The book I am reading at the moment is The 4 Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. I had heard about it from Matt Mullenweg, the founding developer of WordPress the popular blogging software that powers this site.
I’m only halfway through the book but already I’ve been introduced to some interesting principles and have acted upon them.
Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
This is something that I used to observe while working for design consultancies and advertising agencies in London. People, when given a day to do something, will spend the day doing it even though the task could be completed adequately in a few minutes.
I have often wondered why billions of people trudge into an office every day arriving at 9am and leaving at 5.30pm. Is 7.5 hours the time they need to do their jobs? Not an hour more or less any particular day?
So, yes, people spend countless hours and days indulged in essentially useless activity. I knew that. So tell me something I don’t know, Tim!
The Pareto principle – also known as the 80-20 rule
This principle is something I’d heard of before but maybe hadn’t realised it’s significance, here it is:
For many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes
Here are a few examples:
- In 1992 United Nations Development Program Report showed that the richest 20% of the world’s population controlled 82.7% of the world’s income.
- Microsoft noted that by fixing the top 20% of the most reported bugs, 80% percent of the errors and crashes would be eliminated.
- In business, 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients.
Is this true for me, I wonder? Certainly, 20% of my clients account for over 50% of my income, but I’m not sure it’s as much as 80%. However, thinking about it, I would say that about 20% of my working day is spent generating 80% of my income as I spend a lot of time doing other things, some of them I would consider important (writing blog posts), some of them not so important (reading the news, Wikipedia, Twittering). This brings me on to another of Timothy Ferriss’s bugbears.
So, it follows that one should cut down as much of this 80% unproductive time as much as possible to free yourself up to do other things you may find more enjoyable. There are a number of ways to do this.
Ferriss suggests turning off the audible alert for when you receive email (or “brain farts” as he likes to call them, I love that!). I have done this and this has definitely worked for me. I’ve hardly ever received an email that was so urgent that I had to stop everything and concentrate on it. The author actually recommends cutting down emailing to two times daily: the first mid-morning (not first thing, after you’ve completed your important first task of the day); and the second at 4pm before your close of business. I haven’t quite done this but I have grouped my emailing together more.
The author suggests further methods to cut down interruption: don’t answer your mobile if you don’t recognise the number; don’t watch or listen to the news; don’t surf the web; don’t do meetings. I agree with him that meetings are usually a useless activity but then I hardly ever have them myself and as for the other things – I’m trying to cut down my non-productive web surfing but I still always answer my mobile as it could be a great new client!
Looking to the future
Now that you have stopped interruptions and are working more productively you can find time for what Tim Ferriss calls a “muse project” which could be reselling a product on the internet or creating one yourself and selling that.
I have created many e-commerce sites for clients and have been involved in the marketing of products for many years so this is something I have wanted to do for a long time. I haven’t thought of a product yet but I’ve got a few ideas!
What is your experience?
Have you ever read this book and what is your opinion of it? What do you think of interrupting interruptions and working more productively? Will this book make a lot of people rich and happy as a result of it’s advice and procedures? Or will the only person making money as a result of this book be the author?