Never has a book had more of an effect on me prior to reading it. Thanks Blake.
It’s on hold in the library system, but there are 18 holds in front of me as of yesterday, so it might be a little while before I read it. But just the tidbits I’ve gathered here and there have been enough to catalyze some thoughts floating around in my head. It’s as though I were already on this path, but didn’t realize it until it was spelled out and I said “Ah ha! Yes! This is what I’ve been after.”
Here’s what I’ve gotten from the book, which I haven’t read, thus far.
1. What do you want? This could take up several posts, but suffice it to say I’ve been having something of a mid-life crisis trying to decide what I really want to do and who I really want to be. Many of the things I used to think were cool (getting rich) don’t seem as cool or interesting anymore, while other things still seem just as important (MBA from HBS, getting out of debt, writing books, etc.), and other things have come into play that I never seriously considered before (PhD in economics). But let’s take just one item and run with it–triathlon.
A few months ago I decided out of the blue that I was going to do an Ironman race. That’s a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run–a full marathon, and you’ve got 17 hours to do it all. For some people this would be a lofty goal. For me, it’s going to be a miracle, considering that up until two months ago I had never run over a mile in my life, hadn’t swam laps since I was 10, and haven’t biked for eight years or so and never biked as much as this will demand. Plus I weigh about 220 lbs, and from 1999 to the beginning of 2007 I got virtually no exercise.
But I decided I was going to do it. So I went and signed up for the Ironman in 2008 in Kentucky. I’m also signed up for a Half-Ironman in Oceanside in March of ’08. I did my first triathlon, a sprint distance, two weeks ago, and am doing my second in a little over a week. This is something I really want. But it’s taken some adjustments to my life to be able to do this.
2. Use technology the right way. The right way to use technology is to make yourself more productive. Buying an iPod so that you can waste time watching The Office is not a productive use of technology. Getting a Blackberry is also not necessarily something that will make you more productive, although it can. Since I got my Motorola Q (which I like, but am not thrilled with) I can check emails wherever I’m at. This means I’m not tied to my computer or office and can leave both of them without getting stressed out that I’m missing something. My new office phone system sends me emails with an attached audio file if someone leaves me a voicemail there, so no matter where I go, as long as I have cell coverage I won’t be out of touch.
3. Flexibility. What I’m saying is that technology has made me more flexible, and therefore more free to do what I really want. I’ve also reworked what I feel a typical work day should look like. Why does it have to look a certain way? Do I really need to work from 9 to 5? How about from 7-9, 12-4, and 9-10? I’ve been experimenting the last few weeks with different schedules, sometimes on purpose, sometimes not. I had previously thought the best schedule was to get up early and go running or biking and then straight to the gym so I could get that priority out of the way early in the morning. But now I’m waking up and doing 1-2 hours of work, then exercising, then back to work, and I seem to be having better results this way. The tough part is deciding that I’m not going to sit down at 7 am and not get up from the chair until 7 pm, and that I’m not going to stress out if someone calls at 10 am and can’t get a hold of me.
Technology allows me to take advantage of “shadow time”, allowing me to get more done in less time. With my phone I can check and respond to emails while I’m sitting at the doctor’s office waiting to get in, while I’m getting my oil changed, or when there’s a lull in the conversation at a family reunion. This frees me up to move about and do more things that I really want to.
4. Less information. I used to be an information junkie. I knew everything that was going on in the business and technology worlds. I was subscribed to 30 blog feeds, received several magazines, scores of email newsletters, and so on. Then I started to look at things and ask myself “This is fun, but is it getting me any closer to what I really want?” The answer to that question was that I turned off my feed reader, I don’t read magazines any more (unless I’m at the doctor’s office and have already checked my email and don’t have anything else to do), and I don’t read any email newsletters any more. And you know what? I don’t miss it at all.
5. Automate. Ah, now this is where things get serious. As you know, I run a web development firm, and in case you don’t know, web development can be a very hands-on type of service. In my case, it is, and there’s no way around it without substantially changing my company’s entire business model. As it stands, I do all the sales and project management. It’s not hard to take a break from sales, but project management means I’ve got a new emergency just about every day. Sure, I could hire a project manager and “automate” things that way, but I’ve already done that several times and it’s always been better when I do it myself. My experiences hiring sales people have been even more dismal (no offense guys, I love you all, but I typically bring in more business in two months than any of you ever brought in during your entire time with the company).
For years now I’ve been searching for something that would be more automated, and about 18 months ago started seriously working on a project to do just that, and I’m hopeful it will be done before the end of the year, at which point the business model behind MWI will undergo a radical shift, although in some ways that shift is already in full swing and my next blog post will delve into this in more detail.
Suffice it to say, I’m set on automation. I’m tired of being tied so close to the business. I’m tired of not being able to find people who can replace me so I can take a break. Automation holds the potential for me to be able to get away now and again, not to mention scores of other benefits.
So pick up a copy of The 4-Hour Work Week and give it a read. It’s the best business book I know of that I haven’t read.Liked it? Share it!