Four Reasons I Like the Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss – Book Review

by John Cummings on March 24, 2010

Four Hour Work WeekThere is no such thing as a four hour work week.  Everyone knows it. Tim Ferriss knows it.  He knew it when he wrote the book “The 4-Hour Work Week” (4HWW).   But the promise of the four hour work week, like the myth of a long weekend that lays out before you like a beach with endless possibilities, is still a wonderful illusion.

Tim refers to those who accept the paradigm shift outlined in his book as “the new rich.”  I like the concept.    Break down the reasons that you’re stuck in a job you don’t enjoy, cut out wasted time, fire your boss, use the time to follow your dreams and ultimately work only 4 hours a week.   It’s not realistic but who can argue with the appeal of it?

Before I tell you what I like about it, let me give critics their due on what the book is NOT.   For all but one reader out of 10 million (write to me if you get this when you check your email), a four hour work week is not an attainable goal; not ever, by anyone.     No one (except that one guy) will ever actually set up a business that “makes money while they sleep” and which can be managed with only 4 hours a week worth of “work”  and then choose to sit on his ass for the other 164 hours a week doing only “NON-WORK” activities.   And this is the primary criticism I have found about the book.    Tim trims away all activities that he defines as non-work, ultimately reducing the workweek to it’s smallest common denominator.

Jonathan Mead wrote an article on his Illuminated Mind blog called the Lie of the Four Hour Work Week.  I rather enjoyed it.  He underscored in that blog some of the objections to the 4HWW that were raised in an equally well-written blog by Penelope Trunk called Five Time Management Tricks I Learned from Years of Hating Tim Ferriss.   What both blogs have in common is that they challenge the issue of calling some things work and some things “not work.”  In Penelope’s words:

[Tim’s] four-hour work week is merely semantic. Because everything Tim does he turns into what the rest of us would call work, and he calls it not-work. For example, tango. If you want to be world-record holder, it’s work. It’s your job to be special at dancing the tango. That’s your big goal that you’re working toward. How you earn money is probably just a day job. So most weeks Tim probably has a 100-hour workweek. It’s just that he’s doing things he likes, so he lies to you and says he only works four hours. He defines work only as doing what you don’t like.

The main criticism of the book embodied in Penelope’s article as well as that on Jonathan’s blog and the excellent comments (read them), is that 4 Hour Work Week seems to imply that we have to treat all income producing work as a grind and only everything else as non work.  This removes all of the passion that we should put in to every activity, no matter how we define it.   I honestly spent 4 hours writing, reading and re-writing this blog post 30 times and I loved every minute of it.  Didn’t make me a dime.  It was work and I can’t wait to do more of it.

So here’s what I like about Four Hour Work Week:

I want to write more (work).  I want to learn how to speak French again (work).  I want to go on another mission trip and hand out medical supplies and love little kids who have no parents, just for the weekend (work).   I don’t want to spend a minute doing the things that prevent me from doing those things (more work).  So I agree with Penelope and Jonathan and the 120 something people that wrote comments on those blogs.  But I love these 4 principles from 4 Hour Work Week, because they put gave me this time to write this blog:

1.   Eliminate and automate, if you can, before you delegate.

This is a concept that I think was an epiphany for me when I first read the book.  I have spent so much of my entrepreneurial career missing the time to do the [work] that I want to do because I spent too much time doing the [work] I didn’t like and didn’t need to do.   I created my own treadmill by always failing to delegate that work to an assistant because I couldn’t figure out how.   But if you eliminate what can be eliminated and automate what can be automated, that which is left becomes that which can be delegated.  The failure to take the time to identify a better process is a form of laziness that ends up, ironically, creating more busy-ness.  And it will stay that way until you stop and fix it.   This is a really simple concept that can get mixed up and how to actually apply it step by step is a big chapter in my own book.

2.   Take control of all incoming information

My own concept around this issue is defined as “owning” it all.  But Tim’s coverage of reducing inbound email, phone calls and other information really made a difference for me.  I knew all of this to be true but had stopped practicing it.   Most of my colleagues, friends and readers know that they they have too much email, too much paper and too much voicemail in their multiple inboxes and live with it, even though it cripples their productivity, creativity and their ability to get to the [work] they really want to do.   Getting that situation to one empty inbox every day is not all that hard, but it takes some discipline and the ability to say NO.  Tim’s approach on that is a little harsh but a lot of it is spot on.  Most interruptions by email, phone and otherwise should be dealt with by saying NO, leaving time to say YES when you really ought to.

3.   Changing the view of why we work

I’m totally on board with the critics when it comes to Tim’s definition of work.  But one thing that really helps me to be more likely to do things that DO fulfill me each day is his paradigm shift about retirement and our attempts to store it all up for someday.   Only God knows how many Fridays, and Saturdays and Somedays we have left.  So I believe in the concept of starting to do things right now.   Being rich and retired is not a goal for me anymore.  I want to [work] until I die, doing the things I love and I know that no amount of time management or time creation will change that.  So I’m not storing up for retirement anymore.  I’m doing it all, now and practicing smart use of time is making it possible for me to have the time and money to do it.

4.  Living Your Passion

So cliche but so true and I have to give credit where it is due.  The 4-Hour Work Week crystallized for me personally, so many of the things that I had been putting off.   One of them happens to create a lot more work for me — writing.  But I love to write and now that I have adopted the paradigm of doing what it takes to reduce what Tim defines as “work” to the lowest amount possible, I have time to write and dream [work] every single day.

If you have not read The 4-Hour Work Week, I recommend it.   And I also recommend that you read Penelope Trunk and Jonathan Mead, who has released the “Zero Hour Work Week” which I’ll review soon.   Put all of this information through your own filter and start living your own dream, whether you call it work or not.

If you want a little push, check out ten things you can do to get started in the sidebar of this blog.  Baby steps. :)

wilson usman says:

Pretty cool. My biggest reason is that it made me realize that I didn’t have to live the life others wanted me to live.

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