How I spent my Christmas vacation: 4 days, my certain special someone, a cabin on Mayne Island, books, magazines, movies, good food, and wine. It was fantastic.
Like most people who are ‘getting away from it all’, my main goal was to relax. But I had a secondary goal, too, which was, on the cusp of the new year, to open up some space to think about where my business is going, and what my goals are for 2009. More about this in friday’s blog post, but the focus of today’s is a book I read over the holidays by Timothy Ferriss called The Four Hour Workweek.
Subtitled ‘Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich,’ Ferriss’ book was published in 2007, and rapidly became #1 on The Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list. It has already sold millions of copies, and it hasn’t even been released as a softcover yet.
Ferriss is a bit of a dilettante. Or, perhaps he just has a short attention span. His focus seems to shift constantly, but whatever he puts his hand to, he is very successful at.
The basic premise of the book (which was recommended to me by some of my fellow small-business owners), is to work less, make more money, and enjoy what he calls ‘mini retirements’ throughout your life, rather than work like a dog until you are 60 or 65, and then retire at a time when you may not have the health or the income to afford to do what you want to do. As a small business owner, I was intrigued. You constantly hear entrepreneurs talk about how hard they work–100 hours a week and more–but that lifestyle never appealed to me. Maybe I’m just lazy, but honestly, I would rather work smarter, and spend less time on my computer, and more time at the theatre, or with my friends, or with my son. After all, we are always complaining that there is never enough time, so if we could open up some time, without having to take a pay cut (and, in fact, actually make more, according to Ferriss), what is the harm in that?
While not everything in Ferris’ book speaks to me (he is a single person with the ability to travel the world–even if I had the means, I have a young son who is in school in Vancouver, so my ability to spend months overseas is compromised), but I did get some great stuff from it.
Ferrriss says a great deal of the work that we do is what he calls ‘work for work’s sake‘, which is, essentially, busywork. We come from a culture where we are paid to be at work from 9-5, so we naturally work from 9-5, whether that work is on task/target or not. How much time per day do you spend checking your email? Ferriss checks his for only one hour, once per week. Again, my job is 90% about email, so this is not possible for me, but it did make me look at how much time I was spending fooling around, rather than really buckling down and getting things done.
Batching is when you do a bunch of tasks that are all the same in one chunk. For example, instead of entering your receipts into your accounting software every day, he suggests setting aside one time per week or month to do it all together. Sit down and focus and get it done.
Avoiding face-to-face meetings. This one really struck home for me. Because I work from home, every time I have a meeting, it’s not just the actual meeting that takes up time, it’s the going there, coming back, and prep, as well. Meetings take up a lot of time. While meetings are important, especially for initial client consultations, I am going to be more mindful of them. I often find myself rushing from one to another, and the whole day is gone, and I haven’t done any actual work. My goal for the new year is to keep my meetings down to 1-2 days per week.
Outsourcing. Look at tasks that you are doing that could be outsourced. Think about paying someone else to walk your dog, clean your house, or do your taxes. The return on your investment can be worth it if the task is unpalatable, someone else can do it faster and better, or your time is better spent billing out your hourly rate (especially if thier hourly rate is lower than yours!).
The 80/20 rule: Ferriss insists that 80% of our income comes from 20% of our clients. We spend a great deal of time running around after the other 80% of our clients (or potential clients), who could be high maintenance or not huge spenders. He asks if they are worth the effort, and, if not, to, in essence, ‘fire’ your clients. Instead, focus your energy on your top clients–do demographic research on them and try to find more like that.
Dreamlining: Ferris has an ineresting goal-setting exercise called Dreamlining. I’ll let you know how mine turns out!
I recommend this book. It’s lightly written, easy to read, and you will take something away. One of my greatest criticisms of this book is that, although Ferriss is an adept social networker (you will find him online via his blog, Facebook and Twitter), and social networking online is partly responsible for the huge success of his book, there is no real mention in the book about using Web 2.0 technology. Which can be, as we all know, somewhat time consuming. Mr. Ferriss, if you read this, please comment below. K? Thanks!