The 4-Hour Workweek

Reading “The 4 Hour Workweek” is like having Tim Ferriss grab you by the hair, shake you, and say WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?! YOU NEED TO USE THESE TIPS TO BE MORE EFFICIENT!! Also, the tips work. GTD fans, entrepreneurs, and basically anyone who reads this site will learn tons from The 4-Hour Workweek.

I absolutely loved this book. In fact, within 6 hours of reading it, I had completely changed the way I handle email — and I already thought I was efficient.

Three days later, I had changed the way I handle followups and meetings. The book is about creating an infrastructure so you can work only 4 hours a week (a colorful metaphor) and use your time to serve you, instead of the other way around. Tim’s insights about email, outsourcing, and business use take it to a new extreme. For example, he suggest checking your email twice a day. Now, I’ve heard this suggestion before, but usually it was a failure of the last mile for me: I didn’t know where to start.

Tim goes the extra step and provides the text of the auto-response email he uses, which basically says ‘I check my email infrequently, so here’s an FAQ you can read that will probably answer your questions. Otherwise, here’s my phone number, or be patient and I’ll get back to you.’ And, in the smartest line in the book, his autoresponder includes this line: “Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you more.”

Who could argue with that?

He uses multiple virtual admins from around the world. As he writes, “Indian and Chinese VAs…will run $4-$15 per hour, the lower end being limited to simple tasks and the higher end including the equivalent of Harvard or Stanford M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s.” Then he goes on to describe exactly how to work with virtual admins, including how to give instruction, how to pick the best ones, and — this goes the extra mile — the best URLs for finding virtual admins.

There’s more in the book. Here are some the other key insights I took away:

  • “Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer without a clear list of priorities. You’ll just read unassociated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day.”
  • “Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action”
  • How to end a meeting on time
  • And a great lesson he illustrates:”For all four years of school, I had a policy. If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice in a given class, I would bring 2-3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion. This served two important purposes:1. I learned exactly how the grader evaluated work, including his or her prejudices and pet peeves
    2. The grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A. He or she would never consider giving me a bad grace without exceptional reasons for doing so, as he or she knew I’d come a’knocking for another three-hour visit.Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.

Tim is kind of a weird playboy. In fact, for half of the book, you’ll be shaking your head saying “Is this guy for real?” He’s a Guinness record-holder in Tango, a national champion in kickboxing, and runs a business that makes supplements “scientifically engineered to quickly increase the speed of neural transmission and information processing,” which makes me more than a little suspicious. Some of the tactics he recommends are frankly sleazy. And other people have wondered if he has a real job besides self-promotion; Tim admits in his book that he was fired from most of them.

Closing Thoughts

This book is very inspiring, and takes a very different take on entrepreneurship than most books you’ll find on the subject. Tim suggests increasing efficiency in everything you do (both personal and professional) by applying the 80/20 rule and setting deadlines. (The 80/20 rule says that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts) When you only do 20% of the things you were doing before, and you set deadlines so you complete them faster than you normally would… efficiency ensues.

So in addition to this efficiency point, Tim also suggests setting up little-to-no effort income streams in the form of small niche-market internet-based businesses. He recommends outsourcing everything to a handful of companies so that your only “job” is making sure everybody plays nice together.

Once you have your life efficiently outsourced and funded with a work-free business… you take unlimited vacations and party like a rock-star! That sounds like a pretty sweet deal. I think this review came off making his book seem overly simplistic and not realistic. That wasn’t my experience at all. I really felt like he gave good information on how to make his reality come true! In fact it got me very excited about the prospect of having a “muse” (his word for a hands-free income stream). I’ve been making some moves in that direction since then. This book is definitely worth a read, and will end up in the stockings of some of my friends this Christmas.

Thanks for reading and you can get the book here on Amazon!