How to Check E-mail Twice a Day… And Have Your Boss Accept It

Think your boss won’t go for an email autoresponder?

You’d be surprised. Here is one example from a SXSW attendee. His two e-mail to me have been combined with a bit of editing for length.

Hey Tim,

Here’s what i took away from your presentation (and put into action!):

I sent out an email to everyone in my division letting them know i’ll only be checking email at 11a & 4p. I’ve included my email down below:

“Hi all…

In an effort to increase productivity and efficiency I am beginning a new personal email policy. I’ve recently realized I spend more time shuffling through my inbox and less time focused on the task at hand. It has become an unnecessary distraction that ultimately creates longer lead times on my ever-growing ‘to do’ list.

Going forward I will only be checking/responding to email at 11a and 4p on weekdays. I will try and respond to email in a timely manner without neglecting the needs of our clients and brand identity.

If you need an immediate time-sensitive response… please don’t hesitate to call me. Phones are more fun anyways.

Hopefully this new approach to email management will result in shorter lead times with more focused & creative work on my part. Cheers & here’s to life outside of my inbox! “

So far the response has been very receptive and supportive. Here’s the quick “reply to all” email response i got from our senior operations manager (he oversees 5 radio stations. and most of the people in the building):

“Tim,

AWESOME time management approach!!! I would love to see more people adopt that policy.

-C.”

I’m sticking to it and it’s making my days more productive already. As the days are progressing, more people are “on the bus” with respecting my new email policy and i havent had any snags (even with SXSW going on – and i work in Austin radio, so we’re all swamped this week). However, every single person feels like it just wouldn’t work for them if they did it. (“oh, but i’m on too many mailing lists” or “All i do is work in my email box, i have to.” i’m sure you’ve heard it all before).

As far as your presentation… A major thing i took away is applying the concept of 80/20 to my workflow. I’ve always known i waste a great deal of time on things that ultimately aren’t showing the bulk of my ROI. Hearing you present it in a new light enabled me to start actively weeding out the time wasting clients & processes. I do a lot of work that our interns should be doing. So i’ve begun designating responsibility appropriately, thus freeing up my plate for the more relevant tasks. It will be a slow process, but senior management is on the same page with me.

Cheers,

Tim Duke

KROX & KBPA – Interactive Brand Manager

Here is a shorter autoresponder another attendee successfully implemented:

Thank you for your email! Due to my current workload I am only checking email at 11am and 4pm. If you need anything immediately please call me on my cell so that I can address this important matter with you. Thank you and have a great day!

-Tom

My personal e-mail autoresponder limits me to once per day and indicates “I check e-mail once per day, often in the evening. If you need a response before tomorrow, please call me on my cell.” My business e-mail autoresponder, on the other hand, gives me the option to check email once every 7-10 days.

The real hard part, of course, is keeping yourself away from that damn inbox. Get on a strict low-information diet and focus on output instead of input; your wallet and weekends will thank you for it.

Can You Redesign a Life in 48 Hours? Part II

This is Part II of a series of posts following SXSW in Austin, where I issued a challenge to attendees: implement at least one principle from my presentation (“The 4-Hour Workweek: Secrets of Doing More with Less in a Digital World”) and report back on results in 48 hours.

Here are two e-mail of close to 100, edited for length, that show how life can be redesigned if you ask a few uncommon questions. The first highlights the importance of defining a target monthly income (TMI) for your ideal lifestyle to avoid excess hours, and the second highlights the importance of avoiding “crutch activities” and following a low-information diet.

Subject: You changed my life… my response to your challenge

Hi Tim,

Thank you profoundly for your presentation (which I immediately felt the need to share with everyone). I am insanely exhausted and jetlagged: flight got postponed overnight, just got in today, picked up my son, hung out with him, then off to a theater rehearsal. So I have neither time nor energy to fully explain the radical ways I am implementing many of your suggestions. However, I did want to respond before the midnight deadline! So, here’s the brief outline:

* My business partner and I are going to quit our jobs in the immediate future

* We’re starting a new company (the one we were about to start before we got sweet-talked into being employees)

* We have defined the lifestyles we want to live

* We have figured out how much those lifestyles will cost us

* We have determined how many hours we need to bill per week to get there (currently it is only 16 each)

* We are figuring out how to decrease those hours and increase our profits by outsourcing some of that work

* We have already lined up a freelancer to outsource to

* We have identified our goals for our company

* We have set up a time to meet together with both of our spouses to discuss our exit strategy from our jobs and to get their buy in

* And we are insanely excited and can’t wait to free ourselves!

Of course, we have not had time in the last two days to implement all these decisions, but we absolutely will. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

M.

Tim,

First, thanks for a great presentation at SXSW! I took your message to heart and put it in action immediately… below is a brief description of what I did as a result of your presentation and the results I enjoyed.

During your presentation I had my laptop on and Outlook active. I had several other windows open too. Not long into the presentation I realized what I was doing and put it away to focus on your presentation. As soon as the presentation was over, I started putting what I learned into action by first analyzing what I had the rest of the day on my schedule.

But before I left, I created an autoresponder for my email account to let everyone else know that I was getting serious about my time too. I went to my next presentation and quickly realized that I wasn’t getting what I expected and rather than toiling on my computer or suffering through the presentation, I left. This meant I had an extra hour in my schedule which came right before lunch. My first reaction was to go to a bar I know with wi-fi to get lunch and “work.” But of course, “work” was just an excuse to stay “busy.” On the way to the bar I realized where I was headed and what I was doing again.

The problem I had was identifying what I should do if I wasn’t “working.” What could I do with a 3 hour break in the middle of my day? Well, this also happened to be the most beautiful day during SXSW and I realized that what I wanted to do most in Austin at that moment was go for a run on the river trail near my hotel. It was the first time in years that I went for a run because I wanted to enjoy my day and not because I had to do it as a task on my schedule. It was then that I realized with a little more effort I could do this every day! How cool would that be?

Today was my first day back to work. It was also the first time I didn’t check my email prior to heading to the office. In fact I set 11am as my first time to check email for the day and I stuck to that. In return for not checking my emails, I completed a long awaiting task that I had been reprioritizing for the past two weeks. I also wrapped up a proposal that I had more than a week to work on and scheduled lunch with one of my employees to discuss his professional growth in the agency and how I wanted to use ideas from SXSW to get him to teach to the rest of the agency. Just before going to the lunch I checked my email, answered the important ones and planned my afternoon. I didn’t answer email again until 4pm which is just before I left – an hour and a half early!

Tonight I went for a jog, unpacked my things and got caught up around the house. I then worked on a pet project for a bit which I haven’t had the time to do in the past.

I’m just getting into this and can’t wait to see how the results pan out over the next several months. Thanks again and I can’t wait to read your book!

Tom H.

Coming next: How do bosses and customers respond to autoresponders? Samples that worked and extreme e-mail detox.

4-Hour Case Studies: Can You Redesign a Life in 48 Hours?

This past Monday, I gave a presentation at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX titled The 4-Hour Workweek: Secrets of Doing More with Less in a Digital World. It was my first public presentation on the principles in the book. It ended up standing room only and has caused some waves, being mentioned in the SF Chronicle, Wired, and other media since.

Two good attendee summaries of the presentation and its after-effects can be found at My Life May Have Just Been Changed and What would you do if you had 36 extra hours of free time each week?

For the last two years, at the end of each high-tech entrepreneurship lecture I give at Princeton, I have issued a challenge. I did the same in the SXSW presentation, offering a roundtrip ticket anywhere in the world to the person who implemented the principles and told me about it in the most dramatic fashion by 12 midnight Wednesday, approximately 48 hours later.

People need incentives to change behavior until they see that what I claim can be done, can actually be done.

The outcomes and feedback, more than 5 full pages in Gmail, have exceeded all expectations. The next several posts will share a few of incredible 48-hour turnarounds and stories of metamorphosis. Here is just the first, edited for length and with a name change:

Tim,

My name is John Gatern and I attended your panel at SXSW where you requested stories of people who’ve implemented your tactics for the 4-hour workweek and when I spoke to you after the “Made to Stick” panel, you were excited I’d given up a Treo for a “normal” cell phone. What’s happened since then you ask? So, where do I begin?

Well, I guess I should give you some quick background points. I turn 32 a week from today. I weigh exactly 57 pounds more than I did when I took my first job seven years ago. I’ve gone from corporate suit to serial entrepreneur in that time period and I now own four companies and am launching a new one this spring. I’ve also been dating the same girl for the past seven years (yes, she’s patient). I carry two cell phones (and pay for a 3rd as a backup) and average over 5,000 minutes per month. I have over 14 email accounts I check every ten minutes with my Treo and wireless air card, oh… I also have five computers I use daily (three desktops and two laptops) in three office spaces. To say I work and I’m accessible is causing me to laugh as I type this email.

So, what did I get from your panel? Well, I made the following changes immediately.

Professional:

– Consolidated cell phones into one normal voice phone (no Treo)

– Asked my right hand man to give up Treo with me

– Set reminders to ask myself at 9:00, 1:00, 5:00 (Am I being productive, busy or doing a crutch activity?)

– Located a negotiation expert/author in my own city who I’m soliciting for instruction (Lacey Smith of www.quickthinkseminars.com)

– Sat down today with two business partners to have “the talk” about our goals truly not aligning (I think one will be rectified and one will go separate ways)

– Turned down business from the client I’ve known I don’t need or want (he was bewildered, but I think deep-down he agrees)

– Cleaned out my inboxes and started from scratch (man that felt good).

– Got rid of a warehouse lease I know I don’t need for a business I don’t even enjoy

Personal:

– Signed a three-month contract with Chris Tedesco, a personal trainer (www.bodyquest.biz) for a 1:30 workout appointment four days per week (yes.. in the middle of my work day!)

– Called a contractor to finally come re-do my bathroom (it’s needed it for years, but I’ve put it off)

– Created a food intake log in the past 48 hours and it scared me! (this may be my MOST valuable input)

Finally, I’ve adapted your talk into three baseline tenants for my new outlook (yes, I like lists).

1. Clients pay for and desire my talents over my accessibility

2. While my overall success has been acceptable, my connected lifestyle is hindering its growth

3. More focus on self and less outside influences equal a better quality of life

Tim…. maybe this sounds too unbelievable. I’ve included a few links to people if you so choose to contact them to check up on me. I recognize not all of these steps are taken verbatim from your talk, but sometimes a message gets through the clutter and for me, it was yours. I almost didn’t attend your panel. One of my business partners was at SXSW and said you’d be just another time management pep talk, but I recognized time is my endangered and most valuable resource. I am sad to say… I thought being and even looking busy was what successful people “just did.” I’ve been so focused on working I’ve left out my health and have hindered the growth of my ventures. My greatest asset is my brain and I’ve been so busy acting busy, I haven’t spent enough time using my brain to plan and execute. I’m glad your panel reinforced what I knew somewhere deep down was true.

I may never have a consistent four-hour work week, but a bigger change will happen because of your speech. I’m grateful for your words and your efforts towards the book. You may be too busy to talk or even email back and I understand that fact. If you do want to contact me or are interested, I’d like to keep in touch with updates of my progress. Thanks again.

Your grateful friend,

John

[end]

Lifestyle design doesn’t take much time. It just takes a few uncommon decisions, and even more uncommon actions. More to come next, including sample autoresponders and other simple steps that yield huge results.

New 4-Hour World Record – Joe Ceklovsky

The 4-hour lifestyle is about getting more from less in all areas of life. I just returned last night from South by Southwest (SXSW), where I presented a few fundamentals of The 4-Hour Workweek. Much more to come on the interesting after-effects of that later.

In my inbox this morning was an e-mail from Joe Ceklovsky, one of a dozen or so powerlifters I’ve worked with, primarily as related to neural acceleration. He just set a new World Powerlifting Organization (WPO) world record in the 148-lb. class with a 503-lb. benchpress. To put this in perspective, that is 3.4 times his bodyweight, so if you weigh 180 lbs., you would need to press 612 lbs. to match him, which is more than six 45-lb. plates on either side of the bar. The best part? Joe trains benchpress once per week for less than one hour and has a full-time job outside of this passion.

Remember: more with less. Smarter is better than harder. See his latest record here. His all-time competition record of 525 lbs. is presented below to amaze. If you have trouble viewing it, go here. I formally predict here that he will hit 551 in his next competition. Congratulations, Joe! (Update on Jan. 20, 2008: Joe has now benched 600 lbs. at 148, 4.06x his bodyweight)

Platinum Card Finally Gets Me

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I don’t spend much time juggling frequent flyer miles. Nor do I squander hours making pennies on the dollar with point schemes or signing up for the latest special-offer credit cards. I have four credit cards (two personal, two business) for separating expenses, and I have used an AMEX gold card since 2003 for most purchases because: 1) Their customer service has handled disputes and fraud within 24 hours with zero paperwork, and 2) I’ve never had issues using it in more than 20 countries.

AMEX has also been outstanding at sending me at least 3 pieces of mail a week since 2003. Most of it has been offers to upgrade to the Platinum Card, which, at around $200 per year at that time, made no sense to me. The benefits included things I would never use, like getting a free companion ticket if I bought a full-fare business/1st-class ticket (about $2,000-4,000 on the tickets I checked). Personally, I’d rather get a $200 roundtrip on Orbitz.

That said, and for all my smack talking, I just signed up for the Platinum. What?!

Unknown to most people, the Platinum card benefits have just been changed for the first time in close to 10 years. Here are the two new features that sealed the deal for me and how I’ll leverage them for more fun and profit:

1. Four free domestic companion flights per year on flights over $299

[UPDATE: This benefit has since been canceled. Why? My guess is that they never planned to continue it past one year or so. It would just be a loss-leading benefit for a brief time to get sign-ups and new members. Just an educated guess.]

Since I live in CA but travel a lot to NYC, I can get four free tickets for friends who want to come with me to NYC on the same itinerary. I can also barter these tickets or trade them on Craigslist, which gives me an automatic ROI of at least $1,200 on the $300 first year annual fee. If I fly to Hawaii from San Francisco, which I plan to do soon to train with BJ Penn, and barter the extra ticket – even at a 30% discount on the “retail prices“- the ROI will cover my expense while there.

2. Free access to over 950 work and meeting spaces around the world

Coffee shops can get old fast. More that once (especially in Buenos Aires and Paris), I’ve wanted to dropkick the smoker who refuses to go outside and DDT the kid with the iPod on 1,000 decibels. If you really want to see me lose it, surround me with a gaggle of gum-chewing girls on their cell phones. The Platinum Card gives me an alternative to going postal — a remote office to use, complete with gourmet coffee, broadband, printing, and conference rooms. The alternative use that interests me — mostly for fun and pranks — is getting a mailing address and receptionist in primo locations and then having the mail and calls forwarded to wherever I actually happen to be. Want an office on Wall Street or Champs-Elysees in Paris? Next time an investment banker rolls their eyes when you say you’re an entrepreneur, you can casually mention at the end: “Nice meeting you. Next time you’re in London or Paris, give me a call. We should do lunch near one of my offices. Gotta run to the theatre/beach/museum [make sure it’s around 2pm in the afternoon], but keep in touch!” Ah, the precious moments 😉

More to come as I figure out even better methods for squeezing the most out of this card, my first new one in 3 years. If you have any good ideas, let me know.

Dozens of Previous Posts are HERE

Thanks for coming to the new home of the Tim Ferriss blog! This isn’t the first one, but I’m still in the process of deciding which goodies to pull in from the current/older Tim Ferriss blog. Be sure to check it out, as I might leave some reader favorites (“Losing 10 lbs. of Fat in 2 Weeks,” [Ed. note: no longer available. Check out “How to Keep Feces out of Your Bloodstream (or Lose 10 Pounds in 14 Days)” and “How to Lose 100 Pounds on the Slow-Carb Diet.”]  “The PX Project: How to Read 300% Faster in 20 Minutes,” “5 Doping Scandal Predictions,” [Ed. note: no longer available. Check out “The World’s Most Famous Performance-Enhancement Chemist.”] and others) there.

Now that the book is coming (April 24th!) and I will be able to speak more freely, the blog will be getting much, much more exciting and much, much more controversial. There are some big things coming. BIG.