Check whether you're having a breakdown or a breakthrough

Tim Ferriss does this exercise when he is overwhelmed or confused. He finds that when he confronts problems and clarifies them, they become small and manageable. He believes that defining fear = conquering fear. After completing this practice, you realize that guaranteed upsides often outweigh the speculative downsides of an idea, and there is truly little likelihood of an irreversible negative outcome.


  1. Write down the 20% of activities and people causing 80% or more of your negative emotions, anxiety, and stress.
    Ask yourself: Is life showing me what I should subtract? Use your pain and vague unease to show you what to change or remove from your life rather than rationalizing it or letting it fester.

  2. Identify which activities you need a vacation from.
    It may seem impossible to drop these activities but list them anyway.

  3. List the guaranteed upsides of stopping these activities.
    Freedom from dread, fretting, and procrastination; time to do other activities; etc.

  4. List the speculative downsides of stopping these activities.
    What is really the worst that could happen if you stopped doing what you are doing? And if so, how could you undo any damage? Could you do a 2-week test? Often the worst-case scenario is not as bad as the nightmare you envisioned.

  5. Identify a new way of working.
    Delegate, put a new system in place, and simply stop the activity.

  6. Start your trial.
    Life may improve from the very first day!


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