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I'm Tim Ferriss, And This Is How I Work

When we kicked off the How I Work series in August, we encouraged readers to tell us whose productivity tips and tricks they wanted to hear . No one has been more requested than Tim Ferriss. It makes sense — as the author of bestsellers The 4-Hour Workweek and The 4-Hour Body, he’s the poster boy for automation and all things time-saving.

In The 4-Hour Workweek, Tim explained how to ditch the 9 to 5 routine and free up time to do things you actually enjoy, and in The 4-Hour Body, how to produce major physical changes using small body hacks. (He famously gained 34 pounds of muscle in 28 days while researching.) Tim is also an angel investor and advisor to a huge roster of startups including Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Uber, and Evernote. Now, he’s back with The 4-Hour Chef, which he describes as a “choose-your-own adventure cookbook for accelerated learning”. We caught up with Tim to find out what apps, gadgets, tunes and tricks keep him going.

Name: Tim Ferriss

Occupation: Human guinea pig and writer. Author of the 4-Hour Workweek and the brand spankin’ new The 4-Hour Chef. It’s the first big book from Amazon Publishing and is being boycotted by every Barnes & Noble in the US. I think it’s my best book.

Location: San Francisco, CA. Now while book on launch: hotels in LA (The Standard Downtown) and NYC (The NoMad).

Current computer: MacBook Air

Current mobile devices: iPhone 5. I chose Verizon so I wouldn’t be able to use the phone during time off overseas. Self-control (at least mine) is overrated.

One word that best describes how I work: Basics

What’s apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

Scrivener, the word processor I’ve used for the last two books. Unlike Word, it doesn’t crash every five minutes, and I can look at multiple docs at once in the same window. [It's] minimalist and great. [I use] Evernote for all research, saving webpages for offline reading, de-cluttering paper from the house, remembering wine labels, etc. The AeroPress, designed by the Stanford engineer behind the Aerobie, is the easiest way to get the perfect cup of coffee. Uber has saved my arse more times than I can count. TaskRabbit I use to outsource the minutiae of life and save me approximately 10 hours a week.

What’s your workspace like?

This depends a lot on my environment. At home, I alternate between my standing desk and an Aeron next to the indoor “rainforest” (see image below). On the road, I like working on bar counters at restaurants, much like a standing desk. In all cases, I’m using the MacBook Air with headphones and music. Occasionally, red wine somehow sneaks into the picture after 5pm.

What do you listen to while you work?

I listen to my Federico Aubele station on Pandora, or I listen to the playlist I created while writing the 4-Hour Chef. I found 29 songs I loved, each one for a different reason. It starts with Eric B. & Rakim and ends with Elvis.

What’s your best time-saving trick?

Use RescueTime to block off all social media sites and email for 90-120 minutes first thing in the morning. Focus on your most important one or two to-dos. If processing email on Gmail later, use The Email Game to double speed.

What’s your favourite to-do list manager?

I’m old school. I use post-it notes or index cards to limit the number of to-dos I can add. That said, while writing big books (The 4-Hour Chef is 672 pages after cutting 250+ pages), I sometimes go nuts. The screenshot of one manila folder for the “Professional” section makes my head hurt just looking at it (see image below).

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?

My B. Goode handmade knife from North Carolina. It works for everything. The ESEE-3 is an easier-to-find alternative.

What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else? What’s your secret?

Saying “no” to things. I have a not-to-do list, which allows me to get more done than my to-do list. Second, I drink a LOT of yerba mate tea, preferably Cruz de Malta (con palo). Useful for 10pm-5am writing marathons on a deadline. My constant late-night companions are Casino Royale and Shawn of the Dead on repeat.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

You are the average of the five people you associate with the most.

We’ve asked a handful of heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Every week we’ll feature a new guest and the gadgets, apps, tips and tricks that keep them going. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? Let us know.