Review: The 4-Hour Workweek

I just finished a book titled The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. In it he talks about what he calls the New Rich, which are essentially people that structure their income such that they can take what he calls mini-retirements throughout their lives instead of working until we’re 60 to retire. The book is composed of 4 sections excluding the introductory material. I found useful material in sections 1, 2, and 4 that have made me stop and think about how I work, how I live, and where I’m going in life.

Of particular interest to me were the following thoughts

  • If we only have enough work to fill 2 or 3 hours of our workday, why do we stretch it out to fill 8 hours instead of getting it done and leaving for other more worthwhile activities? — This one in particular I found directly applicable to me. I have a tendency to get the job done, but to do so in a very inefficient manner since I “have to be there all day anyway”. In truth, as long as I fulfill my business commitments and am generally available for people who have questions, there’s no reason I should feel chained to my desk all day long.
  • Rediscovering the 80/20 rule – 80% of your profits are brought in by 20% of your people, so why would you jump through hoops for the remaining 80% of the people? — While not directly applicable I have rethought how I do customer support. Despite working extensively to include all applicable tunings for my product in released-to-customer Tuning Guides (that cover 80% of the issues), I am still constantly questioned about the remaining 20% that defy easy-to-document solutions. I’ve decided to write troubleshooting documents such that customers, support, and service personnel can follow to self-diagnose some of that 20%. In essence distilling the steps I take with a customer into a document they can follow themselves. This won’t eliminate all of the phone calls, but it will free up more time I can spend doing other things.
  • Productivity increases when you decrease interruptions and multitasking. — One of the stress points early in the summer between Benjamin and myself was him trying to talk to me while I was working and thus derailing my train of thought. We’ve since worked out a system but that highlights the point: interruptions suck and decrease productivity. Unfortunately I’ve never really applied that to email or IMs. I’ve always made the excuse that “part of my job is being available to help other people” which, while true, doesn’t mean that I have to be literally at their beck and call. Today I didn’t open my email or IM clients until 11am and I finished setting up a test environment and completed half of the Tuning ITDS, Part 2 paper that I’ve been unable to stay focused on the past several weeks. I had a few other things to do but I need to access both my email and be on IM for my 11am meeting. After the meeting I left my email and IM client enabled and my productivity sharply decreased. While there’s obviously a correlation between those factors, there’s not enough data to try and imply causation — it could be any number of factors. Tomorrow and the remainder of the week I’ll be working to refine my productivity time vs communication time.
  • Don’t foo-foo your dreams – dream big, set goals, and work to achieve them. — This seems obvious but too often I find myself saying “yeah, I’d like to do X, but …” and X never gets done for some reason or another. But consider this, if your productivity increases such that you have more free time, what are you going to do with that free time? Oddly enough, the question scares me. This is something I really need to work on. I don’t think the question would have scared me so much when I was in Austin and not working from home. Maybe I’ve become too much of a hermit and need to rediscover activities and adventure. A big take-home for me.

There’s tons of other jewels in the book and while I don’t completely agree with the author (in fact, I find him sleazy and downright unethical in places — mostly reflected in section 3) I do recommend it. I don’t expect to implement all of his suggestions but it sure has me thinking.

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I'm a gay geek techie space nerd living in Seattle, WA.

One thought on “Review: The 4-Hour Workweek”

  1. I blame customers :) They don’t always move as fast to implement solutions. I can’t think of the last time I only had 2-3 hours of work to do.
    The 20/80-80/20 rule pretty much applies to support. We have a commitment to provide a good support experience for all of our customers, it’s … because we want to.
    That’s the truth! I find myself shifting the way I look at emails as if it were triage. “Does it require action? Does it require action today? Does it require action in the next hour? Does it require immediate action?”
    Hmm… you know, you and Benjamin could always come back to Austin! :)


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