The Personal Outsourcing Olympics: Bangalore Butler or American Assistant?

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So good I had to show it to you again.

This past Tuesday, I was part of a segment on the CBS Early Show on personal outsourcing called “Average Joes, Janes Outsourcing Tasks.” Check out the video, one of the best I’ve seen on the topic, here. It includes case studies.

Two of my favorite articles on personal outsourcing — one from The Wall Street Journal and the other from the NY Times — compare different tasks and common problems.

I’ve outsourced everything from hardcore business functions to personal chores, emptying my inbox, and even online dating (see my “extreme outsourcing” article for the last).

One big question still remains for most:

Where the hell should I go to get started?

All personal outsourcing companies are not created equal… Read More

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LitLiberation: How to Travel the World–and Get a Personal Assistant–for Free

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First, a few questions from Eastern Europe for you all. Take a minute to seriously consider each:

Envision the 5 books that have most impacted your life. How would your life be different if you’d never read them?

Where might you be today if you’d never met the most influential teachers in your life, past and present?

How would your options be affected if you could never again read a book, menu, or sign?

Here is the huge competition I’ve been promising. It’s the biggest I’ve ever done, and there are some incredible world-famous people involved. You won’t be disappointed:

If you’d like to support this idea, please take a second to vote for it here. Be sure to see the “prizes” sectionhow could you get into the 10K Club if you had to?

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Mail Your Child to Sri Lanka or Hire Indian Pimps: Extreme Personal Outsourcing

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Report: Many U.S. Parents Outsourcing Child Care Overseas


How far can you push personal outsourcing?

Can you outsource your dating? I did.
Can you outsource your worrying? AJ Jacobs did.

Reading to your children or bickering with your spouse? No problem. Send it all to Bangalore or Bosnia. Even mainstream media like the Wall Street Journal is starting to explore the basic options, but we’ve been there and done that. The mundane is simple if you can cover the ridiculous. So the more interesting question becomes:

What are the limits — and the most entertaining uses — of personal outsourcing?

One friend of mine insisted last April that there were serious limitations to what could be effectively “outsourced.” What about face time? Not in work, mind you, but in the harshest competition of all: mating. In Silicon Valley, where Santa Clara is called “Manta” Clara and San Jose is called “Man” Jose, the odds are against heterosexual men.

Bets were placed over a few glasses of wine, and so it began: I would outsource all of my dating for four weeks.

Even if you would never consider doing something this outrageous, the results were beyond belief, and the process used to pull it off can be used for almost all personal outsourcing. If hacking matchmaking isn’t of interest, no worries. How about a personal chef for $5 a meal? Just keep reading… Read More

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How to Do The Impossible: Create a Paperless Life, Never Check Voicemail Again, Never Return Another Phone Call…

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“I must create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s.”
-William Blake

Forget the paperless office — it’s aiming too low.

Let’s take a look at the bigger picture: a paperless life. While we’re at it, let’s also eliminate three other nuisances: answering the phone, checking voicemail, and returning phone calls.

Is this possible? It is. The key to finding means to accomplish the “impossible” is asking the right question: “How would you do ____ for a week if your life depended on it?” Most things considered impossible just haven’t been looked at through the “how” lens of lateral thinking. Here are a few exercise questions for Paperless Life 101:

What would you have to do to never again touch mail?
What would you have to do to never touch another check?
What would you have to do to never touch another dollar?

Consider these questions as real questions. If I offered you a million dollars to do each of these things for a month, could you do it? Here are a just a few potential strategies for doing all three, then we’ll move on to phone games:

1. No more mail:
First, we need to cut out the crap — reduce volume. To begin, get removed from junk mail lists and common commercial mailing lists. There are a few ways to do this: 1) Get remove from the most common junkmail lists (this costs a few dollars in some cases) and check alternative strategies at www.stopjunkmail.org, 2) Use LifeLock, or another identity protection service, which automatically removes you from large mailing lists, one of the most common vehicle for identity theft. Last, we’ll have your mail forwarded to special processing centers, where it is all scanned and emailed to you. One popular service is called Remote Control Mail, and there are two big benefits to the time-focused and mobile-minded: relevant postal mail is funneled into e-mail, so you can check both email and postal mail at once (“batching” both at the same time); you can travel freely whenever and wherever without ever missing a letter.

2. No more checks — this is the easiest and most familiar:
-Set up online banking so you can issue checks directly from your bank, and set up automatic recurring payments
-Give your accountant power of attorney to sign specific checks (for tax documents, etc.) on your behalf. Power of attorney is no joke, so do your homework, but it can be used — as I do — with little risk. This approach not only cuts down on checks but also finance-related mail, which you can then forward to your accountant for handling start-to-finish.

3. No more cash — easier than you think:
I hate cash, and I hate coins even more. Why don’t men’s wallets have pockets? In all cases, getting rid of physical wampum is more about breaking personal habit than overcoming external resistance. For the last several months, I’ve replaced a brick of a wallet with a razor-thin money clip holding four credit cards (Business Platinum AMEX, business Chase Continental Mastercard, personal AMEX, personal Mastercard), one debit card for emergencies, and health/car insurance. I haven’t had a single problem. Some smaller shops will prefer that you cover coffee with cash, for example, but credit is accepted.

Paper cuts fingers and kills forests, but what of the damn 9-to-5 headaches? How can you eliminate the need to answer the phone, check voicemail, or return phone calls? Here are a few quick fixes:

1. No more answering the phone:
Use a service like GrandCentral to listen to voicemail as they’re being left. Each caller is required to announce their name before the call is dialed, and you are able to preview the name and send them to voicemail, where you can listen to their message as they leave it. If you want to speak with them, you can jump in. If not, let them leave a voicemail and — at the set times when you batch — go to step 2.

2. No more voicemail:
Get your voicemail delivered to your e-mail inbox, which then serves as your single communications “funnel”. This would be our single “bucket” in the parlance of David Allen, and our remote control postal mail joins the voicemail here: e-mail, postal mail, and voicemail all in one place. GrandCentral can e-mail audio files, but for those who want text, Simulscribe is a popular option with near 90% transcription accuracy. Stop managing separate inputs from office phone voicemail, cell phone voicemail, and multiple email accounts. Consolidate. To further encourage all people to communicate with you via e-mail, there are two approaches that I’ve used effectively: indicate in your voicemail greeting that people must leave their e-mail address, and respond to them via e-mail; use Jott to send a voice message to them as an e-mail.

3. No more returning calls:
Pinger enables you to send voicemail to people without calling them. Why would you want to do that? From their website:

We’ve all been there-you make a call and think to yourself, “please don’t pick up”, or you call and think “I hope I’m not interrupting…” With Pinger you leave the message at your convenience, and they get it at their convenience. Unlike voicemail, there is no ringing, no annoying prompts, no lengthy greetings — just your message.

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None of these strategies are perfect, but they do demonstrate that none of our impossible questions are impossible to answer. Once you frame the question in terms of “how would I…?”, it is entirely possible to stop tolerating most of life’s annoyances and eliminate them altogether.

Did you like this? Please take a second to Digg it here and I’ll focus on more of doing the impossible, tech lifehacks, etc.

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Robert Scoble Interviews Tim Ferriss: Productivity, E-mail Fasts, GTD, and More…

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I spend a good amount of time at the offices of Podtech, usually stealing their Diet Dr. Pepper and hanging out on their bean bags. A few weeks ago, however, I managed to do something resembling “work”: an interview with uberblogger Robert Scoble. This time, I was the interviewee! The camera work is much better than my Blair Witch Project attempts in previous posts.

The first interview below is 50 minutes in length and my favorite version by far — lots of goodies from both me and Robert, including everything from e-mail and personal outsourcing to the book launch and how to combine 4HWW with Getting Things Done (GTD). It’s a very fun conversation. The second version is just an 8-minute appetizer but still a fun diversion. Here are both options, the longer version first, and you might need to turn up your computer volume, as we had no lavalier mics:

Work only four hours a week with Tim Ferriss

Tim Ferriss wrote a New York Times best seller. Why is it so hot? Because it lays out how you can work less and enjoy life more. Here, I sit down with Tim and talk about some of the ideas he discusses in his book.

Editor’s Choice: Some insightful highlights of Tim Ferriss’ interview

If you’re really following Tim’s plan, you’ll just watch the highlights of the interview I did with this New York Times’ best selling author. He wrote the book on the 4-hour Workweek, and here you get the highlights of an interview I did with him recently.

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Outsourcing Life and How to Eliminate E-mail Overload

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The Master does nothing,
yet he leaves nothing undone.
The ordinary man is always doing things,
yet many more are left to be done.

Tao Te Ching
Chapter 38

Is it possible to outsource your life to other countries? By now, you know that I believe it is. But is it necessary to outsource overseas? Can you outsource in languages other than English? What is geoarbitrage really about?

These were some of the topics I covered in “Die 4-Stunden Arbeitswoche” (The 4-Hour Workweek) with Patrick Price for his Swiss-German podcast, NetzNews. The first 30 seconds are in Swiss German, a very cool dialect that sounds nothing like Berlin German, and the rest is in English.

In other news, my first “manifesto” on Seth Godin’s ChangeThis was published this week. The title? The Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-Mail Overload & Triple Productivity in 24 Hours. This free and easy-to-read PDF contains some popular content from the book, but also a ton of template e-mails and bonus tips found nowhere else. Learn to read 3 times faster and cut your volume of e-mail in half. This manifesto is designed to get you there in 24 hours.

Download it here, and pass it on to those who need it!

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What's Your Lifestyle Quotient (LQ)?

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If you thought washing your hands 32 times a day was fun, just try this! (Chicago O’Hare Airport)

By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day.
-Robert Frost, American Poet

I’ve long sought a measurement for lifestyle, something better than bank accounts or Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). I was able to take the leap and redesign my own life only once I started asking myself difficult and uncommon questions such as:

How many hours do I work for each day of vacation?
What percentage of my life do I really spend working vs. doing something I want to be doing?

Enter the new world of the Lifestyle Quotient (LQ). If you want to see the real facts of your current work-life (im)balance, check out the world’s first LQ calculator here. The results will probably shock you.

What is your LQ?
What do you guesstimate your boss’s LQ to be?
What about your father or mother’s LQ compared to your own?

If you know someone who is a workaholic in denial, or who thinks an 80-hour workweek is a good way to spend their limited time on this planet, go for a lifestyle intervention and send them the LQ calculator. It might just wake them up faster than a triple-espresso frapuccino.

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Other news and goodies:

Think you can’t outsource your love life? Well, I did it — I had groups around the world compete to set me dates. This just made it into the news, and you’ll be hearing much more about it soon!

If you’re interested in travel and languages, I was just interviewed on Gadling about both.

I know some of you have had trouble finding the ebook — I did too! Here is Powell’s page, the easiest I’ve found to use.

Want to learn what I think of using blogs to promote books, or just want a refresher on concepts in the book? Darren Rowse of Problogger.net put up a 3-part interview with me that was a blast to do.

Rohit Bhargava, the head of Interactive Marketing for Ogilvy PR worldwide, put a brief review of the book on his site, which is a must-read for anyone interested in social media.

SXSW presentation attendees! I found out what happened! The mailing house for the publisher (not the publisher themselves) screwed up and held onto your addresses for 10 DAYS before mailing them this past Monday. Your copies of the book should arrive any day, if they haven’t already, and I cannot apologize enough for the confusion. I had no idea this had happened and — had I known — would have put in my mouthpiece and gone to town breaking heads. Sorry about that!

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