplify the mechanics of ordinary, everyday life.” ~ Plato
Keep up the great work!
How would all of this work in professions where confidentiality is requied, i.e., accounting? law?
Hey Tim — another HUGE thanks for writing the 4HWW. I have a new business that has absolutely exploded in the last 3 years and there is no sign of things slowing down. With this exponential growth has come way too many inbound messages.
I have an email box with thousands of messages (and that is with the spam removed). It causes me great stress and anxiety that I don’t have the time to go through it all. So, I have decided to outsource to a VA to clean it all up and delete 90% of it.
I liken me taking on that project myself to cleaning out my basement filled with 30 years of “stuff”. I would not be able to simply clean the garage, I would have to stop and reminisce over every trophy or photo of a long lost friend. Now granted, my email box is not a sentimental thing however I know that if I don’t see what is there, I won’t be torn or agonize over it — out of sight, out of mind. Bottom line, if it was important, I would have dealt with it already, right?
Thanks again for helping me keep the main thing the main thing!
Here’s an interesting article published in Businessweek about email and other distractions in the workplace. It ties in perfectly with Tim’s chapter on Ellimination:
I like cash, but would prefer we return to the gold standard. Paper money is going too far!
FYI, Earth Class Mail just started a refer-a-friend promo, so you and I can both get a free month if you use coupon code “earth#40486”. I signed up for ECM right after reading Tim’s post, and it’s really seamless; works exactly as advertised. The biggest benefit for me is cutting down on the paper mail laying around and the time I used to spend scanning and archiving statements/bills/forms/etc.
I do wish there was a way to have them scan your letter mail automatically as soon as it arrives, instead of you having to hit “scan” and then waiting 24 hours — Yes, it really does take a full day for them to scan it, even if you hit “scan” as soon as the mailpiece arrives at 10AM. I do suspect that as they get more customers, they’ll improve on scanning turnaround.
Secret tip: Oregon has no sales tax, and ECM will happily sign for and forward packages for you. Great if you live in California and want to order something expensive from the Apple Store. >:D
The refer-a-friend email also mentioned that they’re increasing their rates soon, and that old customers will be grandfathered at the old rates.
Sorry to say, I don’t think much of this system. There are plenty of smaller businesses left in this country that do not accept cash. What are you going to do if you want to stop at a farmer’s market or a fresh produce stand?
And as far as sending all voicemail calls to e-mail, I would find that obnoxious. If you need to have a conversation with lots of questions and answers with someone, you’d have to keep sending e-mails back and forth, probably spending way more time than the quick time spent on the phone. Talking is faster than typing.
Love the book, by the way. Just finished it last weekend.
Another great alternative for a free phone is AIM Phoneline. I just signed up for one myself, one public and one private. It’s like Skype or Vonage except it’s a real phone number for free. Check out my blog entry for more details.
I use callwave. It is free and does a job almost as good as simulscribe.
Today, I subscribed to Jot.com (which is currently free) and 30boxes.com.(a calendar site I am trying out and hoping to coordinate with Jott.com). Jott.com is similar to pinger.com and Simulscribe.
I’m half-way through your book. I agree with one reviewer (NY Times?), it is STUNNING. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge with us!
Tim, you rock. Ex-corporate slave here. I’m totally paperless, email-free, voicemail-free, and work from home. But then, I’m an independent contractor for a phonesex and/or psychic line, so every call I receive makes me money (which goes directly into my bank account, which I keep for online bill-paying. I’ll be using your ideas to maximize online cashflow and plan to travel a month at a time (every other month) with a laptop and access to a phone.) The older I get, the LESS stuff I want or need (think George Carlin and his riff on “stuff”).
What’s the best, cheapest, and most reliable GSM for international travel? Anybody know anything about the new KTF from Korea? http://www.gsmworld.com/index.shtml
This is by far one of my favorite posts of yours. I gave my readers a heads up on this article. Your blog continues to amaze me Tim.
My husband and I are eating up your new book. We just finished up 9 years in the Air Force last week and are entering the new world of entreprenuers. Your book could not have come out at a more perfect time than this. Thank you. 🙂
I’m a bit late to post. I love the new book, and just let my mom borrow it!
A question about credit cards, though. My CC company of 7 years just sent me something telling me they’re going to flip my 9.9% fixed to a ~19.9% variable, due to “rising interest rates.” As a result, I’m looking for a new, lower-interest or at least something with a good rewards program.
You say you’ve got a MasterCard, do you have any particular CC company that it’s with? Or any particular reason for going MC over Visa or the like?
Did you know that you can simply call your credit card company, and ask them to reduce or actually REMOVE your interest charges, and most of the time they will? I’ve tried it and it worked. You simply say, look, I have a stack of opportunities right here to get a new credit card and NO interest (for some finite period of time like 6 – 12 months). Please can you remove my interest charges, or I will close the account I have with you and change to this other company. In my case when I said that, they said they couldn’t do that because I’d already had 9 months with zero interest (true), but they’d pass me to their supervisor, who looked at my payment history which was perfect, and lowered my rate from an already comparatively low 12.9% to 9.5% from now on. You’d be amazed. Try it! They don’t want to lose you and will often reduce (permanently) or entirely remove your interest charges for a set period of time. What’s the harm in asking? It works!
My name is Paul and I am the President of Open Access Marketing. We are an American company with operations in the Philippines that helps individuals and companies with their staffing needs.
With the success of Tim Ferriss’ book, we’ve now successfully placed several of our virtual assistants with individuals and company executives in the U.S.
I highly encourage you to contact me at email@example.com if you have any questions about getting your first virtual assistant, The Philippines, and why it is better to work with a company directly rather than an individual contractor overseas.
Funny to see Paul’s post on here, as I have had the pleasure of meeting him in Manila. Our company has used Open Access Marketing for the last 9 months and have been very happy with them. Thus I thought I’d throw that endorsement here in case anyone is considering getting in touch with Paul.
Another service to help with automation and outsourcing is PayTrust (www.paytrust.com)
It’s a full featured web bill pay service and has some bells and whistles that your typical bank sponsored service doesn’t have.
PayTrust is owned by Intuit, makers of Quicken, etc.
It is not a free service and while I haven’t used it personally, I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.
Although, with services like Earth Class Mail, PayTrust might be a bit redundant or even unnecessary.
hey tim, just started your book
So far, its great, cant wait to finish it and implement your concepts.
If you’re looking for an invite to sign up for GrandCentral, you might want to check out InviteShare.com
Here’s their GrandCentral page: http://www.inviteshare.com/site.php?id=17
You can sign up for an invite and existing users can share their invites with the community.
The book is great and this post is right on.
I decided to go paperless when I constantly had to be reimbursed for trips and other materials for the office. For years I have eaten up expenses that should have been paid for by someone else. Everything that I have to buy on my own I will do it online so I can just put the receipt through http://www.shoeboxed.com.
I think another important thing to mention is that the South of the United States produces a lot of paper products and it’s really responsible to diminish our impact on Southern forests. A good resource on information about that is http://www.dogwoodalliance.org
I hope you’re all as successful as Mr. Timothy Ferriss. Otherwise, keep your immature, self-obsessing opinions to your self. To Mr. Latin America, what a triviality. Picking on the details. A sure sign we are dealing with a big noter with low confidence.
Thanks to everyone for commenting – especially Mr Latin. Ignorance is always unkown to the carrier.
The less paper, the better! Save the trees. I rarely carry cash. A credit card is so much easier to manager. I’ll have to try out your voicemail techniques. Thanks for sharing!
Iâ€™m curious about your choice to enable comments on your blog. Seems contradictory to your overall premise of avoiding info overload? Iâ€™m not being facetious, but am genuinely curious.
Doesn’t that put you in reactive mode – having to answer comments all the time, and weed out spammers?
The comments serve to make the blog a dialogue, and as it reaches a critical mass, people begin to help each other, much like the forums. I also get some great advice and recommendations from my readers. Akismet handles almost all spam, and I just delete idiots. I check out comments no more than once a day, and it doesn’t take more than 15 minutes or so. If it gets to be a burden, I’ll 1) outsource it to my assistants, then 2) eliminate comments if I have to. I’m enjoying so far, though.
Thanks for the question!
Looking for the best software to manage approvals processes for creative work (visual ads, TV storyboards, writings) between at least 3 people / groups in different locations (me being, preferably, in a loft in Berlin).
I have a question for all of you experienced 4-hourers out there: As a recent college graduate, I am trying to reduce or completely eliminate the whole office-job cycle before it starts, but how do I do this without getting sucked into a meaningless entry-level job? I do need some income other than a potential start-up.
My advantages include not having a house or children, and possessions that can be condensed into a suitcase.
Any advise you might have would be wonderful!
Love the book. So for Tim and anyone else that wants to answer, what are your 4hourworkweek strategies for getting through college with a decent GPA and a life?
Hey Tim and others,
Great tips. I’ve been using RemoteControlMail (now called EarthClassMail) and GrandCentral for a while. For voicemail transcription, I used to use a service called DictoMail (http://www.dictomail.com/).
For paying bills, I’ve started trying PayTrust http://paytrust.com/
My problem recently has been having to deposit the affiliate checks (when they don’t deposit directly into my bank account or paypal account). Unless you have a better idea, I’m going to try out a scan checking service called DepositNow (https://www.depositnow.com) which a number of banks also offer as a service.
not every thing can be applied to the book in college, becuase college isnt like real life if you pay attention to the book. But there are alot of thigns that can be applied. group projects can easily be applied to his suggestions on meetings. dont meet with your group to define the problem, the teacher has likely defined it allready. Have people come up with ideas on their own and email them to you and email back. rank how important getting a project needs to get done based on when its due, and force your self to get them done earlier by giving your self earlier, seemingly impossible deadline than the teacher dose. As the book says, it will force you to get it done with more focus.
The low information diet is another great way. while it may sound crazy, you dont need face book or myspace to get through college. reduce how offtend you check it, and let your friends know to contact you through your phone, screen the calls and check your voicemail after and quickly decided if its urgent to respond to or if it can wait till later. Finish projects first befor checking e-mail or voicemail and so on, check FB/MySpace less offtend. If something big is going on, people will be talking about it or ask you about it. If you get your stuff out of the way befor attending to distractions, you wont miss any thing any way.
the thing the earlier part of the book emphisizes the most is focusing on the important and getting it done.It is much faster than letting distractions get in the way. transitioning between tasks adds large ammount of time, so focus is key.
getting out of class is probly not the best idea becuase some profs will factor it into your grade, something you cant do much about, and can mean the differance between a B and an A- when its close. also, i like his idea of makeing the proffessor think twice befor giveing you a lower grade, if you read the book, you’ll know what im talking about.
PLAN YOUR DAY OUT THE DAY BEFORE. plan plan plan. figure out what you need to get done the next day to fell like you got what you needed done, then get it done FIRST. You then have the rest of the day to enjoy what ever, but get the major stuff out of the way with all your focus.
any ways hope that helps. I’m a college student as well, and I’m curently reading this book as well. I know its not going to be easy for me to adjust to all these things at first, but i will benifit from it as well. One thing i know is that i want to find a way to apply my education in IT-network and security, to starting my own buissness, and automateing it, rather than just becomeing a Admin for a company and being on call 24/7.
I think these tips are great if one is living in a Developed Country, but as anyone who travels in the rest of the world knows, it’s just not possible.
But, I think that the principle behind the tips are powerful, and can be used anywhere:
— cut out as much paper as possible (but making sure to create backups)
— centralize capture points
I think these are useful tips, but there is a larger basic structure behind them that can be understood for these, and all time management “tips.” When that structure is understood, and the basic elements well-practiced, only then do tips make sense, and can be implemented by us individuals at our own skill-levels.
For example, I have no access to Pinger, but I suspect that there is a principle behind its use that I could use without having it. Also, I might very well able to apply the principle to a basic element, making me productive wherever I travel in the world.
I must admit when I first heard about the book I was skeptical. After reading it, much of what Tim says makes sense. What I find amusing, though, are the folks that poo-poo the whole idea as completely unworkable.
I wonder if it ever occurred to them to implement those things which would work, and ignore that which will not. For example, I run an internet retail business, but am very small and have erratic inventory and cash-flow, as well as not netting a whole lot to begin with.
To attempt to use a fulfillment service for all the products I stock (several hundred SKUs, easily) would be a nightmare, I think. However, that’s not going to stop me from investigating the idea, just in case.
However, the suggestions regarding email, not looking at websites, and doing other things that interrupt the work-flow were goldmines of information. While my business is web-based, there are many non-web things I can be doing to increase business.
Or, I could be visiting relevant websites instead of hovering over, and responding to, email as it comes in, as well as working to promote my new entrepreneur’s discussion forum.
Since I just finished reading the book this past weekend, I will be implementing different steps to help improve efficiency. We’ll see how it goes.