Book Report: The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss

Photo: © Judex | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images
Photo: © Judex | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

Who wouldn’t like a 4-hour workweek?  Sounds appealing to me.  From reading the cover, I thought there had to be some gimmick.  There are many products advertising something too good to be true and I thought that this book would be one of them.  Judging this book by its cover would have been a mistake.

This book provides ideas on how a person can spend less time working, but still accomplish their goals.  I feel the book is better suited for a reader who is or wants to be an entrepreneur but also offers valuable ideas to those who don’t work for themselves.  The key points I took note of include:

Focus on value added/important tasks by using the 80/20 principal and Parkinson’s Law.  The 80/20 principal suggests that 20% of the work will accomplish 80% of the results.  Related to customers, focus on the top 20% of your customers since they will provide 80% of your revenue.  According to Ferriss, “Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.”  This means that the longer you have to complete something, the more you will work and fill time to accomplish the task.  Hence, the argument is that shorter deadlines will cause a person to narrow down and only perform what is needed to accomplish the task.  What does this all suggest…  Prioritize your work and focus on the top 20% most important items.  Also, give yourself shorter deadlines and you shall find that you become more efficient.

Work to accomplish by using automation or others.  For the less important tasks, assign the tasks to others or hire a virtual assistant, which will allow you more time to focus on the most important tasks.  If you are a business owner making and distributing your own products, set up a supply chain that handles most everything and requires little of your time.  Empower the people who you assign the tasks.  Give clear guidelines or limits when you should be involved and when they can act on their own to solve a problem.  This can be done gradually in small steps while you closely monitor and build trust before fully empowering them.  Another benefit of assigning and automating tasks and removing yourself from the daily processes, is that you can have the option to work remotely, practically anywhere around the globe, which I discuss more a little later.

One strategy to reduce the amount of time on less important tasks is to batch tasks, which shall make you more efficient.  Read and respond to emails once or twice a day.  Do the same with answering and responding to phone calls (unless your primary job function is customer support answering customer calls or something similar).  Batching tasks like email or responding to phone messages removes the overhead time associated with switching from a task to answering an email, then switching back to the task, while later repeating the process possibly many times.  Focusing on emails or phone messages at specified times in the day will save time and allows you to be more efficient.

Another unique idea in the book was the idea of a mini-retirement.  The normal career model is work hard while in your 20’s through 60’s, then retire and utilize all that you have saved up to enjoy life by doing the things you could not do while working hard.  That model works great if at retirement you have good health and enough saved up to support your financial obligations and desired retirement activities.  The alternative model of periodic mini-retirements can occur when you have your business running smoothly and you are not required to put in long hours and/or you can work remotely.  Then, you may consider traveling or developing a hobby or possibly both.  Ferriss discusses how someone can mini-retire in South America or other countries for not much more than what they would normally spend to live in their home.  If you have established your business properly, you can keep involved practically from anywhere around the world and then spend the remaining time taking in the sights, learning the language, or picking up a new skill or hobby.  Once you have accomplished what you desired at that location you can move onto another location or go back to your home.  From home you can develop your business further, while preparing for your next mini-retirement.

As mentioned earlier, I feel the book is geared towards entrepreneurs, but the idea of living anywhere in the world can apply to those who work for a company, too.  Ferriss suggests the strategy is to gradually work towards being able to remotely work and perform your role outside the office.  In his experience, he provides examples how people can accomplish more working outside the office than inside (allows better focus/eliminates distractions).  Once the ability to work remotely has been established and the value demonstrated, then where you live and work is your decision.

This book exceeded my expectations.  I found value in Ferriss’ ideas and appreciated his stories and examples of how the concepts were applied by him or other readers (I read the expanded and updated version).  I liked what I read so much that I decided to read another of his books, The 4-Hour Body, which will be another blog entry in the future.

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