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

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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 700 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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1,015 Replies to “"Productivity" Tricks for the Neurotic, Manic-Depressive, and Crazy (Like Me)”

  1. Tim

    What a great post this is. How enlightening it is to see someone as accomplished and successful as you, has the same fears,doubts,and anxiety’s that I struggle with daily,and the way you are able to overcome them to achieve so much.You are a great inspiration.

    p.s

    I love reading this blog. Is it possible to make it more i pad friendly? I am not able to make the pages larger for easier reading as on other sites.

  2. I think you have come to the very real conclusion of the happiness you seek. Currently, your happiness is completely dependent upon external factors: people’s appreciation of your accomplishments and sacrifices. Their appreciation will never be enough to outweigh the sacrifices you make. Do you know what your responsibility is to everyone? Nothing. Your responsibility in life is to be as happy as you can stand to be. Can you allow yourself this happiness? I wish you all the bliss in the world, Tim. And I believe I never properly thanked you for the lovely dinner and beautiful room you put us up in. Thank you for giving me the motivation to help those thousands of kids through donors choose, thank you for the dinner with you and Alexis, and thank you for being you, exactly as you are. Namaste. =)

  3. Well done for posting this Tim. I had begun to wonder if you were losing your ‘grounding’ in recent years and straying away from the things people had most liked about you. Keep up the good work – and keep it real.

  4. I’m applying for a PhD program in the fall and just started reading the 4 hour work week. It’s not only helping put my mind at ease but also helping me help my husband in his mega-busy life. I keep trying to convince him to work to live instead of live to work.

    All of you ideas are really my own life philosophies I suppose just having them all laid out on paper, organized and having some validation is helpful. Thanks for writing and more importantly, thanks for inspiring. While waiting to hear if I get accepted to my PhD program I am going to finish the book I’ve always wanted to complete.

  5. This blog post is very timely for me. I put off work, because a close relative died, experienced a 7.2 magnitude earthquake, nerve wracking aftershocks and suffered the incoveniences of the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan all in a matter of 3 months.

    I wanted to self -berate for my inability to focus and for being unproductive but i reasoned these occurences are beyond my control . I have to accept my feelings and forgive myself.

    Now, it’s a new season and i’m raring to work. So i’m sticking with your “One-to do” although i have to constantly fight with the temptation of doing the 20- item to do list.

    These two valuable ideas i got from reading your blog:

    1. When you aim for something “set the bar low” and “make it win-able.”

    2. “Just write two crappy pages a day, everyday.”

    Thank you Tim.

  6. Your article is one that I needed so much!

    I act like some crazy quirrel and it put me down so much. I feel that I’m doing nothing and everything in the same moment.

    Thank you for your “doing the right things” mechanism

  7. Tim,

    I’m like the guy on Sleepless in Seattle. Ask me about Lori? It was a million tiny things. I have two children and a memory of her. And if you think that you can take on Anapurna or K2. Try this. They deserve their Dad back.

  8. Thank you! I normally get lost in my thinking and end up doing anything but the things that are really important on that day, i’m going to follow your steps and act like that on my job and my studies to become a diplomat. I’m so tired of not getting my real potential to work. This seems like a good plan

  9. I really enjoyed this post and can completely relate to feeling like everyone ELSE has their shit together but that I don’t. When I’m feeling overwhelmed, I like to create a massive dump list where I literally list everything I have to do. Once its done, I go back and assign deadlines. Often the deadlines change but just having everything listed in one place seems to help.

    (And I like to read The Tao of Pooh when it feels like I’m pushing the river–keeps things in perspective.)

    Thanks again for sharing!

  10. Unreal dude. You wrote an article that people (myself) can totally connect to. Glad to hear that uber successful people like yourself do the same stuff as “regular” performers. It definitely an inspiring article helping others to break out of the “regular” mode and tap the genius that is inside all of us. Continue being “real” my friend.

  11. You cried watching Rudy? I cried while watching commercial for the Nexus 7, the one where the college kid whose dog is sick at home asks his phone in a sad-but-determined way “Google, how do I get home?” after his flight has been cancelled. Yeah, I cried watching that (such cheap marketing by the way).

    I recently discovered Scott Peck’s “Road less traveled”, and it’s been a small revelation for me. He talks about the satisfaction of self-discipline, a concept not widely publicised in our society of immediate gratification. I’m still possessing it, but I found the idea liberating in a way.

    This comment to say I’m really just grateful you’re courageous enough to put yourself out like that, and I admire the guts it takes to write such a post. Thank you.

    “Warriors of light are not perfect. Their beauty lies in accepting this fact and still desiring to grow and to learn.” Paulo Cuelho, Warrior of Light.

  12. This is one of the most honest and authentic posts I’ve seen in a long time. Not only was it highly useful to see your process, it was a breath of fresh air for someone like me.

    Many, many thanks for the courage to be vulnerable and for penning something so legitimate. Brene Brown would probably give you a high five. I would totally too.

    Kara

  13. Like the ancient Athenians we must always relish change. They only lasted a hundred years, but what a hundred years it was!

    New is always better!

    Thanks Tim

  14. Wow, authenticity! Love it, love it, love it. I hope your readership doubles in size with this post Tim. Sometimes all I crave from my fellow humans is an honest conversation – sadly, that appears to be more and more difficult these days. Keep it coming bro, keep it coming-

  15. 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.

    These sound just like me. Do I know you??? …jk

    Good writing.

  16. Hi Tim,

    This post is fantastic! I recently made a huge change in my job going from a 9-5, punch the clock to a work from home, where’s the clock job. This is a dream come true in many ways as I have been working towered being my own boss with maximum control over my time and money for a while but have found that living that out is sometimes, well, difficult. I loved the fact that you opened up as it was easy for me to relate in many ways. What was really helpful though were your productivity points – I will definitely be putting that to the test to see if improves my productivity.

  17. Love this article. Thanks for sharing and thanks for being REAL.

    This is helpful for entrepreneurs and overly-ambitious persons like myself. I’m just now learning the art of letting go (and it’s not easy, especially in our fast-paced, you-can-achieve-anything culture). I’m finding that I can be more productive, more effective and more satisfied by DOING LESS. And I’m finding this to be true in all areas: business, fitness, social, etc.

  18. Great post. Its always those few things that we put off that will makes us super productive once we knock them out.

  19. Thank you Tim,

    You are such an inspirational down to earth guy. My life is better becouse of you. Stay strong, keep going and surround your self with happiness, loving inspiring people, becouse you sir, definetely deserve it! 🙂

  20. Tim! You’ve inspired an entire generation of entrepreneurs and world changers (myself included) and nobody can take that from you… not even you!

    You should come to church sometime. Reality San Francisco meets at Everett Middle School on Sundays at 10:30AM. There’s not a better life hack for your soul than Jesus 🙂

    God Bless!

  21. Hey Tim,

    great tips that you’re sharing! Thank you for being so open about the problems that you’re facing yourself!

    I’m a guy who worries in the evening if every task is taken care of for the next day. I just can’t sleep if there’s a single task in my head, and if it’s just something like “Call my mom to say Hi”.

    So I’ve implemented the Getting Things Done principle in my daily routines. Each evening I’m going through my lists, defining 3 tasks that I definitely need to tackle on the next day.

    On the next day I won’t check emails until those tasks are done. I usually wake up having the tasks in mind and being motivated to get sh*t out of my way.

    Best regards,

    Jan

  22. Hey Tim:

    I have often found that I am increasingly desensitized when reading productivity type materials. I’ve done some soul search as of late trying to lay a finger as to why. As painful as it was I’ve narrowed it down to a failed entrepreneur venture over 10 years ago that caused serious marital strain. The human brain is a funny unpredictable place even when you think you’ve solved the problem. Delving deep I realize all my subsequent efforts to move past have been unsuccessful as fear of failure raises its ugly head; I hadn’t dealt with this as honestly as I thought.

    What has made me “listen” to you over the years has been the honesty and transparency with which you bare yourself. I am not one to respond in public but felt compelled to say, “Thank you” for this post. It is much appreciated!

  23. Tim your words are very inspiring and its really refreshing to here from someone about there weaknesses. Its very hard doing the entrepreneur thing and a lot of people will tell you that, but very few people will tell you how hard it is even after you make it. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  24. This post was insanely helpful.

    Sometimes I forget a lesson I used to tell myself:

    “Not all days are 10/10 days.”

  25. It’s really great to hear how open you are Tim. Often, I find myself going through similar phases of excitement and extreme creativity that is productive. But then there are those days, of depression and the question…why am I doing all this?

    I just lived out the 4 hour work week by taking a 2 1/2 month trip to study music in Germany. I lived in a small town to hone in on Music. I partied in Berlin and Czeched out Prague while making awesome friendships. It was awesome! Thank’s Tim for being open and sharing how you do things.

    Much Mahalos!

  26. Tim-

    Felt compelled to comment on your post. Have always felt a mix of admiration, envy, and DISTRUST for your work. Distrust because I’ve sometimes felt like the advice you give is over simplified and borderline misleading. That being said, THANK YOU for this post and having the courage to air your dirty laundry. As a follower of your work, your honesty means a lot to me and hopefully the rest of your readership.

    Thanks again.

  27. Thank you Tim for taking that risk and showing us you have clay feet. You have no idea how much that helps. I had come to the conclusion in the face of my continued lack of productivity that you were a phenom and the gap between what you are and who I am was just impossible to cross.

    Thank you also for,once again, showing me the power of simplicity. 2am and I’m googling ” tim ferris productivity app” and instead I find this. Perfect.

  28. I cannot thank you enough. After pumping out only 6 pages of content in the last 4 hours for an upcoming event I finally went and took a bath to see if I could mentally regroup wondering, “why the hell can’t I get myself together?” I came back to this article and cannot express how grateful I am. Thanks Tim.

  29. Tried to explain to someone the other day that sometimes my best work occurs at 3AM, or on an airplane, or in some weird circumstance, or at home sandwiched between bouts of pull ups, kettlebell swings, or VERY VERY disturbing dance moves… Agreed on the “today’s one big thing” especially when you do that everything else is wonderful delicious gravy.

  30. Tim, thank you or such an honest piece.

    It’s easy to forget and think that no one goes through any struggles, especially accomplished people (like yourself). However, we all do in one shape or form. What matters is what we do to change our perception to move forward and continue to progress at the present time.

    I start my day with 15-20 min of meditation clearing my mind of doubt and fear, but more so, clearing my mind of my own insecurities.

  31. Well…what can I say. I just found the link to this blogyesterday and I’m already excited to read the other articles. Really inspiring. Thank you!

  32. Love this and all of your work, Tim. I sometimes have “lady time” in the middle of the day to procrastinate/as stress relief – it’s not just a guy thing! Never trust a woman who tells you she’s never done this, ha.

  33. I had the same thing happen when a fb friend seemed so enthralled by my seemingly perfect life and I warned him not to be fooled as the internet can mask what is really going on in my life lol

  34. Being honest with ourselves has its rewards. I relish these moments, and aspire to have more of them myself. A couple things I do in my journal daily is first, Gratitudes; and second is TnT’s (today, not tomorrow). I do it before email, but with coffee . . .

  35. Tim,

    You mentioned how you cut your caffeine intake drastically over the course of about a month. Did you experience any withdrawal symptoms? Friends and family members I’ve spoken to, as well as myself, have all had lots of difficulty getting over what feels like a caffeine dependence / addiction (massive headaches, sleeplessness, caffeine cravings).

    I think there is a huge market of people out there that also suffer in varying degrees from caffeine dependence. I’d love to hear your thoughts, and especially your process on how you overcame your reliance on caffeine. Cheers!

  36. There is really no superheroes. They are as real as you and me. It is just a matter of taking your attention away from them so you can focus on yourself. Balance is the key. Nothing should be done too much and you’re going to be okay.

  37. Now come on, do you really need gentlemanly websites when there are plenty of hot girls who you could easily be with in person? 😉

    But seriously, thank you for being willing to suffer humiliation to inspire us. I can totally relate to your issues with procrastination! I appreciate your advice on blocking out large blocks of time.

    Something that struck me was that you claimed you are a master of efficacy rather than efficiency. You must be lying because I think you would have to be a master of both to get to where you are now today. But anyway you inspire me to do both: work efficiently and work “smarter.” 🙂

  38. This bestselling author’s comment I read in WRITER’S DIGEST MAGAZINE years ago has helped me forgive myself during slacker moments: “I became a productive and successful writer when I realized I needed to set aside SIX hours to get in TWO hours of writing.”

    This author knew he’d end up spending most of those six hours reading the sports section and watching TV, etc….but all he needed per day to produce a book and beat his deadlines was two hours of actual writing. And as long as he sat at his desk for snatches of 15 minutes here and there during those six hours—during which he often weakened and turned on dopey game shows, etc.—for a total of two hours of actual writing, he’d get his work done.

  39. I was an intergalactic procrastination guru – maybe still I am? 🙂 – and have felt that it is strongly related to depression and anxiety.

    It might be a good chance to find out another way to break out the vicious cycle of depression and anxiety. Thanks Tim! You’ve just help me to discover great inspiration. 🙂

    Robin Sharma once said,

    “The activity you’re most avoiding contains your biggest opportunity.”

    And I’d like to rephrase it in,

    “The feeling you’re most avoiding contains your biggest inner growth.”

    That challenging attitude can work same to win depression & anxiety, I think.

    Considering my 20 years of coping depression & anxiety and almost 2% of the actions which I had been procrastinating the most was the key factor to win, Pareto’s Law is also applicable to win depression & anxiety.

    Your way of getting out of procrastination could be apply in various fields. Thanks again, Tim!

  40. Bad ass post my friend. Put me right back on track here today after drinking 4 gallons of diet Pepsi, taking 5 Provigil, 8 Adderall, and and staying up for the last 3 days, but getting nothing done except watching 22 episodes of Dr. Who I feel balance returning to my life. Thank you;)

  41. Hey T ,

    I would appreciate if you write a post sharing more on how you added 20 pounds of muscle doing high-rep front squats and how does the topical DHEA

    work , there is a lot of contradictory info online.

    Keep it cool my friend

  42. I have to say reading your blog has helped me get ideas and keep motivated. Plus I’ve got all your books and find that some of the time saving and ‘hacks’ are so useful they are worth over 10x what the cover price is.

  43. Hi Tim … I have just finished reading the early version of The 4-Hour Work Week and have been using these principles of focusing on the important rather than the unimportant for the past week. (I have had the book for over a year.) The outcome has changed my life already. I have ordered five copies of your updated version from my local bookstore for my two daughters, two friends and of course me. Thank you for the inspiration to change my life now, not in the future. I do not want my daughters to have to wait thirty years to decide on what they want to be when they grow up or to miss out on the opportunity to be inspired by your work:-) Cheers for the holiday season.

  44. Love the post Tim. Embrace your flaws, they are what makes us uniquely human. Grow, learn, improve and change.

  45. It’s actually like you were writing this specifically to me. This is exactly what I needed to hear, after a horror semester of self doubt and procrastination at uni, to the point where I wouldn’t start an assignment because I was so anxious that it wouldn’t be perfect. I feel empowered for the next academic year, thank you.

  46. Tim, this is incredible to hear. I often feel like I have to be a superwoman, capable at dealing with everything that is thrown at me all at the same time. Procastination IS really a killer, and sometimes I feel like entire weeks have passed without me achieving anything.

    I recently published a post on Living in the Moment and procastination. The video I posted is INCREDIBLY inspiring, and a MUST WATCH! Underline.

    Anyways, thanks for the mind-opening post.

  47. Tim, your posts are so legit! This blog is like a temple I always leave inspired.

    I have tons of free time, and I wake up pumped to get so much done, but you’re so right… the days when I try to block out my entire day with things I *WANT TO DO* are the days when I become an anime-marathon slug. Why? Is the subconscious mind evil? It drives me crazy.

    I will try this “One Thing” jutsu. Thank you so much for your work and your honesty and integrity. ?????

  48. Tim,

    Thank you for always making me feel alive. I have read and re read the 4hour workweek and it has changed my life. I make more sales at my current job in half the time and I’ve started a company that I’m passionate about. Your posts help me realize that I’m not the only one that thinks this way. I could use some help raising startup capital, do you have any recommendations?

    Thanks,

    Brian

  49. This was an awesome post. I’m grateful for people like Tim setting the example by having the courage to be vulnerable. I’m incorporating this into my life as well. Thanks Tim!

  50. Good to know that you are human as well and have bad days like the rest of us. I enjoy learning things from your advice in books and videos. I look forward to your post on caffeine and/or cutting it out, whatever it may be. I get heart palpitations from the junk but still drink 2 cups a day right now. I am keeping myself motivated right now with a 30 day dance workout challenge.

  51. A great share by the productivity ninja that is Tim Ferriss! This post is great for a lot of day to day operations, but I am wondering what your take is on longer term productivity and focus.

    Say you were learning a language, learning how to invest, learning to code and researching the launch of a design label…how would you approach this?

    Focus on a topic a week and completely forget the others?

    Do two at a time?

  52. Good and sincere post.

    I think that many people think of successful, disciplined people as superheroes, some working machines, who never feel lazy and feel motivated every time.

    The truth is that disciplined, motivated people feel lazy too like everybody. They have their problems and weaknesses your article is another proof of this statement).

    The thing that differs them from really lazy people is that disciplined people can do things through the effort. They can overstep their laziness and procrastination (not every time, of course). They have laziness, fears, self-doubt like other people, but they can handle it!

    PS. What do you mean buy “not failing meditation”? I think that meditation is not a challenge or sport, you can’t fail it. If you will consider meditation in terms “failing – not failing” it may be a wrong approach IMHO. Every meditation can be different. I think you just don’t have to do your best, you have to remove any effort and will, and just relax and listen to your thoughts.

  53. I am so used to reading stuff on the internet that is ‘skimmable’. This was an excellent, insightful, thought provoking, helpful post.

    Wow, was not expecting that.

  54. Tim, by making yourself vulnerable, you’ve also caught my attention for the first time, and moved me to listen. Thank you, Leslie

  55. Great writeup.

    My personal little strategy to tackle procrastination is to create a list of actions that is actually not a to-do list in the sense of a “have to do” list, but rather a “choose to do list”.

    This rephrasing shifts my mental state to the goals I want to achieve that day (or week). When you *choose* to do something, it’s mostly the thing you are more committed to — the thing that takes you that one step further.

    It gives me more energy to get those things done.

    So, just write CHOOSE TO DO LIST on top of your list. And write down the things you know will make a difference if they are done.

    Hopefully that helps some of you.

    It does for me.

  56. This is great information. This time of year tends to bring out tension with family and stress. Thank you Tim for your honesty and showing the world what a real man is and suggested coping strategies.

  57. You just took the all too prevalent failings of ego and put-on mystery out of lifestyle design/personal development and showed yourself to be incredibly, wonderfully human. This is the most important post I’ve read in awhile, thank you from that.

    Regards

  58. Thank you Tim. I’m just reading this post now, however, I didn’t need it when you originally posted it. I did need it now. Although you have no idea who I am and have never met me I have raved about you and your accomplishments and ideas for the last couple of years after reading (and re-reading) 4 Hour Work Week and 4 Hour Body (which I finally stuck with for an extended period of time and lost almost 30 pounds).

    So, thanks for putting on your big girl pants.

  59. Every time I watch that video it is inspiring.

    So, you wore the same pair of jeans for a week? Hmm…I have one pair of jeans. I could buy another pair or two but I don’t think I have ever owned more than one pair at a time. I read or heard somewhere that you are never supposed to wash them either. Is that a motorcycle gang thing? Didn’t the Hells Angels destroy their jeans an wore them like a badge of honor?

  60. Thank you so much for sharing this!!!!! I just finished reading your book 4ww and I love it! Thank you for being the most beautiful hot mess!

  61. This is the most reassuring and encouraging post I think I’ve ever read.

    It pretty much covers EXACTLY the struggles of my bad days when I feel like a mental leper!

  62. I would say it is definitely not brain surgery guys. The 20-rep back squat program is notorious for adding pounds of muscle to anyone who tries for a couple weeks. It is often recommended with drinking a gallon of milk a day for the calories. You can find a good link here http://www.leehayward.com/squats.htm. Now Tim suggests front squats, which is pretty ingenious. Front squats will cause more trap, lat, and core activation.

    Now DHEA is the most abundant steroid hormone in the body and it is turned into testosterone. More DHEA + right body conditions = More Testosterone.

    If you hit your nutrition right and raise your test levels it is a recipe for gaining a ton more muscle. Do we really need Tim Ferriss to baby us through every single experiment he performs? That hint should have been more than enough in my opinion.

  63. The quote, “Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.” is one of those things that makes me go, “Ahhh F#&*(@ $h8t…..” because it is so true. now pardon me while i go clean my living room instead of doing something more important

  64. I’ve noticed this too. The more important the task the more I try to avoid starting. The secret for me is to just start and then keep going. Don’t feel like it? Keep going. Not getting results as fast as you’d like? Keep going. Want to give up? Just keep going. This is the secret to success IMO.

    1. Love it. Thanks for sharing. I recognize it in my own experiences, but you put it down in a great way. Thank you!

  65. Not exactly sure if this should/would go as a comment towards this post but I have found an effective tool to help me deal with the daily stresses in life is the use of an audio technology called Hemi-Sync developed at the Monroe Institute. In addition to being a useful aid in meditation it has a wide range of other uses to help with all sorts of different things and the story of how it was created is quite fascinating. Just my 2 cents on a tool I use in keeping me on track and focused in daily life and thought perhaps it might be of benefit/interest to an explorer such as yourself or any others so inclined.

  66. Perhaps the best post I’ve read by you Tim. I find your blog and tweets really useful and you’re pretty prolific in an almost superhuman way. It’s sooo refreshing to read this post. Good on you! Thanks for sticking your neck out and being honest. I’ve always enjoyed your writing because you are thus. Jo

  67. Tim,

    Respecting your work and and credibility I would absolutely love to know how you cut your caffeine intake.

    Also I don’t know what happened to the Tim Ferriss Experiment but my room mates and I tuned in every Sunday for what was aired. Entertaining, Informative and an admirable accomplishment.

    Take care!

    -Ryan

  68. I absolutely love this post! I often feel at odds with myself not being the perfect, disciplined, productive person I feel I ought to be, despite all the advice from books and blogs…..and feeling like a lazy POS instead. Bravo!

  69. This one REALLY hit home. If I had a dollar for every time I heard “Wow, you’re really update considering your house just burned to the ground…” I’d be a go-zillionaire. What you look like on the outside isn’t always how you feel on the inside…but you make do and press on.

    Keep up the good work brother.

  70. I’m just 1 day and 100 pages into the 4 Hour Workweek. Rather than accepting my 3.5% pay rise this week I negotiated 10 weeks annual leave per year!

    I’m just getting started but after just 24 hours you’ve changed my life forever!

    Thanks Tim!

  71. Tim, I have enjoyed your books, videos and blogs since I stumbled upon your website about six months ago. In this, I am going to do one thing you suggest –I am going to reach out –to you. I know my request may never find you in the thousands of emails, comments and handshakes you receive each day, but if I don’t try to do everything I can to help myself, I will never find change. I will cut to the chase, I am being mentally and, at times, physically abused. Those that know me, only know me by the joy I try to share with them, I hide my life well, because right now I have no choice. I take your suggestions, and others who provide such inspiration, I find moments in my yoga, though rarely allowed few. I have my memories of my 45 mile a week, chasing waterfall hikes and my prior twenty years as a self-employed graphic designer, writer and digital photographer, to help get me through. I go to work each day working for a Fortune 500 company, working in IT now. I submerse myself into my work life, as I try desperately to to find a way back to me. I haven’t been allowed to hike or do the work I love, but I find enjoyment in my current work and they have been very supportive in my attempts to learn all I can. Why am I contacting you in this format, I am sure you are asking if you do find yourself reading my words? Because I would like to know if you have thoughts as to how I can regain my independent strength should I ever find a way to escape. I have not been allowed to go anywhere alone for over two years, other than a quick trip to the store, he drops and picks me up at work, so I am limited in all I do, even now, I write quickly while he is working on a project. Yes, I have reached out to resources near, but help is also limited as I make just enough money to not receive the benefits of assistance to help me be financially able to leave, and he has control of our joint funds. I can’t burden my friends or family and to give him indication I am attempting is impossible. I have survived cancer at 29, my grandson succumbing at 18 months to SMA, and many other trials that prove I can find strength to continue. My request to you is simple…just a few words of how to gain the skills I need to leave…and live again. I am sorry if I burdened you, or your readers with this, please, of course, remove my post should you find it necessary, I just feel there are most likely other out there who feel trapped, in one way or another, and are receiving some salvation through your excellent communications. Thank you.

    1. I can’t say I know exactly how it feels, but I CAN say that all human beings have a strength in them and the most powerful action is to just DECIDE to do it. Decide to go.

      I’ve been in a mentally abusive relationship for 4 years when I was young and I didn’t leave when I had the methods or skills to leave – I just LEFT and trusted that I would be alright. And I am. I understand that you have finances and children to think of, but I truly believe you will be alright if you leave. If you leave, you’ll get mental energy that will help you to work things out.

      One of my good friends mother left her abusive husband with no money and two kids. She got a much better life. I think the same will happen to you. I’m not Tim Ferriss, but I hoped I helped somehow. I wish you the best. Sending positive energy and love your way

  72. Wow what a refreshing look at the life of Tim Ferris.I have looked up to you for a while and it is nice to hear that you are a human like the rest of us.

    Makes my goals seem a little more attainable.

  73. I read your book 3 weeks ago. It was one of the biggest slaps in my life.

    So there was a long long time that I haven’t been on your blog and I just want to stay that you new banner is pretty cool.

    Thanks for 4HWW 🙂

  74. Dear Tim,

    Thanks so so much. I needed that. It’s been 5 years of mainly lows (resistant to treatment) so it can get tempting to give up…thankfully I know that as soon as I’m better, I move mountains.

    – when anxiety gets overwhelming I use “don’t agonize, organize”,

    – when my mood spirals down I remind myself that I can’t trust my depressed brain’s opinion any more than an anorexic should trust her opinion of her reflection in the mirror. She’s not fat, and I’m not doomed. I also think of Churchill who’s manic depression didn’t keep him from being an awesome leader and winning over Hitler.

    – when in doubt, I go for will make me the most proud, which is often the crucial task I’ve been putting off forever.

    – to avoid not trying my best so I can use that to comfort my ego if I fail, “you can’t do better then your best, but is it your best” is in front of my desk. It got me in & through med school. I also remind myself of all the greats who had to try over and over to become legends. Lincoln presenting himself 14 times, Babe Ruth striking the most fouls…and the most home runs of his time etc…(my source was my mother on the last 2, I’d check them except that they work for me).

    Anyway. Again thank you, please take precious care, you’re a very special person.

  75. I just want to say thank you! Since I read your book years ago I was able to quit my job and go full time as an online strategist and business consultant.

    New challenges now with all my free time and dealing with clients and managing finances on my own but freedom has always been my priority.

    Hope you visit Philippines some time. You have countless number of fans here.

  76. Wow. I’ve been away from this site for quite a while and this this article hits me on so many levels. From my own self-doubt and neurosis and feeling the need to hide it from people who call me “successful” to explaining to my OCD suffering son that insanity and genius going hand in hand.

    Thanks for taking off the cape and mask!

  77. Thanks, I use this myself when writing. A song in the beginning of the day, a glass of whine and some instrumentals while I write.

    Works perfectly!

  78. Thank you for this post.

    It is a great thing to have the realization that, “Even the best of the best feel this way sometimes.”

    A great set of guidelines for daily productivity. I always tend to KNOW what is the most important thing I should do, but actually DOING it is tricky for me. Your method might help me change that.

  79. Dear Tim great blog post, just found it on Google plus after listening to The Ultimate Entrepreneur podcast with Jay on Entrepreneur and did a search. First thing I did like many is go straight to comments and noticed the comments rules. I understand and just wanted to let you know that Brian Oberkirch page you link to in the comments rules is down saying the hosting page has been perhaps temporarily suspended. Good luck with the workout and thanks for sharing health tips on website and incites into your unusual film and literature useful quotes.

  80. Hey Tim,

    This post is both good news and bad news for me.

    It’s great news to hear that even best selling superheroes well-worn snooze alarms.

    The bad news is that the illusive finish line where I’ll finally “get it right” has just evaporated. Not sure what I’ll do with my time now that I’m not chasing it.

  81. Wow. I read this and thought, ‘Okay, so I’m not the only one who guys through that.’ I’ve often wondered if other entrepreneurs deal with bouts of doubt and depression. I often get depressed after finishing a major project or after a big win. Not that I’m reveling in your suffering, but it feels good to know I’m not the only one.

    1. Thanks, Michael. You are definitely not alone. I’m in that post-project funk right now. It’s an odd (but temporary) place.

      Kia kaha!

      Tim

  82. The “write down the 3 things that make you most anxious” doesn’t address how to fix the anxiety. It sounds like those 3 things are “to-dos” and that’s different from “what 3 things are worrying you the most?” If you’re facing big problems, like possible divorce or homelessness, it’s easy to stay in a shell-shocked state and not get anything done. There’s little that can be done except to face the reality. For anxiety prone people stuck in analysis paralysis, likely getting on an rx is the only, and unfortunate answer.

  83. on about productivity and procrastination: you are absolutely right and happy to see your approach.

    the only thing i would like to add from my experience is when I do this one important/difficult/frightening/uncomfortable thing – for me is art, and in order to do it really well and with all our heart, I need to centralize myself to the most sacred inside me. this for other people would mean meditation, for others prayer or generally focus to what you think is the most important to you.

    the main thing is the realization of the need to be extremely focus on your deep you. that is the only way to forget the difficulty, the ambiguous results and above all yourself, who most of the time is an obstacle (with destructing thoughts) and not an assistant, and deepen to this source of energy and creativity.