Amir Sharif
Weekend hacker.
Self improvement enthusiast.

Book Review: Buy Back Your Time

These were the main ideas I tookaway after reading Buy Back Your Time by Dan Martell. I like Dan, he’s got some great content, but I’d give this book a 3/5.


  • Transactional leadership is bad and looks like this: tell the person what they do, check that they did it, give them the next ask.
  • Transformational leadership is focused around an outcome. Instead of telling them what to do, you want them to tell you. After providing the outcome, offer a metric to measure progress.

The COACH Framework

If you want to lead, you’ll need to give feedback. Use this framework to structure this feedback without being overly prescriptive or vague:

  1. Co: Core Issue - Describe what the specific problem or area of concern is.
  2. A: Actual Story - Describe an actual instance when that manifested.
  3. Ch: Change - Ask the other person if they can make a commitment to change.

The 1:3:1 Rule

Before a report or colleague asks for your help, they should have a short note that addresses the following points:

  1. Define the one problem that needs to be solved. (Avoid having multiple tangential issues).
  2. Offer three viable solutions.
  3. Make one suggestion from that list of possible solutions.


Dan harps on something I’ve used basically forever but he’s got a good framework for systemizing them. A playbook (sometimes called a Standard Operating Procedure or SOP) is a public document that allows other people to achieve an outcome predictably.

If you’ve spent a lot of time mastering a task (such as hiring new people, opening a new location, or using a particular software library), then you should write up a playbook that can transfer that knowledge to other people so they can do it too and save time.

I personally use Notion but a Google Doc gets the same job done.

Dan has a nice checklist of what a playbook should include:

  1. Camcorder Method: Record a video of yourself doing a task. Put it in the playbook. As soon as you give the playbook to someone else have them record a video of them doing the task to replace the video you made. Record the video up to 3 times, since the task may vary every now and then. Talk through it so people understand your thinking as well. I’ve personally done this when showing people how to use a CRM or an internal tool.
  2. Course: A written version of the video, outlining the steps that you would take to achieve the task.
  3. Cadence: How often the task should get done (monthly, weekly, daily).
  4. Checklist: How to verify that the task was done correctly.

He’s also got a good example in the book that ties it all together. Let’s take the example of hiring someone:

Camcorder Method

  • Record yourself discussing how you’d hire someone. You could even record the interviewing call.


  • Post a job posting.
  • Share on social media.
  • Review resumes.
  • Narrow down list.
  • Schedule onsites job interviews with department managers.
  • Send top choice to CEO.


  • Whenever you need more employees!


  • Did you receive at least 20 resumes?
  • Are the prospects excited at working here?
  • Did the department manager takes notes on what they liked about the candidate and forward them to the CEO?

Energy Management

Dan spends a good chunk of the book talking about visualization. Focusing on a business is one thing, but most entrepreneurs are focusing on a business as a means to an end to achieve another outcome. It could be leaving behind a legacy, living your ideal lifestyle, or leaving the world a better place than you found it. If you don’t have a vision for the future, you’ll end up wherever the tide sweeps you.

Dan calls this a 10x vision” and breaks it down into 4 parts: Team, Business, Empire and Lifestyle.

Dan hasn’t added much to visualization that I haven’t already covered.

Phase 1: The first step to creating an inspirational 10X Vision is to dream without limitations. Don’t worry about how you’re going to do it, just consider what you would do without any limits. Phase 2: Big dreams eventually need crystal clarity. Once you can describe your future vision with the same specificity and detail with which you can describe your current situation, you’ll have a vision that can motivate you today. Specifically, entrepreneurs need a clear vision that has these four elements: a team, one business, their empire, and their lifestyle.


Out of the 6 rules” he highlights, I thought 2 were interesting.

  • Use a personality test. I personally like 16Personalities because it breaks down strengths and weaknesses for each personality, as well as workplace habits. (I’m an Advocate).
  • Require new hires to submit a video that they record answering 5 questions. It’s a nice middle ground between just seeing a resume and having to do a 30 minute call. Here are the questions he asks them to submit in the video:
  1. Why are you interested in this position?
  2. What is your ideal work environment?
  3. What do you know about our company?
  4. What are your strengths?
  5. Where do you see yourself in five years?

On Tasks

In a lot of business contexts I’ll write a TODO only to realize that that thing wasn’t actually done. Dan lays out 3 simple for what done looks like that’s easy to use whenever writing out a task.

  • Facts: What metrics must be accomplished? What should the measurement be?
  • Feelings: How must you and others feel for this task to be complete?
  • Functionality: What does this enable others to do when it’s done?.

He uses another simple framework for prioritization abbreviated by ICE. Each item has a score from 1-10.

  • Impact: If we achieved this item/outcome what problem would that solve?
  • Confidence: How likely are we that investing in this task will lead to the impact? (I like to think of this as a risk coefficient - there are many ideas that are massive in potential impact but have a low probability of risk).
  • Ease: How soon can this be delivered? How many resources will this require (hours worked, financial cost, etc.)?

By splitting out your tasks. Like all rating based systems, you shouldn’t be able to say 7. I’ll publish something on ICE a little later too.

There’s also a nice idea in the book about your Buy Back Rate. You get your hourly rate from a place like this. The rule of thumb is that if you can save 1 hour by paying someone else 1/3 of your rate, then it’s worth it.

June 12, 2023