The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris
From the title, my first thought was that the main theme of this book was going to be about time management, how to be a more efficient middle manager and so on.
But The 4-Hour Workweek is more about the concept of breaking free from the corporate nine to five world. Something that’s much more my kind of thing.
Tm Ferris calls his formula for breaking free from the nine to five “The DEAL”. This is an acronym for Definition, Elimination, Automation and Liberation.
He uses the DEAL to explain his philosophy on how to restructure your work and life so as to live a “4-hour work week”.
The book is partly about restructuring your life, but the author’s main theme is how to generate a continuous stream of income for the least amount of work.
Such as by persuading your boss to let you work less hours, to work remote from home and so on.
As well as moving on to create your own online business and then outsourcing as much of it as you can. The idea of this being that you are then freed up to spend the greater part of your time pursuing hobbies and travelling.
I agree with the author’s general principle: that we shouldn’t spend every day in a job we hate to buy things we don’t need.
And that we should configure our life-time so that we get out of the rigid time compartments that convention all too often forces us to conform to.
Breaking Out of the Nine to Five
It’s true that corporate America especially is still stuck in the “minimal vacation, long hours”, paradigm.
A lot of people feel trapped in old style corporate jobs working for old style employers who don’t accept remote working.
Most organizations still structure their work in the old style way of heavy supervision, endless meetings and work coordination, large volumes of email and rigid ideas about working long hours on the employers premises.
Much of Our Working Time is Unproductive
It’s true also that a lot of the time people spend at work is wasted. Employees could get much of the work done in far less time than 40 hours if their staff were actually allowed to do so.
Obviously, in service sectors where face to face contact and availability is central, it can be harder. But even here some of the work could still be completed in much less time.
I think if the link between work and hours present on employers premises was broken, with employees free to leave when the work was completed, regardless of how many hours they had completed and with no financial disadvantage, then companies could experience enormous increases in productivity.
Of course, in this situation, with no loss of earnings to the staff, the benefits would largely pass to the employees, rather than to the employer.
But the “full time” work week has much more to do with employers having a means of owning and controlling the working time of their employees than with implementing real productivity.
Work time – for the majority who work “full time” tends to be traded in “full time units” of around 40 hours a week, regardless of whether the work could actually be done in less time or not.
My Opinion of The 4-Hour Workweek
I agree with the general principle of rearranging your life to escape rigid 9 to 5 confines. The law that says that all work tends to expand to fill up the available time.
I disagree with his view that the state of nirvana everyone wants to reach and should strive to reach is to be in a position where you only work 4 hours a week. If you enjoy your work, if you find it intrinsically useful, why should you want to limit it to just a few hours?
And if you’re starting a business, whether it’s online-based or not, then you’re be finding yourself working far longer hours than that. To some extent, I think he’s addressing the wrong issue here.
It’s true many people want to escape from stifling boring jobs and corporate environments.
This in my opinion does not automatically mean everyone in that situation becoming self employed or going freelance. You may be able to find a job which is more fulfilling, in a corporate environment which suits you better.
Or it may involve you starting your own business and breaking out of the corporate employee lifestyle completely.
Three Problems With a 4 Hour Work Week
I think Tim Ferris’s idea of substituting full time work with a “4 hour work week” has a number of flaws.
Firstly, if you do start your own business – whether online or offline, then you are going to find yourself working far more than 4 hours a week. I can tell you that now from my own experience and that of other people who have also become self-employed. And during the start-up phase, you’ll most likely be working well over 40 hours a week.
Secondly, I think this “4 hour work week” concept reflects mistaken thinking. Why should people want to work only 4 hours a week? I would say: only those who don’t enjoy their work. Ferris is still thinking in corporate nine to five mode.
Now if you don’t enjoy your work, if you feel a disconnect, then 4 hours a week may be better than 40 or more, assuming you can afford it.
But if you enjoy what you are doing, why limit yourself to just a few hours?
It’s certainly a plus being able to arrange your working hours more or less as you want them. But I don’t work a 4 hour work week – and neither would I want to. I work many more hours than this. Even if one project did only occupy me for 4 hours a week, I’d use the slack time to launch another project – and another.
Thirdly, even if you were to apply this idea, what are you going to do with yourself during the time that you’re not working?
It’s here we discover that the unlimited leisure idea is also flawed.
“Unlimited Leisure” is Not The Solution
The idea of lying in the sun sipping a cocktail by the pool all day to get a tan may be the goal for some people.
I don’t know about you, but I can only tolerate enforced idleness of that sort for a week or so at most. After that it quickly loses it’s appeal.
There’s even a limit to the amount of travelling to different countries, cities, beaches and regions I can tolerate.
You might find this hard to understand. But if you undertake months of travelling, after a while you get the “traveller blues”. You realize you are disconnected from these places and the people that live in them.
The trouble with the unlimited leisure idea is that, as the old saying goes: once you’re “there”, there’s no “there”.
Whether your “there” is a travel destination, or a goal or project in life: people always need activity, they always need goals and something to strive for.
Enforced leisure time can’t help us here. Even if you’re Bill Gates and have quit the company you started, you aren’t working a 4 hour week and spending the rest of your time sitting under a palm tree. Gates spends his time working on his charitable foundation with the aim of finding a way to rid the world of malaria.
Leisure activities are fine in small doses, but I don’t think they’re viable or enjoyable when viewed as a full-time “lifestyle choice”. I enjoy my hobbies and I value my leisure. But I’d be bored out of my brains if all I had was “full time leisure”.
Anyway, if you feel Tim Ferris’s 4 Hour Work Week could be something for you, then it’s available from Amazon.
The 4-Hour Workweek is Available Now From Amazon
The 4-Hour Workweek has now been expanded and updated, with some 100 extra pages of content.
If you want to buy a copy or read more reviews of “The 4-Hour Workweek”, then here’s the link to the book at Amazon.com: