Chapter 7: Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal
Tim tells the story of how in college whenever he didn’t get an “A” on a paper or non-multiple choice test, he would go to the grader’s office with 2 – 3 hours of questions.
In the context of this book, Tim identifies three main categories:
Time wasters: unimportant email, phone calls, meetings, etc. Turn off the notification on your email as well as the auto send/receive, and check email only twice per day, at noon and 4:00.
Tim recommends you set an autoresponder letting people know that due to the high workload you are checking email only at those times.
Include a number people can call if they have an urgent need.
You could speak to your boss beforehand and propose you try the approach for a few days, citing constant interruptions and a pending deadline.
Then move to check email only once a day as soon as possible.
Do the same for your phone communication – put your office phone on silent and always let it go to voicemail.
In your voicemail recording, give callers that second number they can call if they have an urgent need.
The last step is to eliminate meetings.
Tim gives a few tips for doing so: Your communication preference should be the first email, then phone, then meetings.Try to always steer people up the chain (e.g., from meeting to email by asking the person who has requested the meeting to send you an agenda first).
Use the phone efficiency technique when people drop by your work station – let the intruder know you’re in the middle of something, but also insist that they go ahead and tell you what they want so you get the quick summary instead of having them bother you again later.
Use the “Puppy Dog Close” to manage up and across to eliminate wasteful meetings.When the pet store salesman says, “Just take the puppy home and try him out, and you can bring him back tomorrow if you want,” it’s much more likely the sale will be made, and highly unlikely the puppy will be brought back.
Try, “I’d really like to go to the meeting, but am swamped today.
Time consumers: things that must be done but often interrupt high-level work – customer service, financial reporting, personal errands, etc. The best practice for time consumers is simple: batching.
By stretching the time periods between doing these kinds of tasks than doing them all at once, you eliminate setup and switching time, among other efficiencies.
Empowerment failures: when someone needs the approval to make something insignificant happen.
To avoid these, establish a clear (ideally quantitative) threshold up to which your delegates have the authority to make decisions on your behalf.
Adjust the threshold based on results.
Tell your boss something like, “I know you’re busy, and I hate to always be interrupting you.
A good way to sum up this chapter is to always let your default response for any request be, “No.”
Step III: A is for Automation
Chapter 8: Outsourcing Life: Off-loading the Rest and a Taste of Geoarbitrage
A key part of becoming a member of the New Rich is to build systems to replace yourself, and an easy way to begin doing so is to hire a virtual assistant (VA) – someone in a low-cost geographic location who can save you time doing menial tasks.
Tim mentions Brickwork and Your Man in India.Both are still in operation in 2015, but Your Man in India seems to have shifted its focus away from VAs.
You’ll have to submit a request on Brickwork’s website for their current rates. eLance.com is also mentioned later, and services like Fiverr have also become available since Tim wrote the book.
However, going with a VA company rather than a single VA gives you a backup in case one person becomes unavailable.
Try out a few VAs, and see which one you like the most.
First try to eliminate, and then try to automate.
Only delegate what remains; otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time and money.
Additionally, make sure each task is both time-consuming and well-defined – otherwise, delegation might not be the most effective option.
The biggest objection people have is the expense, but Tim’s reply to that concern is to consider what an hour of your time is worth.
If you could pay $40 each week to have Friday off, wouldn’t you do it?
Paying $40 for a VA that saves you eight hours of work throughout each week is essentially the same thing.
The second objection is security, and the author goes into detail about how your personal information is much more secure with these VA firms than it is on your own computer.
Use common sense, and you’ll be fine.
Here are a few more useful tips: 1) Request someone who has excellent English and make it clear that phone calls will be required.
2) Don’t just accept the first person the firm provides.
Shop around to get a great VA.
3) Give instructions at the 2nd-grade reading level.
Calibrate as necessary once you’ve assessed the VA’s abilities.
4) Request that a status update is provided after the first couple of hours to ensure that things are on track.
5) Set the deadline at less than 72 hours.
6) Always clarify the relative priority of tasks or portions of tasks
Chapter 9: Income Autopilot I: Finding the Muse
Now that you’ve made some room in your schedule, it’s time to find your muse, which the author defines as a product-based business that costs less than $500 to test and after a month’s time will require less than one day per week to manage.
Step 1: Pick an affordably reachable niche market.Find a market first by defining your customers, and then design your product around them.
Step 2: Brainstorm (do not invest in) products.Here are your brainstorming constraints:
The benefit of your product should be explainable in one sentence or phrase. Your product should sell for between $50 – $200, which is the sweet spot to be able to sell fewer units, create higher profit margins, and attract lower-maintenance customers – but not so expensive that customers want to speak with you before buying. Your product should also take less than four weeks to manufacture in order to keep costs low and easily adapt to demand.
One to two weeks is ideal.
Your product should be fully explainable in an online FAQ.
This isn’t a formula for good business; rather, it is a set of constraints suitable to the specific type of lifestyle business that qualifies as a muse.
Tim recommends you create your own product, rather than reselling or licensing, and the easiest type of product to create is an information product – low-cost, fast to manufacture, and time-consuming for competitors to duplicate.
If you read the top three books on a given subject, you’ll know more about the subject than 80% of the relevant population, thereby qualifying you as an expert.
Simply take a general subject and summarize it in a way that is specific to the needs of your niche market.
For example, if you’re a real estate broker and realize that you’d like a simple but good-looking website to promote your services, read the three top-selling books on home page design, and create a CD, ebook, guide, etc. to communicate the key points as they relate to a real estate broker.
Bonus tip: To crank up the expert factor, consider finding experts to interview and sell the accumulation of their advice.
The person with the highest credibility will sell the most, not the person who knows the most about the subject.
1) Join two or three related trade associations with official-sounding names.
2) Read the three top-selling books on the topic and write a one-page summary of each.
3) Go to the closest well-known university, put up posters advertising a free seminar on the subject, and give the seminar using the summaries you’ve written.
4) Call up a local branch of a well-known company and tell them you’ve done the seminars at the university and that you’re a member of the trade associations.
Explain that you’re trying to gain speaking experience outside of the academic setting.
5) Leverage your trade association membership and speaking experience to get an article published for a trade magazine.
One option is to interview a known expert for the article.
6) Join ProfNet or ExpertClick, services journalists use to find expert quotes for their articles.
Use the credibility you’ve gained from the previous steps, and it’s actually pretty easy to be quoted in well-known media.
Chapter 10: Income Autopilot II: Testing the Muse
Experience and intuition are both poor predictors of the success of a product; the only way to test if anyone actually wants your product is to ask people to buy.
The easiest way to do so is to create a basic one-to-three-page website, put up a Google AdWords advertisement for five days, and use the response to test whether people will buy.
Here’s the process:
1) Google the top terms people would use to find your product.Sign into your Google AdWords account, then use the Keyword Sandbox to figure out which keywords people use.
2) Visit the top three websites that consistently appear.Ask yourself how you could differentiate your product.
3) If people are searching and you have a way to differentiate, create a one-page testimonial-rich ad that emphasizes the benefits and differentiators of the product.Model your ad after other ads that have induced you to personally buy something, and get friends to try out the product for testimonials.
4) Test pricing by putting up a 48-hour eBay auction for the product, then canceling before the auction expires (since you don’t yet have a product to ship).
Then set up a website – you’ll need to purchase a domain name and hosting from a company like BlueHost and create the page with your ad using Dreamweaver or other software (many people use WordPress).
Include a “purchase” button that takes visitors to a second page with pricing, shipping, handling, and basic contact info (email, phone, etc.).
Then have another button that says “Continue with order,” but goes to a page that says something like, “Unfortunately, we are on backorder but will contact you as soon as we have the product in stock.
Thank you for your patience.”
Track how many people visit that last page; each one counts as an order.
5) Set up five-day Google Adwords campaigns with 50 – 100 search terms to drive traffic and test click-through rates for different ad headlines.Aim for specific search terms so you get higher conversion rates and lower ad costs per click, and cap your cost at $50 per day.
When you sign up for an Adwords account, you’ll get free tools to track “orders” and bounce rates.
Chapter 11: MBA – Management by Absence
Once you have a profitable formula, the challenge is to remove yourself from the equation.
Here are the two primary guidelines: 1) Learn how to do something yourself, then contract outsourcing companies that specialize in that function, not freelancers.
This gives you a redundancy plan so you’re not depending on one person.
2) Make sure all outsourcers are able to communicate among themselves and give them written authority to make inexpensive decisions on your behalf.
Tim recommends you implement outsourcing in three phases:
Phase I: 0 – 50 units of product sold.Start by doing everything yourself so you can learn from customers about what they want, what their concerns are, and what isn’t sufficiently clear on your website.
Phase II: >10 units sold per week.Find a fulfillment company (just Google “fulfillment services”) who will agree not to charge you setup fees or monthly minimums (usually the smaller firms), and who will respond to inquiries from customers.
Give them the list of responses you’ve collected from dealing with customer service yourself.
After paying promptly for a month, ask for the net 30 payment terms.
Phase III: >20 units sold per week.Decide upon an end-to-end fulfillment company, and ask for references to call centers and credit card processors they’ve worked with.
Set up an account with the credit card processor first, then engage the new fulfillment company (necessary so the fulfillment house can also handle refunds and declined cards for you).
If you need a call center, call the actual number of each one a few different times to test the wait times and personnel quality.
An important part of setting up your “muse” correctly to reduce service overhead is what Tim refers to as the art of “undecision.”
1) Offer only one or two product options.
2) Offer only one shipping option, as long as it’s not overnight or expedited.
Otherwise, you’re inviting anxious phone calls.
3) Only take orders online, never by phone.
4) Don’t offer international shipping.
If you’re worried you’ll lose customers by doing these things, you’re right – that’s the point.
Avoid dealing with problem customers (i.e., time consumers) by preventing them from ordering in the first place.
Step IV: L is for Liberation
Chapter 12: Disappearing Act: How to Escape the Office
Tim offers a five-step process to convince your employer to let you do your job out of the office: Step 1: Increase investment.Get your employer to first invest in you to increase their cost if you leave.
For example, ask if the firm has any additional pieces of training available to employees and take them.
Step 2: Prove increased output offsite.Call off sick for two days in the middle of the week, double your work output on both days, and make sure to demonstrate and record it with an email trail or otherwise.
If you have to be on your computer at work, try GoToMyPC remote access software.
Step 3: Prepare the quantifiable business benefit.You need to position remote working as a business benefit, not a personal perk.
Bill more client time, complete more projects, or otherwise demonstrate quantified improvement.
Explain the increased productivity as less time commuting and fewer distractions.
Step 4: Propose a revocable trial period.Informally mention to your boss how you were sick those two days and didn’t expect to get anything done, but were actually twice as productive.
Ask if you could try working from home Monday and Tuesday for the next two weeks as a trial that your boss can veto at any time.
Make sure to mention that you’ll, of course, come to the office for any meetings or anything else that comes up.
“So what do you think?
When your boss objects, acknowledge his concerns and propose working from home only one day a week instead.
Step 5: Expand remote time.Continue to kill it on your work-from-home days and slightly drop your in-office performance to heighten the contrast.
Ask for another trial period with an extra two days at home, dropping down to one extra day if necessary.
After your boss has gotten used to this, ask for a full-time remote trial of two weeks as you visit relatives out of state or some other understandable reason to need to be away.
(Bonus tip: schedule vacation for a time that you know will be busy at work, then once the time comes and people are panicking, be the hero by offering to work the whole time remotely instead.)
Chapter 13: Beyond Repair: Killing Your Job
If you can’t get to a satisfactory level of remote working at your job – just quit (as long as you’re more likely to find what you want somewhere else other than your current job).
Tim counters the four usual objections to doing so:
Objection #1: Quitting is permanent.Go back to the exercise in Chapter 3, and you’ll quickly discover that it’s entirely possible to get right back on the same track if you change your mind.
Objection #2: I won’t be able to pay the bills.First of all, don’t quit without having another job lined up if you don’t have another source of cash.
Secondly, there are always options to lower expenses.
Go through all your monthly expenses and ask yourself, “If I had to eliminate this because I needed an extra kidney, how would I do it?”
Objection #3: Health insurance and retirement accounts disappear if I quit.The health insurance situation in the U.S. is different now from when Tim wrote this book, but you can still probably get insurance for about the same price.
In addition to the government’s insurance exchanges, there are plenty of private insurance exchanges.
You might even qualify for some discounts through a professional association or another group.
As for retirement, it’s easy to transfer your 401(k).
Objection #4: It will ruin my resume.If you’re quitting your job in the spirit of this book, you’re doing it in order to do something interesting.
The period after you quit is going to be the most interesting item on your resume (if you ever need one again), and the one thing that will make you stand out the most and land interviews.
Chapter 14: Mini-retirements: Embracing the Mobile Lifestyle
In this chapter, Tim attacks what he calls “one of the biggest self-deception of the modern age: extended world travel as the domain of the ultrarich.”
People work their whole lives, hoping to save enough money to retire to a tropical beach house.
The really ambitious seek out high-stress, high-paying careers in law, finance, etc., telling themselves they’ll work nonstop for 15, 20, 25 years in order to save up a couple million to finance their early retirement of proverbial motorcycle ride across China.
Tim actually suggests much more than one-to-three-week life-changing trips to exotic locales; he wants us to take the usual 20 to 30 years of retirement and spread it throughout our lives in one- to six-month increments.
The intention isn’t a vacation to escape from your life, but a lifestyle of recurring mini-retirements where you experience the world, as opposed to just seeing it.
This alternate reality may seem strange to you, but it’s not just best-selling authors and geniuses who can pull it off; Tim has met paraplegics, senior citizens, single mothers, and people from every walk of life who have done the same.
A luxury penthouse in Buenos Aires with maids and personal security guards will cost you less ($550, including utilities) than you will pay for a run-down apartment in the bad part of town in the U.S. At $5 for a five-star restaurant in the same city, you can also eat like a king.
If you use a credit card with good travel points for all muse-related purchases, you’ll often get there and back for free.
Chapter 15: Filling the Void: Adding Life After Subtracting Work
The person who has learned to replace self-defeating assumptions, eliminate the unimportant, put cash flow on autopilot, and create freedom of location will soon find themselves with an existential crisis.
When you no longer have the external focus and daily distraction of meaningless work, your mind begins to turn inward and you start to torture yourself with questions like, “What is the meaning of it all?”
I’m going to assume that most of us aren’t going to face that problem for a while, so I’ll skip the author’s ruminations on the deeper mysteries of life.
One conclusion, however, is worth mentioning: the point is not simply to reduce your workweek to four hours but to replace that meaningless activity with something more fulfilling.
Chapter 16: The Top 13 New Rich Mistakes
In your journey toward becoming a member of the New Rich, watch out for the 13 most common pitfalls: Mistake #1: Losing sight of dreams and falling into work for work’s sake.
Mistake #2: Micromanaging and e-mailing to fill time.
Mistake #3: Handling problems your outsourcers or co-workers can handle.
Mistake #4: Helping outsourcers or co-workers with the same problem more than once, or with noncrisis problems.
Mistake #5: Chasing customers, particularly unqualified or international prospects, when you have sufficient cash flow to finance your nonfinancial pursuits.
Mistake #6: Answering e-mail that will not result in a sale or that can be answered by a FAQ or auto-responder.
Mistake #7: Working where you live, sleep, or should relax.
Mistake #8: Not performing a thorough 80/20 analysis every two to four weeks for your business and personal life.
Mistake #9: Striving for endless perfection rather than great or simply good enough, whether in your personal or professional life.
Mistake #10: Blowing minutiae and small problems out of proportion as an excuse to work.
Mistake #11: Making non-time-sensitive issues urgent in order to justify work.
Mistake #12: Viewing one product, job, or project as the end-all and be-all of your existence.
Mistake #13: Ignoring the social rewards of life.
What did you learn from The 4-Hour Workweek?
What was your favorite takeaway?
Is there an important insight that we missed?