I am no longer actively blogging on this website.
This post is a review of The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss. Tim Ferriss is an entrepreneur, angel investor and author. The 4 Hour Workweek was originally written in 2007. It was expanded and updated in 2011, which is the version I review here.
The strapline to the 4-Hour Workweek is “Escape The 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich”. In short, it’s a self-help book which teaches you how to create a low-maintenance yet high-profit business, allowing you to live a life free from constraints of time and money.
Pro’s – It was a very good read; uplifting, well written and amusing in parts. After I read the book, I immediately re-read it, so I could highlight key sections and create a list of ideas to explore. Apparently the 4HWW is one of the most highlighted books on Kindle – this doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.
Con’s – Some of the case studies are a little romantic and convincing most employers to allow you to work remotely on a permanent basis will be harder than the book makes out. It’s also a little outdated now and I question the value of some of the ‘expanded’ content.
I’ve known about the 4HWW for a long time although I’ve never actually read it. And I regret not reading it sooner.
The book is based on an inspiring journey the author has been on. Tim started a business called BrainQUICKEN which grew rapidly. Eventually he became a slave to it, working all the hours he possibly could, which led to a nervous breakdown. After this, Tim put systems in place to completely remove himself from his company, allowing him to travel the world while his business flourished.
The book teaches people how to get past the fear of leaving employment and starting a business, allowing you to live a lifestyle you have always dreamed of having. It guides the reader through the process of designing their ideal lifestyle, making the transition from being an employee to a business owner, then how to remove yourself through outsourcing and automation. The theory is to have other people to run your business, without hampering growth or profits. Tim also discusses what you might do with your new-found time and money, like developing the personal interests and spending time helping others.
On a practical level, the book explores ideas for creating new products and how to test a product in the marketplace. It covers business strategies such as the Pareto Principle and Parkinson’s Law. Tim’s business experience shines through in the book and there are some inspired quotes. At the end of each chapter, he suggests tools and software to help you implement everything covered. One interesting tip Tim discusses is how to leverage currencies to your advantage, by making money in a strong currency (e.g. Pounds) and spending in a weaker one (e.g. Pesos).
I felt like I could really relate to the 4HWW. Tim describes a number of lessons I have had to learn myself the hard way. For example, Tim adopted a strategic approach to managing his customer base. In the book he says things like “Instead of dealing with problem customers, I recommend you prevent them from ordering in the first place” and “Those who spend the most complain the least”. Statements like this are exactly Why I’ve Stopped Supplying Thousands of Customers. In other areas of the book he explains how the main driver is to establish a goal then work backwards from it, illustrating the example with a car (I talk about this in My Story).
The key takeaway for me is Tim’s endless pursuit to improve efficiency. The book is packed with short-cuts and innovative ideas. One example which stood out for me was to turn off email notifications which I implemented and immediately noticed the beneficial impact of having fewer distractions, which in turn made me more productive. I did something similar with my phone. But it isn’t just the ideas in the book which have had an impact, reading the book had an indirect impact on my general mindset. I have started to see things in a different light and I now constantly find myself looking for ways to create more free time. One example is using a double-sized mug when I am drinking tea and pint glasses when I’m drinking water – the larger vessels mean I don’t have to make half as many drinks during the day. You may not think this has much impact but if I save myself 3 minutes making myself a cup of, tea twice a day, over a year it will save me a full working week. That’s a significant amount of time.
Nonetheless, while the book was excellent, there are still some weaknesses with it. For starters, the landscape has changed since the book was originally written (one example being social media – the book hardly mentions this at all). Tim also pushes his blog a little too much for my liking – there are dozens of instructions to ‘visit his blog’ throughout the book – and while some of the mentions are links to valuable content – it’s not necessary to mention it as much as he does. I would add that some of the expanded content also feels like ‘filler’, for example, like the last chapter which contains a selection of posts from Tim’s blog – there is nothing wrong with this content but it feels like an echo of the main part of the book which is arguably unnecessary.
There was one significant drawback with the book though, which is this; the reality of putting into practice what Tim is suggesting is not as easy as the author likes to make it appear. It’s a bit romantic in parts. I don’t know many bosses that would consider allowing an employee to work remotely all of the time (personally I would not consider this – people who work for me need to be on-site – I can’t see how a manufacturing company could operate otherwise). Another suggestion is outsourcing email entirely, or going to extreme lengths to avoid meetings. There is a limit on what you can realistically achieve.
That being said, I reckon I could get my workload pretty close to 4 hours if I really wanted to. I could farm out all manner of things to other people, get Virtual Assistants to manage my social media profiles, get other people to blog for me and disengage with any non-critical areas of my business, empowering staff look after them. The truth is that I simply don’t want to. I work because I want to work. There is nobody making me stay after 5 every night but I do it anyway because it makes me feel good. It makes me happy. This might sound mad but if I won the lottery tomorrow I would still work as much as I do now. I don’t do it for the money. I do it for something else, something deeper.
The book remains one of the best business books I’ve read in a long time, possibly ever. Apart from the occasional bit of ‘filler’ it is very concise and I would challenge anyone to read the book without getting at least one significant idea to improve their life.
I have since vowed to read Tim’s subsequent books, The 4-Hour Body and The 4-Hour Chef. I have also vowed to highlight books as I read them – by highlighting books as I read them I will be able to re-read them in about 10 minutes. This efficiency tip will undoubtedly be the subconscious effect of the 4HWW working its magic.