Finding the Perfect Office Chair: Aeron vs. Swiss Ball vs. the FBI's Pick…

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The wrong chair = real health problems. (Photo: watz)

(Total read time: 8 minutes)

In this post I’ll cover how I identified the best high-end chairs in the world, which I ultimately chose, and the tangible results that followed.

In January of 2005, I found myself on a veranda in Panama after the usual afternoon rain, dreaming of the upcoming year and reflecting on lessons learned since leaving the US. Maria Elena, the matriarch of the Panamanian family that had adopted me, sipped her iced tea and pointed at my bruised feet:

“Tim, let me share some advice I was once given. Buy the most comfortable bed and pair of shoes you can afford. If you’re not in one, you’ll be in the other.”

I followed her advice upon returning to CA and the results were sudden: Plantar Fasciitis disappeared, as did shoulder impingement after switching from coil-spring to foam-layered mattresses.

But what about chairs? On January 4th, 2009, I tweeted out the following:

“Is the Aeron chair worth it? http://tr.im/2uxd Do you have any fave chairs for extended sitting and writing?”

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Rethinking the Office – Dutch Design (Plus: Pics of My Home Office)

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Interpolis – unconventional but damn effective. (photo: jsigharas)

Through simple redesign of workspaces, Interpolis of Holland increased productivity 20%, and sick leave has dropped from 9% to 2.5%. Last but not least, their new design also brings in 90,000 visitors a year.

How was it done?

How do you create a Results-Only-Work-Environment (ROWE) for yourself or a company — and increase profits — by tweaking your surroundings? Read More

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Rolf Potts Q&A: The Art of Long-term World Travel… and Travel Writing

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rolf potts
Rolf Potts is one of my favorite writers, and his book — Vagabonding — was one of only four books I recommended as “fundamental” in The 4-Hour Workweek. It was also one of two books, the other being Walden; Or, Life in the Woods, that I took with me during my 15+-month mini-retirement that began in 2004.

He interviewed me for Yahoo! Travel almost a year and a half ago, and I’m thrilled to have the chance to interview him about his long-awaited new book and the art of travel writing.

Have you ever wondered what it really takes to pull the trigger and embark on long-term world travel?
Have you ever fantasized about getting paid to do it?

Let Rolf give us a look at both… 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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How Much Does Your Commute Really Cost You? Calculate It… Then Kill It?

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What is the true cost of your commute? One example comes from 4HWW reader Troy Gardner, who recently wrote to me:

I’m still work focused (I like creating things!), but since I control my time/location, I’m reaping some of the rewards of being among the New Rich. My girlfriend and I will be spending the entire month of October visiting Chicago and Hawaii. Since I’m project/laptop based I can work during the evenings/free time, while spending the time out and about, finally learning surfing, and maybe kiteboarding etc.

Here is his experience, in his own words, of going from shocked awareness to blissful mobility… 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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Platinum Card Finally Gets Me

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Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I don’t spend much time juggling frequent flyer miles. Nor do I squander hours making pennies on the dollar with point schemes or signing up for the latest special-offer credit cards. I have four credit cards (two personal, two business) for separating expenses, and I have used an AMEX gold card since 2003 for most purchases because: 1) Their customer service has handled disputes and fraud within 24 hours with zero paperwork, and 2) I’ve never had issues using it in more than 20 countries.

AMEX has also been outstanding at sending me at least 3 pieces of mail a week since 2003. Most of it has been offers to upgrade to the Platinum Card, which, at around $200 per year at that time, made no sense to me. The benefits included things I would never use, like getting a free companion ticket if I bought a full-fare business/1st-class ticket (about $2,000-4,000 on the tickets I checked). Personally, I’d rather get a $200 roundtrip on Orbitz.

That said, and for all my smack talking, I just signed up for the Platinum. What?!

Unknown to most people, the Platinum card benefits have just been changed for the first time in close to 10 years. Here are the two new features that sealed the deal for me and how I’ll leverage them for more fun and profit:

1. Four free domestic companion flights per year on flights over $299

[UPDATE: This benefit has since been canceled. Why? My guess is that they never planned to continue it past one year or so. It would just be a loss-leading benefit for a brief time to get sign-ups and new members. Just an educated guess.]

Since I live in CA but travel a lot to NYC, I can get four free tickets for friends who want to come with me to NYC on the same itinerary. I can also barter these tickets or trade them on Craigslist, which gives me an automatic ROI of at least $1,200 on the $300 first year annual fee. If I fly to Hawaii from San Francisco, which I plan to do soon to train with BJ Penn, and barter the extra ticket – even at a 30% discount on the “retail prices“- the ROI will cover my expense while there.

2. Free access to over 950 work and meeting spaces around the world

Coffee shops can get old fast. More that once (especially in Buenos Aires and Paris), I’ve wanted to dropkick the smoker who refuses to go outside and DDT the kid with the iPod on 1,000 decibels. If you really want to see me lose it, surround me with a gaggle of gum-chewing girls on their cell phones. The Platinum Card gives me an alternative to going postal — a remote office to use, complete with gourmet coffee, broadband, printing, and conference rooms. The alternative use that interests me — mostly for fun and pranks — is getting a mailing address and receptionist in primo locations and then having the mail and calls forwarded to wherever I actually happen to be. Want an office on Wall Street or Champs-Elysees in Paris? Next time an investment banker rolls their eyes when you say you’re an entrepreneur, you can casually mention at the end: “Nice meeting you. Next time you’re in London or Paris, give me a call. We should do lunch near one of my offices. Gotta run to the theatre/beach/museum [make sure it’s around 2pm in the afternoon], but keep in touch!” Ah, the precious moments ;)

More to come as I figure out even better methods for squeezing the most out of this card, my first new one in 3 years. If you have any good ideas, let me know.

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