Sarah: Wait, so is this book about working only 4 hours a week? Because I’m a social worker. I have 5 billable hours a day. That’s just not happening.
Me: Well, really, the book is based more on this idea that you don’t need a job at all.
Sarah: Oh, and support ourselves how?
Me: Well, according to the book, you should just create a profitable company. Then, you outsource your role, and get your management tasks down to 4 hours a week.
Sarah: That’s great, you should have read that book earlier. Let’s do it right now. Let’s start the next Apple. I know we can do it – we’re English majors!
Me: Don’t be so harsh on the liberal arts. But, yeah, I kind of had the same reaction. If it was that easy, we’d all be millionaires with yachts.
Sarah: So what’s your verdict on the book? Waste of time?
Me: Not a waste of time. There were some good take-aways. I wrote them out for this blog post I’m working on. Wanna read it?
Take-Aways From the 4-Hour Work Week
#1 – Lifestyle Design
While achieving a 4-hour workweek sounds a little far-fetched, a more achievable goal is to have more agency over your job and how you do it. That’s what Ferriss dubs lifestyle design.
This book got me to dream a little and imagine my own workplace Shangri-la. I would be free – with flexible hours, and unbound to a brick and mortar office.
The way to achieve this is to get employment that:
- Enables you to work remotely
- Focuses more on the results that you generate, versus exactly how you generate them.
Of course, your ideal work situation may be different. Perhaps you enjoy going to an office and don’t mind the commute. The key is to figure out what lifestyle you want, and find a job that’s compatible.
A 9 to 5 job means that you need to be at work 8 hours a day. But how much of that time do you spend being productive? Catherine Clifford is the Senior Entrepreneurship Writer at CNBC. According to this article she wrote for Entrepeneur.com, market research has found that office workers spend just 45% of their time at work completing tasks related to their primary job duties. (That’s about 3.5 hours for an 8-hour work day.)
Let’s say you work 9 to 5 with an hour commute each way. This means that of the 10 hours of your day that you devote to work – 8 am to 6 pm – you’re doing 3.5 hours of actual work.
As for myself, I would rather work from home 9 to 12, take a two-hour break to workout, and then finish the rest of my work 2 to 6. If I’m disciplined (which I am), I would get twice as much done as if I went to a physical location. The difference is I gain an extra hour of sleep and get my workout in before 6 pm hits – leaving me the rest of the evening to enjoy my life.
That is my lifestyle design.
#2 Do Less
Ferriss gives high praise to the 80/20 Principle set forward by Italian economist, Federico Pareto.
The premise is that 80% of our results come from 20% of the effort that we put in. And so it is in our best interest to be mindful of the 80% of the effort that isn’t yielding much result.
One strategy to accomplish this is “batching” — working on a bunch of small tasks all at once, in a batch. This can be applied to emails by allowing email messages to accumulate, and then answering them one after other – rather than on an “as received basis.” The exceptions that I allow for are if I notice an email come in from a supervisor, or get a message that is clearly urgent. This system drove up my productivity tremendously.
#3 Beware of Boredom and Mindless Work
My favorite line from 4 Hour Work Week is “The existential vacuum manifests itself mainly in a state of boredom.”
When we are bored, we often experience a sense of pointlessness, wondering why we exist, what our purpose is. And many people will fill that void or avoid those feelings by working for work’s sake – a phenomenon Ferriss has dubbed “W4W.”
Don’t do that.
Pause to consider what makes you feel alive.
When I wake up, excited for what the day holds, I have a tremendous sense of purpose and direction. Ones that come to mind include graduating from law school, and my first day of work. There’s even unpleasant times that come to mind, which I still look back on as exciting. First up: the bar exam. That was not a fun day, but it was exciting. I was taking a very important test, and even though it was grueling, I completed it with a sense of purpose. It was necessary to become an attorney. Finishing the last few miles of a marathon is similar. It’s painful, and a test of willpower.
Being in a state of excitement is being in a state of energy higher than normal. We need excitement to feel engaged in life. Not all stress is bad – there is distress and then there is eustress. Eustress is a moderate level of stress that benefits the person experiencing it. So, don’t shy away from all stress. But do shy away from boredom.
Leave-Behinds From the 4-Hour Work Week
The book takes something of a testosterone-driven “attack, attack” approach towards carving out a lifestyle design. You’re not just planning for work-life balance. You’re fighting for it.
An example is Ferriss’s approach to meetings. He advocates against phone meetings, insisting that if someone asks to set up a phone meeting, your reply should be:
- When are you available?
- What questions do you need answered?
While this strategy can work for some people and cut down on phone meetings, others are apt to become offended at having their inquiry responded to in email – especially when they specifically asked for a phone call.
It’s times like these when the pursuit of efficiency can come at the cost of human connection.
Call me soft, but I want people to feel like people – not just checks on my to-do list.