The 4-Hour Workweek - Timothy Ferris

4-hour-work-week-book Despite knowing about this book when it first came out, I thought I would dislike it and never got round to picking it up. It was lent to me and now that I’ve read it, not only did I enjoy it, in context, I realise I actually am doing or have done in the last four years what Mr F prescribes us to and I agree with it! Well I never.

Rather than having millions in the bank, the Four Hour Work Week is about being creative by earning more per hour so we can do the things we want to do with the rest of our time. With that premise, you don’t necessarily have to thoroughly immensely enjoy your working hours but you like what they bring you – more time.

I however, would prefer to mostly enjoy all my hours (to be minimum 7 on the happy scale but more often 9/10) but I do understand the 4 hour work week.

I should mention that researching Mr Ferris for a client in 2008 is how I joined Twitter in the first place. If you’ve read the book, you’ll know one of the policies he has is to be ‘unreachable’ and Twitter was the only contact I could find (He didn’t get back to me). Whilst I want to be the opposite of this, I see his reasons; he goes invisible and then people have to deal with the problems rather than asking him. By people, I mean those that he outsources to; he doesn’t have employees but rather Virtual Assistants and a huge amount of outsourcing.

Anyway, I’ve already had a massive change in my life and gone from 18 hours to 6 hour working days four years ago. I found, to my cost, I was not working for myself; I was working for the people I employed. Once I decided to give up company status, staff, offices and all the overheads that go with – only then am I working for myself.

I class as ‘work’ as those hours I get paid for and the rest of the hours I write or research the many new ideas that keep popping into my head, mostly uninvited. I don’t have to do any of this but I enjoy it.

Furthermore, these are some great tips that serve as a refresher for me:

  1. Emphasise strengths rather than fixing weaknesses (for me, the secret here is to delegate/outsource work that I’m not so good at)
  2. Most business people have to do everything; the book says outsource what you’re not good at (see point 1)
  3. It’s not about retiring, which is great as I plan never to retire but carry on doing as much as my health allows. Why give up something you love? Anyway. Mr F advocates mini retirements and taking time out. A little bit like my year out including 6 months in New York going to writing school (and now I write every day and have just finished writing my first book).
  4. Fear. Something that I think is imagined anyway but this book talks about understanding and imagining the very, worse that can happen if you take the plunge away from an unhappy but moneyed life; penniless, wearing rags, living on bread and water. The point being that even if this very worst case scenario were to happen, you are still alive. And really, how likely is this?
  5. What would you do if you lost your job today and had no choice but to change?

Life’s too short to be small – Ben Disraeli

The book is very much written towards people who are in the corporate world (Underjoyed, overworked) and I wonder perhaps they are the most unlikely to pick up this book?


As an employee, your goal is make yourself indispensable enough to convince them to let you work from home. That way, you can work more efficiently getting your tasks done more quickly and spend the rest of your hours doing fun things.

As an entrepreneur (for want of better word) simply decrease work = increase revenue and this is achieve mainly through automation his is complete common sense of course (I’ve already done it to some degree) but the whole not ‘checking’ emails thing is nonsensical to me. One, I don’t check emails, I read and delete/respond – that’s how I do business efficiently and two, I don’t see the sense (again) in keeping my clients (i.e. those that pay my wages) waiting. My competitor will respond faster.

Pareto’s 80/20 rule

Applied to many contexts, I think the best one is working out where your profits come from. Ferris looks at it thus:

1. Which 20& of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness

2. Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness

I did this a few years ago, working out most of my happiness came from writing so I should get on with it. Most of my problems came from having a company, employing (trying) staff, increasing business and having huge office overheads. I know write for up to half of each day and make most of my money from the other half plus some evenings and weekends. The difference is more of the work is fun and I only do about a third of actual work compared to where I was four years ago.

Similarly, Ferris realised that 95% of his business came from his top two customers – so why keep contacting the rest? Indeed.

He did find a few more customers that replicated his top two to top up the revenue, ending up with 8 rather than the 120 he had before. His income doubled in four weeks and his hours dropped from 80 to 15. He then applied the same principles to advertising costs and affiliates. It’s not just the money spent but the time wasted on administrating it all. It makes sense to me but as I say, I’ve been through it.

First published July 2012

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