14 Tim Ferriss Quotes that Teaches You to be Productive

Tim Ferriss is an author, an entrepreneur and an influencer who has positively influenced millions of people with his teaching that focuses on productivity.  Not only that he has interviewed a lot of amazing people in his famous podcast, he, himself, is a master of productivity.  He talks about methods and mindset about productivity.   Let’s look at some of his great teachings thru the following quotes:


“Not-to-do lists are often more effective than to-do lists for upgrading performance.”

Many people may have to-do lists.  It’s true that a to-do list with priorities does help you increase your productivity.  Remember that the key is that the tasks in your to-do list have to be clearly prioritized or the list could become counter-productive.  Now, have you thought about a not-to-do list?  A not-to-do list is usually simple and more general that applies to your whole day.  An item on your not-to-do list may be “not to check your phone every 15 minutes”.  Another example would be “don’t eat after 9:00pm”.  By choosing the right 5 to 20 things to not do, you can drastically improve your life.  


“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”

When it’s critical to have an honest conversation with your co-workers, your friends, or your partner, it’s usually going to be some uncomfortable conversations.  Many people try to avoid these conversations.  It’s human nature to run away from fear and discomfort.  However, if you are willing to do it, that’s how problems could be potentially solved.  It’s just almost impossible to get to success without encountering uncomfortable situations.  You just can’t get to a higher level if you are not willing to get uncomfortable and remove the obstacles.  


“Remember—boredom is the enemy, not some abstract “failure.”

Have you ever tried creating a product or learned a new language?  How many times did you fail due to your ability?  How many times did you fail due to boredom.  Let’s take learning a second language as an example.  It’s true that some people are just better at learning a new language than other people, but if you are willing to spend time and effort everyday for 3 years or more, you would eventually become pretty good at it.  However, before you become pretty good, you get bored with memorizing all seemingly tedious stuff.  Yes, many people quit before their new skills or their new products become good enough to be fun.  They quit because they get bored.  Next time you get bored, remember that you are just in the middle of a path that leads you to a lot of fun.  You should also appreciate small wins along the way.  


“It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming.”

The above quote is a very interesting insight from Tim Ferriss.  It’s so counterintuitive to think that trying to achieve a mediocre goal is hard because many people are naturally trying to do something mediocre.  The mediocre space is crowded and competitive.  The “difficult” goals are ironically less chased after.  With that being said, it doesn’t mean that “difficult” goals are easy to achieve.  It means that if you want to chase after a mediocre goal because you think it’s easy to achieve, think again.  You may as well use the same amount of time and effort on a bigger goal.  


“If you spend your time, worth $20-25 per hour, doing something that someone else will do for $10 per hour, it’s simply a poor use of resources.”

Be useful.  We are all parts of the world and we should do our part.  If you are good enough to build a rocket but you choose to work in a fast food restaurant instead, you are doing your part.  


“Being able to quit things that don’t work is integral to being a winner.”

Most of the time, you don’t want to quit things when you are working towards something that means a lot to you.  But there is too much evidence showing that something isn’t working, quitting is important as that will allow you to have time to do something else that is important and that may work.  


“Age doesn’t matter: an open mind does.”

If you want to do something but you use “I’m too old” as the reason for not doing it, it usually is an excuse.  It’s true that if you are a 50-year-old and you want to run 100m in 12 seconds, you are probably too old for that.  However, the reality is that only 1% of the things fall under the category where age matters.  For most of the things, you just need your mind to be open enough to understand that you can do it.  You then need a good plan and you need to execute your plan, just like a younger person would do.   Things can become harder when you age, but they are usually not hard enough for you to not be able to do it.  


“You need to know what your unique strengths are and be willing to delegate.”

With the above quote, Tim Ferriss unlocks the two key parts of being productive.  Know what you are good at and what you are not good at.  Delegate things that you are not good at to people who are good at it.   


“Don’t follow a model that doesn’t work. If the recipe sucks, it doesn’t matter how good a cook you are.”

If you execute a plan perfectly and you are not moving towards your goal, it’s likely that your plan is a bad plan.  Revisit your goal and come up with another plan that converts your daily action into your goal.  It is a trial-and-error process to figure out the plan that works.  


“Focus on being productive instead of being busy.”

For some people, they want to do twenty things that they think are equally important in a day.  It may work for a short period of time.  But over the long run, they would run out of gas and they would find themselves having given up things that are important such as family time.   Being productive is to know which one thing is the most important.  Finish the most important thing and then do the second most important thing.  For each day, if you can finish a few things, even one thing, that are the most important, call it a win.


“Creating demand is hard. Filling demand is easier. Don’t create a product, then seek someone to sell it to. Find a market — define your customers — then find or develop a product for them.”

If you are an entrepreneur who is creating a product or a service, try not to build a new demand to find your product or service.  Build something that satisfies an existing need.  


“If the challenge we face doesn’t scare us, then it’s probably not that important.”

The above Tim Ferriss quote is another way of saying that you need a big enough goal.  If your goal is not big enough, it is a mediocre goal that doesn’t mean much to you.  You either would end up achieving something that means nothing to you or you would give up in the middle of the road due to the lack of interest.  


“To do the impossible, you need to ignore the popular.”

Most people are average.  It’s not an arrogant statement.  It’s just the definition of average.  If you want to be above average, you need to do something that most people are not doing.  You don’t want to do the so-called popular way because that is likely an average way that leads you to an average result.  


“$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.”

With the above quote, Tim Ferriss expressed that money is important because having a large enough amount of money gives you the opportunity to live with freedom, but money itself doesn’t give you joy.  Another way to look at this quote is that we should think about what we want to do when we have the money.  Then ask ourselves, “can we do it now without all that money?”  A lot of time, the answer is “yes”.  

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