Money Mentality

Stop Working Hard: Choose “The Easy Way”

Like most eighteen year-olds, I struggled with my career ambitions and my ideas ran the gamut: high school teacher, environmental scientist, makeup artist. So it was a relief when I finally chose an occupation—writer.

At first I was excited, but that was quickly replaced with confusion: how do I become a “writer”? To make matters worse, I was constantly reminded that the field was “extremely competitive” and the pay was crap. (Thanks, Professor!)

With typical teenage optimism, I ignored the negativity and pushed forward towards my dream. I applied for internships with major magazines and sent letters to every publishing house, asking for the chance to shadow an editor. I crossed my fingers and waited for the responses to trickle in.

Finally, the emails came and they were all the same: No.

Every single one rejected me.

The rejections stung and I was plagued with doubt, “God, my writing must suck if they all denied me. Should I become a teacher instead?

But then I did something powerful. I decided to get strategic.

Yes, it was true that Seventeen Magazine and Harpers Collins denied my application, but luckily, there were thousands of other magazines in the world.

Two weeks later, I was offered a weeklong internship with DIVA Magazine in London, UK. As the United Kingdom’s #1 LGBT magazine, DIVA offered me a unique opportunity: the chance to be a big fish in a small pond.

I knew that competition for the internship was almost non-existent, especially compared to the number of applicants at publications like Seventeen or Cosmopolitan. But even beyond that, I strategically chose DIVA because it provided three crucial things:

 

1. The opportunity to be published in an international magazine

As any writer will tell you, getting published with an established brand for the first time is difficult. DIVA’s job description explicitly stated that I would have the opportunity to write for the website and possibly be published in the magazine as well. I walked away from the internship with 8 website bylines and 2 feature stories in the print magazine.

DivaMag

 

2. Short duration

The internship length ensured that I would stay focused and accomplish my publishing goals in a short amount of time. It also freed up the rest of my summer to pursue other jobs and opportunities. (My resume does not disclose the length of the position and I never offer to clarify.)

 

3. International connections and bragging rights

After the internship, my resume boasted international work experience. Future internship coordinators were impressed and my next editor explicitly stated that my experience at DIVA was why he hired me. To this day, my internship at DIVA is listed on my resume.

 

By strategically taking The Easy Way, I was able to reap exponential rewards while exerting less than half the effort that would have been required at other internships. It’s a result I’ve aimed to replicate in every area of my life.

Tim Ferris explains the concept of The Easy Way in his book,  The Four-Hour Workweek. By choosing the “easy way,” Ferris became a world-class kickboxing champion in less than a month:

 

“I won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing National Championships. It wasn’t because I was good at punching and kicking. God forbid. That seemed a bit dangerous, considering I did it on a dare and had four weeks of preparation. Besides, I have a watermelon head–it’s a big target.

I won by reading the rules and looking for loopholes, of which there were two…

The result? I won all my matches by technical knock-out and went home national champion, something 99% of those with 5-10 years of experience had been unable to do.”

 

In our society, “hard” work and busy-ness are worn as shiny badges of honor. But the truth is that your time is the most precious commodity you have.

Time is more important than anything else because we have a finite amount. As a result, it’s important to reach your goals and accomplish your dreams while using as little of your time as possible.

In fact, this is the underlying belief that fuels the desire for passive income or investments. By trading time for money, you are instantly poorer in the world’s most precious commodity: time.  

Yes, hard work is important in the sense that it’s critical to deliver phenomenal results. In fact, I worked my butt off during my week at DIVA. I arrived early, left late and never took lunch. When an editor asked me to write something, I delivered it within the next two hours and also included a list of ideas for future articles.

 Working for one week instead of two months allowed more time for this...

Working for one week instead of two months allowed more time for this…

 

But I only did this for one week. I didn’t waste two months fetching coffee for executives who didn’t know my name. I busted my butt for a grand total of 40 hours and was rewarded with phenomenal results because I knew my goals (a full-time writing job after graduation—accomplished!) and created a plan that would allow me to achieve it while exerting the least amount of effort and wasting the least amount of time.

We have been taught to never admit to taking the easy path, and honestly, that’s absurd. You have been given a limited amount of time, resources and energy, so it only makes sense to use them sparingly while you relentlessly pursue your dreams.

The same is true for money.

Saving half of my income requires minimal effort because I automate my spending. Each month, $1,100 leaves my account before I ever see it. I don’t have to agonize over every purchase or worry whether or not I’ll be able to pay $1,000 towards my loans that month. Instead, I kick back, relax and spend my remaining money as I see fit—guilt free.

(Sometimes there’s even enough leftover for a trip to Disneyland…)

 Sometimes, there's even enough leftover for a trip to Disneyland! (Perks of living in Southern California)

It makes sense to take The Easy Way and automate your savings. In the same way it would have been pointless for me to work a two month unpaid internship that would have yielded the same results as a weeklong internship, it’s pointless to torture yourself over whether or not you’ll have enough money left for saving at the end of the month.

By taking The Easy Way, your life becomes infinitely better.

 

Luckily, The Easy Way is applicable to everything:

 

  1. Salary Raise: If you’re gunning for a raise at work, ONLY focus on meaningful projects that solve a major company issue. Small, administrative tasks will never set you apart as a critical team member. Instead, solve a major problem, save the company money and establish yourself as an expert.

 

  1. Health: Intense cardio for 30 minutes a day will keep you healthy, toned and strong. There’s no need to buy expensive equipment or invest hours at the gym. All you need is 30 minutes and a pair of running shoes.

 

  1. Interior Design: Want to create a beautiful home without breaking the bank or DIY-ing for an entire weekend? Hang curtains. For a total of $30, your home will receive an instant facelift and it will only require 20 minutes, a pair of Command Strips and a set of curtains.

 

  1. College Admissions: If you’re interested in attending a top university and studying a subject that is impacted or super competitive, apply as a less competitive major and change courses once you are accepted. I successfully accomplished this by applying as a Gender Studies major at UCLA and then switching to English once I was accepted.

 

IMG_2711

Walking across the stage at UCLA and getting my BA in English Literature! 

 

  1. Relationships: If you feel like you’re distant from your friends, family or partner commit yourself to an intensive yet short amount of quality time. 20 minutes of uninterrupted time with someone you love will instantly improve your connection. You don’t need to plan an entire day or commit yourself to a weekend “getaway.” Instead, commit to an uninterrupted, distraction-free conversation with a person you love.

 

Establish your goals, determine how to achieve them while exerting minimal effort and kick up your feet as you watch yourself accomplish amazing things.

 

What else can be hacked with The Easy Way?” Have you ever taken the “easy” way?

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22 Comments

  • Reply Maggie @ Northern Expenditure December 11, 2015 at 4:34 pm

    And also, you got to GO TO LONDON. I love the thinking here. So many things are so much simpler than we make them. I need to re-evaluate a lot of things to streamline to the easy way. Thanks for the motivation!
    Maggie @ Northern Expenditure recently posted…What I Learned In Ice Skating ClassMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:38 am

      Thanks, Maggie! London was AMAZING (as I know you know!) I think life is constant re-evaulations and re-tweaking. Good luck with the latest round! I can’t wait to hear about your progress 🙂

  • Reply Tawcan December 11, 2015 at 7:07 pm

    Wow 2 weeks in London for this amazing opportunity would be awesome! Congrats!
    Tawcan recently posted…Dividend Income – November 2015 UpdateMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:37 am

      Thanks, Tawcan! It was definitely my favorite summer of all time 🙂 I can’t wait to follow along on your travels this year!

  • Reply Alyssa @ GenerationYRA December 11, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    Wow, Taylor! That’s amazing! Sometimes I think even “the easy way” with least amount of time can still be maximized with the energy that is utilized. I am SO with you on the automation aspect with finances! That’s freed up much of my time to scrutinize & make sure all payments/savings were covered. I think in terms of health another “easy way” is when people fall into the trap of picking up fast/convenient food because they don’t have time – is to spend just an hour prepping healthy, home cooked options for the week. That way you do not have to spend hours during the week stressing about cooking. Great examples!

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:36 am

      I love the example of picking up fast food because it is SO true. Like you said, the “easy way” is to optimize the situation beforehand by prepping food. When you do that, you’re saving time, money and your health. It’s a triple win! Thanks, Alyssa 🙂

  • Reply Jim Wang December 11, 2015 at 8:52 pm

    What’s nice about the “easy way” is that you can use it and still work as hard as you would’ve, you will just have a huge advantage because you’re being smart about how you do things. As I’ve gotten older, phrases like “measure twice, cut once” have resonated more and more. Think before you start and you can do things much better, faster, and easier than if you just start into it and hope to figure it out.
    Jim Wang recently posted…9 Daily Extravagance Habits Frugal People Don’t HaveMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:35 am

      YES! I think that is the most potent combination. In the same way, it’s important to save money AND earn more money, I think it’s equally important to ate the “easy way” and work as hard as you would have worked if you hadn’t. I love the way you phrased it!

  • Reply Andrew @ Quest for Billions December 11, 2015 at 10:19 pm

    Great post Taylor! I am a huge fan of Tim Ferriss and The Four Hour Workweek. At the core of his work is the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) – 80% of the outputs come from 20% of the inputs. Your one week internship is a great example of this idea! There needs to be more of a focus on being productive versus being busy. Spending a lot of time on a task does not make it more important.

    I could not agree more about viewing time as a currency which is way more valuable than money. In his book Vagabonding, Rolf Potts talks about “the time-poor – people who are so obsessed with tending their material wealth and social standing that they can’t spare the time to truly experience.” You can always make more money, but you will never get back lost time.

    Here are two ideas I use for saving time:
    1. Listening to podcasts at 1.5x speed
    2. Batching. For example, it may take you one hour of time to check and respond to 10 comments on your blog if you check and respond at five different times throughout the day. But if you wait and respond to all 10 at the same time, it may only take you 30-45 minutes.

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:31 am

      I love that quote! Would you recommend Vagabonding? I love all your book recs, so if you recommend it, I will definitely check it out 🙂 I had never heard of “batching” in such eloquent terms before and I’ve got to say, IT SOUNDS AMAZING. Responding to emails throughout the day is probably the biggest drain of my time when I’m in the office. I love the concept of batching it and busting it out. Thanks for the tip! I can’t wait to implement it.

  • Reply Claudia @ Two Cup House December 12, 2015 at 1:40 am

    We just finished reading FHWW last Friday and immediately set lofty goals. Without knowing it, we’ve focused on “elimination” and “automation” this entire year in an effort to make our personal lives easier. Now, we’re trying to apply the “easy way” to work, too. Thanks for the tips and reminders!
    Claudia @ Two Cup House recently posted…Weekly Recap of Knowledge and Inspiration Gained from the Blogosphere #17, Holiday EditionMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 13, 2015 at 1:40 am

      Yay! So glad you’re a fan of Tim Ferriss too 🙂 He’s super inspirational. Elimination and automation are the BEST goals and it’s so obvious (just from reading your blog!) that focusing on them has already made your life so much easier and richer (in every sense of the word!) Can’t wait to see what you two accomplish in 2016 🙂

  • Reply Our Next Life December 12, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I definitely agree with this thinking, though I think it’s all about knowing your audience and knowing your own goals. My best college internship was at NPR, and while my goal was to get on the radio (I did!), I also loved every single second of it, and was glad to have a ten-week internship — I would have been happy extending it to six months! I learned so much every day and just loved it, even the long hours, and was totally happy to do that one the “hard way.” Also, sometimes those admin tasks DO get people noticed, especially if they make life easier for senior people, so knowing that’s valued at your company and focusing on that is a great way to get ahead. 🙂
    Our Next Life recently posted…FI Interview on Even Steven Money // Plus a Money FailMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 13, 2015 at 1:37 am

      Woohoo! An internship at NPR is amazing 🙂 So glad to hear that you enjoyed every second of it. I was actually the same way with DIVA and would have happily stayed longer, even though I didn’t need to in order to accomplish my goals. I think the “easy” way is all about being strategic and hustling. And when you approach life from that perspective, everything becomes infinitely easier.

      As far as the admin tasks at work, I consider those things the bare minimum. I’m an Assistant Director, so I have a fair share of tasks that I’m responsible for, but I make sure that my boss NEVER has to deal with administrative tasks. To me, that’s a given. I handle all of my job duties but also work go above and beyond to solve institutional problems in my area and proactively provide solutions. I’m all about that hustle 😉

  • Reply Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless December 12, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    Thanks for sharing this story, Taylor! It’s cool to get to learn a little more about your background/career.
    I don’t know if you took *that* easy of a path — you still worked to get the DIVA internship and, as you say, worked your butt off while you were there! (But I do get your point.) 🙂 I will also say that when I was an English major, I basically sat around crossing my fingers and hoping that someone would offer me a job reading novels (which — shocker! — never happened). So I would say just the fact that you recognized and chose a marketable skill, and then moved forward to pursue it, is laudable.

    And yes, TIME, I agree, it is the most precious commodity. I am definitely in a place where I suddenly have a lot more time on my hands than I have had in a long, long while, and I’m trying to think carefully about how to make the best use of it…
    Sarah Noelle @ The Yachtless recently posted…Small ThingsMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor December 13, 2015 at 1:30 am

      Thanks, Sarah! I think that more than anything, the “easy” way is about being strategic and hustling. Rather than working long, gratuitous hours, I prefer to knock out all of my work done in short bursts, so none of my time is wasted. (Sometimes that it easier said than done! hah. But it’s always what I’m aiming to accomplish) And I think my internship at DIVA was the perfect example of that 🙂

      Yes! Being an English major is SUCH a bizarre experience, haha. There is definitely no clear career path (unless you plan to become a teacher or lawyer) The fear of being broke and jobless after graduating definitely helped to kick me into high gear when it came to internships, hah. I can’t wait to hear how your post-PhD life is! I’m so excited to read about all the amazing things you accomplish in your new career path 🙂

  • Reply Elizabeth December 14, 2015 at 12:35 am

    I love this concept! I think too many people (especially women, at least many who I know) think they have to work harder and/or work longer hours to get ahead. Unfortunately it’s often those cutting out early and “wasting” time chatting with key people (aka building the right relationships) who end up getting promotions and raises.

    Working “hard” is prioritized as almost a moral quality or requirement in our culture, and therefore those who embrace shortcuts are sometimes considered to be lazy or entitled (especially if they are also young!). However when you really think about it, it’s hard to argue with the being strategic about where you want to go and getting there as efficiently and quickly as possible.
    Elizabeth recently posted…How to Figure Out What You Really ValueMy Profile

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:25 am

      YES! Oh my goodness, I truly couldn’t have said it better myself, especially about women in the workplace. Since starting my first full-time job last year, it’s been fascinating to observe the different ways men and women interact in the office/meetings. I agree—getting strategic is the best bet, especially when time is so limited. Thanks, Elizabeth 🙂

  • Reply Christine @ The Wallet Diet December 16, 2015 at 6:32 pm

    My grade 7 teacher had this saying that she preached and it drove me crazy but as an adult it has still stuck. She use to say “work smarter, not harder”. The thinking is that there is a solution of lesser effort that will produce the same or better results if you were to work harder. You can really apply it to any aspect of your life. When I was on the job hunt a few years back I applied the conventional way by submitting my resume via email to almost 100 companies. Didn’t hear back from a single one. Now for my freelance biz, I connect with potential clients via Twitter or invite them for a virutal coffee, basically anything that’s different from a cold sales call. Focusing on building a few relationships vs. casting a wide net has a much higher success rate 🙂 Yay for working smarter!

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor January 27, 2016 at 3:20 am

      Hi Christine 🙂 “Work harder, not smarter” is the all-time best piece of advice and I totally didn’t understand it until I was an adult either! haha. I love the concept of narrowing in your focus on building relationships. I truly think that’s the key to success in all areas of life and you’re proof that it’s working! 🙂

  • Reply Keith K. Moffitt August 4, 2016 at 4:01 am

    Wow
    What a Great post Taylor! I am the great fan of Tim Ferriss and The Four Hour Workweek. At the core of his work is the Pareto principle (80/20 rule) – 80% of the results come from 20% of the inputs. This is the great example of one week internship idea! There requirements are to be more focus of being on productive vs. being busy. Spending a lot of time on a work does not make it more significant.
    Regards;
    Keith K. Moffitt

    • Taylor
      Reply Taylor August 5, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Thanks, Keith! I completely agree. The Four Hour Workweek really explained it in a way that makes it easy to understand — long hours do not necessarily mean useful work. I didn’t know it was called the Pareto principle. Looking forward to researching it and learning even more 🙂

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