Why I Chose this Book
Honestly, I had heard of The 4-Hour Workweek maybe years before I actually read it. I at least saw the title on Overdrive’s website often. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were in the “popular” category. The title seemed too gimmicky to me, though. I think I figured this was another bloated self-help book, that promised the reader an unrealistic life. Maybe the author had managed to create a “4-hour workweek” for himself, but the circumstances were completely unreplicatable for the average person. I wouldn’t be suckered into wasting my time or money on this. So what made me finally read it? I think I listened to Tim Ferriss’s podcast for a while without realizing that he was the author of this book. I enjoyed what I was hearing and when I realized that he was the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, I decided I would give his book a chance.
The 4-Hour Workweek
The 4-Hour Workweek is a self-help book by Tim Ferris about how to get more done with less time. Many of the concepts he discusses in this book have permeated culture, whether it’s outsourcing to virtual assistants, testing the market for your business’s product before officially launching it, or taking minivacations. I don’t remember all of the details of this book, but you know the saying, “people may not remember what you did, but they’ll remember how you made them feel?” That’s how I feel about this book. Reading this book felt revolutionary or at least enlightening.
Some concepts that have remained with me are outsourcing, licensing your ideas, avoiding meetings, working remotely from home or elsewhere, traveling cheaply, and experimenting in life (or was that only from his podcast?). Batching is another concept I remember. We all know about it to some extent. It could be doing all of your house cleaning on Sunday or unfortunately, cramming for a test, but this book frames the idea differently. This is something I think about often.
Also, Ferris mentions allowing time for leisure or the things you enjoy, such as time with friends and family. Similar to Neil Fiore, Ferris advocates that we fight to retain this time in our lives. Life is not all about work. Have you ever heard that no one on his death bed has ever said that he wished he spent more time at work? Leave room for relationships and fun.
There’s also the low information diet concept. If I remember correctly, one should not spend a lot of time sorting through consuming information such as the news. I believe Ferriss discusses how he uses his friends to fill him in on the most important information. I think that this idea sounds good in theory, but it should be taken with a grain of salt. Yeah, there is a lot of information available nowadays and it is easy to get lost in it, but there’s also a good possibility that your friends won’t necessarily consistently get the cream of the crop news or news that’s most relevant to you. It’s a good concept to use when you’re in a crunch for sure, but I think we should still take some time occasionally to scour info for ourselves.
This is another good concept in the book; if you think you have a good business idea, validate it first. What does that mean? Don’t just ask people if they would be interested in buying your potential product or service, ask them to buy it. People will often tell you that an idea is good or that they would spend money on it, but when it comes time to actually purchasing it, they won’t cough up any bread. There are different methods of doing this; one example is to set up a presell website and see how many people place preorders.
When providing a product, should you sell a lot of something cheap or a few of something more pricey? Ferris says to go pricey. It’s so much about the money, but it’s also about the quality. Also, customers that are willing to spend a little bit more on a product are less likely to give you a hassle about it. But again, if you’re going to charge a lot for your product, it better be of quality. Michael Simmons talks about a similar concept to writing blog articles, which he calls the blockbuster model. According to his research, most content that is consumed are the ones that are of high quality and depth, though they may be produced less frequently than someone making mediocre blog posts every day.
Speaking of the blockbuster model, you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, right? Maybe you know it by the 80/20 rule. 80% of your results are accomplished by 20% of your actions. So, to be more effective in your work and personal life, focus on the 20% and get rid of the 80%. That’s what this book is about at its core. That’s where ideas such as outsourcing, both professionally and personally come from. Baby sitters, maids, virtual assistants, and analog personal assistants all represent ways in which we outsource tasks to free up more time for ourselves. We should define what our most important tasks to accomplish are, prioritize them, schedule them, then tackle them. Everything else that doesn’t fit into your schedule, either forget about it or outsource it.
“For all of the most important things, the timing always sucks. Waiting for a good time to quit your job? The stars will never align and the traffic lights of life will never all be green at the same time. The universe doesn’t conspire against you, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either. Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. Pro and con lists are just as bad. If it’s important to you and you want to do it “eventually,” just do it and correct course along the way.”
Life is meant to be lived, not worked, or chasing money. Be aware of Parkinson’s law. If there is time available, it will be filled with something. What is the point? The point is if you give yourself three weeks to write a paper for class or fix that sink, you are likely to spend the entire three weeks doing so, not because that’s how long it actually takes, but because that’s the time you allotted. Set tighter deadlines and surprise yourself how much quicker you get tasks accomplished.
Take mini-retirements. I think this is a tough concept to accept. Many of us have been taught and may have accepted the idea of to work hard while you’re young and enjoy your vacation and free time when you retire. This is essentially batching your vacation time. There are several problems with this old model though, 1) we’re not all guaranteed to survive until retirement, 2) there’s no guarantee that when we reach retirement we’ll be in good enough health to fully enjoy it, 3) there are simply some things you can’t do at 65 years old that could have at 30, 4) you might not enjoy the same things by the time you retire and 5) some things might not exist by the time you retire, including the earth. If you spend most of your working years sacrificing certain enjoyments waiting until you retire, you’ll find out that you can never go back and reclaim those experiences. The solution, we should enjoy “retirement” throughout our lives. Take mini “retirements” along the way to full retirement. I like this idea, but it is also easier said than done, especially when you have to convince your employer.
To Ferris’s point, though, the retirement age, at least in the U.S. is influenced by how long you’re expected to live. See, the U.S. government typically pays social security checks to retired people that have paid into the system. The longer you live after you retire the more the government has to pay. If you’ve noticed, as life expectancy has increased, so has the retirement age for full benefits. Those that determine the retirement age expect, probably even want you to die shortly after. Therefore, the traditional idea of retirement is not set up for us to live long and enjoyable lives post career. We have to take this back.
There are a few other ideas I think are worth mentioning though I won’t discuss much.
- Stephen Key is the master of licensing your ideas. I highly recommend reading more information about him.
- Hiring a virtual assistant for either business or personal tasks sounds enjoyably freeing.
- Generate credibility when creating information products. Join trade-related organizations. Read the three top-selling books. Give one free, two-hour seminar. Write for trade magazines. Check out profnet.
- When setting out to create an automated income stream, focus on starting a product-based business. Fill a niche. Fulfill a demand rather than create a demand for your product.
- Keep in mind you want to own a business rather than work for it and keep it simple.
This book is full of ideas. It introduces or reintroduces many concepts that are potentially useful, more than I’ve touched on here. I’ve found that some people hate this book, but a lot of people love it. I would recommend keeping a copy for yourself. In addition, experiment with the ideas. Keep what works, leave what doesn’t.