Productivity guru Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” popularised the idea that many seemingly difficult pursuits — running a business, getting in shape, learning a language — can be achieved in much less time than most of us imagine.
Ferriss started out as a small business owner working 90-hour weeks to grow his online supplement company, BrainQuicken. Dissatisfied with his workaholic lifestyle, he transformed the way he used his time and spent his days. Focusing in on the effective use of his time quickly increased sales and helped him drastically cut his hours.
He’s exploring this time-use theory again in a new television show, “The Tim Ferriss Experiment,” which premieres on Sunday on HLN. On each episode, he uses rapid-learning techniques to master a new skill, such as learning to play a musical instrument and competing at the professional level of a sport, in just five days.
We caught up with Ferriss to get his advice for small business owners who want to be more productive and effective with their time. Here are his three best tips:
Create a new category rather than try to dominate an existing one.
“From a positioning standpoint, if you’re undifferentiated in a crowded market, it’s going to be a race to the bottom, in terms of lowering prices and increasing hours per week,” says Ferriss, who adds that attempting to dominate an existing category will only result in small incremental improvements. “From the outset, positioning yourself intelligently can save you a ton of work and make it a game that’s easier to win.”
Schedule an 80/20 analysis of your efforts once a month.
Doing a regular 80/20 analysis helps you identify the most important things you should be focusing on. Essentially, you determine the 20% of activities that are producing 80% of results that you want, as well as the 20% of activities that are consuming 80% of your time. Then examine the overlap or lack thereof. “As a business owner, it’s very easy to fall into the trap of being busy, and being busy is not necessarily productive,” Ferriss says. When you focus on the right things, and eliminate time spent on unhelpful tasks, you become more effective.
Get a grasp on your email.
“Email eats so much time,” says Ferriss. “First, because it’s everyone else’s agenda for your time, often including manufactured emergencies. Second, email allows you to fool yourself into thinking you’re being productive.” He suggests checking email only twice a day, and using an organisation app to help you streamline the process. He recommends emailga.me or Boomerang for Gmail, which lets you schedule reminders and schedule emails to be sent in the future. “You can clear your inbox but have all of your responses sent two days later, which buys you some time,” he says.
On one episode of “The Tim Ferriss Experiment” later in the season, he will employ many of these techniques alongside entrepreneur and former Facebook employee Noah Kagan to help bring an aspiring entrepreneur’s business plan to life in five days. They will help the entrepreneur define the business category, target monthly income, and complete an 80/20 analysis; eliminate unhelpful activities; automate critical tasks or processes by using technology, delegation, and virtual assistance; and create work-life balance.