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Merlin’s weekly podcast with Dan Benjamin. We talk about creativity, independence, and making things you love.

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”What’s 43 Folders?”
43Folders.com is Merlin Mann’s website about finding the time and attention to do your best creative work.


Enlightened outsourcing Part 2: The practice

Ryan Norbauer returns with the hotly-anticipated conclusion to his series on the psychology and practice of outsourcing your life. If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to start with part 1.

Now that I’ve primed your pump for an outsourcing extravaganza, it’s time to turn our eyes towards the quotidian.  Once you’re ready to hire help, there are two main challenges to face.  Firstly, you have to identify portions of your daily work that can be outsourced, and then you have to find the right person to do that work for you.

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Enlightened outsourcing, Part 1: The psychology

Yesterday, Ethan talked about delegating to yourself. Today, Ryan Norbauer discusses what it takes to delegate well to others. Part one of a two-part series.
Update 2007-10-08: Part 2 of this series is now available. »

I’m Ryan, and you can usually find me in the midst of my workday by following the trail of naked yaks. I fear that I’m drawn to arcane tasks not in spite of the fact that they are tangential to my ultimate goals, but precisely because they give me an excuse to avoid them. I don’t need to grapple with the big anxiety-evoking issues of how to make a new one of my companies make more money, for example, if I can instead focus on creating an elaborate triply-redundant, auto-rotating archival filing system for our Apache server logs (which we never look at.)

However, I recently encountered a weirdly tantalizing idea in Tim Ferriss’s The 4-Hour Workweek, which would ultimately disrupt my addiction to the extraneous. The book advocates farming out the more mundane tasks of your existence to outside firms and consultants, which Ferriss calls “outsourcing your life.” Probably because it would give me an excuse not to do something else more pressing, I decided to give this a go a few months ago. While I did learn quite a lot about outsourcing in the process, my experiments led me to a far grander epiphany about the way I approach life and work generally and helped me form a new set of habits that have utterly rocked my workaday world. I’m about to introduce you to the theory and practice of what I believe to be the forgotten Prime Minister of All Productivity Hacks: asking for help.

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Vox Pop: Have you tried outsourcing your life?

A lot of my friends have been reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss, and, to varying degrees, several of them have started trying on some of his more audacious ideas, such as checking email once a week, finding an "income muse," going on an extreme information diet -- a few people I know are considering outsourcing pieces of their personal and professional lives.

For reasons I can't fully explain -- and will, for now, just write down to Tim's engaging style -- I also found this outsourcing idea weirdly fascinating. You identify the tedious tasks in your life that don't represent the best use of your time, and assign them to an overseas worker who can complete them for a few bucks an hour. This apparently can be virtually any kind of mundane task, from booking a dinner reservation to doing research on a company to -- heck, why not? -- answering your email.

So, while I know lots of people share my theoretical interest in this, I wonder how many of you have tried it, and how many of you are using outsourced help on a regular basis. What's your experience been? Does this work? What sorts of task are most amenable to long-distance assignment?

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An Oblique Strategy:
Honor thy error as a hidden intention


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