Tim Ferriss holds up his phone. “My phone’s on airplane. It’s always on airplane,” he says. That way, he isn’t alerted to the steady increase in a very high number: his unread email count, which on this day is 355,692. “That is a small percentage of the things I am ignoring,” he says.
Ferriss is a prolific author (Tribe of Mentors) and podcaster (The Tim Ferriss Show), and an investor and startup mentor. There are ever-growing demands on his time, and yet he feels like he’s always becoming more productive. The reason, he says, is because he stopped getting stuck in the weeds — managing the details of every project, or trying to clear out even a portion of those 355,692 unopened messages. (His assistant, Donna, will ensure that he sees the critical ones.) Instead, he’s begun asking himself an important question about every project and challenge: What might this look like if it were easy?
That question will lead to other questions, such as: Are there people I could hire? Are there ways I could simplify it? It’s a basic thought experiment, of course, but Ferriss knows that it may not occur to people like him. “As a very type A, competitive, driven, run-through-walls type of person, you end up only having one gear, which is sixth gear,” he says. “When you’re so accustomed to competing and pushing rocks up hills successfully, you accidentally look for paths that include a lot of resistance.” So his message to himself — and to anyone like him — is to stop. Imagine the easier path. Then build it. “I’ve been looking,” he says, “for elegance and less resistance.”