The 4-Hour Work Week

Loose notes from SXSW 2007 session: The 4-Hour Work Week with Timothy Ferriss, author, The 4-Hour Work Week

If you work a 9-5, your boss isn’t going to let you get away with a 4-hour work week no matter how productive you become. But this session was packed with great advice for trimming inessential, repetitive and drop-able stuff from your daily schedule. Ferriss actually has accomplished the 4-hour week. Doubtful that you or I can, but some great advice for streamlining here. Room packed with people who, like me, feel like they can never get out from behind the 8-ball.

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Since 1969, the average American worker works 8 weeks more per year, and makes the same (adjusted for inflation).

What if you can’t get what you want in the game? Is your business/career/lifestyle scalable? Are unavoidable tasks the bottleneck, or are you?

We all get soaked up in the daily grind, often without asking the fundamental questions. First, ask: Are you in a game worth winning?

Commonalities among people who are able to design an ideal lifestyle:

– Can control time
– Can control renewable income

Definition – determining what it is you want to create, and how much does that cost? What you want to do, what you want to be, what you want to have.

80-20 Principle: 80% of your labor yields 20% of results. You want to flip this, so that 20% of your actions will present 80% of desired results.

Focus on productive customers. Take non-productive customers and put them in a holding pattern. Make it harder for them to order from you / use your services. Take the 5% that are easy/profitable to work with and find commonalities in them, then foster those attributes in all customers.

Do a time audit so you know what the time sinks are. So, which 20% of my activities are consuming 80% of my time? Focus on duplicating your points of strength. Then do the opposite audit and eliminate those customers. Yes – fire your clients! Or give them an ultimatum: Shape up so our workstyles match, or ship out.

Parkinson’s Law: A task will swell in perceived complexity in direct proportion to the time that you allot it. SO: Limit tasks to the important. Now, limit the time so you limit yourself to the most important.

Time management: It doesn’t work. There’s an efficiency epidemic that focuses on how to do things better rather than what to do. Eliminate as many inputs as possible.

We spend 24% of our time in task switching. Batching involves letting similar tasks accumulate and doing them together, to reduce the amt of time spent switching.

Email is a huge one. Set an auto-responder on your email. “In a move toward efficiency, I’ll be checking mail only at 11 am and 3pm. If you require an immediate response, call my cell phone. If your email does not require an answer, I will not respond.” Make this one change and your quality of life will improve dramatically.

Don’t do email first thing in the morning: It scrambles your brain. Get to work when you arrive at work. Otherwise you may not get out of email until mid-day.

Focus on the crucial few rather than the trivial many.

Quantify the value of your time. Outsource anything that can be done for less than your average hourly income (calculate this value from your salary). Ferriss has an army of East Indian MBAs that run his business. You can outsource your life.

Liberation (two parts):

1) Entrepreneurs have the hardest time with automation because it takes away their control. Before you can automate fully, you have to get out of the office.

2) Take advantage of the time you create. Once you’ve got a glut of new time, what will you do with it? A week on the beach is fine, but that’s not a long-term career option. Once you remove work as your self-identity, it can be a challenge to fill your time meaningfully. The point of life is to enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean lounging around.

Focus on the critical few and ignore the trivial many.

Q: How do you fire your clients without creating bad will in the community?

Q: What happens when the team of Indian MBAs reads the book? Maybe they’ll come out with a two-hour week week.

Rules for efficient meetings:

1) Don’t have a meeting to decide what the problem is – don’t attend meetings that don’t already have an agenda.

2) Keep them very short.

3) Know the problems in advance.

Quantifiable interest: You need to be able to identify where the inputs and outputs are. If you want to accomplish the life you want, you need to be fairly ruthless at identifying and culling both customers and activities.

Software/hardware recommendations: If you buy a phone/PDA, the most important criteria is that it must not have internet access (cheers from audience).

Advice on getting off the crack (Twitter, Dodgeball, blogging): Ask yourself 3 times a day: Am I being productive, or am I being busy? Am I doing a “crutch activity?”

Don’t underestimate your leverage. If you have x,y,z skillsets, wait for crunch time when you’re indispensable, then ask for that 3-week vacation.

Outsourcing your life: Recommend these two in India: YourMan and Brickwork. Offer to audience: Implement one of the techniques above, write Tim to let him know how much time you saved, one person will win a trip anywhere in the world.

5 Replies to “The 4-Hour Work Week”

  1. >>Ferriss has an army of East Indian MBAs that run his business
    Its not East Indian MBA’s its graduates of IIM, Bangalore. People who dont get admission there go to Hardvard.

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