Why You Need a “Deloading” Phase in Life


deloading phase

I’ve written about my morning journaling routine once before.

But my journaling–think of it as freezing thinking on paper–isn’t limited to mornings. I use it as a tool to clarify my thinking and goals, much as Kevin Kelly (one of my favorite humans) does. The paper is like a photography darkroom for my mind.

Below is a scan of a real page. Both entries are from October 2015.

The first entry (top half) is simply a list of “fun” things I felt compelled to schedule after the unexpected death of a close friend. Since I’ve ticked all of the bullets off. You’ll notice that I blurred out a few sensitive bits, and I won’t spend time on this entry in this post.

The second entry (bottom half) was written in Samovar Tea Lounge in San Francisco after a two-hour walk. The gestation period during walking and subsequent entry lead me to re-incorporate “deloading” phases in my life. “Deloading” is a term often used in strength and athletic training, but it’s a concept that can be applied to many areas. Let’s look at the sports definition, here from T Nation:

A back-off week, or deload, is a planned reduction in exercise volume or intensity. In collegiate strength-training circles, it’s referred to as the unloading week, and is often inserted between phases or periods. Quoting from Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning: “The purpose of this unloading week is to prepare the body for the increased demand of the next phase or period,” and to mitigate the risk of overtraining.

So, how does this relate to creativity, productivity, or quality of life?

First, I’ll give a personal outcome — In the last 12 months, I’ve used “deloading” outside of sports to decrease my anxiety at least 50% while simultaneously doubling my income.

Deloading for business, in my case, consists of strategically taking my foot off the gas. I alternate intense periods of batching similar tasks (recording podcasts, clearing the inbox, writing blog posts, handling accounting, etc.) with extended periods of — for lack of poetic description — unplugging and fucking around.  Oddly enough, I find both the batching and unplugging to free up bandwidth and be restorative.

The unplug can still be intense (here’s a personal example in Bali), but you shouldn’t be working on “work.”

Let’s dig into the journal entry, as it provides much of the reasoning.

I’ve provided the scan (click to enlarge) and transcribed the entry below it, including many additional thoughts. The journal itself (Morning Pages Workbook) I explain here:


Now, the transcription with revisions and additional thoughts:

– TUES – SAMOVAR @ 5:40PM –

The great “deloading” phase.

This is what I’m experiencing this afternoon, and it makes a Tuesday feel like a lazy Sunday morning. This is when the muse is most likely to visit.

I need to get back to the slack.

To the pregnant void of infinite possibilities, only possible with a lack of obligation, or at least, no compulsive reactivity. Perhaps this is only possible with the negative space to–as Kurt Vonnegut put it–fart around? To do things for the hell of it? For no damn good reason at all?

I feel that the big ideas come from these periods. It’s the silence between the notes that makes the music.

If you want to create or be anything lateral, bigger, better, or truly different, you need room to ask “what if?” without a conference call in 15 minutes.  The aha moments rarely come from the incremental inbox-clearing mentality of, “Oh, fuck… I forgot to… Please remind me to… Shouldn’t I?…I must remember to…”

That is the land of the lost, and we all become lost.

My Tuesday experience reinforced, for me, the importance of creating large uninterrupted blocks of time (a la maker’s schedule versus manager’s schedule), in which your mind can wander, ponder, and find the signal amidst the noise. If you’re lucky, it might even create a signal, or connect two signals (core ideas) that have never shaken hands before.

For me, I’ve scheduled “deloading” phases in a few ways: roughly 8am-9am daily for journaling, tea routines, etc.; 9am-1pm every Wednesday for creative output (i.e. writing, interviewing for the podcast); and “screen-free Saturdays,” when I use no laptops and only use my phone for maps and coordinating with friends via text (no apps).  Of course, I also use mini-retirements a few time a year.

“Deloading” blocks must be scheduled and defended as strongly as–actually, more strongly than–your business commitments. The former can be a force multiplier for the latter, but not vice-versa.

So, how can one throttle back the reactive living that has them following everyone’s agenda except their own?

Create slack, as no one will give it to you. This is the only way to swim forward instead of treading water.


Did you enjoy this? Please let me know in the comments.  I’d also love to hear of how you “deload,” if you do.

If you’d like more on my morning routines, here are five habits that help me tremendously.

As always, thanks for reading.

104 Comments / Leave a comment or question

How to Get Busy Influencers to Share Your Stuff


One of the questions I’m constantly asked is, “How do I get influencers to help me?”

This blog post will outline approaches that work with true “influencers”–people who can single-handedly make or break a product launch.  I’ve been fortunate to interact with hundreds of such people since 2007. (If you’re more interested in pitching big media, here’s a template for how I do it.)

Specifically, I share an e-mail below that gets nearly every “influencer” element right.
But before we get to that, here are some ground rules for interacting with influencers or power brokers:

  1. If you’re asking them to share something, offer GOOD CONTENT on a website and not merely a sales page or pitch.  Responsible guardians of large audiences like good editorial.  The reputational risk of sharing great content is close to zero. Conversely, the risk-benefit ratio of sharing a sales page is practically all downside. Make the calculus easy or you’re just pissing in the wind.
  2. Do not e-mail or contact them unless A) they’ve given you their contact info directly, or B) you can get a warm introduction from a good friend of theirs (tip: ask the “friend” when they last had dinner or drinks together).  My preferred approach is in-person meetings in social settings.  Here’s the playbook I used to make SXSW in 2007 the tipping point for the launch of The 4-Hour Workweek. Cold e-mails–which most effective people ignore–are a waste of everyone’s time.  Put in the ground work and play the long game.  Think sniper rifle and not shotgun.  If you only have one chance to make a first impression, don’t screw this up.  “Sorry, let me try again…” almost never works.  Review this before drafting pitches.
  3. Before you reach out, ask yourself “If this person agrees, are they setting a dangerous precedent for themselves?” If so, they won’t agree, so don’t waste your breath.  For instance, why can’t I retweet fans’ Kickstarter campaigns?  Because if I publicly help even one stranger, I will be deluged by thousands of “Pls rt my Kickstarter campaign!” requests and my Twitter feed becomes unusable.  For the same reason, I can’t wish people I don’t know a happy birthday; if I open that door, I will get thousands of never-ending b-day requests.
  4. Give them a graceful exit.  This means never using BS like “I look forward to your favorable reply!” That stuff is terrible.  Be different and do the opposite. Close your e-mail or pitch with “Of course, no worries if you’re too busy to reply.  I know how busy you are.  Warmest wishes to you and yours…”  In my experience, giving people an easy “out” dramatically increases response rate.
  5. Don’t “keep in touch.” It drives busy people crazy.  Treat e-mailing them as you would knocking on their door and interrupting dinner. Treat it that seriously and use it that sparingly.

All that said and as promised, please find below an e-mail from Andrew Zimmern (@andrewzimmern), which I received not long ago.

You’ll see how he gets many subtle elements right.  Personally, I would have modified the subject line and closing line, but the length and don’t-make-me-think assets are otherwise outstanding.


Subject line: Little Help From My Friends

[TIM:  The single biggest weakness in this email is the subject line, IMHO, though perhaps they tested it. I would have seen it sooner had it been “Quick question from Andrew Zimmern” or something personalized along those lines.]

Dear Friends:

I hope this email finds you well! My team and I recently relaunched our online store: Shop Andrew Zimmern and I am thrilled to share it with you. It’s a mixture of curated items that I have found on my travels and use in everyday life, along with other branded items from the AZ collection. The assortment of products is ever changing and new items will be added throughout the year. Please a take a minute to check it out: http://shop.andrewzimmern.com.

Don’t be surprised when you stumble upon something you love!

This is where I need your help. It would mean the world to me if you would take a minute and share our shop with your audiences. As we try and build a bigger customer base from the ground up, we could use your support. We provided a few tools to make it easy. Check them out below. If you have any questions, please contact Kelly (fakeemailfromtim@avoidingspam.com) or myself! Thank you again for everything.

Sample tweets:

Sample Facebook post:
  • In search of stocking stuffers for your food geeked friends & family? My pal Chef Andrew Zimmern, host of Bizarre Foods, has relaunched his online shop, featuring unique travel gear and food finds curated from around the globe. Check it out: http://shop.andewzimmern.com
Shop Andrew Zimmern – editorial content for sharing:



Andrew Zimmern


Afterword from Tim

As one last philosophical morsel, here is the quote that Andrew has at the bottom of his personal e-mail signature:

“If there’s one thing that frustrates me more than anything about the notion of being right, it’s that being right too often gets in the way of being generous. Because being right is too often used as a way to protect us from doing the thing that will actually most serve us. And if I can leave you with one thought, it’s that being right is completely fucking irrelevant.” – Danny Meyer

For those eager beavers out there, here are 5 more tips for e-mailing busy people, and here is my conversation with Andrew Zimmern on his success habits and routines.

20 Comments / Leave a comment or question

How to Decrease E-mail Overwhelm in 2016–The First Step



“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”
– Henry David Thoreau

I’m often asked how to handle e-mail overwhelm.

While I do use some great apps to help stem the flood, the most important shield is still low-tech: a rock-solid e-mail autoresponder.

This unsexy tool allows you to ignore some or all correspondence.

Answering every inbound e-mail faster might seem like the cure-all, but it’s a Phyrric victory. Robert Scoble observed long ago what is now standard: for each e-mail he responds to, he gets ~1.75 in response!  It’s an unwinnable game of whack-a-mole.

The only sustainable solutions involve selective ignorance.  Step 1: Answer fewer e-mail (or “Ignore more e-mail”). Step 2: Give your e-mail address to fewer people (or “Use a decoy email that goes to your assistant”).

Below is my current autoresponse, which you might be able to adapt or borrow from. More examples follow.  If inclined to dismiss the concept based on my example (e.g. This doesn’t apply to me!), read this real-world example from a radio station employee in Austin, TX.

These things are highly personalized, of course:

Subject line: Tim is off of email — please read this

Hi All,

Thank you for reaching out.  I’m currently on deadline.

We often receive 1,000+ e-mails per day, and it’s sadly impossible for us to respond to every message.

Please don’t take offense if you don’t hear back.  This is true even for family and close friends.


– I’m no longer doing startup investing or advising, so I will not be responding to anything startup-related (excluding current portfolio companies).  AngelList is a great resource for finding the right investors, but I’m out of the game.  Here’s the full(er) story.

– I never respond to cold e-mail intros.  I am touchy about having my private email addresses shared.  I much prefer people to ask before making intros.  My inbox is otherwise unmanageable.

– I’m no longer doing book blurbs.  I get sent 20+ books per week and have to turn away friends, so I’m saying no to everyone.  It sucks. (But good news: Blurbs don’t do much for book sales anyway. These things have far greater impact.)

– Book marketing advice?  All the advice I might give, and certainly enough to hit the NYT lists with a good book, can be found at this link.

– I’m taking a break from most unpaid speaking engagements. (Looking for speakers? Search “TEDx [insert nearby cities]” on YouTube to find good speakers.)

Thank you for your understanding!

If you genuinely need to reach me for an emergency (and emergencies only) — [Insert emergency email for yourself or assistant] with “Emergency” somewhere in the headline.

All the best to you and yours. May you live well outside of the inbox.


Before setting up such an autoresponse, I will separately email (BCC) my lawyers, accountants, team members, etc. to ask them to text/SMS or use Slack if they need my attention. I indicate that my inbox should be treated like a black hole, unless they SMS/Slack to ask me to see a specific email (e.g. “If it’s not in SMS or Slack with @Tim, it will not get read”). I reiterate this before vacations or extended travel.

My approach has evolved over time, and one my past templates may work better for you.  Past examples:

Reader example from SXSW (2007)
Two real autoresponders that work (2014)

Good luck!  Please share your own autoresponse or email strategies and tools in the comments.  I’d love to see them.

May you live well outside of the inbox:)

P.S. If you want more inspiration for the new year, here is my favorite commencement speech (20 minutes) by the amazing Neil Gaiman.

41 Comments / Leave a comment or question

Facebook Bankruptcy Template


The following is an e-mail I received from Paul Colligan, which inspired me to finally take the leap and get Facebook under control. To tame the beast and use it, instead of having it use me. I hope you find it useful, or at least entertaining.

Paul, if you mind me putting this up, please do let me know.

Short version:

Moving to a “Fan Page” model at Facebook to make more sense of things. Would love you as a “Fan” here –


Long version:

It’s not you, it’s me …


When I joined Facebook, I didn’t think it all the way through.

And now I have to do something drastic …

(and it’s going to take a couple of weeks)

By mixing business and personal in the same account, here on Facebook. I was no good to anybody. Here’s a few highlights:

* Personal friends and family who weren’t interested in my business found themselves with lots of marketing messages. I’m amazed at anyone who ’stayed a friend” – but that’s another note all together.

* Business partners, associates, etc., got a bunch of confusing personal updates when they were trying to get work done. So much for “Market to Message Match.”

* I couldn’t “use” Facebook like a normal person (with 4000+ “friends”) and here I am trying to figure out what Facebook means and how normal people use it …

So, here’s what I’ve done about it:

* I’ve asked my assistant to unfriend EVERYBODY in Facebook and send them this note. The best man in my wedding is on this list – so please don’t feel offended.

(I did figure I wouldn’t unfriend Heidi – too many implications there)

* I’ve sent you all this note.

* I plan on “refriending” my friends and engaging in active business dialog at the “page” discussed below – I think it will turn out to be the best of both worlds.

You have three options:

Option 1-
I’ve set up a “page” at Facebook where I’ll be focussing on the “Business” and “New Media” side of Paul. You can see it here (please click to become a “Fan”). It should be a fun place to meet up and chat.


To encourage others to become a Fan, I’m hosting a special Webinar on Facebook for free where I’ll walk through every stop of this process and share what I’ve learned along the way.

Details will be emailed to everyone who has “fanned” me on that page through a Facebook update.

This will be the most appropriate action for most of you.

Here’s the link one more time –


Option 2 –
If we really are friends (i.e., you know my kid’s names) feel free to friend me again on Facebook – I’ll respond shortly.

Also know that I’ll be seeking to replenish my friends list very soon anyway, and I’ll eventually find everyone again – but feel free to speed up the process.

Option 3 –
I’m sure this move will offend a few. Please understand it is certainly a drastic move – but one I needed to take.

Didn’t mean to offend – sorry if I did.


Yup, wacky …

This social media stuff is fascinating. I look forward to (and, I’ll be honest, equally as much) using Facebook like “everyone else” and sharing with those interested what I learned along the way.

Thanks for understanding.


For those interested in seeing my 2nd-round Facebook attempt, which has worked like clockwork and turned out to be both more fun and more useful, take a glance at Tim Ferriss 2.0.

If you own a business or brand, the analytics alone are worth the effort of setting it up as a complement to your existing profile.

Use your tools. Don’t let them use you.

10 Comments / Leave a comment or question

Preventing Email Bankruptcy: From 1920's Postcards to Video Confessions


Auto-response from Gary Vaynerchuk:

Subject line: Thanks for the email — click the link

Hey, here’s a link that will explain everything!

Before the economic recession hits us like a Pamplona bull, we will have long entered an digital recession characterized by lower per-hour output from digital workers and a higher incidence of problems like “e-mail bankruptcy.”

This Chapter 7 of personal productivity is a failure point where the user — physically incapable of responding to the number of unread inbox items — deletes all messages and sends an e-mail to all contacts asking them to resend anything still relevant.

Last Saturday’s front page article in the New York Times, “Lost in E-Mail, Tech Firms Face Self-Made Beast,” [Tech tip: Use BugMeNot to get throw-away usernames and passwords] highlights the measurable extremes of information overload and how the same tools that helped create the problems seldom fix them… Read More

14 Comments / Leave a comment or question

Conversation with Pete Cashmore of Mashable.com


I had a fun conversation with the smart and well-dressed Pete Cashmore of Mashable after speaking at the SF MusicTech Summit, where I was interviewed by Derek Sivers of CDBaby fame.

Pete and I discussed/answered:

1. What is the single most important thing that CEOs can do to conquer information overload?
2. The value of heirarchical thinking as a CEO or manager
3. Next plans for Tim Ferriss? (Forewarning: I’m evasive)

Have a great weekend!

Attention Aussies: I’m off to Sydney for about 10 days, so let me know if you’d be interested in doing a meet up with readers and having a few pints😉

Bonus video for those left out of my tweets this evening.

96 Comments / Leave a comment or question

The Best (and Worst?) Autoresponders of 2007


Reflecting or deleting e-mail can be an art form. (Photo: marinegirl)

An increasingly popular approach for escaping the inbox is the routine use of e-mail autoresponders.

Love it or hate it, reflecting or deleting e-mail can be an art form.

I’ve collected some of my favorite autoresponders of 2007 from Gmail and included them below.

The styles range from polite and hat-in-hand to direct and full-frontal, and include examples from both employees and business owners… Read More

89 Comments / Leave a comment or question