It was the book Tim Ferriss never meant to publish. A meticulous note-taker since childhood, Tim has always written down inspiring stories and advice— particularly from the many successful experts interviewed on his podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show. As he developed this personal productivity manual, he noticed something: For every goal, aspiration or plan he had, there was a blueprint for success in his notebook.
His latest book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers, is the product of his many encounters with successful people and the lessons he’s learned from them along the way. We recently caught up with Tim to find out the best way to apply them to our own goals and plans this year:
Right at the beginning of your new book, Tools of Titans, you write that you never intended to publish it. What happened?
It started with a long vacation with my family. I wanted to take a break from everything: no social media, no email, no social commitments, no set plans… except one project. The month had been set aside to review all of the lessons I’d learned from over 200 world-class performers I’d interviewed on my podcast, which recently passed 100 million downloads. The guests included chess prodigies, movie stars, four-star generals, pro athletes, and hedge fund managers. I’d also absorbed a lot of their wisdom outside of our recordings, whether over workouts, wine-infused jam sessions, text message exchanges, dinners, or late-night phone calls.
The majority of the gems were lodged in thousands of pages of transcripts and hand-scribbled notes. I wanted to distill everything into a single playbook of bite-sized learnings: something that could help me in minutes but could be read for years.
Once I got about 60% into it, I knew I had to share everything. Tools of Titans is the most fun I’ve ever had putting a book together.
That’s awesome! In the book, you write that "variation is the consistency" between people's success stories. Are there any productivity tools or habits that everyone should follow?
Tim: There are dozens that readers can start with, and I’d encourage adding no more than one or two per week. For example:
- Listening to Tara Brach’s “2010 Smile Meditation” first thing in the mornings, as many icons do;
- Drinking pu-erh tea with one or two tablespoons of coconut oil for sustained energy;
- Using apps and programs to take control of your digital life like Jumpcut (to manage your clipboard) F.lux (to manage screen-induced insomnia), Emailga.me (to get a hold on email overload), or Freedom (to block Internet access), and more;
- Testing out The 5-Minute Journal for a week, five minutes in the morning and five before bed;
- Consider the Chilipad device for sleep, or a simple pre-bed cocktail for insomnia: two tablespoons apple cider vinegar, one tablespoon raw honey mixed in hot water.
There are hundreds of options in Tools of Titans, but most people will get a lot out of at least one of the above.
Read more: 5 Tips To Start Your Day From Tim Ferriss
What's the best way for a person to test and build out a personal productivity toolkit? How do you know when you've found the right tool?
Tim: The benefits shouldn’t be subtle. I’m always looking for little inputs and tweaks that have disproportionately big outputs. Test one or two new additions (or subtractions) per week and keep track of what works surprisingly well. It shouldn’t be complicated or difficult.
What is one life-changing tool you've picked up from someone else that you plan to put into action for 2017?
Tim: More gymnastics strength training (GST) and AcroYoga, for sure. They combine very nicely.
It's so easy to get inspired by great advice - but it's even easier to fall off the wagon. What are your top tips for sticking with a tactic, routine, or habit?
Tim: If you were to sum up the last 50 years of behavioral psychology in two words, it would be: “logic fails.” No matter how good a plan is, or how sincere our intentions, humans are horrible at self-discipline. No one is immune. The smartest, richest, and most dedicated people abandon commitments with disgusting regularity.
"No matter how good a plan is, or how sincere our intentions, humans are horrible at self-discipline. Instructions and info aren’t enough—you need incentives and consequences."
- Tim Ferriss Tweet This
So what if you truly want to get something done? Is there a way to create an Odysseus Contract, so named because Odysseus had his sailors tie him to a mast to resist the temptation of the Sirens? Can you failure-proof your decision?
As famed entrepreneur Derek Sivers said in Tools of Titans, “If [more] information were the answer, we’d all be billionaires with perfect abs.” Instructions and info aren’t enough—you need incentives and/or consequences.
To that end, put some money where your mouth is, or consider public accountability. Here are a few services or sites that can help:
- Coach.me: A habit tracking and coaching app
- Stickk.com: A goal commitment program (do NOT skip the “stakes” step)
- Dietbet.com: A program to monetize fitness achievements with family and friends
I won’t wish you good luck, and luck has little to do with it. I will however encourage the most important part: strong incentives! Don’t forget the carrot and the stick, and make both of them public. May 2017 be your best year yet 😃
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Tim Ferriss is the author of Tools of Titans, and has been listed as one of Fast Company’s “Most Innovative Business People,” one of Forbes’s “Names You Need to Know,” and one of Fortune’s “40 under 40.” He is an early-stage technology investor/advisor (Uber, Facebook, Shopify, Duolingo, Alibaba, and 50+ others) and the author of three #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestsellers: The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef. The Observer and other media have called Tim “the Oprah of audio” due to the influence of The Tim Ferriss Show podcast, which has exceeded 100 million downloads and was selected for "Best of iTunes" in 2015.