Tips & Stories

How Tim Ferriss used Evernote to write The 4-Hour Body

Posted by Ron Toledo on 21 Dec 2010

Posted by Ron Toledo on 21 Dec 2010

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We recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with best-selling author, eminent lifestyle designer and Evernote advisor, Tim Ferriss to talk about his new book, the 4-Hour Body. The book talks about Tim’s quest to hack the human body and become superhuman. We were thrilled to hear all the interesting ways Tim used Evernote in the creation of his new book.

Tell us about your new book, The 4-Hour Body.

I’ve been working on the 4-Hour Body for three years, which is nearly three times as long as it took to create the 4-Hour Workweek. This book is a hacker’s guide to the human body. I spent that time testing all of the fads, all of the diets, and all of the exercise protocols with the help of the world’s best scientists, doctors, athletes, and coaches. Throughout the process, I made myself the guinea pig for various extreme approaches in order to really find the critical few things that work, not only for me but for more than 200 test subjects.

What role did Evernote play in researching and writing the 4-Hour Body?

I started using Evernote for the revised and expanded edition of the 4-Hour Workweek, which came out mid-December of last year. It was an opportunity for me to test different tools and technologies that knew I would use for the 4-Hour Body. In a way, Evernote was being auditioned during the writing of the the last 4-Hour Workweek edition. I immediately started using it for the 4-Hour Body.

If I look at my notebook and I go back to my oldest notes in my largest notebook, they are actually photographs of a menu that I took when I was with Phil [Evernote CEO, Phil Libin] when he gave me one of my first demos of Evernote. Right after that there are things related to the 4-Hour Body. So, from the very outset, the basis and central heartbeat of all of my research for this book was Evernote. That’s not an exaggeration at all.

Without Evernote, I would have been completely lost. I would have had to create hundreds of different folders with substructures. I would have had to back everything up repeatedly to different locations. It would have been a complete nightmare. So, the research, the note taking and the organization was all done with Evernote. Then, I moved to a program called Scrivener, which is traditionally used for screenplays, but I used it to take information from Evernote and put it into a research section to draft the book. Evernote was the starting point, the central point for everything.

How did you use Evernote for the project and how did that use evolve?

I used it primarily for two or three things at the outset and throughout. The first was scanning everything into Evernote and eliminating paper whenever possible. The second was web clipping and online research. Evernote made it so that I could read things offline that I didn’t want to leave open in twenty tabs online.

What struck me as a benefit that I didn’t anticipate was that Evernote really became the most accurate log and diary of all of my mishaps, adventures, successes, and wins. It is definitely the most densely detailed account of everything that I’ve been through while writing this book. That was a side benefit that has been a real advantage for me.

Also, because I wanted to keep the content top secret, I didn’t really share any of what I was doing in a public way. I didn’t take the time to write a journal or anything like that, so Evernote ended up being my default diary. To this day, I still go back through my Evernote, because it’s a fun way to look back at the journey I chronicled there.

Besides using Evernote, you also included Evernote in your book in a surprising way. Can you tell us about that?

Evernote is in the book for two reasons. First, I talk a lot about tracking. For people who use iPhones or simply phones with decent cameras, Evernote is a perfect tool for doing much of what I recommend in the book, such as keeping a food log or simply taking photographs of meals. Doing this affects behavior very dramatically.

The second reason Evernote is in the book, is Phil. In one of our very first meetings, Phil mentioned to me that he had lost a tremendous amount of weight without trying–by using an Excel spreadsheet. He then quickly moved on to demoing Evernote and I was like “We’ll get to Evernote, but what’s going on with this story? I want to hear that first”.

Phil had tried diets and exercise but it was inconvenient, it took time and he’d always regained the weight. He decided to see if there was a lazier way. He simply weighed himself every morning and created a spreadsheet with a graph in Excel. He had a slope going from where his current weight was, to his ideal weight. The graph also had a maximum allowable weight line and a minimum allowable weight. He would weigh himself and see where he was on that graph.

Phil made the conscious decision not to try and change his behavior, which is perhaps a little more stubborn than necessary for most people, but he didn’t consciously try to improve his diet, or go out and get more exercise. Those thousands of tiny subconscious decisions were affected by his awareness, and he ended up losing between 30 and 50 pounds.

That is a really great example of how using the proper psychological and scientific background is more effective than sending someone to a trainer. You can make tiny tiny changes that affect awareness. You feel like you’re not making any effort whatsoever and yet big changes are the result–that is quite a large facet of the 4-Hour Body.

The 4-Hour Body is available now »

Listen to Evernote Podcast #24 for the complete interview with Tim Ferriss.

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  • Mysty

    I am doing the nanowrimo challenge for november writing in scrivener can i use it with my evernote to have my writing available on any device and do i have to have scrivener on every device or can i just upload it to evernote somehow by the way i am a total tech idiot i regularly make computers cranky.