The 4-Hour Workweek: Chapter Summary (Chapter 7: Interruption and Refusal)
The full title of Chapter 7 is “Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal.” Its point is obvious: learn how not to be a doormat or so caught up in trivialities that you can never do any real work or, for that matter, real living. Ferriss wisely addresses people’s fears that such maneuvers will backfire on them, giving them both assurances to the contrary and practical tips on how to set things up for the smoothest transition and implementation. He illustrates all of it in great detail, complete with templates and tools.
What follows are Ferriss’s suggestions and observations. He tells us to learn to be difficult when it counts or, to put it more bluntly, to not allow others to “force crap on you.”
Ferriss defines an interruption as “anything that prevents the start-to-finish completion of a critical task, and there are three principal offenders:”
Time wasters are things that are unimportant and unnecessary. Ferriss lumps such things as meetings, unimportant e-mail, and web surfing into this category.
· Limit checking e-mail to twice a day—or, ideally, once a day—at specific times. Use an autoresponder message to appease and train people (Ferriss gives an example). Give people the option of contacting you by phone in the event of a true emergency (most aren’t).
· Do the equivalent for voicemail. Use two phone lines, if possible, or route non-urgent calls to computerized voicemail such as Skype. Turn off the sound for the non-urgent line, allow all calls to go to voicemail, and refer emergencies to your cell phone number. Handle urgent calls in a concise, organized manner. Don’t allow people to digress.
· Learn the art of refusal. Here is Ferriss’s advice: “… resolve to keep those around you focused and avoid all meetings, whether in person or remote, that do not have clear objectives.” As he illustrates with a real-life example, these can take as little as five minutes with proper focus and preparation. He then gives us a list of suggestions—such as headphones and “Do Not Disturb” signs—for keeping people on track and freeing ourselves of time wasters. These are tailored to corporate life but, with a little imagination, could be adapted to other situations.
Time consumers are cyclical tasks that are necessary but that take up time that could be spent on other things. We all know these. They are the routine maintenance tasks that consume a lot of business and personal hours but that are needed to keep things going. On the business side, we have customer service, issuing reports, and cash management as examples; on the personal side, there are errands, home maintenance and self-maintenance activities.
Batch. This simply means doing things wholesale instead of piecemeal. Do grocery shopping on one or two days per week instead of seven, pay all bills in one sitting, check different types of mail once or twice instead of thirty times a day, and so on. Ferriss’s point is that the set-up time and cost are usually the same, whether we do just a little or a lot in one sitting.
For those concerned about missing out, Ferriss provides a precise way of calculating whether the potential losses outweigh the actual gains. He uses a three-step process for calculating
· your hourly wage,
· the dollar amount of time saved, and
· the dollar amount of potential losses versus actual gains.
In his experience, the problems and emergencies are few and the losses generally aren’t worth worrying about.
Empowerment failures occur when others feel that they need support or permission when they really could handle the situation on their own. The antedote is to stop micromanaging.
Empower employees and contractors by giving them as much information and decision-making power as possible. Ferriss asserts that people’s IQs double when you give them this kind of trust. He recommends testing the system by checking the results on a periodic basis. In the case of his own company, he was burning out answering hundreds of unnecessary e-mails that the outsourced reps could have handled themselves. He set a new policy of empowerment and, on checking the results, he found after a one-month adjustment period that a number of factors significantly improved, including his own schedule, which was reduced by 100 hours a month.
The chapter ends with four different additional sections:
· Questions and Actions again stresses that it’s our responsibility to prevent ourselves and others from wasting precious time on unnecessary or unnecessarily time-consuming activities, and it reiterates what was learned throughout the chapter to confirm that we’ll actually incorporate it.
· Tools and Tricks gives us valuable specific tools, including a lot of the latest technology designed to help us implement the suggestions and make our lives way more efficient.
· The Comfort Challenge, another standard section, gives us the goal for this chapter of imitating a two-year old and practicing saying “No” indiscriminately.
· The Lifestyle Design in Action section, also a chapter standard, introduces us to a variety of case histories that illustrate the tailor-made solutions that real NR have come up with.