4 Questions for Productivity Guru Tim Ferriss

Time is precious for the bestselling author of The 4-Hour Workweek.

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Tim Ferriss is the best selling author of 'The 4-Hour Workweek'

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The epitome of entrepreneurial productivity, according to author Timothy Ferriss, is becoming so efficient that you can run your business in four hours a week. Ferriss has made a pile of money—and gained fame—with his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, which has been on the New York Times business bestseller list for 11 months. I used 12.5 percent of Ferriss's workweek (that's half an hour) talking with him about productivity. Excerpts:

Tell me something about dramatically increasing productivity that your readers don't already know.
Try a digital concierge. They can be used for tasks that will take 20 to 30 minutes, mostly information gathering. They'll compare different purchase options, make flight reservations, do online research, and so forth. AskSunday.com is one. You get 15 inquiries for $29 a month; it's very cost effective.

Most entrepreneurs are overwhelmed by E-mail—it's a time suck. How do you stay in touch in less time?
Minimize the number of E-mails you send. The best way to do that is to minimize the time you spend in your inbox. A good tool is [voice-to-text service] Jott.com, which allows you to dictate E-mails to people from your phone—for instance, you say, "Jott to boss." Or, if you're supposed to be on personal, computer-free time and you need to remind yourself to do something, you can send a Jott to yourself, and it sends a reminder to your inbox. This is very useful, not only for increasing productivity but actually for preserving some semblance of a life.

It seems for every new tool I use, I could waste as much time as I save, at least at first.
Do not start using 15 tools—your diluted focus will get you nothing. Test one tool at a time for two to four weeks. Measure the results. If you cannot precisely measure the increase in sales—and this isn't "I think," it's "I know," through, say, a link to a URL—assume there's no relationship.

That leads me to the importance of becoming aware of how you are spending or misspending time while you're on a computer. Do a time audit. Rescuetime.com will tell you how much time you spent on different websites and pages. It creates graphs and charts and tells you how you're wasting your time.

Have you done it?
Uh, yeah. Be careful what you ask for.