Book Summary of The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
Life gets busy. Has The 4-Hour Workweek been gathering dust on your bookshelf? Learn the key insights now.
Timothy Ferriss’ Perspective
Timothy Ferriss is an author, angel investor, TV host, and economic advisor. He has written five bestselling books, including The 4-hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body and Tools of Titans. He has also had a TV series, The Tim Ferriss Experiment, and a TV show, Fear(less) with Tim Ferriss. In the latter, Tim has interviewed many people, including highly successful CEOs and sportspeople. One of Tim’s most famous guests was LeBron James. His podcast regularly tops the Apple podcast charts. Ferriss was listed by the New York Times as a Notable Angel Investor in 2015 for his successful early investments in Uber, Twitter, Facebook, and several other startups.
Imagine if you could afford to work only four hours a week? How would you spend your free time? The 4-Hour Workweek features practical tips on attaining this level of freedom. Here’s our top-level breakdown of the book by Tim Ferriss.
StoryShot #1: Have Greater Control Over Your 4-Ws
Everything we know about work and life is wrong. Many people are caught in a vicious loop trying to solve problems the same way. They work hard, save up, and dream of retiring rich. Instead, we should be focusing on a new life philosophy called the New Rich. Instead of focusing on being cash-rich before retirement, we should live a wealthy lifestyle with mini-retirements in-between.
Our work lives should not make us lose control of the four W’s. These are:
- What we do
- When we do it
- Where we do it, and
- Whom we do it with
The more control you have over the four W’s, the greater the value of your financial resources. This philosophy favors freedom over earnings. A smaller take-home wage and more freedom is more impressive than a high wage and little free time. Indeed, the payoff is worth more when you use this time to better yourself.
StoryShot #2: Discover The New Rich
The New Rich are people who can work anywhere, take long breaks any time they want, and love what they do. They don’t dread the 9-5 workday. Many people may never realize this potential. We live in a bubble created by social norms, and we’re afraid of going against the grain.
You might be living in the same bubble if:
- You focus on being busy instead of being productive.
- You’re always waiting for that big payoff so you can retire or so you can start your dream business.
- You dislike your work, but you have to do it because you need the income.
- You’re always waiting for the right time to quit your job or go on your dream vacation.
- You’re afraid of uncertainty and failure.
StoryShot #3: Face Your Fears and Be Comfortable in the Uncomfortable
Fear prevents many people from living their dreams. Why would you settle for an unhappy job when a little risk could bring you more freedom and riches? Some fears are nothing more than opportunities for self-improvement. For instance, you can’t promote your business if you’re uncomfortable expressing your ideas.
The key to a successful and fulfilling life is embracing your fears and challenging them. You need to leave your comfort zone and live every day facing your worst nightmares to get what you want. Here’s what you can do if fear of the unknown keeps you from doing what you need to do:
- Define the worst that could happen
- Hope for the best, and do it anyway
Condition yourself to overcome any challenge thrown your way. It’s the only way to achieve exceptional results. You can consider it to be your orientation to the world of entrepreneurship. There’s never a right time to pursue your best life and do what excites you.
Inaction is expensive. It leaves you physically and emotionally drained and wastes your earning potential.
StoryShot #4: Challenge Conventional Thinking and Redefine Your Goals
There’s always pressure to conform to society’s ideals of success. This does not get you anywhere, so you need to redefine your reality. Achieving greatness requires you to defy some social norms. Competition is fiercest when people strive for the same goals.
It’s hard to set bigger goals when you’re fighting to fit in with the crowd. Don’t expect to do things the same way as everyone else and get different results. The perfect system reset involves outlining what you want out of life and how to get there.
Determine what it will cost you to realize your dreams. Define the timelines and set your plans in motion. The following steps will help you set and meet bigger goals.
- Create two timelines: one for six months and another for twelve months. In each one, list fifteen things you would do if there were no way you could fail. Your list should have five things you dream of having, being, and doing.
- From your list of fifteen in each timeline, outline the four most important things.
- Determine their cost and calculate your target monthly income in both timelines. You could break it down further into daily income.
- Determine the first three steps you need to take in each of the four dreams. Starting with the 6-month timeline, execute the first course of action.
- Small and well-calculated steps will lead you faster to your goals. Do not sit and wait to make your grand leap.
StoryShot #5: Build a Focused Mindset by Eliminating Trivia
You have already defined what you need to do to reach where you want to go. You don’t have to fill your life with busy work to give yourself a sense of motion. Start clearing blocks of time by identifying and delegating your most time-consuming chores.
Think about how you spend your time. Analyze all your activities and list them according to priority. You will get more work done in a day when you tick off the essential tasks. Pareto’s Law helps us plan for results and uncover action points. The 80/20 Pareto analysis asserts that:
- 80% of results come from 20% of our efforts
- 20% of our actions are responsible for 80% of our problems
Start being selective with your efforts and cut back on unproductive tasks. Using the Pareto principle, start investing in what delivers the 80%. Ferriss doubled his income by applying this principle. He focused on the five customers responsible for 90% of revenue and dropped the rest. It freed up his time and allowed him to find similar clients.
The other time management principle introduced in the book is Parkinson’s Law. It considers task relevance and complexity compared to the allotted execution time. Building on Pareto’s Law, Parkinson’s Law states that work expands to fill the time you have. If you give yourself target deadlines, you will shortens the time spent on important tasks.
You’re halfway towards your goals if you can tell when you’re unproductive, even though you look busy. The best way to create more time for the important tasks is to make two lists: a to-do list, and a not-to-do list.
StoryShot #6: Leverage Selective Ignorance and Cut Out Unnecessary Information
Focusing on unimportant facts will eat away your precious time.
Unless the information is necessary for our work, we should always ignore it. There’s no need to go over every email or news item. Most information usually triggers an action that eats into your time. For instance, you may share the hottest scandal with your friends on social media. Then you’ll keep checking updates to get their reactions during your productive hours.
Ignore irrelevant information and details outside your sphere of influence to free up your time. Instead, focus on the Low Information Diet. Here’s how you can do it:
- Stick to one hour of leisurely TV and avoid it at other times. Do not browse websites, magazines, or books unless you need them for work.
- Only consume information when you need it. Avoid the urge to memorize facts and figures if you have limited opportunities to apply them.
Avoid the uninteresting and unproductive. Anything that drags us from our zone of competence will drive us away from our goals. We are programmed to want to complete whatever we start, even when it’s wasting our time.
StoryShot #7: Assert Yourself
Learn to assert yourself in all your relationships. Your colleagues will respect you, and customers will find it easy to trust you. You begin to project confidence and attract respect when you speak your mind. For example, Ferriss gave his college professors a tough time when he felt his grades were unfair. He got “A” the next time, as the professors dreaded another grilling.
When you assert yourself once, you don’t have to live to fight another day. Future fights take care of themselves so that you can free your time for more important things. There are three categories of things we should clear upfront:
- Time wasters include all unimportant calls, emails, and meetings. Don’t be too generous with your time. Let people know that you won’t always be available unless there’s an urgent need.
- Time consumers get in the way of more critical work. They could be tasks that you can delegate or drop from your schedule. If you’re in a 9-5 job, you could share this with your boss beforehand and propose a better working arrangement.
- Empowerment failures refer to trivial matters that need approval from your superiors. Sometimes it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to request permission. Skip seeking approval for small requests if you can get away with it. Develop clear guidelines for decisions that subordinates can make without coming to you.
Cultivate the art of saying “No” to requests without requiring further explanation. And do this for anything leading you away from your goals.
StoryShot #8: Replace Yourself
Replacing yourself is one of the critical skills needed in your journey to success. Automate all time-consuming tasks and delegate some to a virtual assistant (VA). Before delegating a task, consider if you can get by without it.
If you’re worried about cost, you could hire an assistant from a low-cost location. VA companies like Brickwork and eLance.com provide the perfect geographic connections. They also expand your options and save you from menial tasks. You can find a quick replacement when one person becomes unavailable.
It is easy to delegate time-consuming, well-defined, and hard-to-eliminate tasks. However, dealing with VAs exposes you to privacy and security risks. A VA company provides better safeguards if you need to secure your information. Exercise caution and apply common sense to keep your data from leaking to fraudsters.
Here are some helpful tips on how to engage a virtual assistant:
- Request excellent English skills. Explain that phone calls will be required, even if they won’t.
- Provide clear and specific instructions for the tasks. Ask the VA to rephrase them if needed to ensure complete understanding.
- Request status updates after the first couple of hours on a task. It keeps the assistant focused on your work.
- Set 24 to 72-hour deadlines for task completion. Break large tasks into milestones that can be completed within shorter timeframes.
- Send one task at a time, and should you send more than one task, ensure that you clarify the priorities.
StoryShot #9: Build Your Muse or The ‘Sweet Spot’ Business
Devise a strategy to build your passive income. It’s the only way you can afford to be a member of the New Rich. Finding your Muse, as Ferriss calls it, requires the following critical steps:
Step 1: Find a niche market for your product. It’s like starting with the end in mind. Also, it is easier to sell to an existing market. Estimate the demand for your product.
Step 2: Find the ‘sweet spot’ for your product. The sweet spot is a product that:
- Sells for between 50-200 dollars
- Takes less than four weeks to manufacture
Compare the benefits of creating an original product against options like licensing and reselling.
Step 3: Find an efficient distribution channel for your product. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a tangible item or an informational service.
Step 4: Test your product. Look at what the competition is doing and create a more compelling offer. Here’s what you should learn:
- How to market and differentiate your product on Google.
- How to test pricing with a 48-hour eBay auction.
- How to deliver a successful online ad campaign.
Once you have a profitable business, it’s time to set up systems that keep it running even in your absence. The automation works in three phases:
- Do everything yourself when you’re still at 0-50 units sold. You will understand customer needs and discover the best way to reach them.
- In phase two, you’re selling more than ten units per week. Find a smaller fulfillment company to support your customers and process your orders.
- Contract an end-to-end fulfillment company when you’re at more than 20 units sold per week. They should handle the call centers, card processing, deliveries, returns, refunds, etc.
Reduce the number of offerings to at least two if you can manage. Fewer options reduce your overheads and make it easy for customers to choose. Here are some more tips on how to minimize service overheads:
- Provide only one shipping option. Avoiding overnight and expedited shipping will minimize call handling costs on shipping queries.
- Do not take orders by phone and direct everyone to your online ordering platform.
- Do not offer international shipping options.
- Practice customer filtering. Start attracting high-profile, low-maintenance customers while preventing troublesome ones from ordering.
StoryShot #10: Regain Your Freedom
Here are some priceless tips on how to break away from the 9-5 routine of your office job:
- Propose how you can telecommute and request a two-week trial period. Ensure you double your output during this period. Remote work is now a bigger reality, unlike a decade ago.
- Request time-off and ensure you’re at your most productive state on those days.
Can you go anywhere with minimal supervision and be more productive? The above tips present your best chance to prove it.
When things don’t go your way at work, quitting is an option. Before taking the plunge, you need to weigh up your next steps and deal with the phobias of quitting. Some helpful exercises in the book help you to deal with your fears.
Liberation and How to Use Your New-Found Freedom
Freeing yourself from the daily hassles of a 9-5 job will create a void in your life. Try to fill this gap with continual learning, like picking up a new language or finding a new hobby. You could also dedicate yourself to charity in your free time.
Liberation is when you don’t have to wait until retirement to travel the world. Reward yourself with long-stay vacations when you’re empowered to work from anywhere. You can live like a millionaire while on a budget if you exploit some money-saving tips.
Final Summary and Review of The 4-Hour Workweek
The 4-Hour Workweek offers the perfect cue for escaping the daily grind and bettering our lives. It has some of the best practical steps for gaining freedom and mobility as a business owner and employee. The business cases feel a little more tailored to informational services. It could have been better if we had broader industry examples, but they still make a strong argument.
So, if you want to increase your productivity and join the New Rich, take control over who, what, where and whom your work activities involve. Face your fears and find comfort in things which once made you uncomfortable. Have clear goals and build a focused mindset that will help you achieve them, and don’t be afraid to be unconventional in your approach. Be assertive and delegate where necessary. And finally, build a semi-automatic, profitable lifestyle digital business that can help you fulfill your dreams.
Here’s a review of the key takeaways to help you remember them more easily:
- Have Greater Control Over Your 4-Ws.
- Who are the New Rich?
- Face Your Fears and Be Comfortable in the Uncomfortable.
- Challenge Conventional Thinking and Redefine Your Goals.
- Build a Focused Mindset by Eliminating Trivia.
- Leverage Selective Ignorance and Cut Out Unnecessary Information.
- Assert Yourself.
- Replace Yourself.
- Build Your Muse or The ‘Sweet Spot’ Business.
- Regain Your Freedom.
Above all, the book is a great read, and we give it an 4.4/5.
This is an unofficial summary and analysis.
This article was first published in April 2021. It was updated in March 2022.
The 4-Hour Workweek PDF, Free Audiobook, Infographic and Animated Book Summary
New to StoryShots? Download our top-ranking free app to access the PDF/ePub, free audiobook and animated versions of this summary.
Comment below or tweet to us if you have any feedback.
Related Free Book Summaries
The Almanack of Naval Ravikant by Eric Jorgenson
Company of One by Paul Jarvis
The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman
Profit First by Mike Michalowicz