5 Key Lessons from The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

The 4 Hour Workweek Book Summary

Every entrepreneur wants to do more with less, but the reality is that most end up always busy. From the moment they get up to the moment they go to bed, most entrepreneurs live a busy life, firefighting problems and chasing their tails after customers.

At the end of the day, being eternally busy is not the sign of a successful Lifestyle Entrepreneur. Constant busyness leads to burnout, depression and, most importantly, a significant reduction in motivation and performance.

The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss opened the floodgates on the whole location independent, lifestyle entrepreneur scene. By asking “What if?” and building an effective, efficient and noise-free location independent business, a whole generation of business owners have been empowered to go pursue their passions.

The 4 Hour Workweek isn’t about working only 4 hours a week. If you are an entrepreneur like me, you don’t want to sit around on your ass all day. You want to be productive. The key message of the 4 Hour Workweek is that you can define success on your own terms. Here are the top 5 key messages from the book.

If you are interested in getting more out of the themes, ideas and lessons from the 4 Hour Workweek, I recommend taking my premium 4 hour work week course here.

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30 Minutes to a Better Future

As an entrepreneur, time is your most valuable asset. Invest 30 minutes of your time to set out a better creative and financial future by learning the key lessons from these 5 powerful books.
>> Learn how to become financially and creatively free

Tim Ferriss Quotes

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#1 Deconstructing The Millionaire Lifestyle

What’s our goal in life?

To chase the “stuff” that will have no impact on what we really want? Or chase what we really want?

Stephanie Land spent 2 years cleaning the houses of millionaires.

Her story is a fascinating look into the lives of rich people because it provides us with 2 powerful insights both about their lives and also what we conclude about our own. What she found was that most of these families were pretty normal, if not unhappier than the average person. Money hadn’t resolved any of the burning tensions or personal crises they were trying to hold together, especially when it came to relationships and kids. What was equally interesting was how the author concluded that being rich led to being unhappy, evidenced in the title “I spent 2 years cleaning houses. What I saw makes me never want to be rich”.

There’s a lot going here and it’s worth stepping back a minute. Being rich does not make you happy. It’s also important to state that being rich also does not make you unhappy. What we don’t want to do is reconfirm that limiting story that happiness and money are a tradeoff, the old “I’d rather be poor and unhappy” saw. No, we need to look at this story from a different angle.

Being rich or poor is nothing to do with it.

What matters is happiness, whether you’re rich or poor.

I think we don’t really want to be millionaires. What we really want is to experience all the perceived benefits of the millionaire lifestyle.

#2 Freedom is Closer than You Think

In the movie “Wall Street”, the hero played by Charlie Sheen gets asked by his girlfriend why he “does it”? Why does he work like crazy and live this unhealthy stressful lifestyle? To which Sheen answers,

“Well, I guess if I can make a bunch of cash in future, I can buy a motorbike and ride across China.”

How much money does it really take to buy a motorbike? A couple of thousand dollars? You could work 2 months in Starbucks and save up that money. You certainly don’t need to be a Wall Street broker or a retiree.

Let’s look at this problem differently.

If you had enough money coming in to cover my living expenses, and the ability to earn money anywhere in the world, you could go travel the world right now. Sure, there are administrative issues that need dealing with like houses and schools and all that, but these are mere details that will fall into place if your goal is big enough.

In fact, traveling the world isn’t that expensive at all.

If you had a business that allowed you to make money anywhere you went, you would see your travel costs simply as living expenses. And in most cases, it’s cheaper to live somewhere else than it is to live in a city-center apartment in Vancouver, San Francisco or London.

The problem is that we get scared.

Tim Ferriss Quotes

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#3 Work and Life should never be opposites

We shouldn’t work or live.

Work and Life are not opposites.

We shouldn’t be unhappy working now in the hope we can be happy not working later.

70 percent of US employees reportedly hate their jobs. This story has us working 40 years doing jobs we don’t love because one day we’ll retire and sail off into the sunset. It has us working from the moment we wake to the moment we go to bed chasing the dream of selling our companies. It has us working 50 weeks a year like crazy to earn our 2 weeks in the sun just to compress from the stress of our jobs. According to research, Americans now take only 16 days off a year – down a whole week in the last 15 years.

As long as we trade a lot of work for a little life, we’re never going to be happy. But, that’s what we’ve come to accept, and that’s why retirement is our only escape.

I have a friend who is a professional triathlete. She travels the world taking part in races, going to new countries and meeting likeminded athletes. If she was working in an office, she’d be doing this in her spare time. It’s her passion, it’s her obsession, it’s what drives her to become a better person. What is she going to do if she “retires”? Play golf?

So, I don’t think retirement should be escaping work, rather retirement means escaping the work we don’t want to do.

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30 Minutes to a Better Future

As an entrepreneur, time is your most valuable asset. Invest 30 minutes of your time to set out a better creative and financial future by learning the key lessons from these 5 powerful books.
>> Learn how to become financially and creatively free

10 Powerful Tim Ferriss Quotes

  • “Being able to quit things that don’t work is integral to being a winner.”
  • “What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.”
  • “You are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn’t making you stronger, they’re making you weaker.”
  • “A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.”
  • “To enjoy life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.”
  • “Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time”
  • “Many a false step was made by standing still”
  • “$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows”
  • “It’s lonely at the top. Ninety-nine percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time and energy-consuming”
  • “Age doesn’t matter: an open mind does”

Tim Ferriss Quotes

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#4 The Mini Retirement

Most people dream of retiring early. Most people dream of rediscovering lost time to really go and enjoy their life. The sad fact is that most people don’t reach retirement in good physical or financial health to do this. Those that do only get a few years to enjoy it.

You can retire early. I did. This doesn’t means you have to save a million dollars in cash. You can make changes to your life and start enjoying a lifestyle with all the benefits of retirement if you think about it differently. That also means you can work. I don’t think retirement is freedom from work. If you love what you do, why give it up?

#5 Minimum Effective Dose

There is a sweet spot in everything – work, life and exercise. Hitting the sweet spot requires a lot of training but once you reach it, your results won’t come from long hours or strenuous efforts.

Find this sweet spot and build your life around it.

Once you do that, you’ll find you free up time and energy for other activities, activities that were crowded out of your life before. Lifestyle Entrepreneurs need to be ruthlessly focused. Why work 10 hours on a project, when you can get the same results with 2? As a Lifestyle Entrepreneur you need to be brave enough to step outside the world of busy and do only what counts.

To do this, we’ll look at two key elements of the 4HWW equation: elimination and automation.

In the 4 Hour Workweek, Ferriss introduces his “DEAL” acronym. We won’t discuss all the points, except the key ones here.

E = Elimination.

Elimination means forgetting time management and learn to ignore the unimportant.

The reason why many entrepreneurs are plagued by the disease of busyness is they are unable to distinguish between activity and results. Even if they are, many hang on to constant activity because it gives them a sense of false security, the feeling that if they are active, things must be happenning. This is rarely the case. Often it’s the entreprenuer who’s active and focused that achieves the results.

Summoning the Pareto Principle, Ferriss asks what 20% of your activity produces 80% of your results. So, there is one day, one phone call, one meeting that yields the biggest results in your week. The rest, unfortunatley, is fluff, filler we cling on to, to feel busy. What Ferriss preaches in the book is the importance of learning to let go of that low value stuff that fills up our time but yields so few results.

A simple audit of your regular activities can give you a better insight into where your value is created. If you were to breakdown your week by time and activity, chances are that 1/5 of your time produced the highest results. The challenge now is eliminating the stuff that doesn’t.

Ferriss says this is the same for people. Unfortunately, 80% of the people in our network are time-sucks. Learn to say “no” more often in your conversations to prevent commitment. It’s easier to get a reputation for being difficult and then manage your commitments that way, than to constantly overcommit and become known as a flaker.

One way Ferriss says we can get the best out of our projects and time is to limit resources. This is a well documented hypothesis in the field of psychology of performance. We usually perform best with the least time. This is also called Parkinson’s law. It explains why, given 7 days or 7 weeks to launch a business, most people would (wrongly) choose 7 weeks and get the same results as if they would have chosen 7 days.

The last way to eliminate noise is to batch your routines. Rather than answer email throughout the day, you’d be more effective assigning a 30 minute period (or 2) during your day to answer emails. Batching keeps you focused on task specific zones of thinking and helps you avoid distraction.

After E comes A for Automation.

Automation means putting cashflow on autopilot.

The key to long term wealth is, as I’ve always said, learning to make money as you sleep. Relying on your own efforts and time is ultimately limiting. No matter how good you are, there will only ever be 1 of you and you’ll only have 24 hours in a day.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that success comes from working harder. This is rarely the case. Success comes from from Leverage. Leverage means achieving more with the same amount of resources.

The first step in automation is technology. What can you automate using apps and services? Some of the most obvious applications mentioned in the 4HWW are mail filters. Others include using Keyboard shortcuts to paste long sections of repetitive text (such as in standard emails). As much as is possible, you should also automate your social media posting using apps like Buffer or Hootsuite.

Although these tasks may not take up too much time, it’s both the aggregate of that time across all these low value tasks and the distraction they cause. Having to switch in and out between say “posting social media” mode and blog writing mode can take time and it’s this lost of time that ends up making us more busy.

Tim Ferriss is a proponent of VAs – meaning virtual assistants. These are people that work remotely to support you in your tasks. While the Philippines has become the go-to source of VAs, there are many VAs who work in your own country (they may be more expensive though).

VAs have their uses in automating your business. Beware, though, of using VAs properly. I’ll talk about some of the mistakes in the next section.

Use a VA to manage the low value tasks that take up your time. These are the tasks that take up 80% of your time but only produce 20% of your results. These tasks could include, managing customer email responses, social media tasks, research, making calls etc. Now, before you rush out and outsource your life, understand that VAs have their limitations. Only outsource the stuff that you can document and, ideally, the ones that have an existing process. If you have to create a process for the VA, rather than simply taking over a process you’ve been working on for some time, you could end up with poor results.

That’s why it’s important to document the process. 2 Reasons to consider here. Firstly, the clearer the process, the easier it is for both you and the VA to follow. Secondly, VAs are not employees, they come and go. Don’t expect the kind of loyalty you’d get from a startup founder. You are just one of a dozen or so clients they are working for – at the same time. So, don’t expect that your VA is solely your property.

When your business gains traction, you might want to consider a fulfilment provider. This is taking your outsourcing up a level. An example FP is a dropshipping provider or Amazon FBA (fulfilled by Amazon) for example. In these scenarious you sacrifice a portion of your revenues to outosource the low value part of your process. For example, Amazon takes care of the customer payment, boxing and shipping and you simply send them the products they need to sell and look after the marketing pages for each product. Sure, you’ll make less money per unit but you can sell significantly more units.

This is the key to much automation success, you sacrifice your margins to achieve greater volume. As long as you remain profitable on each unit sold, automation is the key to long term wealth generation.

How to Live the Millionaire Lifestyle Without Being One

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Based on advice from the bestseller The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

"It is a manifesto for the mobile lifestyle, and Tim Ferriss is the ideal ambassador. This will be huge."
—Jack Canfield, Co-creator of Chicken Soup for the Soul®, 100+ million copies sold