The 4 Hour Work Week

The 4 Hour Work Week – The book that changed my life

I first read The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss in December 2012 – I took it on vacation with me on a trip to Hawaii. I just needed something to read on the VERY long flights and the catchy cover took my eye while I was at the airport bookstore. 

Going to Hawaii was one of my bucket list items. I remember feeling pretty burned out at the time. I had a full time contract in tech, was putting together a startup and was doing photo assignments on Fridays and editing over the weekend. I had an alarm on my phone that told me to stop working at 9pm in the evening. I often ignored it. 

For the Christmas break I decided I just need to get away from it all and took a look at my bucket list for ideas. Moscow looked kind of cold in December, warmer climates looked better. I’d always wanted to shoot surf competitions as part of my bucket list and guess what, the Pipemasters Surf completion was on in Hawaii – a few hours later, the flight and the hotel were booked. 

Pipemasters Hawaii - Chris Wray

The 4-Hour Workweek is a self-help book that challenges the traditional concept of work and productivity. Ferriss advocates for lifestyle design, where individuals create their ideal lifestyles by maximising efficiency and outsourcing tasks to achieve more free time. For me it was this challenge to work as I’d known it, that most gripped me. You mean I don’t need to do a 9-5, commute up and down the M25 each week ? Wow ! – Tell me more. 

The 4 Hour Work Week covers principles such as the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule), which suggests that 80% of results come from 20% of efforts, and the importance of outsourcing non-essential tasks to virtual assistants or automation. Ferriss emphasises the concept of “mini-retirements” throughout life instead of waiting for traditional retirement. The book also discusses strategies for starting a successful online business, passive income generation, and travel hacking to live a fulfilling life outside the constraints of conventional work.

In hindsight I’ve adopted lots of these principles, they aren’t the sort of thing you can just switch to overnight, but with a bit of thought and planning they can be achieved. Here I was on a mini-retirement in Hawaii for goodness sake – I was still doing my day job, but I realised that with the massive timezone difference between my clients and colleagues I could get my work completed before my breakfast and they would still have hours before they even got out of bed. 

The fact that I’d got hit with jet-lag and kept waking up at 5am was actually useful. I had 4 hours, half a working day before I went down to breakfast in the hotel. My work was done. Not the 4 Hour Work Week but a 4 Hour Work Day as a start.

I could go running, shower, have a relaxed breakfast and then enjoy what the island had to offer for the remainder of the day. All stress free. 

It was all to do with the DEAL framework. or DELA depending on personal circumstances. 

1. Definition: Ferriss challenges the traditional definition of work and success, advocating for a more flexible and fulfilling approach to life. For me, this was getting away from physically having to be in an office. Here I was working remotely on the other side of the planet. (Remember this is long before COVID and the very idea that remote working was a thing!)

2. Elimination: He discusses the importance of eliminating non-essential tasks and focusing only on what truly matters, in line with the Pareto Principle (80/20 rule). This one is tough to understand at first, but you just need to be on top of the really important things, communicate really well and deliver before people expect you to. You can then just decline meetings and quite a few tasks because you have ‘more important things to work on’. 

3. Automation: Ferriss emphasises automating repetitive tasks and using technology to streamline processes, allowing individuals to work smarter, not harder. It’s almost laughable now that this very thing has become one of the key services I offer to my clients, other businesses and entrepreneurs. 

4. Liberation: The book offers strategies for achieving financial independence and location independence, enabling individuals to design their ideal lifestyles and break free from the 9-to-5 grind. I’ve been location independent ever since, moving to SE Asia in 2014 and continue to work from wherever I am.  

5. Outsourcing: Ferriss suggests outsourcing tasks that can be done more efficiently by others, freeing up time for higher-value activities or leisure. I’ve tried this a couple of times – generally by adding part-time staff – it works for a while, but I’ve not been able to justify long-term staff. I just end up finding ways to automate or eliminate the work I’ve given them. 

6. Income Multiplication: He explores various methods for generating passive income, such as building online businesses or investing in income-producing assets. This one is really the Holy Grail and to be honest I’ve not got there yet. “Passive Income’ has become a bit of a dirty word and there’s been more than the world’s fair share of scammers moving in on this area. 

7. The Muse: Ferriss encourages readers to pursue their passions and interests, creating businesses or projects that align with their values and goals. This is essentially what I’ve done. I’ve created a business around the tools and products I get value from. I would actually continue to do the work I do for clients even if I didn’t need the income. I sat the other night fiddling with AI automation because it was fun ! – It sure makes work fun. 

8. Disappearing Acts: He discusses strategies for effectively managing email, meetings, and distractions to reclaim valuable time and focus on priorities. I’ve automated my meetings, such that I can win clients and book meetings with them while I’m asleep. I’ve turned off notifications and rarely get more than a handful of emails in any given day. My work days are now 4 hours or less. 

9. Beyond Repair: The book challenges the notion of retirement and advocates for taking “mini-retirements” throughout life to enjoy experiences and pursue personal growth. In honesty I hate the sound of the word retirement. I love my work, and my clients. But the idea of taking big breaks and extended vacations is something I’ve really enjoyed. As I write, my partner and I are planning to spend next month in Japan. I can still work as I do normally. 

The 4 Hour Work Week is still considered a classic. It’s now 17 years old and got a revision some time ago. I still go back and re-read it every few years, but I dip in and out often. It challenged conventional wisdom about work and lifestyle, offering unconventional yet practical strategies for achieving freedom and fulfilment. COVID and the working from home just gave a wider audience a taste of this freedom. Tim Ferriss presented a comprehensive framework for redesigning life, covering topics like time management, entrepreneurship, and personal finance. What he was suggesting at the time was perceived as impossible. Now it’s all too real. 

The book’s emphasis on automation, outsourcing, and passive income resonates with individuals seeking to escape the rat race and create more meaningful lives. I was one of those people. Ferriss shared real-world examples and actionable advice, making the concepts accessible and applicable to a wide audience including me. Perhaps the combination of being burned out, jet-lagged and on the other side of the planet all aligned me to be the perfect recipient of the advice. 

The 4 Hour Work Week has inspired countless people to pursue alternative paths to success and happiness, cementing its status as a timeless classic in the self-help genre. You’ll not be surprised to hear that it’s the book I’ve most gifted to others. I still live by its principles. 

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