Book Review: The 4-Hour Workweek


Unless you are running on a different clock than the rest of us, you only have 168 hours to do what you need to do each week.  Figure at least 29% of that has to be used for sleep, and another 6% just for eating.  So that leaves you about 108 hours per week to split between work and fun.  If you’re like most folks, it’s not unusual to see over 60 hours per week spent on commuting to and from work, as well as on work itself.

And why do you work this many hours?  Oh, right – it’s so you can retire and not do any more work.

Tim Ferriss has written a book that solves your dilemma – The 4-Hour Workweek.  Mind you, the book has been out for a very long time, but it remains in the zeitgeist to this day. The 4-Hour Work Week presents you with tips and tricks to help you work less, earn more, and enjoy the time you’ve got while you’re still able to use it.

After being turned down by 26 out of 27 publishers, compounded by expert opinions that it would never be a best seller, The 4-Hour Workweek hit the New York Times best sellers list on May 2, 2007.  Since then, it has been published in 35 languages, been on the best seller list for over two years, and has had more than 40 printings in the US alone.

Here’s a list of what you can expect to learn in The 4-Hour Workweek:

  • How to outsource your life and do whatever you want for a year, only to return to a bank account 50% larger than before you left
  • How blue-chip escape artists travel the world without quitting their jobs
  • How to eliminate 50% of your work in 48 hours using the principles of little-known European economists
  • How to train your boss to value performance over presence, or kill your job (or company) if it’s beyond repair
  • How to trade a long-haul career for short work bursts and frequent “mini-retirements”
  • What automated cash-flow “muses” are and how to create one in 2-4 weeks
  • How to cultivate selective ignorance—and create time—with a low-information diet
  • Management secrets of Remote Control CEOs
  • The crucial difference between absolute and relative income
  • How to get free housing worldwide and airfare at 50-80% off
  • How to fill the void and creating meaning after removing work and the office

It might sound like an aggressive copywriters attempt to sell you snake oil, but I found this book to be well written and filled with interesting anecdotes and helpful advice.  But more importantly, I found it to be useful and easy to follow.  It’s not one of those books that promises to share their secrets – but only if you buy the next three books in the series.  You could go to your library, borrow this book, and start reaping the rewards as you implement the instructions.  You could to do that today.

The book is filled with examples of how Ferriss has been able to eliminate himself as the bottleneck in his company.  Can you imagine only responding to your emails on Monday morning – and taking less than 30 minutes to do so?  Once you learn how to DEAL (Definition, Elimination, Automation, and Liberation), you can start living the life you want to live.  And profit from it.

One of the most important aspects of this book is explaining the difference between being efficient and being effective.  Too often we focus on one at the cost of the other.  Ferriss provides excellent reasoning to help you decide when it’s the right time to be effective or efficient.

The biggest takeaways for me: mini-retirements and outsourcing.  I’m getting to the age where too many of my friends have reached that golden age of retirement, only to be struck down by a medical or financial difficulty preventing them from living the life they’ve dreamt of for the past thirty years.  Or worse, they’ve found that they achieved their dream only to find that it really isn’t what they want to do. If they had the chance to do a mini-retirement, they would have been able to enjoy the fruits of their labour, as well as test some of the alternatives.

If you are looking for a book that will help you achieve more, earn more, live more, all while enabling you to do the things you want to do – I recommend that you spend a bit of time reading this book.  I’ll be surprised if you only read it once.

With endorsements by Jack Canfield, A.J. Jacobs, and Charles L. Brock – you don’t have to take my word for it.  That being said, I haven’t met anyone that’s read the book that isn’t evangelistic about it.

This book teaches you to ask the question:

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

The answer is: you read the book, put it down and forget about it.  Then you go back to working your 50+ hour weeks until you reach the time where you want to retire, or are forced to retire.  Hopefully you’ll love what you do then, because you will have certainly earned it by the time you get there.

The next time someone asks you what you do – do you want to say you are middle management in your corporation, or would you rather say what Tim says:

“I race motorcycles in Europe, I ski in the Andes, I scuba dive in Panama and I dance tango in Buenos Aires.”

Tough choice.


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After spending way too long in the corporate world, Jason has switched to full-time freelancing. With any luck you enjoyed this article - and if you need one of your very own, give him a shout! @brandscaping on the twitter, or at brandscaping.ca
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Discussion

  1. Kevin Kuzia on the 12th August

    Nice review of the book!

    I have been thinking about going back and re-reading it again myself. It’s one of those books that as you first work through it, your mind will likely work hard to resist a lot of it as impossible… but I found the more I got through it, the more I realized that much of my resistance was just my own self-limiting thoughts.

    Some of the tips offered would not be possible in my own job (my company probably would not be too keen on my offloading administrative work to some unknown person overseas), but I still loved the way it challenged my notions of what was possible.

  2. Mark on the 12th August

    Of course, the problem is that most of the suggestions in this book are morally questionable.

  3. Jens P. Berget on the 12th August

    I read the book a while ago and I enjoyed it. I have outsourced some of my work based upon some of the tips I learned from reading it.

  4. Alex Cardenas on the 12th August

    Best advice from this book is “ELIMINATION” goes hand and hand with Leo Babauta’s advice.
    I read the book 2 times and found it very useful, Congratulations Tim.

  5. werner steckmann on the 12th August

    The basic approach of the book works for me too:

    How much money do you need to be happy?;
    More money doesn’t mean more happiness;
    True freedom means to deliver from imaginary dependences;

    All the other suggestions doesent work for me here in germany/europe.
    For example: i cant outsource my tax-/ office-paperwork to an indian contract worker or set up the next onlineshop for cheap far-east- crap.

    Furthermore some of the suggestions seem in ecological and ethic terms verry questionable to me…

  6. Bob Bessette on the 13th August

    Hi Jason,
    I’ve had this book sitting on my nightstand for about a year and haven’t read it. After reading your review I think I’m going to tackle it.

    Thanks,
    Bob

  7. These types of books are great for easy reading and fantasy escapism, in the real world it’s all well but with kids at school or private school, fees etc etc you will need to be rather more adapted to achieve the long term success I think.
    Good stuff though.

    Colin. … Must go now I need to dry myself down as the taxi arrives in 30 minutes to take me and the crew to the airport.

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