The Art of Less Doing - Chapter 1

This week, we’re going to do something special.

Rather than post our regular blog, we’re going to give you access to Chapter 1 of my new book, The Art of Less Doing.

The book is an in-depth exploration of my revolutionary Optimize, Automate, Outsource methodology, and valuable lessons derived from the 80/20 rule, the 3 D's, and multi-platform repurposing. In Chapter 1, I talk at length about:

  • The Value of Knowing Yourself
  • Multitasking Myths
  • The 80/20 Rule
  • Tracking for Awareness

Enjoy!

-Ari

 

Chapter 1: Know Thyself

The Multitasking Myth

As a productivity consultant, I can say with confidence most people do not self-identify as unproductive. In fact, highly functioning people tend to think they could always do more, and some even think the work they do produce could be better. On the flip side, there are also people who delude themselves that they are highly functioning multitaskers, when in fact they spread themselves so thin, nothing ever really gets done, and certainly not done very well. These misconceptions regarding personal productivity boil down to a complete lack of self-awareness.

Humans have not evolved biologically as quickly as they have technologically. It's unrealistic to think we should be neurologically able to manage the constant barrage of information and never-ending stimuli that comes at us in a given day. Our brains can’t process all of the stuff coming in, so they shut down in response.

For example, think about your email inbox. Does the mere thought of it cause you a feeling of panic or a sense of dread? If you’re like most people, your blood pressure has already shot up a few notches, you’ve stopped reading this book and you’re checking your email. I’ve worked with people who have literally thousands of unopened emails taunting them on any regular day. It’s so overwhelming; they don’t even want to look at their inbox.

Email has become the ultimate paradigm shift. When used properly, it is one of the greatest productivity tools ever invented. There’s no other communication resource available that is completely free, enables you to be in touch with people around the globe, share images and documents and file it all.  And yet, look at how it is viewed by the average businessperson!

Most of the incredible communication tools we have at our disposal – cell phones, instant messaging, social media platforms – have become leashes and obligations, rather than the productivity tools they are intended to be. The tools lead to overwhelm, but most people don’t know what is causing them to feel overwhelmed, and around and around the circle goes. People get caught up in the cycle and it’s hard for them to recognize when they are actually producing good work. The overall feeling is one of dissatisfaction, which causes an inability to take advantage of the resources that could make their lives easier. People have lost touch with what technology can do for us and instead have developed a very unhealthy relationship with it. If you have good habits, technology can make them better. If you have bad habits, it will intensify those habits.

We are scientifically designed to focus on one thing at a time. Therefor, multitasking is not an activity the human brain is capable of handling. The neurological term for multitasking is “context switching.” When we attempt to multitask we switch back and forth between tasks so quickly, we physically exhaust our brains.

People have tried to “game the system” by combining low focus activities with high focus activities to train the brain to be better at context switching. Interestingly, women are marginally (2-3%) better at context switching than men, but generally speaking, switching back and forth between tasks is completely mentally exhausting. Most people cannot focus on a single task for longer than five minutes without getting distracted.

In exercise, the multitasking phenomenon is called the Central Governor Theory. It proposes that the brain is self-regulating and will literally shut down before the body can over exert. The theory supports why running on a treadmill tends to be more exhausting than running outside. A treadmill has more stimuli to keep track of: calories burned, time, heart rate, incline and a variety of other information blinking and beeping at you. It’s a lot to take in when you’re trying to blow off some steam!

The 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, promotes the concept of identifying the things in your life that give you the most bang for your buck.  Pareto was an Italian economist and an avid gardener. He was surveying his plants one day and noticed that 20% of his pea plants produced 80% of the peas. He was enchanted by this concept and scratched a little further to discover a similar phenomenon occurred within the economy: 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. He surveyed other countries as well and found the same ratio applied. The overall observation is that most things in life are not distributed evenly.

What are the things that require the least amount of effort but have the greatest return on investment? In business, this rule means that 20% of your clients are responsible for 80% of your income. The other 80% of your clients are essentially gobbling up your time and energy with no return. Pareto (and Tim Ferriss) would argue that you should cease paying attention to that 80% and concentrate solely on the 20% that is making you money.

For example, say you have five clients who are paying you $10,000/month. They’re loyal and they’ll be with you well into the future. Additionally, you have 100 clients whom you work with sporadically. They spend about $50/month and they always complain. Those low paying clients suck up a lot of energy and time, and they’re simply not worth the limited income. Focus on the lucrative few.

If this principle is applied to your email inbox, you could easily eliminate close to 60-75% of the volume. Set a filter to file every email that has the word “unsubscribe” in it to an optional folder. That way, all of those emails will immediately bypass your inbox, thereby greatly reducing the feeling of overwhelm. The lower number of unopened emails taunting you allows you to focus on the messages that are of the highest importance.

This practice differs from using SaneBox or an app that creates folders, because the filter creates two different buckets in which you operate differently. Your inbox is a place for work, for productivity and for getting things done. The optional folder is the opposite; it holds emails that do not require your immediate attention. The beauty of this system is that just knowing all of the emails in your optional folder are optional, you can fly through them much faster when you’re ready to give them your attention.

The 80/20 Rule fits into my concept of Less Doing, More Living because I believe that 20% of your effort and resources should be devoted to work, while the other 80% should be allocated toward rest, relaxation and personal development. In that vein, I spend 80% of my time with my family, exercising, eating, reading, sleeping or learning. Because I’ve made the choice to spend my time this way, I’m forced to figure out ways to be ultra productive when I am working.

I’ve optimized all of the activities in my home and work life so that I am spending the maximum amount of my energy doing what gives me the highest reward in the moment. I run my whole business from my phone, which means I am 100% mobile. I’ve reorganized my time so I can focus on my wife and kids, because family is what matters the most to me.

My work schedule revolves around my kids’ nap and school schedules. When my twin boys are napping, I’ll crank out an hour of work. After my wife and I have dinner together and put the kids to bed, I’ll sit down for another hour and half of work. I’ve identified pockets of time in the day when I can focus uninterrupted and am able to be the most productive. I would never be able to work this way if I didn’t have systems that allow me to work in the most time efficient and concentrated manner. Honestly, I would love to work forty hours a week because I love what I do with Less Doing, but I'm a huge believer in setting restrictions that force us to be more effective.

Look at John Paul DeJoria, the founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and the premium tequila brand, Patron, among other ventures. He’s worth four billion dollars and the man has never had an email address or owned a computer. He says he would be so inundated; he would never get any work done! DeJoria does all of his business in person or on the phone, and his philosophy is to “pay attention to the vital few and ignore the trivial many.” Words to live by!

Awareness Through Tracking

The best way to start optimizing your time, energy and resources is to start tracking things at work and at home. You need to be able to identify metrics and patterns before you can start to adjust or eliminate activities or behaviors. Start by tracking what you’re working on, how long it takes, how many things you are doing at once, how much money you spend on food, how many times you ate at your desk, and any other habitual activities or behaviors that you’re interested in changing or getting rid of. Once you begin to track and attach numbers to your day-to-day routine, not only are you affording yourself the opportunity to improve, but psychologically, you will have an increased sense of control in an otherwise overwhelming environment.

The data collection timeframe will vary according to the individual and the activity being tracked. I was working with a client who wanted me to help him with his nutrition recently. Initially, we thought we’d need a month, or at least a week of data, but after just two days of looking at his food log, the problem revealed itself. He was texting photos of his meals and caloric intake at the end of each day, and I noticed a Starbucks Frappuccino bottle in the background of one of his pictures. There are 32 grams of sugar in just one of those tiny bottles, and he was drinking those things all day. He hadn’t even realized how much sugar he was taking in, so in his case, just two days was long enough to start making changes. One small adjustment can have a massive impact. In this case, it was a single beverage.

Let’s look at personal finance. Money is something that a lot of people would like to have better control over. There never seems to be enough to fill all of the buckets that need filling. The app, Mint, is a fantastic way to track where you are spending all of those precious dollars. It syncs to your bank account, and in just a week’s time, you’ll have enough data to analyze your spending behaviors. You may not even be aware that you’re eating out four nights a week or spending $300/week on groceries. The morning double dirty chai tea soy latte probably adds up to way more than you think. If you’re someone who has a hard time finding $1,000 for your savings account, take a close look at your daily spending habits to determine what can be minimized or eliminated altogether.

How you spend your time is also valuable information. Parkinson’s Law says, “Work expands to fill the time allotted to complete it." Many people need a sense of urgency to get things done. If you’re a procrastinator, you’ll use up all of the time you have allotted for a project and then likely finish it at the eleventh hour. This behavior is largely based on personality, but generally speaking, if you have a task to do and a half an hour to do it, you will probably get it done. If you have an hour to do the same task, you'll probably take the whole hour to do it. I'm guilty of this myself, which is one of the reasons I live and die by my Google calendar. I put every activity, meeting and phone call in my calendar to set a parameter for myself.

Once you start tracking how you spend your time, you’ll find that you’re wasting hours on unproductive behaviors. Many times, wasted time doesn’t even relate to stress; it’s simply due to the fact that you have time to waste. Be aware that just because you’re tracking something, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will find an immediate correlation. For example, tracking weight and losing weight do not go hand in hand, unfortunately.

Sleep is another often-overlooked area that is easy to track. The results generally have a large impact. You don’t need to assess the reasons why you have a bad sleep necessarily; all you need to track is whether you had a good sleep or a bad sleep. College students are notoriously the most sleep deprived demographic.

Brown University conducted a famous sleep research study in 2001. The twist was they told the students who had slept poorly, that they had in fact slept very well and vice verse. Then, the students completed a series of cognitive tests. Their performance was based directly on how they were told they had slept. This is not the Placebo effect, but the power of suggestion. Even those who had slept poorly, trusted the data over how they actually felt, which just goes to show the power of information and the control it has over performance. Naïve realism is a philosophy rooted in the theory of perception. It claims that the senses provide us with direct awareness of the external world, and we should take objects at face value.

As human beings, we tend to be very sure of ourselves and have strong opinions, but we can also be very weak when it comes to defending those opinions. We have a tendency to convince ourselves that however we go about a certain task is exactly the correct way of going about it. For example, if I am driving down the road at 75 miles per hour, and someone passes me going 80, I’ll think that guy is a lunatic. And if I’m stuck behind someone else who is driving 70, I’ll honk my horn at him and think he is the world’s worst slow poke.

Basically, we tend to think that whatever we’re doing is the baseline for appropriate action and we form very strong opinions about others’ behaviors. In the driving example, I think, “That guy going 80 is a completely nut! He’s breaking the law! Even though technically, I also was breaking the law, that other guy was breaking the law more. And that slow poke back there! Has he never heard you pass on the left and travel in the right? Where do these people learn to drive?” Being aware of your behaviors and attitudes, so that you can employ some sort of helping mechanism to adjust, is the solution.

The first step of optimizing is identification. If you are averse to technology, you can simply start to track behaviors and time in a journal or a notebook. Start with any area of your life that you want to improve and start small. If you want to lose weight, track what foods you are eating. If you feel strapped for time, track how you’re spending it. You can’t optimize a behavior or an activity until you first identify it and then understand your current patterns.

Tracking time and behaviors is also a fantastic way to regain a sense of control over your life. Knowledge is power and that applies to overwhelm as well. When you can identify the areas in your day or life that are causing your stress, gobbling up your time or devouring your resources, you can develop action steps toward change. For most people, it adds a quantitative element to an otherwise qualitative measurement.

3 Steps to Less:

  1. Collect data by tracking your time, energy and resources to identify patterns.
  2. Focus on one thing at a time. Eliminate multitasking and other unproductive behaviors.

Implement the Pareto Principle (The 80/20 Rule). Focus on the things in your life that give you the highest return on investment.

How Do You Organize?

There’s a question I’ve been asked time and time again in the years since I started Less Doing, and that question is some variation of the following:

How do I organize my file hierarchies?

It’s a good question and one that has two different answers—there’s one answer for email, and there’s another answer for everything else.

As it pertains to email, you’re all probably familiar with my opinion:

There should only be THREE folders in your email:

1.       Inbox

2.      Archived

3.      Deleted

That’s it.

But as it pertains to everything else:

Dropbox…

Evernote…

Your Hard Drive…

Or—if you’re old fashioned—your filing cabinet…

I’ll simply say this:

You never want to have too much or too little in any file or folder.

To get specific, I quantify too little as less than 20, and too much as more than 100.

When your file or folder has less than 20 items in it, you need to consolidate. Move those items into a similar filing category that can accommodate an absorption.

When your file or folder has more than 100 items in it, then you need to BREAK IT DOWN…by date, subject, file type, it doesn’t matter—do what you think is best.

Obsession with organization is inefficient, but so is sloppiness. When it comes to filing finding the balance is key, and I believe that balance starts with my 20/100 rule.

If you find yourself frequently struggling with file hierarchies and organization in general, here are some additional rules to live by that I highly recommend…

Don’t wait

The longer you take to address your filing/organizational problems the worse they’ll get. The worse they get, the more inefficient and frustrated you’ll become.

Keep categories

Categories within the umbrella of your hierarchy are great as long as they aren’t too broad (“documents”) or too specific (“Receipts – April 1st through 7th 2014”). I recommend filing by general topic categories, and going from the broad to the more specific (“Finances à “Receipts” à Q1 2016”).

Remember the 20/100 rule applies to subfolders

The 20/100 rule doesn’t just apply to individual files, it applies to subfolders as well. If your umbrella category is “Clients” but more than 100 different client subfolders fall within that categorization, find a way to break them up, like “Clients 2015” and “Clients 2016”.

Name practically

Whether you find yourself naming individual files or important folders, keep names short and sweet. Don’t take that as a license to forgo detail or specificity, but long names are going to be more of a hindrance than a help, guaranteed. This is especially true if the files/folders named are going to be shared (like a company Dropbox account).

Stay steady

Whatever system you ultimately elect to put in place, it’s important to practice consistency. The rules you create for structuring your file/folder hierarchies need to be just that—rules. Without a diligence and repetition, your dream of having an organized, highly-efficient filing system will never be realized.  

Getting organized is never easy—I had to almost die in order to realize the value of organizational efficiency—but it is 100% worth the effort. Try implementing my 20/100 rule today and I promise you’ll start reaping the benefits sooner than you think.

-Ar

How Ari and Nick Hire Great People

Make no bones about it…

HIRING. IS. HARD.

Especially for small business owners or entrepreneurs with limited resources.

Trying to find the right candidate to fill the right void in costs money, cannibalizes time, and if not don’t properly the first time, costs even more money and time.

That’s why Nick and I worked incredibly hard to create a thorough, hands-free hiring process for Less Doing, and today I’m going to show you exactly how it works…  

Build a “Jobs” alias

The automation of our hiring process began with an email alias created exclusively for job applicants.

We used Jobs@LessDoing.com and I recommend using something equally simple.

Post the email address clearly and unmistakably on the “Contact Us” page of your website, and anywhere else you might be publically promoting job opportunities with your company, like Craigslist or LinkedIn.

Set Up an Auto Responder

When interested applicants start emailing your newly created “Jobs” alias, you aren’t going to want to answer questions surrounding open positions, let alone sift through cover letters and resumes.

Instead, do what we did—create an auto-responder that includes all the imaginable details of the job:

  • Company mission
  • Daily Responsibilities
  • Pay
  • Benefits
  • Expectations
  • Qualifications

…And most importantly, next steps.

In our case, we ask people to send us a YouTube video pitching us on their skill set.

Notice how we’re not just asking for a video, we’re asking for a YouTube video—this one nuance helps us eliminate 60% of job candidates right off the bat.

Applicants either don’t read the instructions, sending us pitches in the wrong format which means they don’t pay attention to detail….

Don’t want to go to the effort to create a video, which means they’re lazy…

Or can’t figure out how to upload a video file to YouTube, which means they’re not enough of a problem solver to make it as a member of Less Doing.

By explicitly asking for a YouTube video, we’re throwing up another small yet important barrier to entry and saving ourselves from lots of unnecessary interviewing.

Invite to Continue

When we’ve had an opportunity to review the YouTube pitches we’ve received, we invite any interesting candidates to continue the application process by walking through our entire onboarding procedure (PDFs, instructional videos, etc.), a procedure we automate using Workforce by Intuit.

This is hours and hours of work we’re asking applicants to complete on their own accord. We’re not paying them for this and there’s no guarantee they’ll be hired.

Only candidates of quality and commitment—the people that really want the job—make it through the onboarding process…just one more filter we put in place to help the cream rise to the top.  

Approve and Check

The select few that actually get through the entire Workforce onboarding process are “approved” at its conclusion, and sent a Non-Disclosure Agreement, Contractor Agreement, and 1099.

Once Workforce receives signed copies of the NDA, Contractor Agreement, and 1099, it automatically conducts a background check on the potential new hire.

Official Training

Our applicants are approaching the final lap of the hiring process—they’re near the end, but they’re not at the end.

If the background check is successfully passed, we invite them to finalize their pre-job training through a 16 hour Lesson.ly course, at the conclusion of which they’re presented with a test…

…a test they need to score 90% or higher on in order to pass.

Welcome to Less Doing

And assuming our candidates successfully score that 90%+ on their final exam, they are finally presented with an official hiring letter.

They’ve reached the end of the road.

Let’s Recap…

In order to work with us, applicants have to:

1.      Proactively make an inquiry with us

2.      Read the job description on the auto responder

3.      Pitch us on their talent through a YouTube video

4.      Endure a lengthy on-boarding process

5.      Complete an NDA, Contractor Agreement, and 1099

6.      Clear a background check

7.      Take a 16 hour Lesson.ly course

8.      Score at least 90% on a Less Doing exam

It’s only after doing all of this, that applicants are offered a job with us.

The process is thorough, intense, and requires the absolute base minimum input from myself and Nick.

It is—without a doubt—the best way to hire great people.

-Ar

Being a Father Versus Being a Dad

As you’re probably well-aware, Father’s Day was about 10 days ago.

And while I loved the additional TLC from my kids and Mrs. Meisel, the thing I loved MOST about this past Father’s Day was an old article I revisited on the Good Man Project by writer Kathy Shimmield.

The article—similarly titled The Difference between Being a Father and a Dad—is one of my all-time favorites.

In the article, Kathy discusses the disparity between the roles of “father” and “dad”—two titles often used interchangeably but in her eyes distinctly different.

While she spends the article diving into a variety of defining characteristics for each role, the crux of Kathy’s argument is this:

“You automatically become a father when your child is born, but you earn the title of dad. Being a father is easy and requires little emotional investment, [but] being a dad…is a dedicated, difficult and lifelong responsibility.”

THAT statement is why I not only revisit this article, but revisit it often.

The day my first child was born, I became Ari Meisel—author, entrepreneur, son, husband, and father.

But I didn’t become dad.

Dad is a knighthood that cannot be given, it must be earned in the eyes of your children. They are the ones who decide if you’re going to be a “dad” or a “father.”

Yes, there are things you can do to improve the likelihood of being perceived as the former rather than the latter, but ultimately the decision isn’t up to you.

As a male parent, you have a choice to make whether you’re on your first child or your fifth:

You have to decide whether you want the title or the reputation?—you must choose an avenue to pursue.

Earning a title is comparatively easy.

Adopt a child or facilitate your spouse’s pregnancy and BOOM—just like that­—you’re a father.

But if you want a reputation, specifically the reputation of being a dad, then you’re going to have to earn it over the long-haul by cultivating a strong, heathy parent-child relationship.  

And this idea really goes beyond fatherhood. It permeates everything we do.

In a single weekend someone can easily obtain a SCUBA certification, or a motorcycle license, but are they really masters of either craft?—of course not.

They’ve secured titles. They haven’t earned reputations as skilled SCUBA divers or motorcycle riders. Those are reputations that take months if not years to create, because a reputation is based on real-life acts—not what an “official” piece of paper says.

When my first daughter Chloe was born this past winter, I—by the letter of the law—became father to a beautiful baby girl.

But I didn’t become her dad, and I won’t for some time, because I have to earn that through my behavior. “Dad” is a distinction only Chloe can give me with her words and actions.

Do I think I’ll earn it?—yes.

In fact, I know I’ll earn it, but for now, I’ll settle for being the best father I can possibly be.

In the wake of this recent Father’s Day, I’d like to encourage all the dads out there in the Less Doing Community to sit down for a few minutes and really reflect on what it means to be a father versus a dad.

Evaluate your relationship with your children. Where is it strong, and where could it be better?

Identify those areas for improvement and make a conscious effort to do so in the coming weeks and months. I promise that the effort you make—no matter how small—will not be lost upon your kids or family at-large.

Here’s to making the rest of 2016 all about being the best dad you can possibly be.

-Ari

Good Customer Service versus Exceptional Customer Service

This past week I had a fascinating experience with a company called Operator.

Operator is a free app I use to purchase a variety of items for both my home and my businesses. It has tremendous functionality and, like I previously mentioned, it’s free to use.

About a week ago, I asked Operator to purchase a new bed for my son, Ben, and have the bed delivered to our house in the Hamptons—a simple enough request, and one I would always have complete confidence in Operator to deliver on.

…Except they didn’t deliver.

Well, they did deliver in the sense they successfully bought the bed, but they didn’t physically deliver it—the bed went to our home in Manhattan instead.

Like any customer, I reached out to Operator’s customer service team to let them know about the problem, and their response was nothing short of spectacular.

They immediately hired a courier (on their dime) to pick up the bed from our home in New York City and drive it out to the Hamptons. Keep in mind that this journey is more than 100 miles door-to-door and that Operator is a free app to use. Within 24 hours of making a mistake, Operator had gone above and beyond to rectify the situation for someone who isn’t even a paying customer.

It was the definition of exceptional customer service…

The type of service that makes a customer feel (strange as it may sound) indebted to the company.

The type of service that turns everyday people into brand ambassadors who want to climb to the highest mountaintops in order to sing the praises of the company.

Even though Operator screwed up, I feel more passionately about them as a brand now than I would have had they just gotten my order right in the first place.

THAT is the impact that exceptional customer service can have on people.

Would I have been fine with “good” customer service?

The kind of service that says, we’re terribly sorry Mr. Meisel, we’ll have that bed picked up from your home in New York, and have a new bed shipped to your house in the Hamptons immediately. It should arrive in the next two to three days?

Sure.

But I wouldn’t have been happy and I certainly wouldn’t be sitting here today, singing the praises of the company.

And that’s why it’s so important to understand the distinction between “good” and “exceptional.” Frankly, it’s night and day, and the difference exceptional customer service can make in improving how customers view and talk about your business cannot be understated.

So be better than good, be exceptional.

-Ari

Control is the Antidote to Stress

Anytime I talk about stress, someone invariably asks me about “stress relief.”

Ari, how do I stop feeling this way?

Ari, how do I relieve my stress?

Well, there are lots of ways to relieve stress, I’ll say.

Would you prefer unhealthy relief like cigarettes, drugs, and alcohol? Or would you prefer healthy relief like mediation, exercise, and good music?

…Because whatever you choose, you’re still not going to get what you want.

Allow me explain…

You don’t actually want stress relief, no one does.

Advil provides relief from an achy knee, but it’s doesn’t repair the damaged cartilage causing the inflammation.

Imodium provides relief from diarrhea, but it doesn’t kill the bug that’s making your stomach sick.

Relief is a temporary reprieve from your symptoms—what you want is a cure.

You want the antidote to your stress—something that is permanent, something that will last

…And that something is CONTROL.

Control has always been the antidote to stress, because stress only exists when you lose control.

When you lose control of your life, you lack the ability to diffuse overwhelm, and overwhelm is the psychological trigger for stress.  

OK Ari, if control is the key to defeating stress once, how do I assert it? How do I get that precious sense of control?

By letting go…

That’s right…to regain control of your life, you need to become a master of letting go.

(If you’re confused right now, that’s OK—when I first introduce this idea to any of my coaching clients, they’re always a bit baffled as well, but trust me when I say it actually makes complete sense.) 

“Letting go” to regain “control” seems counterintuitive I know, but it actually makes perfect sense.

As a human, there’s a limit to how much you can mentally manage at any moment in time. As long as your responsibilities stay below that limit, you’ll always feel like you’re in control.

But the moment your threshold is surpassed?—that’s when overwhelm and stress start kicking-in.

In order to exercise ultimate control over your life, you need to reduce your obligations, and the easiest way to do that is by letting go. Now, what exactly you should let go of, I can’t tell you without getting to know you, but I can guarantee that if you make an objective, no B.S. assessment of your life, you’ll find plenty to let go of.  

Now here’s an important distinction…

When I tell you to “let go” I don’t mean it in the sense that you should aimlessly abandon a responsibility outright—I want you to let go, but do so in a strategic way:

Through the power of automation and outsourcing.

By using automation and outsourcing, you can control how you surrender control.

Relinquish the responsibility of sorting email—filters can keep that inbox nice and tidy for you.

Stop trying to build your own website—outsource the job to 3rd party.

Quit wasting your time trying to schedule meetings with prospects—Amy can handle it.

You see the point, right?

Your world is probably awash in time consuming responsibilities that can easily be let go of—with practically zero risk—thanks to automation and outsourcing.

The more of these responsibilities you strategically let go of, the more mental bandwidth you’ll liberate.

The more mental bandwidth you liberate, the less overwhelmed you’ll feel.

The less overwhelmed you feel, the more control you’ll have over your life.

And as long as you’re in control of your life, you’ll rarely if ever suffer from stress

-Ari 

 

 

 

Live Life with an Arm Tied Behind Your Back

As many of you know, I have four wonderful children. And while they mainly provide me with incalculable quantities of joy, they also provide me with two or three daily challenges.

It is one of those challenges I want to talk about today, and it’s a challenge every parent endures whether they have one, two, or ten—the challenge of rarely having both hands free.

Whether I’m at home, at the park, or taking my kids to school, I’ve always got someone in my arm, holding my hand, throwing me a ball, etc.

Having only one hand available can make simple everyday tasks—like pulling groceries out of the car, cooking dinner, or responding to email—extremely difficult, and that difficulty can easily lead to frustration…

…if you let it.

You see, rather than allow it to frustrate me, I’ve turned it into a challenge—something that can benefit both my mind and body.

How do I play?

I force myself to do fine-motor tasks with my non-dominant (left) hand, and everything involving my kids with my dominant (right) hand.

If I’m pushing Lucas in the stroller through Whole Foods, I’m using my left hand to pull items off the shelf and pay at the checkout.

If I’m carrying Chloe in my arms, but Sébastien wants to play catch, I’m using my left hand to toss the ball.

If I’m holding Benjamin’s hand when we’re walking home from school, but I need to message Anna about our dinner plans, I’m using my left hand to unlock the phone and text.

…You get the idea.

By forcing myself to better use my non-dominant hand, I’m doing more than gamifying one of the challenges of being a busy parent—I’m also improving my capacity for deep-thought and self-control.

Evidence suggests that by proactively using your non-dominant hand, you can develop a stronger neurological link between the two hemispheres of the brain. This improved connection helps cultivate new skills, new interests, and deeper, more complex thought.

Researchers have also shown that by intentionally using your non-dominant hand, you can achieve higher levels of self-control—and not just control of your motor skills, but your emotions as well. In one experiment, participants successfully demonstrated better control over their aggression after as little as two-weeks of non-dominant hand use. Do I have a problem with aggression? Not that I’m aware of, but the notion that I can improve my ability to control my emotions simply by making a more proactive attempt to engage the use of my non-dominant hand is too fantastic to pass up.

I’ve even started using my left hand during those rare occasions I don’t have one of my kids hanging off my right arm, like when I’m brushing my teeth, sipping coffee with a client, or using the trackpad on my Mac at work.

The point is, I can feel the positive impact this self-challenge is having on my day-to-day life—I can sense the richer cognitive function—and if you’re willing to try this little experiment for at least four weeks, I bet you will too.

-Ar

How We Outsource the Less Doing Blog and Newsletter

 

Lately, I’ve been getting a lot requests to write about how I outsource the production of the Less Doing blog and newsletter.

So rather than continue to explain the process to each individual inquisitor, I’ve decided to dedicate a whole blog post to the subject…

Like everything at Less Doing, the outsourcing process always begins with “optimize” and “automate”.

Long before I ever hired someone to help with the blog or newsletter, I reduced their production down to the barebones.

Inefficiencies and redundancies were excised, and a clear, easily replicable process was established—a process so straightforward that anyone could come in and repeat it.

Only after I could optimize and automate no further, did I outsource production.

Now, instead of spending hours hunched over my laptop trying to crank out each week’s blog and newsletter, I spend about 120 to 180 seconds on production TOTAL.

Here’s how the outsourced processes look…

The Blog

Step 1

It all starts with a rough idea—that’s the part I’m responsible for. Rather than sit down to iron out a super-specific idea, I just riff out-loud for about 60 to 90 seconds using Roger, and then message the recording over to our writer. And just like that, my role is complete.

Step 2

Our writer will listen to my recording and extract a general theme or idea to use as a topic for the blog.

Step 3

With an idea in-hand, the actual writing begins. It usually takes our writer about two hours to generate a FINAL, ready-to-publish product.

Step 4

Our writer then creates a Trello card, attaches the copy, and tags me and one of the Less Doing VA’s (this is where I can review the copy before it goes to publish but, honestly, I rarely if ever review the copy…there isn’t really a need).

Step 5

The Less Doing VA tagged in the Trello card creates an image for the post, and then posts to copy and newly created image to LessDoing.com blog page.

And just like that, we’re DONE—60 seconds of work from me has equated to a 500 word blog post for you. It’s that easy. 

The Newsletter

This one is a little trickier to itemize because we’ve been changing the layout over the last couple of months. Having said that, here’s how I currently outsource the production of the weekly newsletter…

Step 1

Our weekly newsletter has three sections.

1.      A welcome message

2.      A summary of our weekly blog

3.      A summary of the weekly podcast

Of those sections, I’m only responsible for the material that goes in the welcome paragraph.

Once again, using Roger, I riff out loud for about 60 seconds about what I’d like the weekly message to say. I then send that recording through Roger directly to our writer, and just like that, my role is 99% complete.

Step 2

Our writer listens to my recording and converts my thoughts into a tangible, easy to read message for the newsletter.

Once that’s done, our writer also types up a brief summary of the week’s podcast episode and our weekly blog post.

Step 3

That same writer then logs into Mail Chimp to create and schedule the actual email.

Step 4

Once the it’s created and scheduled, I am sent a preview of the email for approval, which I will give via Roger (or sometimes Slack).

Step 5

Assuming approval, no further action is necessary because the email has been scheduled. If I don’t give approval (which rarely happens), we repeat steps 2 through 4 as needed.

That’s it, we’re DONE, and once again I’ve spent no more than 60 to 90 seconds of my week on the production of our newsletter.

Easier than you thought, right? Hopefully you these little bits of insight helpful. If you’d like to learn how I completely outsource the production of the Less Doing Podcast or other tasks, be sure to let me know by sending a note to me directly, Info[at]lessdoing.co. 

- Ari

The Value of a Chief of Staff

 

I have a question…

Who is the person that knows exactly when and where you need to be?

What you need to do?

How you need to do it?

I’m not talking about a manager or a receptionist. I’m talking about someone different.

Someone who accomplishes what you’re thinking before you ever ask…

Someone who efficiently and meticulously sources all your shit where it needs to go, before you even realize it needs to be sourced…

I’m talking about your chief of staff.

The person in your life that makes the impossible possible.

That handles all the superfluous B.S. in your world so you can completely devote your time, energy, and attention to the things that matter most:

  • Your Family
  • Your Friends
  • Your happiness
  • Your passions
  • And The work that only YOU can do

For me, it’s the Less Doing Virtual Assistants.

For my friend Joe Polish, it’s his long-time rockstar assistant, Eunice.

For you, it’s…

If you can’t finish that sentence with confidence, it’s a problem.

Why?—because you need a chief of staff.

Every truly successful individual, the type of individual who has zero inefficiencies in their day and super-high levels of productivity, relies heavily on a chief of staff.

Be it a single individual like Eunice, or a high-level service like Less Doing Virtual Assistants, the chief of staff becomes a mental and physical extension of the individual it represents (in this case, you).

Your chief of staff doesn’t need to ask permission, doesn’t need to double check. The relationship they’ve formed with you is so tight, so natively ingrained, they can operate autonomously to get what you need done.

Do they have all the answers all the time?—no.

But on that rare occasion when they don’t have the answers you need, your chief of staff knows exactly where to go to get them.

That versatility and ingenuity is what makes the chief of staff the ultimate time-saver and overwhelm-reducer.

If you don’t have a chief of staff currently—that’s OK—but I strongly recommend getting one, and getting one soon.

-Ar

80% of Problems are Tied to Communication

As business owners, finding the room to really look at your company can be a challenge. Oftentimes, we spend so much time working in our business that we don’t have the time to sit down and analyze things.

We know there are inefficiencies.

We know there are problems.

But finding the bandwidth to actually identify where those problems are rooted, why they’re there, and how we can fix them is a different story.

That’s one of the perks of starting Less Doing Virtual Assistants—our business is your business, which means I have the time to really look at what’s happening.

In the roughly seven months we’ve been running LDVA, I’ve noticed a particular pattern amongst our clients. A pattern that stretches across industries, geographies, and depth of expertise.

This pattern emerges in the type of issues our clients most frequently ask us to resolve for them.

Approximately four out of every five issues—be they tech, team, tool, or process-related—are directly tied to the quality of internal communication.

And, based upon what I can see, the excessive and maddeningly inefficient use of email is at the very heart of problem.

Email needs to be reserved—almost exclusively—for external communication. If it’s a conversation that should be happening behind closed company doors, only use email as a fail-safe, last resort.

Instead, try using the two tools I recommend above all others:

Slack and Trello

Slack and Trello are absolute game-changers!

Slack is the perfect tool for collaboration. It allows for direct, 1-on-1 conversations as well as on-going group discussions with multiple participants. Slack can also be paired with numerous apps and bots that take its versatility to astonishing heights.

Trello is a project management tool par-excellence. It’s simple, clean, and outrageously intuitive. When communication—be it a comment, question, or marching order—is tied to a specific project, it should be directly added to the project’s profile in Trello. At LDVA, doing this enables us to stay unbelievably organized—everyone knows the exact state of a project and any given time.

Slack and Trello have 10x’d our ability to conduct business at LDVA, and those results have been mirrored in every client we’ve migrated to these two tools.

Now, having said all that, there is a critical caveat to pay attention to:

If Slack and Trello aren’t properly set up, your communication WILL NOT IMPROVE.

Remember—as phenomenal as Slack and Trello are, they (like email) are tools, and tools can either be helpful or harmful.

When you’re employing new communications and project management technologies, it is absolutely imperative to look before you leap—think about the best way to use your tools before using them.

Don’t create a Slack channel that only has one member

Don’t build a Trello board with only one card.

Be strategic in laying the groundwork and you’ll be strategic in the eventual execution.

-Ari

The Genetic Algorithm of Your Business

Unless you’re an avid mathematician, lover of science, or employee at NASA, the odds are relatively good you’ve never heard of a genetic algorithm.

To clarify, it is a “…method for solving both constrained and unconstrained optimization problems based on a natural selection process that mimics biological evolution.

Using a genetic algorithm, a computer can repeatedly modify (evolve) a given population of variables to find an optimal outcome, which means they can find the “natural selection solution” to a wide variety of problems.

(The most famous use of a genetic algorithm was for the construction of an antenna for NASA’s ST5 spacecraft program, but that’s a different story for a different day.)

Stated even more simply, genetic algorithms let AI mimic Darwinian evolution—pretty cool.

So why the hell am I talking about algorithms and antenna? And what’s the connection to business?

Well, I’ll tell you…

Automated evolution is something you want in your business.

Finding the genetic algorithm of your business is the key to unlocking true, uninhibited efficiency.

As an entrepreneur, you should want your business to become a self-aware, naturally evolving entity—something that doesn’t require your focused input or guidance to become better and more efficient.

Keep in mind, I’m not talking about automation here, automation is something else entirely—it is robotic, fixed, and absent of the creativity that leads to true innovation.

Automated, assembly line production is stable—once it’s up and running, it will always produce a consistent result.

The same number of widgets, of the same quality, in the same amount of time, produced all day, every day.

Automation means you’ll never produce less than X widgets of Y quality in a given day…but you’ll never produce more or better widgets either.

And therein lies the difference…

When your business is not only autonomous, but capable of solving complex problems all on its own, capable of getting better—of evolvingthat’s when you have achieved true efficiency.

At LDVA, we’re getting closer to reaching a state of automated evolution every day. We aren’t there yet, but with each passing moment we inch closer.

That means less bottlenecks for the business, better project response times for clients, less work for myself and Nick, and an all-around more efficient business. 

Start pushing your business towards a state of automated evolution…

Start searching high and low for the genetic algorithm of your business…

If and when you find it, I guarantee it will be a truly game-changing experience.

-Ar

Doing Your To-Dos: Why it Pays to Involve Others

Taking a Second Look at Your To-Do List

We use a ton of productivity tools here at Less Doing.

Calvin…

Evernote…

Toggl…

And I’d bet money I’m the world’s biggest fan of Slack and Trello

These and the other tech tools are assets we use to keep our operation running smoothly.

But you want know a secret?

The tools you use to take your productivity to the next level don’t always have to be high-tech to be high-value.

In fact, some times the most productive tool in your arsenal (note—I said “your arsenal” not mine) is something you’d least expect…

The to-do list

That’s right, the to-do list—that idea-gathering device I’ve long lambasted—can occasionally be useful.

Many of you create to-do lists every day, and of course I know why—they’re simple, familiar, and somewhat effective at helping you catalogue your thoughts.

But like any productivity tool, the to-do list is only as good as you make it, and when you don’t make your to-do list good—manwill it slow you down.

In fact, it’ll do more than slow you down—it’ll paralyze you.

Projects will stall, reminders will stack, and that to-do list will keep growing…

And growing…

And GROWING...

You’ll feel overwhelmed, incapacitated, and utterly incapable of making clear, impactful decisions.

(See tunnel vision) 

When this happens, whatever positive use you could have extracted from the to-do list will be next to nil.

Unless...

Unless you can find a way to remove the roadblock…

Fortunately for you, I have one.

Give your to-do list to someone else

No, I’m not telling you to hand it off to a VA (though that is an option), I’m telling you to give your to-do list to anyone else.

Just ask them to look at it, see what questions they ask, and what comments they make.

       Why are you trying to do that?

       Wouldn’t it be easier to hire someone to help?

       How are you going to get that done?

       This doesn’t make sense…

       I did something like this before…

It’s an incredibly powerful way to get the ball rolling again on stalled projects. A fresh pair of eyes can point out something that you’re simply failing to notice. It can motivate you to reprioritize and reorganize.

Again, the person you give your to-do list to can be anyone—a VA, a friend, or a stranger at the bus stop, it doesn’t matter. 

It’s going to help you gain a different perspective and zero-in on what’s getting holding up your most imperative projects.  

-Ari

The Benefits of Being Less Efficient

For almost ten years, I’ve made it my business to help people become more efficient.

Now I’m going to make you less efficient.  

Less Doing has always been about squeezing maximum value out of every hour worked in order to create more time to do the things you love. But what if reducing your efficiency is actually the key to long-term productivity?

Let me give you an example.

Imagine two teams in two different companies—each team has a standing meeting every Monday to plan for the coming week.

Team #1 is all business—no chit-chat, no “how was your weekend?” Their meeting takes 15 minutes and at the end, everyone jump headlong into their work.

Team #2 is more business casual—they check-in on each other, ask about the weekend, and converse over coffee. The meeting has a far less rigid structure and—consequently—it takes a little bit longer to get down to business. Their meeting takes 30 minutes.

A strict disciple of Less Doing would probably say Team #2 is wasting time—they could have answered emails, sketched the outline for a blog post, or outsourced some work in those 15 extra minutes. 

But here’s the thing I’ve come to realize—it’s possible Team #2 will be more productive in the long run. Yes, they’re sacrificing short-term efficiency but they’re building cohesion, teamwork, friendship, and trust through that sacrifice. Those are the types of intangible assets that keep morale, creativity, and productivity high in the long-run

How about another example?

Imagine for a moment that you’re a copywriter, and a client asks you to help them build an email marketing funnel. 

You’ve dabbled in email marketing before but ultimately, you have no significant experience building funnels. Following conventional Less Doing wisdom, you need to turn this offer down—the time it will take to learn the skills necessary will make you far less efficient in the short term.

But what if you rolled the dice and said “yes?” 

Yes, you’re going to become less efficient in the short term, but if those newly learned email marketing skills will improve the likelihood of hitting your long-term goals (building a robust digital copywriting business), you’re actually becoming more efficient overall. 

The key word in both these scenarios is of course long-term.

To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to be efficient, but you also need to be a tactician.

Your strategy defines your future.

Productivity isn’t just about nailing short-term goals. It’s about defining where you want to be long-term, and making continuous progress towards that dream. 

Some of the things that serve your long-term goals—high energy; a passionate, tight-knit team; continuous upskilling—aren’t always served by a relentless drive for efficiency.

In the age of 10+ hour factory workdays, Henry Ford was ridiculed for introducing the 8-hour shift, but he had the last laugh when that shorter workday led to better employee productivity.  

Think in terms of ‘lifetime value’—invest in yourself, your skill set, and the people around you. Taking a short-term hit in efficiency can actually make you more productive by significantly adding to that long-term value.

Don’t get me wrong—efficiency is still VERY important, and I don’t believe in wasting time. That being said, I’d encourage you to think creatively about what the best uses of your time really are—go beyond short-term goals. 

When you become a master of strategy, when you start working towards long-term goals, you’ll often find being a little less efficient today leads to being a lot more efficient tomorrow. 

-Ari

 

Don't Procrastinate, Delegate

“I'll do it tomorrow.”

Those four simple words can absolutely devastate your ability to be productive.

The average person’s life is littered with projects that never get finished simply because they were never actually started due to procrastination. Maybe that's an okay way to live for the average person, but I’m not average and neither are you.

Whether you’re an aggressively aspiring entrepreneur, seasoned CEO, or stay-at-home parent—procrastination is going to be your #1 hurdle to success.

In order to make the absolute MOST out of your day, you’re going to need to do one very important thing...

DELEGATE.

Delegate that which you don’t truly need to do yourself—trust me, more things fit under that umbrella than you realize…no less than 90% of your day can be delegated to someone else.

Is delegation without its flaws? Absolutely not. But those flaws are far and few between when compared to the stress, disorganization, and overwhelm associated with procrastination.

Delegation can come in a variety of forms depending upon your situation. For me, delegation comes almost exclusively in the form of the LDVA service.

The LDVA’s help me navigate around the common triggers of procrastination

  • Boredom
  • Lack of motivation
  • Distraction
  • Overwhelm
  • Uncertainty of success

…and simply start getting things DONE. Are those DONE tasks always perfect? Not always—but at least they’re a step in the right direction, a building block to something better.

More importantly, when delegating all excess in my day, I’m creating the mental and physical space necessary to work on what I’m fantastic at—being a husband, father, and helping other people improve their lives.  

As you start to get more comfortable with delegation, you’ll slowly being to notice your schedule freeing up as your day becomes less mired in the tasks OTHER people can do.

You’ll also notice that, as you prepare tasks for delegation, your focus will sharpen—you’ll start thinking and working ON your business, rather than IN it.

You’ll enjoy the headspace to honestly evaluate state of your business (or your life) and where you want to go next.

When you’re ready to make the leap from delegation amateur to delegation aficionado, be sure to employ tools that will increase your efficacy, including:

  • Trello—the best workflow and project management tool out there  
  • Slack—a bastion of highly-effective asynchronous communication
  • Evernote and Dropbox—cloud-based tools that allow you to store and share anything and everything surrounding your delegation  

Remember, when you start investing in delegation—be it through LDVA or some other medium—you’ll start living a healthier, happier, and freer live.

I guarantee it.

-Ari 

Productivity Blocks Are Self-Imposed

When productivity works—it’s a dream. When it doesn’t, it’s a nightmare.

How often do you encounter a productivity challenge that makes you miserable?—and don’t say “never” because I still run into them to this day.

Learning to calmly deal with productivity challenges will be a critical step in the evolution of your personal productivity journey because they don’t go away with experience.

Yes, they become far less frequent—but they never actually disappear.

The key to surmounting these inevitable challenges in a calm, collected way lies in your ability to resist the “I have to get it done myself” urge, and think creatively…to find an unconventional resolution to the challenge.

Here’s what I mean…

Last week, I got the manuscript for my second book—The Tao of Less (working title)—back from my publishers. They asked me to read through the manuscript and offer feedback, to tell them what was right and what was wrong, what sounded authentic, and what sounded totally off-base.

I thought it would be fun…but it was awful.

No, not just awful, it was [insert expletive here] awful.

Honestly, I’m not even a rockstar reader and here I was being asked to play editor.

At the end of the FIRST day, I had averaged less than five pages per hour.

That level of inefficiency is literally my living nightmare.

Then someone near and dear to my heart made a brilliant suggestion, “why don’t you have someone read it to you, and then just dictate corrections?”

Genius.

I never even considered an optimized approach to the task at-hand—I simply assumed (incorrectly I might add) that the only way to edit the book was to sit down and read it myself.

By having the book read to me, and then recording my edits verbally, something that would have taken me weeks was done in a single day—an exhausting day—but an incredibly productive one.

When you feel like you aren’t making headway, chances are you’re taking a highly inefficient approach to the task at-hand.

Working harder isn’t the answer, working smarter is.

Pushing for “harder” locks the brain into a mechanized-state devoid of creativity, and when that happens, productivity goes right out the window. You start looking past alternate solutions…solutions that save time and squash stress.

So, the next time you find yourself mired in a mess of inefficiency, remember you’re likely creating the mess yourself.

Stop settling for hard work, and try thinking about smart work.

If your brain is too fried for idea-generation, ask your peers, your friends or your family for suggestions.

All alone?—then force yourself to do something unconventional in order to get the creative juices flowing, like drawing a picture of a blog post before actually sitting down to write it.

Remember that 99% of all productivity blocks are self-imposed—if you can keep that in the front of your mind, you’ll rarely find yourself fighting against the evils of stress and overwhelm.

-Ari

Meetings—You’re Doing Them Wrong

Meetings are the bane of my existence.

It’s not that I’m not diametrically opposed to meetings.

Under the right circumstances and executed under the proper guidelines, meetings can be a great expenditure of time…

…The problem is, most meetings—I’m willing to say 95% them—are not held under the right circumstances nor are executed under the proper guidelines.

The average meeting is horrifically inefficient. It involves too many people, too many touchpoints, too many questions, and—most importantly—too much time.

No meeting, no matter the significance, should take longer than 30 minutes. I don’t care if it’s about your business, your mortgage, or your child’s education—the meeting itself should be less than a half an hour.

Meetings are not about discussing all the avenues available, they’re about coming together to make decisions. They’re about choosing which road to take, not highlighting all the roads on the map.

Invited parties should be properly briefed before the meeting begins (if you’re hearing about something for the first time in the meeting itself, somebody screwed up) in order to ensure only pertinent matters are discussed.

When everyone has done their homework, I find most meetings can actually be concluded in less than 15 minutes.

Now, there is ONE important exception to my aforementioned stance on meetings and that is in the case of a brainstorming session—which is, quite frankly, an entirely different animal all together. If you’re gathering to hash out new ideas, speculate on future plans, or activate the creative faculties of the collective mind, then go nuts, use as much time as you’d like. Take all day and all night—a good brainstorming session can go for hours and hours.

Just remember that most meetings are not scheduled to brainstorm, they’re scheduled to make decisions.

If you’ve been struggling to adhere to tight timelines as of late, here are my five suggestions to make sure your next meeting is short and sweet…

Try going for a walk

Take your meetings and make them mobile. When one of your employees or co-workers wants to chat (be it in-person or over the phone) go for a stroll. Have a predetermined route that takes no more than 30 minutes roundtrip and confine your conversation to the duration of the journey.

Use the timer on your smartphone

Using the timer/alarm on your smartphone is a blunt, effective means of keeping conversations focused and on-point. Clearly state, before the start of the meeting, that when the clock strikes zero you’re gone. For even greater impact, employ something more rudimentary like a kitchen timer, or hourglass—the incessant tick-tick-tick of the timer or the passing sand within the hourglass will amplify the sense of urgency in the room and minimize the trivial chit-chat.

Only meet with people on THEIR time

Though not always the most practical solution, meeting with people on their time is an incredibly powerful way to keep things as short as possible. By offering to meet with people during their lunch, after 5PM, on the weekend, etc. (those traditional timeslots when no one wants to work), you’ll avoid skip the superfluous and deal strictly in brass tacks.

Keep the invitations to an absolute minimum

Not everyone needs a say—it’s callous but true. In this overly sensitized world, the workplace has too often become an environment of “we need to get everyone’s opinion on this.” The truth is, no you don’t. Having too many cooks in the kitchen will be detrimental to the environment, efficiency, and effectiveness of your meeting. Keep the guest list as small as possible—two people is the dream.

Ask yourself why?

The easiest way to keep a meeting concise is to not have it in the first place. Most meetings aren’t actually needed, but ordered and held from a force of habit.   Before sending out a batch of invitations or blocking-off chunks of calendar time, ask yourself why do I/we need this meeting? Try and find another way to reach the objective you seek without involving other people.

 

Are meetings totally dispensable?—no.

As much as I’d like to do away with them entirely, there is always going to be a time and a place…but that time and place is far less frequent than we generally suspect.

So before scheduling your next meeting, make sure it’s:

  1. Absolutely necessary
  2. Taking up no more than 30 minutes of your day

--Ari

Asynchronous Communication and You

Asynchronous communication.

For many of you, it’s an unfamiliar term.

Put simply, it is the opposite of synchronous communication.

It is communication on your own time and on your own terms, freed from the constraints of immediacy.

Communication is synchronous when information is exchanged at the same time—one person speaks, while another listens and reacts accordingly in real-time—immediate feedback is required.

What started as an isolated illness during the early 2000s, has become a pandemic in less than 20 years. Over the past decade, we’ve been conditioned to accept synchronous communication without exception. It is why many of us feel compelled to be “ON” at all times…

  • To respond immediately to a late night email
  • To always carry our smartphone and feel a twinge of panic as the batter nears 0%
  • To call clients back immediately no matter what we’re in the middle of doing

Fortunately, this isn’t an invincible disease—asynchronous communication is the cure.

Embracing asynchronous communication in principle, practice, and technology will give you the power to sit with your family at dinner and be completely present, free from the need to glance at your iPhone for incoming text or emails. It will offer the luxury of jumping out of the office for lunch with friends, or working from a beach in Panama without the traditional “I need to be at my desk” anxiety.

It means utilizing new technologies like Slack and Trello to stay on-top of work in place of unnecessary phone calls or cumbersome meetings.

Asynchronous communication is about maximizing freedom and efficiency.

Here are just a few of the reasons I’ve come to love asynchronous communication:

  • It allows me to work (or play) in big blocks of time without constant interruption, improving my focus by letting me be fully present
  • I no longer need a physical office or a locally-sourced team—because I practice a life of asynchronous communication, the world has become my workspace
  • Increased opportunity for thought—because asynchronous communication doesn’t require immediacy in response, I can invest time and thought into my words before I speak (type) them
  • Almost everything comes with a record—slack, trello, email, google chat, texts—I don’t have to take notes or occupy valuable mental space trying to memorize detailed specifics on the fly
  • Most importantly, when the need arises I can switch “OFF” at any moment

The bottom line is this:

Communication is vital but constant communication is deadly

If you’re busily laboring to available to all parties at all times, you’re setting yourself up for professional and personal failure.

Start working to communicate asynchronously—on your own time, and on your own terms—and watch as your freedom (see—happiness) skyrockets.

6 Simple Ways to Transform Daily Activity into Content

The struggle for fresh, creative content has long been real but I’m starting to think it doesn’t have to be. What I mean is, why are we racking our brains to create interesting blogs or unique infographics when so much of what we do on a daily basis can be converted into content with a few minor tweaks?

Think about it…

How many things do you do on a daily, or every-other-day basis that could be manipulated into content with relative ease?

Probably a lot. If not a lot, certainly a few.

You are doing things every day (tasks, chores, hobbies, etc.) that can be come content that’s relevant to a wide-array of people.

To help you get the creative juices flowing, here are six simple examples of what I’m talking about…

Transform your home-cooking into an addictive Instagram feed

If you’re one of those people who loves to cook, the fruit of your labor need not be limited to friends and family.

Why not take a picture of your plated meal and post it to Instagram?

Believe it or not, lots of people—particularly in the United States—don’t know how to cook anything other than Hot Pockets and Mac n’ Cheese. Your culinary creations—tactfully paired with the right Instagram filter—are going to look mouth-wateringly amazing.

Post your daily dish pic (along with some simple instructions), flag it would a couple of relevant hashtags and—boom—dinner for the kids becomes content for the masses.

Turn trips to the gym into a “How-To” video

Between the abundance of spandex and bulging muscles, the gym can an intimidating place for the athletically uninitiated. A lack of workout knowledge, gym etiquette, and proper exercise technique can make that intimidation factor even worse.

Assuming health and wellness are your natural forte, why not turn those daily trips to the gym into “How-To” videos? Pair your smartphone with a cheap tripod, and watch as your next set of dead lifts becomes an incredibly helpful demonstration for the masses.

Create great guides from recorded phone calls

Phone calls are POWERFUL sources of information and instruction.

By recording and transcribing your calls, you can create highly coveted manuals that demonstrate how to…

  • Deal with an ornery customer
  • Conduct a cold-call
  • Close a deal
  • Fire a service provider—Comcast, Bank of America, etc.
  • Research a potential prospect
  • Side-step a gate-keeper
  • Get something for free from a customer service agent

The possibilities are limitless…

Use screen capture software to document a hack

Do you build corporate newsletters for a living?

Perhaps you have a passion for editing images in Photoshop?

Maybe you’re just really good at searching for stuff on Reddit?

Whatever your computer-based skill, if you’re doing it with regularity, why not document it via screen capture software?

Not only is this incredibly easy to do, but it’s cheap (there are a TON of free screen capture software options available) and people L-O-VE video content.

Easy + Free = What are you waiting for?

Convert activity tracker data into a day-by-day guide to achieving “X” or “Y”

Devices like FitBit and Jawbone have erupted in popularity. People are tracking everything from steps taken in a day, to hours slept and calories burned.

If you’re using an activity tracker to monitor your progress toward a certain health-related goal—a lower heart rate variability, perhaps?—why not take the data you’re collecting and convert it into a day-by-day guide of some kind?

Documented your data-based success (and failures) to show people the right versus wrong way to hit their health objectives.

Convert a commute into an eBook

Always wanted to create a cool lead magnet for your small business but struggle with finding time to sit down and write? Why not spend your commuting hours to record your thoughts and ideas?

If you already have to spend time travelling to and from the office every day, there’s no reason not to use that time to create content.

Record your thoughts onto a smart phone, bundle the recordings onto Dropbox or Drive, and have them transcribed. Pass those transcriptions onto a competent ghostwriter and watch as your long-overdue Lead Magnet comes to life.

Again, these six suggestions are merely a drop in the proverbial idea bucket—there are hundreds upon hundreds of ways you can repurpose daily duties into something significant.

I can’t wait to see what kind of content you can create.

-Ari

Why an Intelligent Virtual Assistant Will Change Your Life

Optimize, Automate, Outsource.

The cornerstones of Less Doing.

It’s the mantra opening each episode of the Less Doing podcast and the philosophy driving my day-to-day life in totality.

Outsourcing is the final of the three hurdles you need to clear on the journey to a life of less stress and healthier, happier living. Only when you have fully optimized your processes, and automated as much as possible are you ready to dive headlong into outsourcing.

And when it comes to outsourcing, I recommend one avenue over any other.

The intelligent virtual assistant.

There’s a marked difference between using a virtual assistant and an intelligent virtual assistant, which is why I’m placing special emphasis on the word. A generic virtual assistant—think Fancy Hands—is helpful, but in a limited capacity. They’re great for paying bills, making phone calls, or proofreading important emails—simple, straightforward tasks that require little in the way of higher-function.

An intelligent virtual assistant, on the other hand, is an absolute ­game-changer. On top of the thoughtless tasks they can tackle (having your dry-cleaning dropped off or your groceries delivered), they are also adept at delivering on complicated, unconventional requests like ‘build a website,’ ‘create a sales funnel,’ or ‘edit this video’.

These are the next-level assistants that truly clear your plate in the most unimaginable way possible.

Imagine actually living Tim Ferris’ four-hour work week…actually having the time, freedom, and fiscal security to focus on the things that really matter to you, be they friends, family, travel, or something else entirely.

The astounding changes taking place inside the Virtual Assistant industry—including the successful launch of Less Doists—are making this possible.

How many free hours could you add to your week with someone else handling 85% of your responsibilities?

How would that boost, not just your productivity, but your happiness?

Hiring an intelligent virtual assistant will literally change your life…and I’m not talking about your work-life, I’m talking about your life.

The Art of Less Doing is about more than work:

It’s about life

By employing the services of an intelligent virtual assistant, you’ll give yourself the freedom to actually live your life rather than race through it.

--Ari

PS—don’t forget to check out the Less Doists to learn more about the most capable, results driven, on demand life managers on the planet!

The Peak Time App is HERE!

It’s here, it’s here, it’s here!

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages…

After ample patience from all of you, I am extremely excited to announce that the Less Doing Peak Time App is here, it’s live, and it’s available FOR FREE in the App Store!

What is Peak Time?

Some days you have it. Some days you don’t.

That “it” can be focus, strength, energy, endurance—you name it.

But what if, in actuality, we always have “it,” we just look for “it” at the wrong time?

Peak Time is the long kept secret of successful entrepreneurs and dynamic over-achievers. It’s your body’s “magic hour”—the time of day when you’re 2-100x times more productive than any other time of day.

  • It’s when you can mow through 50 emails in 30 minutes…
  • Write 2,000 words without batting an eye…
  • Handle an important sales call while driving through rush-hour traffic with a crying toddler in the back seat…

You get the point. Knowing your Peak Time isn’t just beneficial, it’s flat-out important if you want to live a highly-efficient life. It’s your magic key to insane levels of productivity, all you need to do is unlock the door and walk on in.

Rooted in Science, Adapted by Less Doing

The Less Doing Peak Time App is rooted in real science, not hocus-pocus.

It’s an applied derivative of the Finger Tap Test, and uses finger tapping to measure the performance of the Central Nervous System and cognitive function.

In layman’s language, the App tracks fine-motor function (via finger taps) to determine how well the brain and body are synced throughout the day. The App then collates that data over the course of several weeks to help users identify the part of the day they’re most productive.

How the App Works

This App was built to provide everyone inside and outside the Less Doing Community with consistent, simple, and accurate way of measuring their cognitive function.

And we really do mean simple.

  1. Download and open the Peak Time App
  2. Select either “right” or “left” hand
  3. When prompted, start tapping the “Start Session” button as quickly as you can
  4. Stop when indicated
  5. Allow the screen to reload to “Start Session” and then start tapping again as quickly as possible, taking care to use the same hand, grip, and finger
  6. Stop when indicated
  7. Select the opposite hand—if you chose “Left” first, now choose “Right”, if you chose “Right” first, now chose “Left”
  8. Repeat steps 3 through 6 again

That’s it—no note-keeping. No data processing. The App will do it all for you.

How to Apply the Results

Trying to shift your entire life into the confines your peak time window isn’t realistic so don’t try.

Instead, schedule specific tasks that require your utmost attention and focus into your peak time—what those tasks are is entirely up to you—and watch as your productivity soars.

I promise you’ll get more accomplished in a fixed amount of time than you ever thought possible.