Outsourcing Life and How to Eliminate E-mail Overload

The Master does nothing,

yet he leaves nothing undone.

The ordinary man is always doing things,

yet many more are left to be done.

Tao Te Ching

Chapter 38

Is it possible to outsource your life to other countries? By now, you know that I believe it is. But is it necessary to outsource overseas? Can you outsource in languages other than English? What is geoarbitrage really about?

These were some of the topics I covered in “Die 4-Stunden Arbeitswoche” (The 4-Hour Workweek) with Patrick Price for his Swiss-German podcast, NetzNews. The first 30 seconds are in Swiss German, a very cool dialect that sounds nothing like Berlin German, and the rest is in English.

In other news, my first “manifesto” on Seth Godin’s ChangeThis was published this week. The title? The Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-Mail Overload & Triple Productivity in 24 Hours. This free and easy-to-read PDF contains some popular content from the book, but also a ton of template e-mails and bonus tips found nowhere else. Learn to read 3 times faster and cut your volume of e-mail in half. This manifesto is designed to get you there in 24 hours.

Download it here, and pass it on to those who need it!

How to Eliminate Junk Mail and E-mail in 30 Minutes… and Red Bull Book Party!


For those of you interested in the tech tools I use abroad, or how some case studies have negotiated remote work, there is a short interview with me called “Workin’ 9 to…9:48?” in this month’s issue of Outside magazine, which focuses on dream jobs. It’s a very cool issue guaranteed to get you thinking about escape.

Before you can escape, however, you need to stop crap information from invading your life. It finds us through two channels that we’ll crush today: SPAM (which actually stands for “Sh*t Posing As Mail) and junk postal mail. Here are the quick 30-minute fixes for both:

1. Put yourself on the postal “do not call” list by sending a letter to the following address and asking to be removed from all mass and junk mailings:

DMA Mail Preference Service

Post Office Box 603

Carmel, NY 10512-0643

Big thanks to corporate pranking genius John Hargrave, who introduced me to this through his bible of sticking it to the man, Prank the Monkey, one of the most empowering and hysterical books I’ve ever read.

2. Sign up for SpamArrest. I’ve tried several spam filtering programs, and most have been either too lenient or excessively strict. SpamArrest, which I can use for Outlook without installing it on the server (key for many employees who don’t have administrator rights), used in combination with Gmail, has reduced my spam count to 2-4 message per week.

Keep it simple. Good barriers needn’t be complicated and seldom are. Take 30 minutes to trial the above and treat your brain to something like Discovery Channel instead of penis enlargement spam and credit card offers. Stop sorting and start eliminating.


Free Red Bull book launch party tonight in San Francisco!

For those readers in the bay area, come party with me tonight!

Forget cover charges. From 9-11pm tonight (Friday), get into this exclusive party with a proof of purchase of The 4-Hour Workweek! Jam to one of the hottest superstar DJs in CA, David Carvalho, and The Red Bull Energy Team will be there to fuel you all night long: free Red Bull!

It’ll be a wild evening of drinks and dancing with SF’s finest. Just bring your receipt from a local bookstore or Amazon (or a page from the book) and you’re in!

Address and details can be found at www.upcoming.org here.

From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks


After holding off for nearly two years, I’m posting this because too many people have asked for it. The lasses should read it, too, as the same principles can be applied to bodyfat loss.

I weighed 152 lbs. for four years of high school, and after training in tango in Buenos Aires in 2005, that had withered to 146 lbs. Upon returning to the US, I performed an exhaustive analysis of muscular hypertrophy (growth) research and exercise protocols, ignoring what was popular to examine the hard science. The end result? I gained 34 lbs. of muscle, while losing 3 lbs. of fat, in 28 days.

Before and after measurements, including underwater hydrostatic weighings, were taken by Dr. Peggy Plato at the Human Performance Laboratory at the San Jose State University, and I had blood tests taken on September 30 and October 20. Though this ridiculous experiment might seem unhealthy, I also dropped my total cholesterol count from 222 to 147 without the use of statins. No joke.

Here are a few comparative shots. Oh, and I forgot to mention, all of this was done with two 30-minute workouts per week, for a total of 4 HOURS of gym time:




How did I do it? Continue reading “From Geek to Freak: How I Gained 34 lbs. of Muscle in 4 Weeks”

What's Your Lifestyle Quotient (LQ)?


If you thought washing your hands 32 times a day was fun, just try this! (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.

-Robert Frost, American Poet

I’ve long sought a measurement for lifestyle, something better than bank accounts or Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). I was able to take the leap and redesign my own life only once I started asking myself difficult and uncommon questions such as:

How many hours do I work for each day of vacation?

What percentage of my life do I really spend working vs. doing something I want to be doing?

Enter the new world of the Lifestyle Quotient (LQ). If you want to see the real facts of your current work-life (im)balance, check out the world’s first LQ calculator here. The results will probably shock you.

What is your LQ?

What do you guesstimate your boss’s LQ to be?

What about your father or mother’s LQ compared to your own?

If you know someone who is a workaholic in denial, or who thinks an 80-hour workweek is a good way to spend their limited time on this planet, go for a lifestyle intervention and send them the LQ calculator. It might just wake them up faster than a triple-espresso frapuccino.


Other news and goodies:

Think you can’t outsource your love life? Well, I did it — I had groups around the world compete to set me dates. This just made it into the news, and you’ll be hearing much more about it soon!

If you’re interested in travel and languages, I was just interviewed on Gadling about both.

I know some of you have had trouble finding the ebook — I did too! Here is Powell’s page, the easiest I’ve found to use.

Want to learn what I think of using blogs to promote books, or just want a refresher on concepts in the book? Darren Rowse of Problogger.net put up a 3-part interview with me that was a blast to do.

Rohit Bhargava, the head of Interactive Marketing for Ogilvy PR worldwide, put a brief review of the book on his site, which is a must-read for anyone interested in social media.

SXSW presentation attendees! I found out what happened! The mailing house for the publisher (not the publisher themselves) screwed up and held onto your addresses for 10 DAYS before mailing them this past Monday. Your copies of the book should arrive any day, if they haven’t already, and I cannot apologize enough for the confusion. I had no idea this had happened and — had I known — would have put in my mouthpiece and gone to town breaking heads. Sorry about that!

How I Work: The 4-Hour Workweek


Be sure to check out this month’s issue (May 2007) of Fortune Small Business, where I am profiled in the “How I Work” section. It covers how I limit information intake, fire customers, control voicemail, and otherwise dodge bullets to do one of the things I enjoy most: MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) with professional UFC fighters.

Blame it on my mother, who put me in “kid wrestling” at age 8 to drain the hyperactivity out of me and avoid Tasmanian Devil action at home. It worked like a charm but forever gave me the neck thickness of a small cow.

Getting punched and thrown isn’t everyone’s idea of fun (for those fans out there, my favorite fighter of all-time is Kasushi Sakuraba), but fun is what you make of it. The one ingredient you cannot do without? Time. Learn how to create more of it and do what you want — take a glance at the digital version of this article for free (beginning on page 47).

Adriaaaaaan! 😉

How to Get a Book Deal with World's Largest Publisher… and Beat Harry Potter?!

Wow — what a day! The 4-Hour Workweek ended up at Amazon #10, as well as around #20 in Canada and #88 in the UK! In celebration, I decided to answer one of the most common questions I get these days: How on earth did you sell a book to Random House?

It’s not as straight-forward as you might think. Most assume that you should write a book and then pitch it to a publisher, which — especially with non-fiction — is total suicide. I created a mock-up cover for my book when we sent out my proposal to publishers, and one came back and asked point-blank: “Why is there a UPC code on this? Is it self-published or already written? We never buy either.”

So how did I get signed with the hottest imprint at the world’s largest publisher (Crown within Random House) as a first-time author? I followed a few simple steps that I explain on my friend Noah Kagan’s blog.

The New Challenge: Beat Harry Potter!

If I can break the top 5, huge things happen like foreign rights worldwide. The book will become an unstoppable force! The price has been reduced to $11.97 for unknown reasons, and I need a cluster of orders tomorrow and Thursday to make it all happen.

Please check out the book and consider it if you haven’t! Ignore “available May 1”, as they’ve temporarily sold out (!) but will receive more stock tomorrow.

Here’s what I suspect I’ll sound like if I beat Harry Potter

Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity… and Amazon Challenge


This guy gets more done than your CTO

(photo credit: Indian Gypsy)

My first article for Huffington Post made it onto the homepage today: Marijuana Trumps Blackberries for Productivity. Here is some food for thought:

Millions of Blackberry users in the US were left without their favorite drug from 8pm EST Tuesday to 6am EST Wednesday last week, when technical problems at service provider Research In Motion cut off wireless e-mail access. Some fumed, but others took a deep breath of relief. The brief escape was relished by a growing number of users who have realized that this digital leash often kills productivity instead of increasing it.

Not convinced? Let’s compare Blackberries to the top anti-productivity product of all-time: good old-fashioned marijuana.

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.

In a digital world of infinite distraction, it is “single-tasking” — shutting out interruption instead of facilitating it — that will save us. What’s the alternative? Checking e-mail once every five minutes, then every minute, then every second? It’s not a scalable coping mechanism.

The world doesn’t hiccup, let alone end, if you check e-mail twice a day instead of twice an hour. If it does, it usually means that your work culture rewards overwork to counter its own ineffectiveness. This is predicated on burnout and not a game worth winning. The next time you get the Crackberry urge, consider the option of being productive instead of being busy. Or, if that’s too abstract, consider grabbing a joint instead — you’ll probably get more done.


AMAZON CHALLENGE: The 4-Hour Workweek has been hovering around #105 for four days on Amazon, and now it’s officially on-sale! Please help me break the #100 barrier — I can’t let The Official Guide for GMAT Review beat me! If you’re even remotely interested in automating and outsourcing your life, I guarantee you this book will open your eyes to some amazing new options: Please help me break the #100 barrier!

Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines

“And my concern, David, is several.”

-George W. Bush, to NBC’s David Gregory, Washington, D.C., April 3, 2007

Good ‘ol GW was kind enough, prior to starting WWIII, to grant me express service at airports nationwide. That’ll be helpful when the time comes to escape.

Five weeks ago, I applied for the controversial CLEAR registered traveler program. In a nutshell, I am now able to use exclusive check-in and security lines at select airports nationwide, which should cut my time to gate by at least 80%. This is particularly valuable at San Jose International, where the single-file lines of 300-400 people can wrap in up through three floors of parking levels. I kid you not. The dedicated CLEAR lane allows me to laugh like a smug jerk, side-step the line, and walk through security (with shoes on, I might add) in five minutes or less.


So what’s the catch?

To join this little club, you need to submit to a “Security Threat Assessment” — an extensive background check through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), including registering biometric information such as iris scans and multiple finger prints… Continue reading “Get George Bush to Help You Skip Airport Lines”

How to Firewall Attention and Reclaim Time

I am a strong proponent of “single-tasking” as the defining feature of top performers in a digital world. Social media expert Brian Oberkirch just posted a great list of rules he’s implemented for “firewalling attention”, to quote the inimitable Merlin Mann and Gina Trapani. Here are a few of my favorite picks:

* I’m checking email Dr. Pepper style, at 10, 2, and 4. Batching should help, and also making it a sprint to process my inbox within 10 to 15 minutes. “Reply to” stuff goes in that folder. Stuff I note and might want later goes to “Archive”. Stuff I never need again gets deleted. You can delete a ton of your email. Really. Process voice mails at the same time. (I’ll also do an RSS feed run at these times. I’ll reward myself with a flickr/twitter/mefi review if I’m a good boy.)

* No email review in the morning as I start my machine.

* Turned off all email notifications from social networking sites.

* Stop trying to accomodate a global work schedule. Again, unless it’s really mandatory or unavoidable, I work during my work hours, not those in other parts of the world.

* No answering emails on the weekends, unless absolutely necessary. One review per day on Sat/Sun.

* Dump new contacts immediately into Address Book so I never waste time looking up contact info.

* Make “no” the default answer for new project/app review/etc. requests. New things should earn their way into the attention field.

His full list can be found here. In light of the recent Blackberry blackout and all of the depressing interruption addiction it highlighted, I plan to lobby here in the capital of Silicon Valley, San Jose, to have Father’s Day (Third Sunday of June) also officially made “E-mail Detox Day,” during which people attempt a 24-hour e-mail fast. The trick to stepping off of the gas pedal is proving to yourself that it can be done.

Anyone interested in helping me make that national (or international)? In the meantime, are there any former Crackberry addicts out there with tips for newbies trying to break the once-every-5-minutes e-mail habit?

Mastering the Low-Information Diet… and Pre-order Crisis!


Presenting “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” at the Web 2.0 Exposition in SF (Scott Beale / Laughing Squid)

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon… Eric Schmidt, Chairman of Google… Tim Ferriss?! Too surreal.

I presented last Sunday at the Ignite portion of the huge Web 2.0 Expo, where two groups of speakers each gave 5-minute presentations of 20 slides. Each slide was set to auto-advance after 15 seconds. There was free beer, it was fun, and — unbenownst to me — attendees voted on their favorite presentation in each group via cell phone using Mozes. I won the first heat and was informed that I would be speaking at the keynote today in front of 3,000 people! Other keynote presenters included Jeff Bezos and Eric Schmidt.

I’ll be covering “Mastering the Low-Information Diet” in great depth on May 9th, when my manifesto on the same topic will be published through Seth Godin’s ChangeThis. In the meantime, here is part of the Sunday video, which covers: batching e-mail, applying the 80/20 principle to time-consuming customers, outsourcing your life to overseas assistants, and scheduling life to prevent work from filling evenings and weekends.


I just learned that most bookstores in the CA bay area have understocked my book (which launches next Tues.), planning to have only 1 or 2 copies in stock! This is a disaster, as there is already demand and people will need to wait up a week for reorders to arrive, killing the book’s first week of sales.

This first week is CRITICAL for bestseller lists, both local and national. Pre-orders online are equally important, as all pre-orders count for the first week’s national sales.

If you are thinking of getting the book and are not in the CA bay area, please preorder on Amazon. If you are in the bay area, please call one of the below stores to preorder ASAP this week!

The 4-Hour Workweek, Timothy Ferriss (ISBN number 0307353133)

Stacey’s, 581 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94105. (415) 421-4687

Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. (415) 927-0960

Cody’s Books, 1730 Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710. (510) 559-9500

Kepler’s, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. (650) 324-4321

If you’re still wondering about the book, please check out the buzz and review and summary posted today by uberdesigner David Seah, whom I’ve never met.

Thanks to all for helping me with this! It’s my first book, and I put more than 2 years of sweat and tears into it. More big news to come soon.