THE 4-HOUR WORKWEEK: A Complete Guide To Breaking Free Of The Office



With one of the most compelling titles ever, Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek has become a mainstay on bestseller lists since it was published in 2007.To go from office drone to Citizen of the World you need to enough money to do what you want with enough control over your time to do it. It’s here, step-by-step, and punctuated with to-do lists, website links, blog entries, and testimonials.

The goal is mutli-tiered. First tackle the job you have now and recreate it as one for which you spend less time in the office. Next make an entrepreneurial leap into a business that requires as little work as possible. Finally having whittled your workweek to the mythical 4 Hours, find out what you should do with this new found freedom and time.

Has life become an endless repetition of working endless hours in order to buy as many things as possible? Do you even like your trophy wife/husband?

Rich is in the eye of the beholder and if the beholder isn't enjoying himself, it just isn't worth it

  • It doesn't matter if you have invested enormous time and effort.
  • No bridge is truly burned if handled well.
  • A few, temporary, lifestyle adjustments are worth it to make a better life possible.
  • Benefits can be had in a host of different ways, at increasingly reasonable and responsible rates.
  • You will not 'ruin' your resume to have a gap or two, especially the gaps are worthy of jealousy and wishful thinking when explained in the interview.

Remember, the enemy of success is boredom, not failure

To make the the first day of the rest of the life happen as quickly as possible,

  • be willing to be unreasonable
  • be willing to overestimate yourself and underestimate the rest of the world
  • be willing to chase what excites you, nothing less

And, remember: retirement is the worst-case-scenario, not the goal

Like life insurance, retirement should be seen as a hedge against what happens if you become physically unable to work. The 4 Hour Workweek is not about a rainy day and it is not about a time so far in the future.

If retirement is your end redemption or the brass ring for you, this means

  • you hate what you do all day now
  • you are willing to live a sub-standard life since it would take a sum far beyond the average worker to not work and live as well as you should want to live
  • you work like a dog, with ambition to spare, and you will hate your life when you stop working

If any of these are true for you, read on.

There is cash flow and there is time. Without those two things, you've got nothing.

Know what you will do and how you will do it before you spend an hour or a dime. Have as few middle-men as possible, identify demand, and figure out the best way to fill it with the highest margins possible.

  • Resell a product
  • licence a product
  • Create a product

Don't worry if you aren't an expert: 'It isn't necessary to be the best - just better than a small target number of your prospective customers.'

Your first entrepreneurial decision: earn your MBA: Management by Absence - if you aren't there, they will step up and figure it out

Automation is the goal of the 4-Hour Workweek Entrepreneur.

The CEO of Applegate farms works one day a week in the office and has done so for the last 17 years, and this was true six months after he started the company. He created a process-driven instead of founder-driven business. When management is absent, employees learn to deal with issues themselves rather than calling for help.

  • Remove yourself from the equation before the equation has even gotten rolling.
  • Remove decision making: fewer options = more revenue. Reduce the number of decisions your customers need to or can make. This way, you will save money and the customer will get what they have ordered.

You are no slave to time, you are the master of your time and you can make every second count

When people say they are 'busy' at work, this is usually code for 'I spent all day doing things I hate to do.' You will not take control of your life until you control the way you spend your time.

Since the goal is making more money while working less hours, on your own schedule, in a place of your choosing, you must be ruthless in the way you work when you do:

  • waste no energy on looking busy
  • fire customers who take more effort than the revenue they represent should require
  • seek business that demands the least amount of resources for the greatest amount of revenue

Focus on what you are doing, above and beyond how you do it, and only then can you ring the bell of freedom and declare the end of time management that has no purpose other than saving time for others.

This kind of containment focusing your resources and time on only what you need. Ignore or otherwise contain any information and all interruptions that are 'irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable.' According to Ferriss, the information highway is flooded with all three.

Confine reading to the results-oriented only, avail yourself of the expertise of those around you when you do need to be informed, read only the sections of books that are immediately relevant, and invest a few minutes in learning the basics of speed reading.

Your life, work, political decision-making will all improve.

You are only as bound as want to be - to make things work, you have permission to make the rules work for you

As a for instance, Ferriss tells how he won the gold medal at the Chinese Kickboxing (Sanshou) National Championships. And is no great athlete.

He figured out how to make the rules work for him:

  • weigh-ins the day prior to competition: he hyper-dehydrated and lost 28 pounds in 18 hours, weighed-in, then hyper-hydrated and put them back on in time to compete in a weight class that was so far beneath his actual weight he basically squashed the other guy
  • technicalities are in the fine print: if a combatant falls off the elevated platform 3 times in a single round, the other wins by default. He just kept pushing people off.

Ethical boundary pushing? Evidently not - it is 'doing the uncommon within the rules.' His point? Push the limits and you can break free.

Work smarter and replace yourself whenever possible

Out-source and delegate as much of what you do whenever possible. Your time will be better spent. The low-cost of out-sourcing will shock and amaze you and delegation makes you the hero and gives someone else a chance to shine.

In both cases, you multiply your presence, your output, and your ultimate success.

Work for others or for yourself, interruptions and meetings with no purpose or end are the enemy of your happy place

Start-to-finish completion is priority Number One. You must banish:

  • Time wasters - meetings, discussions, phone calls, and emails that are not specific to work or projects you are concerned with
  • Designate time to open or deal with email and do so only during those times. Spread the word to manage the expectations of others.
  • At the start of all calls, make it clear to callers you will discuss only what needs to be discussed
  • Master the art of meeting refusal or avoidance by requiring agendas, specifying start and finish times, and always have someplace to be when meetings become unproductive or lack purpose for your work
  • Time consumers
  • Eliminate or delegate tasks performed over and over again, such as reading and responding to email, making and returning phone calls, financial or sales reporting, personal errands
  • Empowerment failures
  • 'It's amazing how someone's IQ seems to double as soon as you give them responsibility and indicate you trust them.'

Along the way, be willing to be difficult if it means you will get preferential treatment

Ferriss tells us if he received anything less than an A on the first paper or exam in a class, he arrived at office hours with 2 to 3 hours of questions in hand. This,

  • told him exactly how the grader evaluated work, every single pet peeve, bias, and preference
  • made the grader to 'think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A. He or she would never consider giving me a bad grade without exceptional reasons for doing so, as he or she knew I'd come a'knocking for another three-hour visit.'

Never loathe to be the squeaky wheel or fear to be the one people seek to avoid. Success is not a popularity contest.

  • no more 'binge travelling' - resist the temptation to 'go nuts and see 10 countries in 14 days and end up a wreck. It's like taking a starving dog to an all-you-can-eat buffet. it will eat itself to death.'
  • relocate for one to six months before going home or moving on to the next spot
  • let yourself experience the place at a pace that will allow it to have an effect
  • this is not a one-time event - it is a lifestyle

'Once you are done eliminating, automating, and severing the leashes that bind you to one location, it's time to indulge in some fantasies and explore the world.'

Breaking the routine of the rat race takes time - Ferriss estimates two to three months.

  • Slow down, get lost because you can, and take the time to notice how you respond. Good chance it has been a while since you have noticed much that isn't most immediate and emergent.
  • Spend less than you'd think doing it: get an apartment, not a hotel; use credit card points for travel; go places where the dollar has the biggest punch.
  • Lay to rest the 'buts' and say, Why can't I? Kids survive (even thrive) abroad; many places are as safe (if not safer than) home, so, why not?

Personal satisfaction and a 4-Hour Workweek could lead you to ask Big Questions about the Meaning of Life - Ferriss' advice: Don't bother

'I am 100% convinced that most big questions we feel compelled to face...use terms so undefined as to make attempting to answer them a complete waste of time. This isn't depressing. It's liberating.'

It is far more fun to ask, and you are more likely to successfully answer,

How will I 'fill the void, adding life after subtracting work'?

He has suggestions about that, too.

To buy the book, click here.

Staying put? Make your job work for you and the life you want to live - there are a few things you can do to live as few hours as possible in the office

More than cash, power means 'unrestricted mobility.' Stop asking for permission and start explaining how it is going to work - for you and for your job. You can break the chains that bind you to the old, office-bound life:

  1. Increase investment in you (increase the loss if you quit)
  2. Prove you can increase output off site (call in sick and double output from out of the office)
  3. Present on paper proof of quantifiable business benefit of your off site work (delineate how productive your remote work has been, including the increase in work hours without commute)
  4. Propose a revocable trial period for regular off site work day (a limited time-only, 1-day a week, for a finite period of time)
  5. Expand remote time and keep expanding it (ensure productivity on days outside office using all means available, including reducing in-office productivity to show clear contrast)

Interested? Buy the complete guide

The 4-Hour Workweek
See also business lessons from Machiavelli, Saint Benedict and Sun Tzu >

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