I had so much fun hanging out at ETech 2008 on Tuesday night my wife decided she wanted to sneak in with me tonight. We slipped in unnoticed this evening, said hi to a few folks I knew were at the event, and then sat down to eat at a pub with my wife.
Just then who walks in but Tim Ferriss? He sits right next to us, so I ask him if he’d like to join us instead. He does, and we get to chatting again about all kinds of interesting things.
This time I was prepared for the travel and time management guru. I tried not to sound like I was loading up interview questions in my shotgun of a mouth. My wife threw her wonderfulness into the mix as well and we all had a great time sharing stories and just enjoying our dinner together.
Luckily, I was able to slide in just about every question I had ever had for him. Everything from how he deals with his fame now, to how to how he packs when he travels. Some of the best conversation was on changing your lifestyle and regaining your attention for your goals rather than letting other things and people distract you, even if that means bad things happen during that time.
When I asked for questions on the previous article about meeting Tim for the first time, Brian Brady asked a great one. He wanted to “hear more about how he outsourced his e-mail and the potential problems he had with it.” I was lucky enough to even ask Tim this one for you, Brian.
The gist of it comes down to (1) not trying to drop e-mail cold turkey and (2) knowing that there will come a time when you will panic (and preparing for that).
First, he said to wean yourself off of it. Don’t try to drop e-mail down to once a day tomorrow. Try getting down to 3 times a day first. Then slowly go to 2x per day, etc. Personally, I shared that when I did this at a previous job, my supervisors didn’t like it at first. But, I had prepared a response for that – I setup alternate methods of communication for them – namely instant messenger. The reason I did that is because I’m a programmer and so were my supervisors. They have first hand knowledge about how IM decreases productivity, but for some reason they expected email responses within minutes, which effectively is the same problem. So, I setup a communication method which I knew was a barrier to them, they wouldn’t touch it even though it was available to them. Then I informed them of the benefits of my increased productivity during days where I was checking my email at “set intervals”. I didn’t tell them what times or how often, but it set an expectation that I wouldn’t respond immediately. Soon, I was checking my email once per day, which was well known and acceptable.
Tim confirmed that some of the things I did were great ways of easing supervisors and clients into the behavior change. He added some interesting notes about the physiological changes that occur when we’re too connected – namely stress. We might think it would be more stressful for us to not check our email, but Tim assured me that was not the case. It was in fact the opposite, once we’ve been through the panic.
Time without attention is worthless, so value attention over time.
— Timothy Ferris
Which brings us to the second item: knowing and preparing for the panic which will come. The basic premise here is to expect it, plan for it, prepare for it, and recognize it when it happens.
Think about it this way, if I tell you I’m going to punch you in the stomach in 3 minutes, you can prepare yourself both mentally and physically. Even if the warning was a split second before hand, your mind would have told your body to prepare for impact. Without that preparation, the results would be much more devastating (as if I could hit that hard, but you get the point).
So, the word of warning here is that you will have a time of panic where you feel like you need to get back to people. Let it go. Know it will happen, walk out of the room, go for a drive, go to a movie, whatever. But don’t go into this without a plan and an understanding that you will freak out at some point. Preparing for that will make it go much smoother.
In all, it was a great evening. Both my wife and I felt like we were hanging out with a true friend, not a celebrity. I don’t envy the problems he deals with having that popularity, but he’s kept his head about himself. If you ever get a chance to chill with this guy, I highly recommend it. He’s quality and real.
I toast the ETech security guys for the last two posts. Cheers!