I recently finished reading the book The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich (Expanded and Updated) by Timothy Ferriss. This book is amazing and has a lot of great tips for leaders.
Reading the title you may ask, “How can you be a great leader if you only work 4 hours a week?” Well, the principles you will learn from this book will help you to be a more focused and purposeful leader. Tim Ferriss teaches you things you can do to eliminate the fluff from your life so that you don’t spend time doing things that others could or should be doing and you will learn how to actively determine what is worth your time and what is not.
The 4-Hour Workweek
When I read this book there were many great lessons and pointers that will help me to be a better leader and be more successful in the future. Of all the great things I learned, there were five main points that will benefit leaders. Those points are:
1. Define what you want out of life rather than your career.
As a leader, it is really easy to get caught up in seeking the next step of progress as you try to climb the corporate ladder. You can become so focused on the next promotion or advancement that you lose sight of why you are doing what you are doing. You should instead focus on what you want out of life, i.e. your personal, family, and educational goals, trips you would like to take, places you would like to see and things you would like to do.
When you focus on what you want out of life rather than a career, it is much easier to change your job or occupation to fit your life goals. This approach allows you to be more successful as a leader because it causes you to think more deeply about what you spend your time doing. If you are a leader and your heart isn’t in it, you probably won’t be the best leader you could be. You will probably only be a half-hearted leader at best if your heart is in a different place.
2. Focus on what is important rather than what needs to be done.
As a leader, it is very easy to get bogged down with things that are unimportant, e.g. emails, reports, etc., when you could spend your time on something more important. Although email and reports are important at times, there are some emails and reports that just take our time that may not really accomplish a valid purpose. It can be very easy to let them take over your day or week to the point that you don’t get done the most important things.
As a leader, one of your most important responsibilities is to take care of the people you lead and if you get some caught up in the time-consuming but unimportant things, you can become ineffective as a leader.
3. Take steps to improve your productivity.
In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim explained that there are two important questions that you should ask yourself every day to ensure that you are productive. The first is, “If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with how my day went?” And the second is, “Am I making up stuff to do to keep myself busy so that I can avoid what I really SHOULD be doing?”
If you ask those two questions, you will be able to eliminate many things that become just “busy” work. There is a big difference between busyness and productivity. If email is something that takes all your time, set up your email account so that it filters what you see and don’t see. Also, set aside specific times during the day when you will check your email rather than checking it as it comes in. This will allow you to be focused on getting done the most important things throughout the day so that you can be more productive everyday.
4. Be selective on what you learn and spend your time on.
There is so much that you can learn everyday, that it can be overwhelming at times. There are also many outlets from which you can get the news. It would be possible to spend the whole day reading the news and still not know exactly what is going on in every current event. In addition to the news, there are hundreds of good books out there that you could read to learn new things.
It is very important to be selective on what you learn because if you are not, you could fill your whole life with learning bits and pieces of many different things but not knowing anything or the full picture on anything. This becomes unproductive and a waste of time. Identify specific things you want to learn and try to learn as much as you can about those things so that it is of value to you. I am an advocate of always learning, but you should do all you can to be productive in your learning.
5. Automate whenever possible.
As a leader, you have control over what you spend your time on and what those you lead spend their time on. It is very important you use your time on most effectively. With today’s technology, there are many things we can be automated. You can get a virtual assistant to handle things that take your time that may not be the most important thing for you.
In the book, Tim mentioned many different sites/companies you can use to acquire a virtual assistant. He also mentioned a number of different ways that you can sell your products online or by other means that allow you to make money without having to do significant direct marketing. If you automate wherever possible, you can increase your profit margin while decreasing your non-productive effort.
As a leader, it is important to focus on making the most out of what you got when it comes to your people, your equipment and your capital resources. As you do all you can to make the most out of limited resources, you must still be conscientious that your people are your most valuable asset.
One of your big leadership responsibilities is to develop your people and help them to succeed. By doing the above mentioned steps, you will be able to free up some of your time so you can focus on your most important responsibilities and not the fluff that could so easily bog you down.
What steps do you take to improve your productivity on a regular basis? How has increased productivity allowed you to focus on what was most important for you?