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The 4-Hour Workweek

Monday, February 23, 2009

Browsing Chapters with H2B yesterday, I came across this book on the $20 table:

The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich

The title definitely got my attention, and while working four hours a week and making a comfortable living sounds a little far-fetched, I figured there would be some tips and tricks to make working life a little more efficient, so I had a gander at the book.

There were some useful things that popped out at me...how to scan an article really quickly while still getting the gist of it, learning to say 'no' when you have enough on your plate, and so on. Common sense stuff, sure, but who doesn't hedge a little when asked to take on one more thing or waste half an hour reading an article that should have taken two minutes?

I didn't end up buying the book, but a few things jumped out at me from the introductory pages:

"If you've picked up this book, chances are you don't want to sit behind a desk until you are 62."

"What does an igloo-dwelling millionaire do that a cubicle-dweller doesn't? Follow an uncommon set of rules."

"Gold is getting old. The New Rich are those who abandon the deferred-life plan and create luxury lifestyles in the present using the currency of the New Rich: time and mobility."

Time and mobility...freedom to do as you please. Means to travel, see the world, come and go. Isn't that really the ultimate wish, even more so than having a boatload of cash? People say if they won the lottery they'd quit their jobs and travel...so doesn't that mean that freedom, flexibility, and mobility are truly the desired aspects, more so than money itself?

When I was little, I'd whine at LEAST five times a day, "I can't wait to be grown up so I can do what I want!" My parents would laugh at me and tell me I better buck up, because I was never going to be able to just do what I want 100% of the time. I'd argue to the point of tears. To my six-year-old self, it didn't seem conceivable that as an adult I wouldn't be able to do what I wanted at any given time. It seemed apparent that as a grown-up I wouldn't ask anyone's permission to do anything, ever. If I felt like going to Disneyland, I'd go. If I wanted chocolate dinner (read: Jello pudding, Fudgee-o's, and chocolate milk, FYI) I'd eat it. I'd have ponies and dogs and ride my bike on the road and NOT wear a helmet, and that was that. Money wasn't really a question. Working wasn't a problem. In my mind, it was my life, and I got to choose what I did, plain and simple.

Fast forward a couple decades (!!!) and I can hear my parents' "I told you so's" loud and clear. Obviously life is nothing like what I had imagined when I was a first grader. But isn't it amazing to think about working four, eight, hell, even 20 hours a week...really productive, full-on hours...and having the rest of the time free? Think about a day where you get to leave the office at noon or even right on time. Isn't that the best feeling? Imagine getting to do that every day! What would you do with all that free time?

I love my career almost 100% of the time, something I don't think a lot of people can say with any degree of honesty. The work is super challenging and there's never a dull moment, but it's engaging, it's interesting, and it's fulfilling. Going from 40+ hours to 4 per week sounds ridiculous and I don't know how I could do it.

I do know that there are a lot of time sucks at work that I'd gladly eliminate if I could, and I know productivity would probably explode like crazy: e-mail, for example. Every time I get an e-mail alert I check it right away. ALWAYS. I can't wait. Then I respond to it, right away. I think a good thing for me to try is checking e-mail once an hour only, then sit back and observe how the world keep turning when a message sits unread in my inbox for 52 minutes. I also have a tendency to stay at my desk during lunch hour, eat a Lean Cuisine and barely look up from my monitor. I don't think the office is going to fall apart if I leave for some fresh air for 45 minutes, yet I have the perception that it's going to.

I'd like to read The 4-Hour Workweek. Am I expecting to cut my billable hours to 4 per week? No way. However, I'm interested in some of the book's messages--learning to ignore the unimportant, offloading unnecessary tasks, and cultivating "selective ignorance". I'm also curious about some of the 4-hour case studies online and will probably check out a couple of examples.

Has anybody read this book? What did you think? How many hours do you work, and what would you do with the extra time if you had a four-hour workweek?

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  1. I have read 4HWW a couple of times now. One of the things that I really enjoyed about the book was the sense that it gave me that I could do it.

    As for the book itself, reaching the 4 hour milestone I think is not really possible. Tim himself I imagine works almost as much as anyone else however he also takes a lot of "mini-retirements".

    It is a good read, but don't expect to be working 4 hours a week in a month. You would really have to get lucky and on top of that work VERY hard to get to that point.

    I also follow Tim Ferris on twitter and via his blog. I have learned a lot about looking at the way I earn my money and the way I live.

  2. Thanks Jeff! I'll check him out on Twitter. I agree that a 4-hour workweek seems like a ridiculous concept but there are probably lots of smaller, less drastic life changes that have some nice benefits.