- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On February 13, 2015
Provocative. Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Workweek is certainly that.
It’s hard to read the book without having some emotional reaction. You’re likely to love it or hate it. But as business books go you’re not likely to find it a bore.
If you read business books and have not read the 4-hour Workweek, I highly recommend it. It’s full of unusual ideas that you probably have not read elsewhere.
The main concepts of the book may be too wild for you to apply unless you really drink Tim’s Kool-Aid. They include giving up being in the office every day. Taking “mini retirement” where you live in another country for several months and starting your own online business!
In this post I’ve pulled out several of the more practical gems buried in the book. You may want to apply these to your work even if you decide to remain part of the “rat race”.
1. Being effective vs. being efficient
Tim Ferriss is not a fan of efficiency. He says “doing something unimportant well does not make it important.” Takeaway: make sure what you spend your time on is aligned with your goals.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Mr. Pareto. He’s the “80/20 guy”. I’m sure you’ve even considered applying 80/20 to some of your work. I have. Even so, I was still struck by the Tim Ferriss version of 80/20, which opens up its application to many areas of your life.Tim says ask yourself these two questions:
- “Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?”
- “Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?”
He then goes on to apply this to his customer base and fire the customers that are causing him problems and unhappiness.
3. Time limits
Parkinson’s Law may be less familiar to you. Parkinson’s Law suggests that tasks swell to fill the time available and shrink if the time is limited. So Tim suggests the following approach to tackling projects:
- Only do the really important projects. This will cut down on the time you spend working.
- Set tight deadlines on the important projects you choose to do so you don’t waste any time
Now you may be getting a sense of why the book is called the “4-hour workweek”!
4. A “Not to-do list”
This is one I need to do right away. I’ve studied great systems like Getting Things Done that lay out efficient ways to get work done. They show you how to put your “to-do list” on steroids. I’ve used GTD and I think it’s great. But I’ve never had a “not to-do list”.Someone like me needs a “not to-do list” to stop them from doing things they shouldn’t. Tim spends a long time in the book talking about elimination, automation and delegation of work. I need a “not to-do list” to constantly remind me to eliminate, automate or delegate whenever I can.
5. A low information diet
“Cultivate selective ignorance”. Tim suggests reading less (ironic I know.) He says he spends no more than one hour per week reading news or business-related information. If he wants to know something he asks his friends what’s going on. (He does read fiction but that’s for fun not to be effective.) This may not surprise you. Tim calls email “the greatest single interruption in the modern world”. He suggests turning off any audible alerts on your email (agreed!) but he gets more radical and recommends reading your email only twice per day! He says in his experience the calamities that you think will happen when you only check email twice per day don’t actually happen. If something is so important people will call you.
6. Your own admin
“Get a man in India”. Have you ever dreamed of having your own personal assistant like Richard Branson does? Tim Ferriss says you should and now—even if you are an employee of big company! Tim’s talking about a virtual assistant that you can hire offshore for $5-$15/hour. You can you use systems like eLance to easily find these assistants right from your computer. These people are available to do all sorts of work. When you decide that a piece of work is on your “not to-do list”, and you don’t have any colleagues that will do it, consider hiring your own “man in India”. The world is flat!
7. Replace yourself
Try to replace yourself. I had to reread this paragraph a few times. Replace myself? I’d rather have a job thanks Tim!
Tim says, “Preparing someone to replace you (even if it never happens) will produce an ultra refined set of rules that will cut remaining fat and redundancy from your schedule”.
After a few reads I think I got it. If you develop systems and processes in your work as if someone was going to replace you, you will set up your work to be effective. You will be able to see where you should eliminate what does not need to be done; figure out ways to automate what can be automated; and delegate everything you should not do.
The 4-hour Workweek certainly challenges you to think about your habits. If you need a jolt pick it up. You might even end up part of the “New Rich”!