The 4-Hour Work Week teaches techniques to increase your time and financial freedom giving you more lifestyle options. By automating a passive income and liberating yourself from unproductive tasks you can live the lifestyle of the ‘new rich' – one defined by having, doing and being what you want. The author, Tim Ferriss, is an absolute genius and someone every entrepreneur or internet marketer should look up to.
Who is this book for
This is the book I probably recommend the most to people, and it’s one I’ve personally read multiple times. This book is an absolute go-to for anyone interested in working for themselves and creating a sustainable work/life balance. The 4-Hour Work Week is about escaping the 9-5 trap, giving yourself the freedom to work anywhere and still be successful. It’s not about working longer hours, but about working less and still getting the same, if not better, results. Who doesn’t want that?
About the author
Tim Ferriss is an American Blogger, Author, Podcaster and all-around entrepreneur. His Podcast, The Tim Ferriss Show has been #1 on iTunes for years and he’s released 4 #1 NYT bestselling books. Tim Ferris comes across as incredibly relatable and down-to-earth, perhaps why his popularity has skyrocketed. With a diverse range of knowledge, Tim Ferriss isn’t all about business, he’s even brought out books such as The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef diving into the world of health and fitness.
In this summary
This summary will cover some of the techniques that Tim Ferriss talks about in The 4-Hour Work Week that are designed to help you increase your time and financial freedom, giving you more lifestyle options. By automating a passive income and liberating yourself from unproductive tasks you can live the lifestyle of the ‘new rich' – one defined by having, doing and being what you want. This summary will start by covering some of Tim Ferriss’ key rules and things to avoid. Next, we’ll summarise how to ‘reset’ your lifestyle and eliminate the unnecessary. Then we’ll move on to talk about how you can automate your new lifestyle to free up even more time and finally with a brief discussion about what to do with your new lifestyle and how to fill your new-found free time!
RULES & WHAT TO AVOID
Before we dive into what you need to do to increase both your time and financial freedom, Tim Ferriss summarises the process you’ll go through as a 4-step process, aka DEAL.
- D for Definition – essentially you need to define what you're going to do and understand the rules.
- E for Elimination – next you will ‘reset’ and eliminate the unnecessary
- A for Automation – next up is the time to automate everything possible, this may include outsourcing.
- L for Liberation – finally, the part where you get to go out and live it.
“Resolve now to test the concepts as an exercise in lateral thinking. If you try it, you’ll see just how deep the rabbit hole goes, and you won’t ever go back.”
”Money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it.”
Tim calls this the “freedom multiplier. The reality is, that you have options, you have the ability to choose, and Tim emphasises that this is a real power within you. If you can follow Tim’s simple steps, you’ll be able to see what you ca achieve with minimum effort and cost. And the reality is, that Tim believes you can make a lot more money by doing a lot less than you currently are!
Tim outlines 10 rules that you need to consider and keep in mind;
- Retirement Is Worst-Case-Scenario Insurance. Planning for retirement should not be part of your plan, the idea is that your work should be so enjoyable and achievable that you can continue to work without retirement.
- Interest and Energy Are Cyclical. The best way to make your lifestyle maintainable is to have alternating periods of rest and work/activity. Plan “mini-retirements” throughout your life. When you are in a cycle of work you’ll work at your full potential, then allow yourself the rest required when you have a break.
- Less Is Not Laziness. People assume that by doing less you are lazy, society stereotypes those that work harder and longer hours as better. This is not true, you can work a lot less and still be as successful.
- The Timing is Never Right. It will never feel like the right time to do the significant things in your life. Quitting a job, having a baby, moving house? You can’t continue to put these things off until the ‘time is right’ – because that time may never come!
- Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission. This one is key, you’ve got to learn from your own mistakes in order to grow. Don’t give other people the opportunity to say no or deny you an opportunity. Give it a go first, and if it doesn’t work, apologise.
- Emphasize Strengths, Don’t Fix Weaknesses. Strengths are more powerful and have more of an impact on your life than your weaknesses ever will. Don’t try and fix all the minor weaknesses you have, improve your strengths as this is where the results are. Improving a weakness may only ever bring mediocrity, whereas improving upon a strength can bring greatness.
- Things in Excess Become Their Opposite. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Remember this, as they become a burden eventually.
- Money Alone Is Not the Solution. As per the previous point, too much money can be a problem. The answer is not always money.
- Relative Income Is More Important Than Absolute Income. Relative income uses two variables: the dollar and time, usually hours.
- Distress Is Bad. Distress is only ever going to bring you down, make you weaker and less confident. Anyone who fires criticism at you or is abusive is only causing you distress. Find the people who are positive role models, who push you and help you grow.
Ferriss explains that most people avoid the concept of fear and pretend it’s something else all together. They deny the fear and remain optimistic. Tim uses the example of someone who’s unhappy but avoids quitting their job, they will continue to deny their unhappiness and remain optimistic that their work will improve in time or their income will increase.
”Fear comes in many forms, and we usually don’t call it by its four-letter name. Fear itself is quite fear-inducing.”
Tim suggests you take the following steps to eliminate your fear of the unknown and allow yourself to take the leap;
- Face your nightmare and define what it is exactly. Consider what is the absolute worst thing that could happen. Define the ‘worst-case scenario.’
- Identify what you could do in order to fix or repair the ‘worst-case scenario.’
- Define what the benefits, either temporary or permanent that are likely outcomes of the scenario you are considering.
- Ask yourself, ‘if you were fired today, how would you manage your finances from here?”
- Identify the things that you are putting off or avoiding out of fear.
- By avoiding these things, is it costing you? Whether this be financial, emotional or physical?
- What are you waiting for?
RESET AND ELIMINATE
Tim uses the concept of ‘Dreamlining’ over simply goal-setting. It’s exactly what it sounds like, considering your dreams and planning to fulfill them. Tim explains that Dreamlining is different from goal-setting in 3 significant ways:
- The goals shift from ambiguous wants to defined steps.
- The goals have to be unrealistic to be effective.
- It focuses on activities that will fill the vacuum created when work is removed. Living like a millionaire requires doing interesting things and not just owning enviable things.
Tim’s guide to creating your Dreamline:
- What would you do if there were no way you could fail? If you were 10 times smarter than the rest of the world? Have two separate timelines, one short-term (e.g. 6 months) and one longer-term (12 months.) With these timelines, you need to add 5 things that you dream about, whether it be something you dream about having, being and doing.
- Drawing a blank? If this hasn’t given you some inspiration, consider what you would do if you have $100,000,000. How would this affect your dreams? And what is it that would make you excited to wake up in the morning?
- What does “being” entail doing? Convert each “being” into a “doing” to make it actionable. Identify an action that would characterize this state of being or a task that would mean you had achieved it.
- What are the four dreams that would change it all? Identify 4 key dreams and consider how they would change your life.
- Determine the cost of these dreams and calculate your Target Monthly Income (TMI) for both timelines. Now we put this into action, consider your income, expenses and months cash flow. Come up with your TMI (Target Monthly Income) that is required to realise your dreams. And then when you have your monthly figure, divide this by 30, this is now your TDI (Target Daily Income.)
- Determine three steps for each of the four dreams in just the 6-month timeline and take the first step now. Break the dreams down, and start acting upon them immediately. You need to take this first step to start turning your dreams into a reality.
“One does not accumulate but eliminate. It is not daily increase but daily decrease. The height of cultivation always runs to simplicity.” – Bruce Lee
Effectiveness and Efficiency
Tim explains the differences between being effective and being efficient. To be effective is to act in a way that is helping you reach your goals. And to be efficient is to act upon any given task, in the most productive way possible. The problem, Tim explains is that the default approach is often being efficient without regard to effectiveness. It’s key to understand that doing something unimportant, but very well, does not by default make it important. And similarly, spending a lot of time on a certain task does not make it important either.
Two Laws to consider
Tim uses Pareto’s Law to explain;
”80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs, 80% of the consequences flow from 20% of the causes, 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time, 80% of company profits come from 20% of the products and customers, 80% of all stock market gains are realized by 20% of the investors and 20% of an individual portfolio.”
Another Law that Tim discusses is Parkinson’s Law.
”Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. It is the magic of the imminent deadline. If I give you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces you to focus on execution, and you have no choice but to do only the bare essentials. If I give you a week to complete the same task, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill.”
Tim explains that from this, you can approach increasing productivity in one of two ways, and interestingly, these approaches are technically opposites;
- Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20).
- Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law).
Tim explains that your best approach is to use both of these concepts together. And the best way to do this is to identify a few tasks that are both critical and will contribute to the majority of your income. Schedule these tasks with clear deadlines and don’t dedicate a lot of time to them.
Tim’s keys to having more time is really just doing less
Ask yourself the following questions;
1. If you had a heart attack and had to work two hours per day, what would you do?
2. What if you had a second heart attack and had to work two hours per week, what would you do?
3. If you had a gun to your head and had to stop doing 4/5 of different time-consuming activities, what would you remove?
4. What are the top-three activities that I use to fill time to feel as though I’ve been productive?
5. Who are the 20% of people who produce 80% of your enjoyment and propel you forward, and which 20% cause 80% of your depression, anger, and second-guessing?
6. If this is the only thing I accomplish today, will I be satisfied with my day?
7. Are you inventing things to do to avoid the important?
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ before, and Tim firmly believes that not only is ignorance blissful, but it can also be practical.
”It is imperative that you learn to ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable. Most are all three.”
Tim identifies three ‘interruptions’ that often get in the way of the start-to-finish completion of any given task.
Time wasters include meetings, phone calls, internet surfing, emails, and discussions. These can more often than not be ignored with minimal consequences. Tim has a few tips to avoid time wasters as much as possible;
- E-mail is almost certainly the most significant interruption in the workplace. Minimise the emails you send AND read.
- Make sure the sound and notification of emails are turned off.
- Try and only check your email 2 times in a day. Tim suggests first at 12:00 noon, and again at 4:00 P.M. This timing will ensure you have the most responses from previously sent e-mail.
- Screen any phone-calls you receive. You don’t have to answer them all. And limit the phone calls you make.
- If possible, Tim suggests you have two phone numbers. One can be used as your office line, and your cell phone number can be reserved for only urgent phone calls.
- Most issues and work-related communication is not urgent at all. Steer your colleagues, clients etc. to the following order of communication; email first, then phone and finally in-person.
- If someone has left you a voice-mail, reply to this via email when possible. This will help teach people the best way to reach you.
- Meetings should only be held to make decisions about a predefined situation, not to define the problem.
- If you absolutely cannot stop a meeting or call from happening, define the start and the end time. Ensure that you only discuss a pre-arranged topic and you don’t get side-tracked.
Time consumers are the second of Tim’s common interruptions. These can be defined as tasks that are repetitive in nature but need to be completed regularly. These are the little tasks that interrupt the start-to-finish workflow of a task. Common time consumers include reading emails, replying to emails, talking on the phone, customer service tasks, reporting finances or sales, errands, personal tasks, regular manual updates. Anything that gets repeated frequently.
Tim points out that whenever a task is interrupted, psychologically, it can date up to 45 minutes to resume that task. Stats suggest that 28% of your 9-5 working day is consumed by these interruptions.
- The best approach to combatting these time-wasters is to wait until you have a large quantity of the task to do. E.g. wait until you have plenty of emails to read and reply to or multiple phone calls to make. This approach is called batching and is a great solution to let these tasks interrupt larger, more important work.
Empowerment failures are the third key interruption is cases where your approval is required in order for something to happen. When someone has to come to you before they can take the next step in their task. Or, in the case where you have to go to someone else before you can proceed with a task.
- If people who you work with are unable to complete a task from start-to-finish without receiving permissions or further information, it becomes a case of empowerment failures. It’s commonly associated with micro-management which can be extremely time consuming.
- As an employee, to be able to work as seamlessly as possible means having access to required information and having the ability to make as many decisions as possible.
- As an entrepreneur, for everything to run as smoothly as possible you should provide your employees/contractors as much information as necessary and allow them the opportunity to make decisions without first asking permission.
- If you feel you are in a position where you are being micro-managed, sit down with your boss and explain to them why you having more access to information and the ability to make decisions will benefit you both, by allowing you to be more productive and for your boss to have fewer interruptions.
”Set the rules in your favor: Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects. Do not let people interrupt you. Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle.”
Tim recommends getting a remote personal assistant when the time is right. It means that you can offload some of your work to them, it frees up your time to work on other things and gives you the opportunity to practice giving orders. It helps to set you up as a leader, it’s time you learned to be the boss.
Deciding when to hire a remote personal assistant should be an easy one, it’s not time-consuming and it’s low-cost and low-risk. Even if you don’t think you necessarily need one yet, get one. It’s an opportunity for you to explore this way of working
But what about the cost?
Tim identifies a question that most people ask themselves; “If I can do it better than an assistant, why should I pay them at all?”
Tim explains that it's not about the money but freeing up your time, allowing yourself the freedom to be creative and innovate rather than being caught up in mundane daily tasks.
It’s important to learn how to delegate well, to use it as a tool to reduce work rather than create more. Before you begin to delegate, it’s time to eliminate.
Tim explains that you shouldn’t ever automate something that could actually be eliminated altogether. And don’t delegate if the task can be automated. It’s not about wasting other people’s time. Their time is just as valuable as yours.
”Golden Rule #1: Each delegated task must be both time-consuming and well-defined.
Golden Rule #2: On a lighter note, have some fun with it. Have someone in Bangalore or Shanghai send e-mails to friends as your personal concierge to set lunch dates or similar basics.”
Where to begin?
- Hire an assistant – regardless of whether or not you need one right now.
- Identify which tasks on your to-do-list have been sitting there the longes. And identify any tasks that you currently do, that could be done by a virtual assistant. Every time you are interrupted or frustrated, is this where a VA could come in?
- Identify your top five time-consuming non-work tasks and five personal tasks you could assign for sheer fun.
- It’s key to synchronise your work with your VA, share calendars and schedules so you both know whats going on.
Tim moves on to discuss the next stage, you need a product to sell. Something that's either downloadable or shippable in order to help you eliminate the limitations of a per-hour-based model.
The first thing Tim suggests you do is; Pick an Affordably Reachable Niche Market
- It’s much easier to tap into a current market, creating demand from scratch is hard. Don’t start with a product, then look for a customer. First, find the market, understand who the customer is, and create a product for them.
- Identify what you already know, look at what social/professional/industry groups you belong to or have access to. You don’t have to learn something new.
- Identify which of the groups you have access to have their own magazines/blogs.
Tim’s next step is to; Brainstorm (Do Not Invest In) Products
- The Main Benefit Should Be Encapsulated in One Sentence.
- It Should Cost the Customer $50–200.
- Aim for an 8–10x markup, which means a $100 product can’t cost more than $10–12.50.
- It Should Take No More Than 3 to 4 Weeks to Manufacture.
- It Should Be Fully Explainable in a Good Online FAQ.
- Option one: resell a product, option two: license a product, option three: create a product
- Information products are low-cost, fast to manufacture, and time-consuming for competitors to duplicate. Consider that the top-selling non-information.
”To get an accurate indicator of commercial viability, don’t ask people if they would buy—ask them to buy.”
Tim’s third step is to Micro-Test Your Products
- Best: Identify what the competition is, it’s your job to create a more compelling offer than whats currently out there. All you need is a simple website, just 1-3 pages, which correlates to 1-3 hours work. Things to consider to make your offer better than the competition are; more credibility indicators? Testimonials? A better guarantee? Better selection? Free/faster shipping?
- Test: Test the offer using short Google Adwords advertising campaigns (three hours to set up and five days of passive observation).
- Divest or Invest: Identify the losers and cut them out, manufacture the winner and get ready for sales.
One of the key steps in Tim’s process is that once you have a product (physical or online) you need to design your business in a way that it has the ability to essential run itself.
This diagram should be your rough blueprint for designing a self-sustaining virtual architecture:
”1. Contract outsourcing companies that specialize in one function vs. freelancers whenever possible so that if someone is fired, quits, or doesn’t perform, you can replace them without interrupting your business. Hire trained groups of people who can provide detailed reporting and replace one another as needed.
2. Ensure that all outsourcers are willing to communicate among themselves to solve problems, and give them written permission to make most inexpensive decisions without consulting you first (I started at less than $100 and moved to $400 after two months).”
NOW, GO LIVE YOUR LIFE
Escaping the office
Follow Tim’s 5 steps to gravitate towards full-time remote work:
- Increase Investment. Get the company to invest in some training for you so the cost of losing you is greater.
- Prove Increased Output Offsite. Call in sick, work from home and make it a super productive day.
- Prepare the Quantifiable Business Benefit. Prepare your results so you can show the quantifiable benefit you gained from working at home.
- Propose a Revocable Trial Period. Start with one day a week.
- Expand Remote Time. Gradually work up to multiple days at home per week. Then eventually, full-time remote work.
”I have quit three jobs and been fired from most of the rest. Getting fired, despite sometimes coming as a surprise and leaving you scrambling to recover, is often a godsend: Someone else makes the decision for you, and it’s impossible to sit in the wrong job for the rest of your life.”
Tim emphasises that quitting or being fired isn’t the end of the world. There are common phobia’s and he does his best to rebut them;
- It’s not permanent. Quitting a job doesn’t mean you’ll never have another job again. It’s temporary.
- You will still be able to pay your bills. The objective of Tim’s process is that you will have some cash-flow prior to quitting your current job. You may need to eliminate some spending that is unnecessary in the short-term, but, if you’ve done it right, your bills will still be paid.
- Your resume isn’t ruined forever. It’s actually a point of difference on your resume and you may get more interviews simply because you stand out from the crowd.
Tim tries to break the common assumption that you need to wait until the end of your career to embrace retirement. He suggests that rather than saving it all up for the end, you take mini-retirements throughout your life. Tim recommends that you relocate your life somewhere new for anywhere from 1 month to 6 months before you return to your home. The idea is that it’s not a holiday or an escape from your life, but just the continuation of your life in a new environment, an opportunity to assess your current lifestyle, eliminate the unnecessary. Keep it slow and relaxing, allowing yourself time to reflect and plan.
”True freedom is much more than having enough income and time to do what you want.”
Tim explains that more often than not, people can be financially free and have the freedom of time, but still find themselves caught up in the highly-stressful and money-obsessed culture of materialistic businesses.”True freedom is much more than having enough income and time to do what you want.”Click To Tweet
How to get ready for a mini-retirement
- Consider your assets and cash-flow.
- Identify your dream mini-retirement location.
- Choose a realistic location for your mini-retirement.
- Prepare for your trip. Here’s the countdown:
- Three months out – eliminate the unnecessary
- Two months out – automate billing with credit cards.
- One month out – redirect mail to a friend, test gotoPC.
- Two weeks out – scan and store digital documents of key info e.g. Credit cards, ID and insurance documents. Downgrade phone plans.
- One week out – decide on work schedule while you're away. Put other belongings into storage.
- Two days out – store car, add thing to tank to store fuel, disconnect battery leads.
- When you arrive – make booking to view apartments (one month only), go on bus/bike tours of the city.
Adding Life After Subtracting Work
But This Is What I Always Wanted! How Can I Be Bored?!
Tim explains that it’s fairly normal to find it hard to adjust to your newfound freedom. Even though it’s what you’ve always dreamed of, you may find yourself bored and not sure what to do next. If your someone who loves chasing goals and reaching new highs constantly, it’s going to be a hard adjustment. Tim uses the handy example of caffeine;
”Learning to replace the perception of time famine with appreciation of time abundance is like going from triple espressos to decaf.”
It’s pretty common, Tim explains, to find yourself asking the big questions, questions about the meaning of life, what your purpose is and what’s the point? In order to combat the stresses this may bring, remember the following;
”If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it. If you take just this point from this book, it will put you in the top 1% of performers in the world and keep most philosophical distress out of your life.”
Something Tim suggests you do when traveling and on your mini-retirements is to learn something new. Decide to dedicate some time to a specific skill or activity, something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Whether it be learning a new language or learning how to skateboard.
Tim’s Top 13 New Rich Mistakes
- Losing sight of dreams and falling into work for work’s sake (W4W).
- Micromanaging and e-mailing to fill time.
- Handling problems your outsourcers or co-workers can handle.
- Helping outsourcers or co-workers with the same problem more than once, or with noncrisis problems.
- Chasing customers, particularly unqualified or international prospects, when you have sufficient cash flow to finance your nonfinancial pursuits.
- Answering e-mail that will not result in a sale or that can be answered by a FAQ or auto-responder.
- Working where you live, sleep, or should relax.
- Not performing a thorough 80/20 analysis every two to four weeks for your business and personal life.
- Striving for endless perfection rather than great or simply good enough, whether in your personal or professional life.
- Blowing minutiae and small problems out of proportion as an excuse to work.
- Making non-time-sensitive issues urgent in order to justify work.
- Viewing one product, job, or project as the end-all and be-all of your existence.
- Ignoring the social rewards of life.
- You need to be effective & efficient. Doing more and spending more time on tasks does not make them important.
- Avoid the ‘interruptions’: time wasters, time consumers and empowerment failures.
- Automation and delegation are key. Get a Virtual Assistant, even if you don’t think you need one yet.
- When getting ready to create a product, find the market and the customer first, then create a product for the defined audience. Don’t come up with the product first.
- Take mini-retirements throughout your life instead of saving it all up until the end.
Also by Tim Ferriss is Tools of Titans, Tools of Titans is a fantastic read and there really is something for everyone in this book. Broken up into three sections; healthy, wealthy and wise, author Tim Ferriss deconstructs the habits, routines and daily rituals of the world’s top performers.
Following Tim Ferriss life/work balance and the concept that you can work from anywhere, Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is another excellent read and contribution to the new era of working. Remote: Office Not Required is an examination of the emerging trend of remote working. They discuss the benefits of working remotely for both the employer and employee while examining common excuses. Remote offers plenty of advice on how to get your company started on having remote employees and also advice on how to manage your work if you are a remote employee. A great all-around guide to the new way to work!
Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.
Another great book for budding entrepreneurs and anyone looking to start a business is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. The Lean Startup defines a scientific methodology for running startups and launching new products. This new approach has been adopted around the world within startups and established organisations. Regardless of your role or company size, this is a must-read for entrepreneurs, marketers, developers and business leaders.
- Create your own dreamline.
- Identify how much of your current routine/job you can automate, delegate or eliminate. Streamline as much as possible to free up some time.
- Plan a mini-retirement, establish what you need to do to make it happen and book it in.
- Check out Tim Ferriss’ blog for heaps of valuable advice and information
- Download the full book on Amazon
This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above-mentioned author and publisher