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These Tips Will Help You Escape the 9-to-5 Mindset

Set unrealistic and hugely ambitious goals.

Most people are relatively insecure, and go after "reasonable" goals. That means the competition is fiercest at the low end. Wildly ambitious, impossible to achieve goals are easier because less people really truly try for them.

Average and uninspiring goals will only fuel you through one or two roadblocks. Unrealistic goals are an adrenaline boost.

If the payoff's average, your effort will be too.

Forget about time management and the "results by volume" approach.

Getty ImagesMany time management tips are about learning to get more done in the day. The real focus should be on doing less.

People tend to do lots and lots of busy work to avoid the difficult and critical stuff. A better strategy is to do the difficult stuff right away and eliminate everything else.

Doing something unimportant well does not make it important, neither does the fact that it takes a long time.

Being great at answering email isn't necessarily a good thing. It means you're spending too much time on a task that isn't all that productive. Focus on things that are effective — that get you closer to your goal in the quickest way possible.

Use the 80/20 rule: 80 percent of the results come from 20 percent of the time and effort.

Working incredibly long days but still feeling like you have work to do is a sign that you're doing something wrong.

Ask these two questions, inspired by economist Pareto, to get back on track, Ferris writes:

"What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?"

"Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?"

That helps you identify tasks or customers or relationships that you should just drop in order to focus on what makes you productive and successful.

Give yourself less time to do everything.

In addition to Pareto, use Parkinson's law: a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted to complete it. 

Basically, you take longer with everything because you're expected to be at your desk, at minimum, from 9-5. If you have 8 hours to do something, you'll take all 8 hours for something that can be done in less time. You end up with better quality due to higher focus.

Most problems solve themselves. Stop making an emergency out of everything and "cultivate selective ignorance."

Getty ImagesMost of the information you get isn't data designed to help you solve problems. It's a distraction, and frequently beyond your control.

The more you limit information to the former, the less time you spend looking, absorbing, and responding to things that aren't productive. Try consuming less media, and limiting the emails or phone calls you take to ones that immediately impact your current task for most of the day.

One trick is to answer emails twice a day, at noon and 4 in the afternoon.

Master the art of not finishing things and interrupting people.

Everyone's made the mistake of focusing on tasks that are poorly thought out, difficult to execute, and won't result in much gain. Sometimes they're unavoidable. More often than not, if you make that case aggressively to someone that they're simply not worth the time, you can get out of the task. 

The same goes for meetings and phone calls that drag on forever. It's better to be rude than waste hours a week being polite. Never schedule meetings without a defined agenda and set end time, and get up and walk away when you need to.

Some things are just time consuming and repetitive. Do them all at the same time.

Eventually, unanswered emails, forms you haven't filled out, and other time consuming logistic tasks will pile up if you don't get too them. They have to be done.

But the worst thing you can do is interrupt more important tasks to take care of these things as they come in. Do them all at the same time in short, intense bursts. 

Don't make people ask you for permission. Clearly delineate when you absolutely need to and avoid otherwise.

Getty ImagesWhen you have people that report to you, it's incredibly easy to get overwhelmed with requests, or to micromanage them with the usually mistaken belief that they need it.

You have to train people to behave otherwise, because nobody else will. Clearly delineate what sort of things you can and will help with, and let people know that they have autonomy. Most will respond positively to the increased power.

Consider a remote personal assistant. Outsourcing isn't just for companies.

In an age where pretty much the entire world is connected by the Internet, it's cheaper than you think to outsource certain tasks to a virtual assistant. Whether it's to do research, fill out spreadsheets, or set meetings, it's worth considering.

Basically, if you can hire somebody at eight to ten dollars an hour that allows you to focus on something that earns you more than that, you should.

It's simple arbitrage.

Source: The 4-Hour Workweek


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