24 Hours with Tim Ferriss, a Sample Schedule

120 Comments

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The goal is NOT inactivity. (Photo: the super smart and sexy Pinar Ozger)

Perhaps the most common question I’m asked is “what do you do all day?”

I was recently interviewed by J.D. Roth on his popular personal finance blog, and one of his readers wrote in with the following:

“I would like to know as best he can give, what Tim’s average NON-mini-retirement day entails.”

Here was my answer:

My days almost never look the same. I ask my assistants to avoid phone calls on Mondays and Fridays, in case I want to take a long weekend on either end, and I almost always allocate Mondays for general preparation and prioritizing for the week, then any administrative tasks that I need to handle (paperwork for accountants, lawyers, etc.).

I put very few things in my calendar, as I do not believe most people can do more than four hours of productive work per day at maximum, and I loathe multi-tasking. For example, my day tomorrow [Tim: this was about 14 days ago] looks like this, with items in my calendar preceded by an asterisk (*):

10am — get up and eat high-protein breakfast of 300-400 calories (I’m typing this at 2:22am, as I do my best writing from 1-4am)

10:30-12* — radio interviews and idea generation for writing (note taking)

12 noonworkout involving mostly posterior chain (back, neck extension, hamstrings, etc.) and abdominals.

12:30 — lunch in a restaurant of organic beef, vegetables, pinto beans, and guacamole (I have this almost everyday. Here is my diet.)

1-5pm* — write piece for The Economist (I’m not writing this whole time, but I block out this period)

5pm* — review my designer’s latest updates on planned blog redesign

5:30pm — first dinner – small

6:30-8:30pm — Brazilian jiu-jitsu training

9pm — second dinner – large

10pmice bath and shower

11-2am — chill out and do whatever, probably reading for enjoyment or drinking wine with friends

Before you ask “but what happened to the 4-hour workweek?!”, realize that the goal was never to be idle.

I hate laziness and make this clear in the book, the “Filling the Void” chapter being just one example. The goal is to spend as much time possible doing what we want by maximizing output in minimal time.

I don’t have to do anything in this schedule. I choose to do them because I like them. None of them are financially-driven or unpleasant obligations. If the chance to do something more fun comes up last-minute, I can cancel all of them.

Remember: having time isn’t hard nor necessarily desirable in and of itself–just quit your job and go on unemployment. It’s how you use time and trade it for experience that counts.

Posted on: March 10, 2008.

Watch The Tim Ferriss Experiment, the new #1-rated TV show with "the world's best human guinea pig" (Newsweek), Tim Ferriss. It's Mythbusters meets Jackass. Shot and edited by the Emmy-award winning team behind Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Here's the trailer.

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120 comments on “24 Hours with Tim Ferriss, a Sample Schedule

  1. Who can disagree. The hardest part is to learn to relax into the other 20 hours after you have your 4 hours of productive work.

    A while ago I took an afternoon off from work to go to my son’s birthday party. One of his friends arrived with a babysitter and announced that “My parents couldn’t bring me because they are very busy.”

    My good Calvinist indoctrination of an upbringing whirred into action and I felt useless and disempowered. Why wasn’t I busy? Was I just slacking? Why am I not that that much in demand? Blah, Blah….

    Then in a moment of grace my Muse made me say: “Being busy is horrible. It makes you grumpy.” All the little ones burst out laughing because they knew it was true.

    Later I remembered how many times had I seen this same little guy’s father all irritated when he was dropping his son off at school in the morning. Hardly something to strive for.

    Like

  2. It’s how you use time….

    So very true. There is a mass of difference between ‘want to do’ and ‘have to do’. Nice distinction. Kinda refocused the point of the blog & book if you ask me, which is a good ting.

    People who say ‘what do you do all day?’ of people like yourself or lottery winners or the retired often, I find, have no imagination and don’t stray too far from the things they have to do.

    Mark’s Two Cents

    Like

  3. I’ve always found it interesting to see how some of the people I respect spend their days (especially if they’re likely to be busy). Especially in your case Tim, since you’re living the 4 hour workweek. I’m still personally wrestling with being able to follow an unstructured schedule. It definitely means you can get a lot more done if you want but the ability to goof off for the day is also there which makes it that much more challenging.

    Like

  4. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for showing us your sked. Very interesting. I think breaking one’s habits …whether checking email dozens of times a day or feeling the need to stick to a 9-5 sked is sometimes hard to do. And “Filling the void” is also key!

    In 2000, I excitedly outsourced most of our operations (warehousing, shipping, customer service, basic accounting etc) thinking I would then be able to get more things done. But things didn’t work out as planned. Why?

    All of a sudden I had all this time on my hands. Instead of focusing on the “big picture” and re-designing our life, I felt guilty about having all this free time. For whatever reason, I felt I had to be busy. Very busy ALL DAY. If I wasn’t terribly busy I felt guilty. So, I desperately tried to come up with a bunch of other un-important things to add to my to-do list so that I would be busy…just like everyone else. Yes, sounds a bit daft now, doesn’t it?

    So, from my own personal experience, I think freeing up time is great but it is also important to try to answer the question “why.” If you are able to free up time by using Tim’s techniques, what will you do with the time? Being idle isn’t the answer.

    EJ

    Like

  5. Nice refocusing, very to the point. Out of curiosity, have you ever heard of a book called the Young and Successful? My brother had it a couple of years ago and I started reading it recently (after reading 4HWW) and it seems to have some of the same points, just geared towards a younger crowd (so far anyway, haven’t finished the whole book yet).

    – Morgan

    Like

  6. Hey Tim! I’ve been enjoying your stuff for a while now, I appreciate it!

    Quick heads up on something I think you might enjoy – Frolicon. It’s in Atlanta March 20-23rd and it’s one hell of a party. I saw the picture of you at whatever Con you’re at and a light came on.

    Like

  7. A while back, I inadvertently walked away from a lifestyle that let me have the kind of schedule you’re talking about here. Long story. But let’s just say I let the idea that I had to make lots of money sway me.

    I think I’ll change that.

    Like

  8. Tim,

    Brazilian jiu-jitsu! Are you getting ready for the UFC? I have my son training in MMA at the American School of Matial Arts – it is Royce Gracie certified. Cool stuff. I was invited to be on the SXSW chitika beer bus with you this weekend but I couldn’t make it. I look forward to meeting you some other time.

    Like

  9. I think that girl in the background is the one that bought my OLPC and then complained it had a bad pixel and ruined my perfect score on eBay. Arrrrrrrrgh!!!

    ###

    Wow, really? Small world. If so, shame on her. That’s lame.

    Tim

    Like

  10. I read your diet and noticed that it’s okay to have white carbs after resistance training. I thought resistance training was weight training but on here it says Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. What exactly IS resistance training? Endurance training?

    Also, what restaurant can you get your organic fed beef lunch with guacamole and pinto beans?

    ###

    There is a place called “Aqui” in Campbell, CA where they serve this, and I just substitute grilled vegetables for rice. Whole Foods should have something like this as well.

    Tim

    Like

  11. Tim,

    I find it interesting that you don’t schedule your training or martial arts sessions in your calendar (no asterisk).

    Have they become enough of a habit to where you just “wing it” week by week?

    Do a lot of your activities seem to follow the same pattern?

    I ask because I’ve found that a certain level of familiarity, expertise and trial and error take an activity from “must schedule” to “I know what to do and will get it in when I can.”

    I like this instinctive style.

    Nate

    Like

  12. I remember reading that you train approximately twice per week in the gym, aside from BJJ (please correct me if I’m mistaken). Do you find it more difficult to keep up the schedule either during a mini-retirement, or when you’re on the road in general? Do you have any exercises that you would recommend when there isn’t a gym around?

    ###

    Hi Peter,

    I’ll do a post on this soon. It’s a useful topic.

    Tim

    Like

  13. I think it’s awesome how you’ve managed to separate your “idea generation/note taking” period from your actual “writing” period.

    I’m curious though: how do you manage to organize, review, and harvest good ideas from the massive amount of notes you take?

    Also, how does your schedule get changed when you’re travelling?

    I’d love to read about your note-organization-and-review ideas, and how you keep in shape/keep productive while traveling.

    Alex

    Like

  14. Hey Tim / others –

    Did you ever read “The Virtual Corporation” by Davidow (easy find on Amazon). I found it super-influential when setting up my company, and it maps well onto your book and GTD / 43folders, etc. An interesting read – written just before the internet made many of the ideas in it practical.

    – Karl

    Like

  15. Albert wrote, “Then in a moment of grace my Muse made me say: “Being busy is horrible. It makes you grumpy.” All the little ones burst out laughing because they knew it was true.”

    Truer words have rarely been spoken. Brilliant. Kids seem to understand this intuitively. Where did us grown-ups go wrong?

    Like

  16. Tim:

    Love the site. Love the book. The blog is great. Trying to unload minutia.

    QUESTION: UNRELATED TO THIS POST BUT, WHAT KIND OF PACK ARE YOU SPORTING IN THE PICTURE ABOVE?

    Chris

    Like