"Productivity" Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)


Sometimes, life seems upside-down.

I originally wrote this post months ago, but I’ve been too self-conscious to publish it until now. This quote convinced me to put on my big girl pants:

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”

– Neil Gaiman

University of the Arts Commencement Speech

So, here goes, and I hope it helps at least a few of you.

Reality Check

A few months ago, I had a birthday party.

A dozen friends and I gathered for several days of wonderful sun, beach, and catching up. On the last day, I didn’t get up until 11:30am, knowing full well that the last remaining friends were leaving at 12 noon.

I was afraid of being alone.

Like a child, I hid my head under the covers (literally) and hit snooze until reality couldn’t be postponed any further.

But…why am I telling you this?…

The Dangerous Myths of “Successful” People

We all like to appear “successful” (a nebulous term at best) and the media like to portray standouts as superheroes.

Sometimes, these dramatic stories of overcoming the odds are inspiring. More often, they lead to an unhealthy knee-jerk conclusion:

“Well… maybe they [entrepreneur/artist/creator painted as superhero] can do it, but I’m just a normal guy/girl…”

This post is intended to give a behind-the-scenes look at my own life. Though I’ve occasionally done profiles like A Day In The Life with Morgan Spurlock’s crew, I rarely let journalists follow me for a “normal” day. Why?

I’m no superhero. I’m not even a consistent “normal.”

In the last 3 months, I’ve:

  • Cried while watching Rudy.
  • Repeatedly hit Snooze for 1-3 HOURS past my planned wake time, because I simply didn’t want to face the day.
  • Considered giving everything away and moving to Montreal, Seville, or Iceland. Location varies based on what I’m escaping.
  • Seen a therapist for the first time, as I was convinced that I was doomed to life-long pessimism.
  • Used gentlemanly (ahem) websites to “relax” during the day when I clearly have urgent and important shit to do. 1
  • Taken my daily caffeine intake (read: self-medication) so high that my “resting” pulse was 120+ beats per minute. 8-10 cups of coffee per day minimum.
  • Worn the same pair of jeans for a week straight just to have a much-needed constant during weeks of chaos.

Seems pretty dysfunctional, right?

But, in the last 8 weeks, I’ve also:

  • Increased my passive income 20%+.
  • Bought my dream house.
  • Meditated twice per day for 20 minutes per session, without fail. This marks the first time I’ve been able to meditate consistently.
  • I’ve cut my caffeine intake to next-to-nothing (in the last 4 weeks): usually pu-erh tea in the morning and green tea in the afternoon. I’ve had no more than 1 cup of coffee per week. More on this in a later post.
  • With your help, raised $100,000+ for charity:water for my birthday. (Thanks to John Park for bringing the thunder!)
  • Raised $250,000 in 53 minutes for a start-up called Shyp.
  • Signed one of the most exciting business deals of my last 10 years.
  • Added roughy 20 pounds of muscle after learning the pain and joy of high-rep front squats (and topical DHEA, courtesy of Patrick Arnold).
  • Transformed my blood work.
  • Realized — once again — that manic-depressive symptoms are just part of entrepreneurship.
  • Come to feel closer to all my immediate family members.

The Point

Most “superheroes” are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things DESPITE lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.

Personally, I suck at efficiency (doing things quickly). Here’s my coping mechanism and 8-step process for maximizing efficacy (doing the right things):

1) Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. E-mail is the mind killer.

2) Make a cup of tea (I like pu-erh) and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper.

3) Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.

4) For each item, ask yourself:

– “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”

– “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”

5) Look only at the items you’ve answered “yes” to for at least one of these questions.

6) Block out at least 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.

7) TO BE CLEAR: Block out at least 2-3 HOURS to focus on ONE of them for today. This is ONE BLOCK OF TIME. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.

8) If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward spiral; just gently come back to your ONE to-do.

Congratulations! That’s it.

This is the only way I can create big outcomes despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, nap, and otherwise fritter away my days with bullshit. If I have 10 important things to do in a day, it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day. On the other hand, I can usually handle 1 must-do item and block out my lesser behaviors for 2-3 hours a day.

It doesn’t take much to seem superhuman and appear “successful” to nearly everyone around you. In fact, you just need one rule: What you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well does not make it important.

If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put these on a Post-it note:

  • Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
  • Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

And when — despite your best efforts — you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, remember: Even the best of the best feel this way sometimes. When I’m in the pit of despair, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.

And you are not alone.

And If You Struggle…

If you occasionally struggle like me, these resources and articles might help you rebound:

The Prescription for Self-Doubt (Video)

Harnessing Entrepreneurial Manic-Depression: Making the Rollercoaster Work for You

Two Root Causes of My Recent Depression (by Brad Feld, one of my favorite start-up investors)

Did you find this post helpful? Please let me know, and if you have any particular strategies or quotes that help get you out of funks, please share in the comments!

Note from the editor: For more productivity advice, check out the following videos on YouTube from Tim:

  1. Any guy who insists he’s never done this should not be trusted. 

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.

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1,022 Replies to “"Productivity" Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)”

  1. Great post Tim. It is very easy to focus on 100 not-so-important things than to focus on 1 most important thing. Focus is hard to achieve and most of the times it just struggling-to-focus phase which is most productive and not ideal focus as we read in books.

    Focus –>Deliver; Focus –>Deliver; Focus… and so on…

  2. Tim,

    i’ve been following you since 4hww first came out – congrats on all the success. this is the first thing you’ve written that i’ve been compelled to comment on. thanks for the post. either extremely honest or just a way to bring those of us who stopped being able to relate to you back in the fray 🙂 either way, i appreciated it. thanks.

  3. Hey Tim,

    You were always one of my heroes and still are.

    I’m a 3rd year PhD student and what you wrote resonates with me on a very deep level, every bit of it (I mention that as I’m one of those *very busy* postgrad students!).

    So, thank you very much, my friend!

    From my bed!


  4. From the beginning (4HWW) it as always obvious why you are someone to watch.. and it grew exponentially w each new feat (too many to name) but THIS post made you real – in the flesh. Hi5. and thank you. more please.

  5. Tim – could you please provide more information about the high-rep front squat program along with the topical DHEA. Thanks!

  6. This is gonna sound a little goofy but when I’m having trouble holding it together or going through a rough patch or whatever I just force myself to read one of a few different personal development book and watch personal development videos and lectures.

    Aside from that just writing out my current goals and my plans for achieving them. Or writing out what is bothering me and trying to put together a worst case scenario story to convince myself that it’s not really that bad, that no matter what happens, it’s not that big of a deal.

    If I really can’t shake it I go on a couple day binge drinking adventure, then lay low for a few days, and so far that has always worked as a last resort.

  7. Another great set of resources are Russ Harris’ two books: “The Happiness Trap” and “The Confidence Gap.” They’re the cutting edge of ACT and Mindfulness, which is now widely accepted (by eminent psychologists like Harris and Martin Seligman) as one of the best techniques for actually making you happier, more productive, and eliminating doubts and fears.

  8. Really appreciate this one Tim. I’ve followed you and your books for the last few years and it makes me more hopeful of my own potential to hear about your ‘normal’ struggles. Keep up your amazing and groundbreaking work!

  9. Really awesome post, Tim. Always appreciate people who are willing to be people with their followers. I’m sure that having as many fans as you do makes it tempting to play that prestige, but I think I’m a fan because your personality is hella in your work. That vulnerability is so much better than some of the BS you run into with other people who sell themselves as the ‘superheroes’, thinking that people will reject them unless they do.

  10. Thanks for this post. It makes me feel better after the day I had.

    Basically, I have lots of half-done work around me, which caused a productivity lockout so I had to call it a day to get all the stress out.

    Tomorrow morning’s going to be like triage, but now I know at least one task I should just reserve a time block for.

    1. big fan of all your projects throughout the years but i have to say that this has personally been the single most helpful article ive ever read from you. next time i find myself hanging out with my head under my blanket for a little too long and feeling like the most inadequate person on the planet…ill remember that for some one us, its not a blanket, its a pillow, and that this is all just a part of being super…human. much love tim. gracias

  11. Thanks Tim,

    A much needed whack on the side of the head. Productivity is starting to be a little more achievable when you take a more 80/20 approach to things, I really appreciate your shared experience.

    – Tom

  12. Awesome post Tim! Brian Tracy teaches this “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” system too but I’m not as diligent about it as you are. Guess what I’m doing tomorrow morning….

  13. Dearest Tim, thank you so much for posting and sharing your vulnerability with us. I applaud your courage for just coming out and saying it: that you’re human too. And a magnificent one at that, even if you find yourself tortured life the rest of us. I tend to put successful people on a ridiculous pedestal of perfection, completely attainable to me and I use that against myself. But what you taught me this evening with this post, is that the more I can learn to accept, embrace, and appreciate my dark side, the more power I can give myself in sharing the light. Love from Orlando, Alia.

    1. Dearest Tim, thank you so much for posting and sharing your vulnerability with us. I applaud your courage for just coming out and saying it: that you’re human too. And a magnificent one at that, even if you find yourself tortured like the rest of us. I tend to put successful people on a ridiculous pedestal of perfection, completely unattainable to me and I use that against myself. But what you taught me this evening with this post, is that the more I can learn to accept, embrace, and appreciate my dark side, the more power I can give myself in sharing the light. Love from Orlando, Alia.

  14. Yes! I feel you. Two sides of the coin to the “glamourous” life of an entrepreneur/small business owner.

    To lose the funk I’ll speak with a mentor or other business owner, commiserating helps. I’ll also be sure to get a dose of nature. My life can sometimes be contained inside the 2 foot square radius of my laptop, IPad and IPhone for far too many days in a row. To get outside on a hike and look out beyond my tiny computerized world at trees, birds, clouds and stuff is very therapeutic.

    Also…ahem…ladies will use websites to “relax” and distract from time to time too.

  15. Great post Tim. Sometimes its easy to forget what is important. This post is a great reminder to stay focused and on track.

  16. That was a super real post Tim, thanks for sharing. I’m a compulsive procrastinator and sleep addict, and this totally resonated with me.

    One thing that might help with sleeping in is something I call the Lock Pick Alarm Clock. Basically, in order to hit the snooze button, you have to get out of bed, cross the room, and pick two Master padlocks (be sure to throw the keys away.) I actually use this, one of the only things I have found that has managed to keep me from going back to sleep.


    Now, time to have my 8th coffee of the day and go do some hi rep squats (never tried, excited to see what happens.)


  17. Hi Tim,

    I use a website http://www.focusatwill.com.

    Put on the timer, let some classical / spa music play and I do not let my attention divert away from my pen and pad until the bell goes.

    I always get a great list out then I ask “what would make the most impact today? and just do that first.

    Thanks for sharing its nice to know that superstars are people.


  18. Tim

    Thanks for the post. Honest. Hugely appreciated; the honesty that is. Most people peddle lies that ring hollow in the end. It can’t always be that good.

    For what its worth, you’ve been hugely influential to me personally. Since reading your book I’ve thrown in my massive corporate job, which was killing me (very high six figure income), and am now having a mini retirement in my own home on the Gold Coast, which previously I rented out (I’m 38). I’ve also written 7 books and had them illustrated and self published using elance contractors, and in some cases translated into over 40 languages and also put on youtube (all elance). Every day someone buys and reads something I’ve written, and although my passive income is low at this time, I didn’t consider a second of that process work. And the cheques keep coming once the effort is over.

    I’m going to your lecture in Brisbane next week. You are no doubt booked silly but if you want to crash in the Gold Coast / check out some local nature stuff/lamas drop me a line, as, mate, I’ve got the time! And plenty of rooms.

    Either way, a genuine thanks for your work. Most people don’t make any difference to people’s lives.


  19. It’s really encouraging to get to see the struggles of others, even if its painful to share. It is a huge help to be able to understand that we all have these problems. Thanks.

  20. Tim, a very laudable and valuable piece of writing. I am perhaps alone in wondering whether there is nothing wrong with your interest in giving everything away (which I interpret as downsizing rather than total asceticism) and moving. Might downsizing one’s life and ambition be a healthful choice? Might the desire to excel betray our desire for happiness? Even the fear of being alone at the end of a long celebration with friends does not really seem pathological to me. Humans have lived in tribes, continually surrounded by loved ones, for most of human history with only the past 50 years being the exception, and only in some parts of the world. Perhaps our solitary lives in an isolating culture are the problem that needs to be corrected, and the fear of being alone is a healthful instinct pointing the way to a better life — one where we’re not alone.

    A courageous piece of writing in any case, thanks for writing it!

    1. My uncle is an organic farmer, and near where he lives there is a catholic monastery where the nuns are not allowed to say the words ‘I’ ‘me’ or ‘mine’. My uncle (who is a buddhist) said that they seem to be very happy people, surprisingly enough.

      Great point though, I have been grappling with the same issue myself.

  21. Totally with you on the caffeine issue.

    I went almost cold turkey back in February. Had a headache for 3 weeks straight.

    This is what’s working for me: I’m good with a tiny 1 or 2 shot Moka when I get up (very early), and maybe (not always) a tiny cento or machiatto around 10:30 in the morning. And only during weekdays. Weekends, just a tiny shot and it’s good all day.

    I used to do 2-3 large cups per day. I don’t miss the energy roller coaster one bit.

  22. Wow. Thank you soooo much for posting this! This post really helped give me some perspective, support and a sense of relief. it is really good to see that, while you battle your own neuroses and avoidances, you still find a way to accomplish what you want to. This gives me hope. BTW I can highly recommend a little white pill that may help you. The LWP is called Aconite and its a homeopathic remedy for fear and self-doubt. Good luck and please keep the inspiration coming!

  23. Tim,

    That quote from Neil is great! You introduced me to Neil when you had that guest post with his commencement speech. I’ve watched Neil’s comm speech at least 30 times! Put it on while I’m working! It’s nice to see those that are able to be real instead of “front”. It’s honestly funny how so many of the great people I follow have content that comes together in a vast education. In a recent post on Tynan’s blog he talked about not “fronting”.

    You’ve been an inspiration and the guest posts you’ve had over the years have taken me down some great paths. Just to name a few: Chad Mureta, Neil Gaiman, Seth Godin, John Romaniello / Adam Bornstein!

    Keep it going! Looking forward to the TFX!

  24. Ah, to be a Cancer. In such tumultuous cosmic times. 😉

    With the moon (your ruler) reenacting operatic mad scenes for months, you’re called to scrap the cream off of the Oreo. Only self-truth, and nothing but self-truth, shall do. This post’s unbridled honesty is one result.

    Even superheroes … nah … especially superheroes need nurturing.

    In case no one has offered—a hug.

  25. Hey Tim !

    Thank you so much for sharing this . I really connected with this post for several reasons. I recently came to the realization that I’m suffering from entrepreneurial depression . Lately , there are days where I lay in bed much longer than I should, because I do not want to face the day (tossed my alarm clock after reading 4HWW otherwise I’d be hitting the snooze button over and over). There are tasks that sit idle on my To-Do list , only because confrontation and possible rejection is involved. I struggle with my negative thoughts , and lately wonder if Im doomed to lonely pessimism forever (I find it hard to remember that I’m even wearing a purple bracelet in the first place , never mind switch wrists at every hint of pessimism)

    Anyway , I’m hopeful I’ll get through this quickly ,but you just made my journey much easier. Simply knowing that others wrestle the exact same demons is comforting.

    This post came through when I really needed it !

    Thank you

    Michael Severino

  26. Great post!

    It’s inspiring to see such a wild list of “in the last 2-3 months” from you, especially to see you re-hash some of the original principles you highlighted in your first book and admit that you struggle with them sometimes too. Thank you for the honesty!

    Hang in there with the caffeine, and kick ass with the meditation! I think you mentioned trying it earlier this year, so getting off serious caffeine and consistently meditating deserve major props! Looking forward to hearing how things go for you.

    This week will mark a year since I finally stopped dabbling in meditation and visited a monastery in Thailand for a few day course, starting a daily practice almost identical to yours. And this has by far been the greatest year of my life (with no income while going to school, mind you, hah!) — I can’t imagine a more important practice in my life (on par with exercise). So I agree with your comment that any consistent, accountable “meditation” practice (whether called prayer or meditation or simply sitting peacefully) is what’s important — no specific technique will be perfect for anyone. You probably already know this, but it’s recommended that anyone wanting to get serious about a daily practice have a (spiritual) mentor they trust, just to talk to about their thoughts and experiences as needed.

    Hang in there, even if you (or any reader) doesn’t “notice” any improvement, benefit, or “gains.” They will come. Also of note: remember that one can do standing/walking/sitting/lying meditation. That realization (and practicing the slow “walking” meditation) really helped me in the beginning!

    Anyway, I’m excited to see what the next year or two brings for you, Mr. Ferriss…I think you might blow even your own expectations away. Keep up the great work and thanks again for the post. What you do matters more than may be obvious on some days!


  27. Thanks for the post Tim.

    Really puts a lot of things in perspective.

    I’ve got to say procrastination is definitely my WORST habit especially now that I’m running my own show–with plans to outsource and automate in degrees of course ;-].

    Some days my motivation is through the roof and I can get so much accomplished. Other days well I can seriously spend–and more worryingly justify it–the whole day reading posts from blogs and sites in my feed. Crazy! Really need to revisit the low-info diet again.

  28. I never comment on blogs.

    And I have never commented on your blog…even though I probably read every article on here…but I think this post just saved my F’n life.

    Thank you man.

    1. Thank you for commenting, Dom Def, and it’s great to hear your voice. I’ve been there and feel you.

      Keep up the good fight!


  29. This is an excellent post. You’re right. It’s easy to think that some are superheroes while others are mehums (“mere humans” – thank you, RAW). I sometimes feel like a superhuman that’s been zapped with red kryptonite or something, everything is so odd.

    Things that help me snap myself out of it:

    – Music. If not for music, I would be balled in a corner of an asylum somewhere. Oddly, stuff that most people find too chaotic to listen to, like dubstep or the like, I find keeps the ooh-shiny bits of my brain distracted enough so that the rest of me can work. Think the “sky flowers” from the movie LAND OF THE DEAD. Some big winners recently: Knife Party & Sleigh Bells. If you need something less noisy, I recommend Cults & Muse.

    – Comedy. My two go-to standups are Simon Amstell & Greg Davies. If things are really bad, I can lie down in the dark and listen to them. The shows to look for are “Numb” and “Firing Cheeseballs at a Dog” respectively.

    – The Avengers. I was trying to think of any other movie or TV that works as an anti-depressant at the moment, but honestly, I’ve seen The Avengers so many times, it’s terrifying. It’s better than stuffing my face with Kit Kats and less fattening to boot. It’s not just that it’s a fun, well executed movie–and not that I’m a grown comic geek–it’s the culmination of a very complicated plan–so it proves that crazy s*** *can be* accomplished.

    Good to know we’re all fighting the good fight. Thanks again. You ever find yourself in Atlanta on a cheat day…I know people who own an ice cream company. I’m Just Saying.

  30. When I find myself depressed because of over procrastination, I usually ask myself “what would tim ferris be doing?” (Or steve jobs or Jim Treliving or any other wannabe mentor of the day). I find it very motivating, but can also be depressing when I simply cannot force myself to be productive. It is nice to know that even the most successful entrepreneurs struggle to be productive at times.

    Thanks for laying it out Tim, Cheers.

  31. Tim,

    Thank you for sharing this with the world. ESPECIALLY because it was scary for you to do.

    I really enjoyed reading it, if only to see that you are in fact a human like the rest of us 😉

    Sometimes success can look easy, but it’s never as easy as it seems. Because of you I went from 1.) a 90 hour workweek I didn’t enjoy to 2.) living on the beach in Rio de Janeiro running a company I love. Along the way I faced stress and doubt, and I could not possibly be happier with my decision. And now I realize that’s a normal part of the process. Thank you.


  32. Winning the inner mental game is probably the toughest thing to do in business. Its always fascinates me when a super successful entrepreneurs shares that they can have those “crushing depression” days just like the guy that’s just starting out.

    Its interesting that this fear and overwhelm remains even after you have massive wins under your belt.

    Its probably the reason why most people don’t go down the entrepreneurial path even though the potential upside can be incredible.

    Thanks for posts like these Tim! moar please

  33. Thanks Tim for an eye opening article, I thought I was going through a hectic slump and did not think I could get out of it. After reading your article, it has changed my view not only on myself, but people we look up to.

    Thank you for keeping it real, and providing some great advice on how to beat those demons!

  34. Tim, Thank you for stepping out there and taking the risk.

    I took my obligatory email break and saw this.

    I avoided college papers, and stress because I wasn’t writing the paper, in much the same way.

    After seeing this and and being currently in the middle of watching Noah’s Overcoming Fear on CreativeLive is really inspiring. It’s really comforting to know that while you do incredible things, you fight the same battles we do.

  35. Here’s how I cope with Manic Depression (biPolar). Prepare the battlefield in advance to make the most of the high periods, and defend in the depressed periods.

    I refuse medication. I want to be me, because the highs are so damned productive and fuel bouts of insane creativity that make me very valuable. I use this part of this creativity to work on passive income and “responsibility removal” for the depressed times, leaving me the drowsy, irritable and pessimistic self free to focus on looking after my family.

    Before I saw Stephen Fry’s documentary on youtube where he demonstrates his bipolarism (and Robbie Williams), my life was a hellish cycle of feeling worthless and then feeling like an impostor when my brain was supercharged.

    Tim – I woke up in a cold sweat at 4:30 am (Europe) with the clear realisation that the darkness I felt looming last night was another depression coming on, so I sat in the dark and opened my laptop only to find this post. Great timing chap!!

    The actionable advice I can therefore give to anyone who has uncontrollable urges to nap on the sofa, is to ride it out. Your hormones with recover in 2-6 weeks, and when you start feeling the high, dedicate part of your supercharged self to preparing some passive income (á la FHWW) and some habits that support good physical health to help you ride out the next depression – but don’t forget to enjoy the High – it is a gift the the poor “normal people” are deprived of.

    1. Thanks for this comment Nate. I’m still learning how to balance the highs and lows and your working method seems a good fit. Accepting the depression and just riding through it gets easier when I read that other people are the same.

      I’m thinking of it as incubation and recovery time as I now know from experience that once it passes I’ll no doubt have another super productive high so I don’t need to beat myself up about the down time.

  36. Tim,

    This is such a helpful post, really appreciate the energy and care you have put into this and everything else you have published.

  37. I have a tendency to idealize the people I admire the most on paper. Cool to see your human side Mr Ferriss.

    If you’re into neuroscience /brain /personality stuff, I’d have a squizz at the Six and Seven on the Enneagram. Being pessimistic is a strength and a weakness. And probably contributes to your quirky sense of humor we all admire.

    The content about productivity that was out of 4hww wasn’t as useful to me as hearing that despite being a hero to a lot of us ; you’re just as much of a fuck up as we are too 😉

  38. Sounds familiar to what I just went through/ I was pushed to the edge though. She knows it. I still still sum frustrating regrets. Hopefully all is right.

  39. Hey Tim,

    Thanks for your naked honesty. A walk noticing the world, the flowers, the odd manhole covers, wherever you are…talking to strangers, helping people…all of that stuff can really help too. Just old school being and connecting can be so happy-making. And while I’m a hardcore java junkie I’m starting to get religion about green tea powder.

    Thanks for being a super human.


  40. It took a lot of courage and vulnerability to share this. Touching and informative. Thank you for sharing. If your interested in deepening your practice I would recommend a 10 day vipassana course.

  41. Fabulous! Hitting “publish” on article like this must feel every bit as risky as giant hypodermics and archery on horseback.

    Thank you for your honesty, bravery and brilliant insights. Thank you for going before us with so much strength (and vulnerability) in so many ways. Your work enriches my life daily.

  42. Tim,

    I can’t even tell you how powerful and useful this was to me right now. I was just sitting here thinking about how depressed, weird, unproductive and overwhelmed I feel right now and then I read this. It’s just nice to to know that my “weirdness is “normal”. I struggle all the time with this and discover more and more how much good company I am in. Again thanks. You have no idea how much this helped.

  43. Tim,

    Thank you. I’ll be honest, I teared up reading your post.

    This post has impeccable timing for me. To hear a man I respect admit this matters. I’ve been in a difficult place ( business and personal) this past year, and to know that you have mornings like that helps. Between my man being deployed and starting over ( family business failed, and I’m now starting a new one on my own), I feel manic depressive. There are mornings I don’t want to open my eyes, because I know it’s another day without Adam by me, and another day of mind-numbing work. So I’ll hit snooze 2-3 times. There’s more, if you want to know. The point is, I grok it.

    It’s simple to move forward, it’s just not easy. That’s ok. I’m committed to being the best me, to building Adam and my dream lifestyle, and to living freely with my loved ones.

    One day, I hope to meet you so I can shake your hand. I’ll tell you thank you for being open, for giving and sharing what you’ve learned, and for writing words that continually inspire me.

    I look forward to tomorrow morning, my cup of chai, and trying this out.



    P.S. In case you missed this before, thanks for being vulnerable with us. It takes strength to be vulnerable in front of others.

  44. I’m inspired by your transparency and entrepreneurial advice as always.

    I love this quote I saw on 9gag. It keeps my head up everyday.

    An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward. When life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means it’s going to launch you into something great.

    So just focus, and keep aiming.and entrepreneurial advice as always.

  45. Best. Post. Ever.

    Whilst us mere mortals struggle everyday and use examples like Tim Ferriss to be inspired, but often without Tim Ferriss esque results.

    It’s great to hear you are just the same and face the same challenges.

    Even moreso in fact, because not only do you have a hard time like most of the readers on this blog. (A generalisation but I guess not far from reality) you achieve great things and also inspire us to follow your lead.

    Honesty about your ‘imperfections’ will make you feel better, deepen your connection with us as your audience and hopefully together we can ‘Tim Ferriss’ the plague of procrastination and fear in our own lives.

    I hope this isn’t the last post we see on this topic.

    Way to go Tim.

  46. Thank you, thank you, thank you. There are times when I feel like I will never amount to anything because I procrastinate, hit the snooze button and spend time looking at videos on Youtube. When you can post such an honest account of your own struggles it makes me realise that everyone struggles and we all have a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The first thing I did after reading your post was make a list of all the things I have accomplished in my life and stick it on the wardrobe door so it’s the first thing I see every day. Once again thank you.

  47. Loved your post Tim.

    There are times when I feel I am completely dysfunctional but still manage to get things done.

    I think it the cross that creative people bear. The desire and pursuit for perfection, which can never happen in an imperfect world.

    We have to learn to live with that without going crazy 🙂

  48. Thanks Tim for sharing a piece of you in this post. That was stellar! Tho, I’m glad you are human, and that we all want from life a little bit more of what we got. Dang! The things you can do in quite few weeks, very impressive! 😉

    Personally, I’ve notice if I don’t write down the things I want to accomplish, there is not even room for procrastination. I got so many things in mind that only create noise (anxiety) instead of producing action. So, I agree with writing them down and prioritizing them. I’m one of the biggest self doubter on earth, but I kinda trained my brain to come up with this answer when facing self-doubt: the best think that could happen is that it works! The worst; at least I know the reason because I tried. From there it goes to could I improve it? That thinking keeps me focus on doing my best 🙂 

    Nothing worse than the thought of lost time to keep me rolling with the snoozer and all. Can’t wait for your new tv show!!!

  49. “Used gentlemanly (ahem) websites to “relax” during the day when I clearly have urgent and important shit to do”

    There’s a name for it: procrasturbating.

  50. I’ve had the same roller-coaster of emotions my whole adult life and appreciate the view behind the curtain to see that I’m not crazy (or a slacker) for having them.

    Thanks for all the tips as I’ll test them out to improve on the various hacks and mantras I’ve cobbled together over the years of being a free agent.

  51. I highly recommend “The One Thing” by Gary Keller.

    Not only does the book provide some very practical productivity tips that are in line with Tim’s recommendations in the blog post: pick one thing, block out time, get it done! – but it also details why we procrastinate, fail to achieve our daily “to do” list, and basically lack so much willpower.

    It’s cool to know that highly successful individuals like Tim Ferriss and Gary Keller are not superheroes and in fact struggle with many of the same frustrations and productivity sucks that us mere mortals do!

  52. Tim,

    Wow. Just, Wow.

    Sh!t just got real when you wrote this article – and here I was, thinking I was the only one to go through all those things, and thinking that all the other boys and girls had all their sh!t raked up into one pile.

    Thankyou for the inspiration. Thankyou for the practical advice. Thankyou for your honesty.

  53. Nice post Tim!! Very eye opening and nice to know. Sometimes we don’t realize the people we admire have the same vices and struggles as we.

    Thanks & Thank you for everything.

    Stay Happy!!

  54. I am in the midst of studying for my last midterm, and reading this, no matter my initial uses for procrastination, has helped me SO MUCH.

    A Million Thank You’s,

    Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, Crazy College Student

  55. Hi Tim,

    First time commenting here (besides the mentor ship submission). I’m glad you decided to post this. As someone who is struggling to get their business off the ground it encouraging to see the giants of the world are really just people too! I found this post very encouraging, thanks.

    Lastly a strategy I use when in a funk: “If today was my last day alive. How would I want to feel at this moment. Sad, anger, or happiness and joy.” It’s amazing how quickly my emotion and physiology changes.

    Okay back to that one thing I should be doing!



  56. Bravo Tim. This is the most vulnerable post I’ve experienced you write. I am pleasantly surprised. I’d love to see more (heart-centered, vulnerable) posts in the future. Right now I am reading “Love yourself Like Your Life Depends On It” by Kamal Ravikant, which is in alignment with the themes in your post. <3

  57. Wow. An incredible post. Thanks for sharing this, Tim. I would be scared (as you were) to share a post like this that puts you in such a vulnerable position. But the results are 1) I respect you even more 2) I sort of trust you more haha and lastly 3) it helped me cope with a few things that I have been going through lately. Thanks so much, Tim. Really, this was an amazing post and one of my favorites of all time.

  58. Thanks, Tim. This really helps and also make me understand that I’m not the only one who feels like I’m counterproductive. Right now, I have so much projects I have to do and feel like I’m drowning in them.

  59. Best thing I’ve ever read from you…and I love your work. Thanks for being an example that “real’ men can not only be vulnerable but also can share it with others. As a writer, speaker and coach, I love telling stories that paint me as the hero. Reading this reminds me that I must show the courage that you displayed and talk about my fear.

  60. We all know that ‘we’re all human’ also applies to entrepreneurs and other ‘superheros’, but rarely do you see them put it on pragmatic display for others to learn and gain wisdom from.

    Thanks for your transparency. I think this is the best article you’ve written. It affected me in a very meaningful way. Thank you so much.

  61. Hey Tim,

    I think that is the best post I’ve ever read.

    I am a ‘successful’ entrepreneur, and I’ve always felt that I harboured a dirty dark secret. Reading your thoughts is like I’m reading about myself.

    One important point for me, is that these things are always in a cycle. When I hit a low, I just try to think ‘it’s ok, I won’t feel like this forever, it just might take a little time’.

    You’re a fantastic human being, thanks for exposing your soul!



    1. “Cycles”.


      Sometimes I am ultra motivated and I obsess about my project and sometimes I feel like just playing video games and emails pile up for several weeks.

      I came to accept it. I fully indulge in the games and side projects until I have too much of it (like a cheat day in the slow carb diet).

  62. Hi Tim!

    I can relate to all that you are writing in this post. Despite all the good stuff, I am also hitting up and downs which sometimes leads me to short depression-like feelings. I have setup similar system that allows me to concentrate on what I need to do during those times.

    I just want to let you know that your posts really make a big difference!

    It is like having you as a virtual mentor!



  63. Hey Tim,

    Really helpful post. Ran into you in Noe last night so enjoyed reading this today.

    As part of my morning coffee routine after doing the exercise you wrote about and also filling out my Five-Minute Journal, I also have a “calendar exercise” that I do. I printed a basic annual calendar (month per page) and in the square for the day before will write down the amazing things that happened that day (can pull those right out of the Five-Minute Journal). Its really simple, but on days when you’re feeling overwhelmed or down before you even start, it’s powerful to have a quick visual reminder of cool things that have already happened in the past days/weeks/months (negotiated a difficult contract at work, caught up with an old friend, learned a new song on guitar, got that girl’s phone number, hit a goal in the gym, discovered a new restaurant in Noe and ran into Tim Ferriss etc) and also realize you’ll have something positive to write down this time tomorrow.

    I’ve found myself watching Dave Grohl’s SXSW keynote when in recent funks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efv0Y5Fs7m4

    Finally, a favorite quote: “The secret of happiness is this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and people that interest you be as far possible friendly rather than hostile” – Bertrand Russell



    1. If you are concerned about your onanistic activities while working from home, Mitchell and Webb have some comedic advice:

      (yes – this video is safe for work)

  64. Tim,

    Thank you for posting this. I’m glad someone who appears to execute flawlessly can also be an ass clown sometimes too. Wanted to share a TED talk I came across recently that I think builds on your post. Hope you enjoy and keep the honest thoughts coming!




  65. Any idea why successful people tend to THINK they can’t show their weaknesses and vulnerability? Keeping up that mask all the time, being a wrack on the inside?

    If companies “allowed” their employes (and entrepreneurs themselves) to have ups AND downs as a natural cycle, we could all deal with it better. Less pressure, less stress. If you have a non-productive day, cuz you feel down … what the hell?! The next day will be twice as productive and enthusiastic. Accept these emotional rollercoaster rides and take a break if you need one. If the break takes two weeks to get back on your feet? Allow it. Additional stress, because you THINK people expect 200% of you ALL the time, won’t help at all.

    Thanks Tim for raising the topic. We’re all human after all. 🙂


  66. I think you are great. I am left with the question of how is it that we are bringing our people up that they experience a world of outrageous expectations, and (my guess is) more often than not, give up because they can’t possibly live into what is portrayed as a successful life.

    And as I ask that question, I think about school, and wonder if anyone has had the experience in school of concentrating on one thing for however many hours it takes, and then having the teacher say, “Wow, that was intense, I really love the way you focused and put the effort in to get it right. We’ve got three hours left until the bus comes. How would you guys like to use it?” and then having the experience that any answer, including a kickball game or a movie, or an extended lunch (even three hours) is a suggestion worthy of consideration and possible.

    So this comment comes with a suggestion that we find a place to set up a school that honors the best in our children, and gives them the opportunity to learn how to “succeed,” however that term may be defined. I have started to outline an idea http://www.davidherz.org/WhitePaper.php, I am ready to go to work on it, and I’d love your input.

  67. Tim,

    I would be very interested to know if you got more comments and feedback on this post than any of your others.

    This post resonated with so many people, because they realize that they are not alone and that everyone struggles, even our ‘heros’.

  68. Dear Tim,

    Loved this post – I’m attempting to build my own blogging business and include all the ups and downs as I go through them. In my mind this brings us as people together. Where at times on reading your post – I couldn’t even relate. When you write in this way, although what you do, the success you have experienced and the place you are in, in life is completely different to mine. For a moment I can connect with what you’re talking about, the humanness of it all. I look forward to reading more. Janice 🙂

  69. Hi Tim,

    I’ve read your blogs and books since early 2010 and this was one of your best posts because burst the expectation of perfect discipline.

    I’ve read/listened to 4HWW over a dozen times, the only book that I’ve read that much is Leo Babauta’s “The Power of Less”. Reading 4HWW 12+ times is NOT a brag, in fact, it’s to point out my less-than-superhero-ness. I still don’t have a muse up, even though it’s been nearly 4 years since I first read 4HWW.

    Why? Procrastination and avoidance have been the main reasons for my non-muse existence. My main vice? Simply replace your ‘gentlemanly websites’ with free online video games. I’ve used video games as an emotional crutch for many years and have made many attempts to quit, some attempts more successful than others. I also had a habit of starting projects but not finishing them such as writing, blogging, and passive income earning. Yes, I’ve accomplished a lot in the past 4 years (e.g. starting a successful clinical practice, taking up martial arts after the age of 30, healing with old family wounds, and others), but still I feel this hollow, nagging feeling that my procrastination and busy-work his misplaced my life-work.

    Strategies for getting out of the procrastination funk? Sadly, my 20+ years of formal education was the Skinnerbox that conditioned me to deadlines. If I don’t have a looming deadline, it’s very hard for me to accomplish something significant. Frankly, it feels a bit humiliating to need some external stick to drive me forward instead of drawing on some magical well of inspiration, energy, and direction that seemingly all super-entrepreneurs supposedly have. For example, I look at Brendon Burchard’s apparently unending supply of entrepreneurial energy and secretly suspected he’s on an IV-drip of caffeine, but I know he’s not. I sat in a seminar of his this past September, frantically typing over 40,000 words of notes (hurray for Mavis Beacon), listening to him and 5 other super-achievers, and I keep thinking about what was it that gave them the energy and endurance to accomplish their dreams. Though I’ve listened to Brendon’s strategies, yours, and others, I still haven’t tapped that magical well of energy and discipline yet.

    Heres’ one quote to help reframe stressful thoughts, the same stressful thoughts which precede moments of procrastination (e.g. video games): “Stress is an alarm clock that lets you know you’ve attached to something not true for you” – Byron Katie. I’ve found Byron Katie’s 4 Questions + Turnaround to be the most efficient way of reframing the thought that triggered the procrastinating behavior.

    Thanks again for this article because you show the dark side of super-entrepreneurialism, stinky jeans and all.



  70. I think anyone who has watched the Random Show could see a little bit of your vulnerability on occasions. People assume (usually wrongly) that successful people don’t have any weaknesses. I was reading a Jim Morrison quotation this week that resonated with me. The beginning reads: “The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role….” Great tips anyway on getting things done. The useless shit I find to do when I am trying to write always amazes me. 🙂 ps I’ve also done two hours with the snooze button and it isn’t only gentlemen that use certain websites. Best wishes.

  71. I love your honesty Tim, it’s so refreshing. Well done on all that you achieved and as they say in the classics, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”

  72. Was this helpful?! It was beyond helpful. The most inspiring thing from YOU. Why? Because if you’re not superhuman than I can relate to you. And that inspires me to fight my own demons. A lot. Thank you.

  73. As a person always hovering at (and then stepping back from) the threshold of “showing too much of myself” the Neil Gaiman quote hit home. I could say thanks for that alone, but the rest of this marvellously honest and wide-open post (have not come across the term gentlemanly websites! 🙂 just lifted my spirits: as someone capable of procrastinating on urgent embarrassingly important tasks like invoicing my clients before the end of the month your tip for handling productivity is gold! Thank you thank you.

  74. Tim, I must confess I stopped reading you for the past 3 months, there was so much “superhuman” that reading you didn’t inspire me (sorry, but true!)…

    However, in this post I can see the person in the 4HWK that inspired me to leave my 10 years in investment banking. You’re back!

  75. Hey Tim,

    I really appreciated your post because, in all honesty, having followed your books and blogs for many years, sometimes it feels as though your life is pretty much perfect; and it can make achieving even a fraction of your level of success feel unattainable sometimes.

    It is nice to know that you are human; and it doesn’t detract from everything that you have achieved in your life to this point, or the inspiration that I continue to absorb from your work. I think you alluded to a Michael O’Neill quote that I love, to paraphrase, “If you want instant low self-esteem, all you need to do is compare everybody else’s external successes with your internal sense of failure.”

    In terms of coping with difficult periods, the most effective approach that I have ever found (beyond professional therapy) is (i) making fun of my own insecurities through drawing cartoons, and (ii) Morita Therapy, specifically the advice given in the book “Constructive Living” by David Reynolds; I think this may appeal to you because I know that you are a Japanophile and it is partly grounded in Zen Buddhism.

  76. Dear Honest Tim,

    Thank you.

    Six (six!) years ago, I woke up early for your 2007 SXSW talk that started it all…I got to see the beginnings of what would become a wild juggernaut.

    Even back then, I thought you were so cool, so collected, so together. You seemed to execute everything so precisely, so smartly, so perfectly. You had this grand master plan, and the bloggers, the news, and the public all seemed to fall into step with your dreams.

    To know that you experience self-doubt & depression is…dare I say it…lovely to hear? I’m sorry if you ever feel badly, but your confession gives me hope that I, too, can achieve.

    I’m knowledgable, talented, well-read, & I can definitely formulate my own juggernaut. But I’ve realized over the years that the ability to dream up a juggernaut means little. The dream needs to be accompanied by tenacity and persistent actions, to turn the dream into reality…

    I’ve often wished for a “willpower pill”. A “focusing salve”. A “perseverance potion”. Because these are the last few things I am lacking. But maybe I should simply move forward, even without these? Ha…persist even though I’ve lacked persistence.

    I am printing out your 8-step process.

    You know, I never comment on blogs. And I never write to my heroes. But today, you moved me. It’s weird to think that you are even reading this, that you are really a person, sitting at your computer, living your life. But I suppose that is the magic of the internet…helping the people of our little planet commune with each other. We sure are lucky. It makes me want to participate more…online, & in life.

    Here’s a toast…to Dreams. Thanks to you again for your honesty, T.F.

    May we all metamorphose & become maximum butterfly.


  77. Awesome article, Tim.

    For my daily planning I ask, ‘what do I dread the most’ – then I do it. If I don’t dread anything (rare), what one thing will make the most difference, then I do that. I’ve been working like this for a years and it really makes a massive difference to my productivity.

    I use the Pomodoro method with a timer (25 minutes committed, 5 minutes doing other stuff), especially when I really dread the thing I need to work on. Sometimes I find that after a while I forget about the timer and just get the work done, but to get started, knowing I only need to do 25 minutes works well. The key for me is to be absolutely disciplined about that timer.

    For the getting out of bed thing, we cured that unintentionally…by having kids! I’ve also worked as a tour guide for most of my adult life – sometimes the way to get over things is to find a way to give yourself no option.

  78. Hi TIm,

    Thank you so much for sharing something so personal and deep. I look up to you even more than before. What kind of meditation are you doing?

  79. Awesome post Tim and I appreciate your vulnerability. I can relate to many things here, especially crying on the Rudy sack ; )

    One thing that weighs on me and causes a ton of angst is not completing all the things on “my list.”

    A recent coping mechanism that has helped me deal with this and prioritize what’s important is being very diligent about asking my this question when I start to feel stressed about not getting something done: “If I don’t do this, what will really happen?” Usually, the answer is that my life will be exactly the same and I realize I’m just falling into a trap of creating unnecessary stress. This helps alleviate the anxiousness…for a bit at least!


  80. Thanks for this Tim. It’s easy to forget that our heroes are humans & have everyday troubles like everyone else. I remember reading The 4-hour workweek & being so excited about all of the ideas that flooded my mind followed by the sadness of feeling like a loser because I couldn’t find a way to make it work for me & my family as much as I desperately wanted/needed it to. Oh well, maybe one day all of the puzzle pieces will fall into place for me. Thanks again for your post.

  81. I am so thankful for this post.

    I am working on a new business that has potential to be be a success.

    But it does not stop me from feeling depressed and down for days on end. You see, I have had ideas for businesses before only to see my enthusiasm dim and weaken. I have had businesses before that have not been an overwhelming success.

    I suppose that the trendy thing to believe is that each time you are knocked down it makes you feel stronger and then finally you succeed. At the moment though I unfortunately feel weaker and can sink into looking at my next/current project as the next failure.

    I know that’s not good thinking. I am not naturally like that.

    I also know it’s easier to feel and be confident when you are on a successful streak, but sometimes a less successful streak can take this positivity away – even when you know it’s the wrong way to think and act.

    You see successful business people and they do seem superhuman and different from myself and the people around you.

    Your post makes it clear everyone has similar feelings sometimes. They do not feel super confident all the time.

    So thanks for the post.

    It makes me think that it’s up to me to keep on going and take a look at your tips.

  82. Tim,

    I don’t know if you realized how brave you are to admit that you watched xxx.

    I have always wondered this question about my heros, and for someone of your stature, to come out and admit you did it too, is more than just amazing.

    Its inspirational in the sense that it makes us realize everyone can achieve what you and other heros have achieved. That we are all much more similar than we thought. And the only difference between those who succeeded and those who have not, is taking MASSIVE action.

    kudos to you dude, love to buy you a drink someday,



  83. Awesome post Tim, thanks for sharing. Like others have said, I would only add that some sort of physical activity (I like running or a quick free weights workout, but anything works including yoga, sports, etc) on a daily basis brings a little balance to the mind. This was essential for me to remain sane during a year of super-intense work.

    A periodic retreat from regular life to one of mindfulness is also a great way to recharge. I attend vipassana meditation 10-day silent retreats, again there are plenty of other ways to do this; the good thing about vipassana is that for those who are resource-limited, it’s completely free. http://www.dhamma.org/