Review of The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

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Review of The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss

This book is subtitled: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich. I read the Expanded and Updated version.

It deserves all the hype it has received.

No, I’m not crazy. I understand that not everyone can work only four hours a week. Certainly, I couldn’t as a public school teacher. You can’t if you’re a customer service representative or a cashier or any other worker who gets paid only for the hours you are physically at a specific location.

And I dare say there are few people in the world who would be able to use all the suggestions in this book.

But by the same token, few people couldn’t benefit by applying at least a few of the principles in The 4-Hour Work Week, or 4HWW, as Ferriss refers to it.

The reason for this book is that most people work too much and too hard. (Yeah, I know, we’ve all worked with people who barely work at all. This is not about them.) And the sad part is that 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. (Yes, this is a real principle, identified by Vilfredo Pareto, an economist who lived from 1848 to 1923.) If we want to live a more productive life, we need to identify the 80% of our efforts that produce only 20% of our results, and eliminate as many of these tasks as possible.

Ferriss advocates optimization–getting the best possible results from your efforts. The purpose is not so that we can spend closer to 100% of our time earning more money so we can amass more stuff, but to free up time to do the things that would make our lives more meaningful—spending time with family, or traveling, or making art. Time is the currency that gives our lives value. Ferriss wants us to work enough to pay the bills, but have time to live a wonderful life now instead of waiting for some glorious future era, like retirement or when the kids grow up.

In fact, Ferriss is an advocate of taking mini-retirements—breaks that are longer than typical vacations, maybe three months or six months or even a year—and then going back to work. During your mini-retirements, you devote yourself to something you’ve always wanted to do—learning a foreign language, becoming a kung fu master, participating in a dance marathon, or whatever your heart desires.

Is this just another pipe dream? Alexander Heyne says he bought into 4HWW, and it didn’t deliver. In the interest of full disclosure, I’m letting you know Tim Ferriss has more than share of naysayers.

For what it’s worth, I think anyone could build a more satisfying life by using some of these ideas. I intend to reread and study this book over the next years and test the parts that appeal to me.

In 4HWW, Ferriss gives detailed instructions for how to tailor your life to accommodate the lifestyle you dream about. He gives case studies of people who have built their own businesses in such a way that they need to work only a few days per month.

Ferriss provides lots of resources in 4HWW: addresses of websites that offer information on hundreds of relative topics, and dozens of companies that provide services that will make your life more productive. Some of the subjects Ferriss covers in detail in the book:

  • frazzled workerHow to eliminate interruptions
  • How to cut down on your emails and phone calls
  • How to outsource your scut work so you can use your time and talent for the tasks only you can do (Do NOT skip the section called Outsourcing Life. The section by AJ Jacobs is hilarious. Worth the price of the book.)
  • How to work remotely (as in, from another country)
  • How to run your own business so that it won’t demand all your time
  • How to travel like a frugal insider

Ferriss is a wildly successful entrepreneur with his hands in multiple businesses. He writes a popular blog, has given a TED talk that has been viewed by over two million people, writes for The Huffington Post, and produces a podcast. He’s also the author of two other books, The 4-Hour Chef and The 4-Hour Body. He has practiced and lived what he preaches.

I recommend The 4-Hour Work Week as a worthwhile read, especially for creative people who want more time to pursue their art.

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