Featured Posts

The Four Hour Body and You Like many of your Tim Ferriss fans out there, I've been very keen to try the Four Hour Body lifestyle change. I'm overweight by quite a few pounds, so I made a New Year's resolution to shed some pounds....

Read more

Improvements and Fixes to WP E-CommerceImprovements and Fixes to WP E-Commerce Like many of you, I am a user of the WP E-Commerce plug-in for Wordpress as well as a Gold Cart upgrade customer. While WP E-Commerce has many excellent features and does wonders for the Wordpress-based...

Read more

Credit cards: a lifeline for cash Hi all. It certainly has been a while since I've last posted. That's because in many ways the 4HWW concept has been shot given the urgency of making ends meet and scrambling to get whatever dollars are...

Read more

Version 0.2 of Show User Level Content Plugin Now Available Making an update to the Show User Level Content Plugin ... finally on version 0.2 This version should allow multiple hide statements in the same post. This is a test of that functionality. The first...

Read more

More on Banking... A while back I posted about business banking accounts, and asked the community what their thoughts were on the best ones for FHWW'ers. I never really did get a good response, but the post is out there,...

Read more

twitter

Follow on Tweets

  •  

DHFW Forums are Live!

Category : DHFW Site, Getting Started

The 4HWW community is getting more rich and vibrant by the day! As such, I’ve launched the DHFW Forums at: http://www.fourhourworkweekdiary.com/dhfw-forums/. Check them out! I’d love to know what you think… but more important — keep posting and keeping this community vibrant!

The 4HWW Time Audit Spreadsheet

Category : Getting Started, productivity, time management

I’m starting to be convinced, after spending another set of 16 hour days, that the only way to make progress on the 4HWW goals is to become ruthless about how I spend my time. Just like grazing throughout the day is not an effective way to lose weight, aimlessly working through the day is not an effective way to maximize use of time.

While Tim Ferriss talks about Elimination and Automation as two of the 4 cornerstones to making the Four-Hour a Week lifestyle happen, he provides no real techniques for going from a 40+ hour workweek to a 4 hour workweek other than starting to outsource things and manage your email and phone habits. What first needs to happen is an effective observation of how time is being spent and how to wrangle it.

My 4HWW blogging buddies (BTW, welcome new buddy id_bob at Four-Hour Work Week and Customer Support!) have all talked about doing a time audit and focusing on time management, but I can’t stress its importance enough. Rather than going cold turkey from 60 hours to 4, I think anyone serious about reducing their ineffective time needs to do a proper running analysis of how they spend their work day.

On that note, I’ve created a spreadsheet that I use every day to figure out where my time is going, plan what I hope to accomplish that day, determine if my time estimates are right or wrong, and then make a decision how I will handle future such tasks. I want to share that timesheet with you and get your opinions of it. Here it is below, with an example of how it is filled in:

Download 4HWW Time Tracking Worksheet

Let me explain the columns in this time management spreadsheet:

  • Task — A quick description of the task to be done. Most Important Tasks (of which there should never be more than 3 in a day) should be identified by bold, italics, and red-colored font.
  • Category — Some tasks might be work related, some might be muse related, others personal, some in pursuit of a dreamline activity, or what have you.
  • Planned Start and Planned End — When are you planning to start and end this task? Be specific and get ‘r done.
  • Time Allotted — A calculated field that tells you the obvious… how much time you were planning for this task
  • Actual Start and Actual End — When you managed to start this task and end it
  • Actual Time — How long did it really take?
  • Actual Cost — If you noticed, this spreadsheet also tries to calculate your hourly cost. It takes into account your salary (what you want to be making on a yearly basis), divides it by 50 weeks and then by 5 working days in a year to determine your daily rate (2 weeks of non-work and 2 days of non-work per week are normal). Your hourly rate is calculated by dividing this by eight. Now, of course, we aren’t going to work eight-hour days, but neither are we working 24 hour days. Your cost should be a cost that can be easily compared with outsourcers. So, this is a good way to do it. Anyways, based on that hourly cost, the cost of performing this particular task is calculated. “My goodness! It really cost me that much to do that??” Now, you might not care about all the costs. Personal tasks, in particular, don’t have costs because you want to spend time on those. However, it’s worth seeing how much you’re “investing” in those personal activities and thus make sure you are deriving some benefit from that time investment.
  • Interrupted? — Was this task interrupted by something else (especially something not on your planned to-do list)? If so, it’s possible it took longer than it should. Next time around, what can you do to eliminate unplanned, unproductive, unnecessary interruptions?
  • Dreamline Goal — Does this task fulfill any 4HWW Dreamline goal? If so, indicate which dreamline it addresses (6, 12, or 18 month), and which activity. For example: “6mo – Doing – Become a Great Cook
  • LM Quadrant – My buddy Brick at Life Sutra wrote recently about the idea of the Life Management Quadrant — focusing tasks on the Essential, Unessential, Forgettable, and Unforgettable. For me, this is a vital column in any time management spreadsheet. By itself, it’s not enough to manage tasks, but used in combination with everything else, I think it’s quite potent (thanks, Brick)! For this exercise, I’d like to use the classification EF, EU, UF, and UU to denote Essential / Forgettable, Essential / Unforgettable, Unessential / Forgettable, and Unessential / Unforgettable tasks. The idea is that core 4HWW tasks should be Essential and probably Unforgettable. Those Essential tasks that are Forgettable should probably be Eliminated, Outsourced, or Automated. Essential tasks that are Unforgettable should be focused on and optimized / repeated. Unessential Forgettable tasks should definitely be eliminated. Unessential, Unforgettable tasks should probably be part of your long-term dreamline activities. Not to be eliminated, but something to get better focus on.
  • Next Action — What should you do next time around if this task creeps up on your schedule? There should really be only four possible answers: Eliminate it, Automate it, Outsource it, Repeat it.

Also, remember to include breaks, scheduled phone calls and appointments, and lunch. These are all tasks…hopefully you’ll have more time for those and less for those needless UF tasks!

I’m going to be using this spreadsheet on a daily basis… religiously. I want to see how with careful time auditing, I can get to more effective use of time and closer to my 4 Hour goals. I will also be continuously tweaking this spreadsheet since I’m sure there will be things to add or change. I hope you will also put this to use and suggest ways to make it better.

As Peter Drucker says, “that which is measured is managed”, and that means time management just as much as anything else. Be ruthless in your use of time and the rewards, hopefully, should multiply.

Download 4HWW Time Tracking Worksheet

Found a great bank for Small Biz… Provident Bank

Category : Getting Started, revenue

I posted the other day on the topic of finding a good bank for small businesses. I got a few great recommendations and ended up settling with Provident Bank, a regional bank in the Virginia, DC, Maryland, and Pennsylvania region. They offer free business checking accounts with no minimum balance requirement, the offer bill payment, merchant services, and even do the Remote Deposit option that I was so enamored with. And, as a bonus (until February 14, 2008), they will even give you $122 for opening an account with them. Whammo! Can’t lose on this one. Opened it up today with a $50 deposit, configured my Amazon.com, Google Adsense, and Cafepress revenue sources to point to this new bank, and away I go! I already made a few bucks on this deal.

I’ll let you know how it all turns out, but you can’t beat that for a muse bank account.

What’s the best Small Business Bank Account?

Category : business, Getting Started, revenue

As like all you 4HWW-ers, I’m gearing up my muse and getting the funds rolling in. I started an LLC using the Company Corporation (my recommendation if you’re trying to keep it simple and cheap – no need for expensive lawyers), making it a Delaware-registered LLC and then possibly registering as a Foreign LLC in my state, if need be. I then went to the IRS website and got an employer Tax ID #, which only took 5 minutes, tops. Armed with both of these, I’m ready to

Now I need a place to put the incoming funds. As you all know, you need to use a business bank account for your revenue — no mixing personal and business revenue streams. I’ve recently been banking with Bank of America, but not out of pleasure — just convenience. Since my new muse doesn’t require me to be physically close to my bank account (almost all incoming funds are electronically deposited), I am open to better options. BofA fees you to death. And their service is sorely lacking. If it weren’t for their omni-present branches and ATMs, I wouldn’t have even bothered. But then again, I didn’t bother in the first place — they just kept buying all the banks I actually did do business with!

So, let’s leverage the power of the Internet and networking– have any of you had good experiences with a bank that caters well to the Small Business? One that is low in fees, high in service, makes it easy to do the odd in-person deposit (or allows you to do e-deposits like K-Bank does), has low or no balance minimums, allows you do to things like ACH Debits and Credits as well as online banking and has a decent online web experience? Would love your thoughts and help!

Updated: I just checked out the First National Bank of Nevada… While it’s no where near where I live, I’m intrigued by: * free business checking and *e-deposits that allow you to deposit physical checks without ever having to leave the office. A 4HWW-ers dream? I’m not sure if they’ll do business with me in my state, but I’m wondering if there’s anything similar somewhere else or if anyone has experience with something like that?

Too long, too unfocused!

Category : dreamlining, Getting Started

The move to the 4HWW has been a lot more difficult than I expected. My current business has been ramping up and sucking the four-hour work week out of me. I’ve already gotten comments that my blog has become stale and irrelevant

Ok-enough of that. I’m going to redouble efforts to get back on track.

Next up: I want to redesign the Dreamlining spreadsheet that was published a little while ago because I feel that it doesn’t quite work for me. I’ll offer a new version and see what you all think.

Oh, and someone thought my shirt designs were amateurish. Are they? How would you improve them?

Expanding the Dreamlining Concept

Category : book, dreamlining, Getting Started

One of the first things that’s advised to us in the FHWW book is to Define our Goals, since without Definition, there can be no forward progress. The reason we’re supposed to be trimming down our work weeks to begin with is to make more time for our larger goals. Without those goals in mind, we will simply replace one set of Work-for-Work (W4W) tasks with another set of W4W tasks. This is clearly not what we want, so defining the goals will help to replace the W4W with real life-advancing goals, and thus make our time that much more valuable.

The Dreamlining activity set aside in the book asks readers to identify what they want to BE, DO, and HAVE in the forward-looking six and twelve months. Just like most of you, I had a real challenge with the Dreamlining activity because it was hard to think big! Or at least, the mind wants to weigh-down your big-thinking with real-world concerns. According to Tim, this real-world realism really gets in the way of the optimistic thinking that needs to happen in the Dreamlining activity.

Now, with my mind wrapped around “Think Big, not Realistic” mantra, I realized that I had some goals that I wanted to achieve in the next six and twelve months, but others that I saw as being farther out goals. Simply put, it wasn’t the realism that was causing an issue, but rather focus. If I wanted to have lots of big, hairy, audacious goals (BHAG), then I needed to focus on the ones that I would get immediate benefit from if they were to succeed and push the bigger ones out when I can make the shorter term ones a reality.

This might not be the idea that Tim had in mind. He wants us to focus on achieving goals, not pushing them out. So, with that in mind, I came up with the six and twelve month Dreamlines that included the larger goals I can achieve assuming I get traction on the shorter term ones. This means that there should be a 18 month Dreamline for the VERY Audacious goals. Having the Dreamline in place will motivate forward progress but not put the needlessly over-ambitious goals on the same path of importance as the shorter-term ones.

One of the great tools to assist in Dreamlining is the Excel Spreadsheet version that was developed by the folks at the Technotheory blog. Using that spreadsheet, I developed my Dreamline goals as such:

Six Month Goals:

Having

  • Landscape & Major Home Improvements
  • Sold existing company for > $4M

Being

  • Owner of second business (not to be disclosed)
  • Philanthropist, starting a new organization

Doing

  • Enrolled in Weekend MBA Program
  • Culinary workshops
  • Comedy Improv
  • Jazz Musician (Piano, Violin, and Guitar)

Twelve Month Goals:

Having

  • Owning an office building
  • A Patent

Being

  • Generating most income from second business
  • Raised money for philanthropic organization

Doing

  • Improv Comedy
  • Jazz Piano

Eighteen Month Goals:

Having

  • My book on market, optioned for a screenplay
  • Better estate / tax/ financial planning
  • Sold second company for > $10M
  • Generating positive income from office building

Being

  • Head of philanthropy with large endowment
  • Started third company
  • Owner / buyer of multiple companies

Doing

  • Finished up MBA program
  • working on third book
  • Joined a band
  • Comedy Improv troupe member

When you consider the importance of Single-Tasking, it’s quite possible that accomplishing the above might be impossible given the number of hours in the day. But right now, it’s not clear which item will take top priority, so having them all available and focusing on moving them all forward until it’s clear they are no longer movable seems to be most important.

I guess I’m not alone!

Category : Getting Started

I just got a comment in my first blog post that I’m not the only one documenting their attempt to travel down the 4-hour work week path. The fellow from The Four Hour Trial tells me that there are others like me and him that are going down that path. He mentions there are others like me who have posted their efforts on the 4HWW Blog in the Case Studies section, but I haven’t yet seen those posted.

So, this is a call to all you 4HWW bloggers. If you are blogging your activities, let me know! Post a comment on my blog and I’ll touch base and comment on what you’re doing as well! Let’s form a little community and increase our voice in the space.

Keep bloggin, and keep working… less!

More thoughts on applicability: Sold vs. Bought

Category : Getting Started

Yesterday, I talked about how the concept of the reduced work week as envisaged by Timothy Ferriss’ Book mostly applies to repeatable, products or productizable services. But I think there’s more to it than that. Even in the product realm, not all product-based companies lend themselves to greatly reduced time and effort with the result of maintained or increased revenue.

Products that are Sold vs. Products that are Bought

Having been in the startup and consulting business for a while, I know that everything a company offers has a “sales cycle” — that is the amount of time it takes to go from interest in a product to actual receipt of payment or purchase order for that product. Some products have very short sales cycles of minutes (such as books on amazon.com or items on eBay) whereas others have very long sales cycles (especially large consulting projects sold to large companies that involve lots of decision-makers).

There have been tomes written about sales cycles and the such, so no point in going into that here. The real insight is that to achieve the sort of work/time balance proposed by the FHWW book, one needs to strive for a business in which products are bought vs. products that need to be sold.

What’s the difference?

A product that is bought requires that a company make its product easy to understand, easy to find, and easy to purchase. The emphasis is on marketing — increasing the awareness of a product, its value, and differentiating it from others in the market so as to facilitate the sale. But the sale is not facilitated by a person — it doesn’t take someone calling you up and convincing you of those merits to make the sale happen. Rather, users who are interested make the move to purchase the product. The customer is in control of the sales cycle and as such all a company can do is focus on marketing, order processing, support, and improving the quality of the product.

On the flipside, a product that needs to be sold is one that requires a person to communicate a products benefits. A sales person needs to find leads, qualify them, make the pitch, differentiate the product, prepare the proposal, and then shepherd this proposal through the close. For individual sales, the aspects of the proposal and close might be simplified, but the remainder is the same. Sales-oriented products require people involved, which means it requires time. Reducing the work week to 4 hours in these instances can have a significant, detrimental impact on revenue.

The punchline: go for Products that are Bought, not Services, or Products that need to be sold

The aspiring 4-hour-a-week entrepreneur or employee not only needs to shy away from services that require in-person delivery, but also products that require in-person sales (whether really in person or via phone). If you can’t make that transition, I can’t see how the reduced-hour workweek can be a reality unless you outsource the sales process itself. Even in the case where sales is outsourced, you’re just automating an inefficient task. You’re better served simply trying to change the way the product is offered. If you can find a way to make it so it’s bought rather than sold, you’re gold.

Quick note on blog test: this is my first attempted use of a trackback, and using the instructions at the Optiniche blog by Teli Adam, I think I’ve managed to make it work. Maybe.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Applicability of the four-hour work week

Category : Getting Started

The more I read the book and think about how to apply it to my own life, the more I wonder about just who this four-hour work week is most appropriate for. For sure, if you have a product company that can operate on semi-auto pilot with subcontractors and outsourcers performing the responsibilities of fulfillment, order management, customer support, and sales/marketing then I can see how the automation possibilities easily lends itself to a shorter work week.

But how about businesses that require in-person delivery specifically by the person they are contracting with? For example, I have a hard time seeing how doctors or dentists can take advantage of four-hour work weeks. Maybe if they were simply office managers that had other doctors working for them, but if you were a doctor’s patient, would you want that outsourced? It certainly seems to be hard to apply the lessons learned in the book to those situations.

Service vs. Product

Basically it seems that the core challenge in applying the four-hour work week is that you have to be in a product business vs. a service business for this to make sense. A service business entails anything that is sold with the unit of work being delivered by a person rather than the unit of value delivered by a product. Furthermore, services have low repeatability. That is, if you deliver the service once and it takes a certain amount of effort, then delivering the service again will take a similar amount of effort.

On the contrary, with a product, the cost to build and develop the product is amortized across all the sales of that product. The cheaper it costs to build the product, the greater the revenue potential in sales. And if the product has no incremental cost once it’s built, then you can sell it literally millions of times without any additional cost (information products are a good example).

Now, this is something that Timothy Ferriss talks about in his book, so there’s no new ground discussed here. But the core is that most people are stuck in service businesses or in a service organization part of a product business. To change the work week requires either completely changing what you do for a living or structuring your work such that you no longer deliver the service, but either supervise others who deliver the service or productize the service offering such that there’s no longer an element of human delivery.

Buying People vs. Buying Brand

Another key issue is that is the value being bought from the company a function of the people who deliver that value (in which case, the cost of delivery is going to scale with the cost of labor), or is it a function of the brand (in which case, cheaper products and services can be offered at a premium given the value of the brand). To successfully become a four-hour work weeker, one needs to transition from becoming the sole delivery of a labor-driven value proposition to a manager of others who deliver the labor-driven value proposition to the sales of products that sell value based on brand, not on labor.

If you’re on the service side trying to live the four hour week, I see this as the fundamental challenge to face: either leaving the service business altogether, or productizing it in such a way that people buy the services at a premium based on your brand, and the labor is then outsourced to others who deliver at low cost.

The journey continues…

Category : Getting Started

Ok, so now that I’ve gone ahead and bastardized this site with gratuitous Capitalism (thanks for the first few orders, already, btw!), it’s time to continue the FHWW journey.

I’m going to be traveling west, so while I’m out there, I decided to sign up for a few MeetUps that can help catalyze the journey from 16 hour a DAY mono-entrepreneur to 4 hour a week parallel entrepreneur. That requires radically changing my time management and approaching inefficiencies through outsourcing.

In my next post, I’ll take things as the book suggests. Starting with D for definition. Come along. Let me know where I’ve got it wrong.