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The Art Of Elimination

The Art Of Elimination

Tim Ferriss wrote a book called “The Four Hour Work Week”. It is a best seller, having sold over a million copies worldwide.

The book sells a dream – that you can set your life up so that you can work just 4 hours a week and use the rest of your time to do whatever the hell you want. Tim Ferriss sells this idea that instead of working he is of doing things like learning the tango in Argentina or stuff like that.

In reality, Tim works a lot more than 4 hours a week, since he is constantly promoting that he only works when he wants. His actual job is his self promotion, and writing about his experiences. If you’re writing a book and you only write for 4 hours a week, that book takes a very long time to be written.

However, the book is worth a read, simply because it presents new ways of doing things and questions everything about the standard ways of doing things.

He questions the idea that you’re going to spend most of your life working in a 9 to 5 job until your golden years. Personally I think this is a very good idea to question.

Tim’s formula is DEAL – Define – replace self defeating assumptions. Eliminate the unimportant. Automate – put income on autopilot. Liberate – create freedom of location.

Naturally, in this post I am going to focus on one of those 4 – Elimination.

Most people think time management is all about setting up their task list and then going through the task list as efficiently as possible.

Elimination instead looks at all of the tasks on the task list first and says, “Is this a task I really need to do?”.

In a similar way, President Eisenhower divided tasks into 4 categories. Urgent – Important/Urgent –  Unimportant/Not Urgent – Important/Not Urgent/Unimportant. Naturally in this example, Eisenhower would focus most of his effort on the first category.

The idea of elimination is that you look at what you are doing during your day and see what is giving you results and what is simply interfering with getting you the results you want. Usually this is based on the 80/20 rule – you get 80% of your results out of 20% of your efforts. So naturally you become more efficient in your daily pursuits by working out what is the 20% and focusing on that.

When it comes to a pet subject of mine, weight training, you can for example strip that right down, and people do quite often and get exceptional results. If you cut out everything out of weights, except for squats, deadlifts and bench presses, you can have a functionally strong body in a fraction of the time it takes the average person who goes to the gym that has all the chrome and dozens of different machines.

On that subject, I also have my weights in my garage. So in the time it has taken some people to drive to the gym, my workout is done. Finding a half an hour to workout is a lot easier than finding two hours.

Aside from simply ensuring that you are categorizing your tasks and focusing on what is important, there are many distractions in the average day that eat time. I know a lot of it is simply procrastination on our part, but once you remove these distractions you find yourself with nothing else to do other than focus on the important stuff.

Tim Ferriss recommends going in what he calls an information diet. This is where you stop reading news websites or watching the news on TV. I know that I am terrible for this. I can procrastinate all day on news websites if I am not careful. So I banned myself from them during the day.

Same for email. If something really is important, someone will call you. If they don’t and they expect an immediate response from email, they are simply not being realistic. So don’t check your email 50 times a day – check it once in the morning and once at night. Act on things that you need to act on right away, and schedule things that are not urgent.

Facebook is another one. How much time is wasted on Facebook these days? Once again it’s just procrastination. Why not ban yourself from that too before a certain time in the evening?

If you do these things, you will probably find that you have lot of time available to do stuff that you never seemed to have before. It’s like time out of nowhere, and it’s simply stripping away non essentials.

Once you get in the habit of looking at your life and asking if something you are doing is essential or not, you will be able to fit a lot more of the important (to you) stuff. Simply asking the questions, “is this important” and “Is this urgent” on a habitual basis will allow you to get used to classifying what you have to focus on.

How you define what is important is another matter and that is up to you and depends on the goals you have. But goal setting is another topic entirely and will have to wait for another day. In the meantime, going on an information diet and starting to cast a critical eye over what you do will hold you in good stead.

About The Author


A guy obsessed with stripping down whatever field he studies to get the optimum return from effort expended. Sort of like Tim Ferriss, except with zero fame.

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