The Four Hour Work Week


This book challenged me. I could not subscribe to Tim Ferriss’s values, I had no dream of joining the ‘New Rich’ but four hours was so extreme and I do think about work life balance a fair bit so I figured there was something to learn here.

Ferriss makes it clear that if you want fulfilling work, or you want to build a company – this book is not for you. No this book is about earning enough. Enough to head off and fulfill your dreams in inexpensive locations.

The basic structure if this book is about building an autonomous business that will take a small amount of your worktime to maintain, allowing you to live your life mostly freely – with all work batched into one morning per week.

He is a big fan of the 80/20 rule, ruthlessy removing from his life the 80% of things that only add 20% of the value. He is a big fan of automation, outsourcing (to virtual assistants in very cheap locations) and shedding responsibility.

The last point is where I thought I learnt the most. Interestingly, I have been pondering the idea that reaching for your dreams involves stepping up for responsibility. This thought was triggered reading this blog by Gemma Munro on the ‘shit sandwich’. Gemma is a great fan of working to your strengths, creating a fulfilling and energy giving life and finding room for everything you love – partly by shedding stuff you don’t love. And the crap that comes with the career – is it also linked to the responsibility you step up for? ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ said a number of leaders including Winston Churchill.

Well Tim Ferriss takes handing over responsibility to extremes. By accepting that others will make pretty good decisions on your behalf if you create the right framework, he cites a stream of examples where he was able to take himself out of the frame with very little cost and massive gains in time. Interesting huh? Going back to the first paragraph, he has also built himself an earner that he can afford not to care about. Caring and responsibility also go hand in hand.

I like the responsibility frame. It starts to explain why mothers often have two jobs – they genuinely are ‘the buck stops here’ person for both and help from a partner is not the same as being able to rely on them to sort things out when the kids call and therefore absent yourself with no warning from time to time. From a work perspective, it’s harder to convince a boss that you are there for work 100% if they know that your kids come first. Men often get a pat on the back for putting family first, whereas women are just not trusted to be fully committed to work (read Overwhelmed for a great sense of how unfair the stakes are culturally). I will explore this further.

To wrap up the commentary on this book – Ferris has a simple framework DEAL:

Definition: being clear about what you are doing, why, what’s worth doing in life, what you really need etc, overcoming fear and paralysis and being prepared to be unreasonable and unambiguous. Dumping customers and reading email only once a week is not for the faint-hearted.

Elimination: Batching, saying no, never attending meetings and a low information diet. This is about understanding that most things on your to do list do not really have to be done.

Automation: tweaking the system until it runs itself and can run completely well in your absence.

Liberation: don’t get caught in the trap of using the spare time to make more money – its only worth doing if you can teach yourself to embrace life and start doing all those things you think need to wait until retirement.

Don’t read it unless you want a provocation to completely change some things 🙂



About Heather

I am an energy and climate change specialist with a background in industrial energy efficiency and climate change policy.
This entry was posted in Booknotes, Random and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Four Hour Work Week

  1. Pingback: Overwhelmed – work, love and play when no one has the time | changing weather by Heather Smith

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