The mainstream expectation of working life is that once you graduate from high school and college, you find a job, work about 40 hours per week until you reach the retirement age—which in the United States is your 60s—and only ‘til then can you relax and start lapping up the luxuries of the life you’ve always wanted.

Timothy Ferriss’s “4-hour workweek” method challenges this.

In his bestselling book of the same name, the American author, entrepreneur, podcaster, and investor offers an alternative. He espouses that you can reduce your working hours and still reap the same financial gains by automating your income which will leave you more time to pursue other avenues in life that you are interested in.

Man reading while floating in water
Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What is the 4-hour workweek?

Since its initial release in 2007, Ferriss’s book, “The 4-Hour Workweek,” has not only spent several years on the New York Times Best Seller list, but it’s also developed a legion of fans and followers. And it’s not hard to see why.

As suggested in its name, Ferriss’s method demonstrates that it’s a perfectly viable option to spend only four hours working per week. He offers solutions that enable you to do so without being financially penalized. But before we get into it, let’s take a look at how this all came about.

Who is Timothy Ferriss?

After graduating from Princeton University in 2000 with a BA in East Asian studies, Ferriss moved to San Francisco to work in Silicon Valley. It was there where he built BrainQuicken, an online sports nutritional supplements company which he was putting about 80-hours of work a week into.

Overworked and frustrated at the lack of free time he had, Ferriss took time off and went on what was supposed to be only a three week sabbatical in Europe. Those three weeks turned into months where he continued to travel around Asia and South America.

It was during this time that he got the idea for the 4-hour workweek after realizing how manageable it was to keep his business going by outsourcing tasks and developing a system of only checking emails once a day. 

Ferriss became conscious of the fact that working less doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being less productive. It just means that you’re optimizing your time and spending it wisely. With all of this amounting to about four hours a week, this gave him a great deal of free time, which, in this day and age, can be considered as valuable a commodity as money.

The New Rich

“$1,000,000 in the bank isn’t the fantasy. The fantasy is the lifestyle of complete freedom it supposedly allows.”

In contrast to the Old Rich, gentry of established wealth, the New Rich is a term coined by Ferriss that describes a group of people characterized by not only their financial freedom, but also the ability to go wherever they want, whenever they want. In other words, people who have total control of their time.

The biggest appeal of being rich is the idea that the more money you have, the less time you have to spend working. Instead, you can spend your time doing the things you love because you don’t have to worry about earning anything.

But Ferriss sees otherwise.

He believes that you don’t need a million dollars to live a million dollar lifestyle. What you need to live the life of luxury are flexibility and mobility. It’s these two things that will allow you to live a life that enables you to do whatever you want, whenever you want. And neither are feasible if you work the standard 40-hour week.

Being part of the New Rich involves not being born into wealth, but attaining it through developing what is known as a “muse”. A muse is your best idea, something that can be turned into a profitable product or service that will fund your 4-hour workweek lifestyle.

This shouldn’t be confused with a startup idea, because unlike that, your muse doesn’t have to be managed by you. You’re not meant to be an entrepreneur, because that requires time and effort spent on strategy, leadership, and management. A muse must enable you to automate your income so that you to spend the majority of your time leisurely.

What’s the D.E.A.L?

Of course, transitioning from full time work to the 4-hour workweek doesn’t happen instantly. How that happens is by following the acronym D.E.A.L framework established by Ferriss. Here’s what each stage entails:

Definition

The first step is to rethink your goals and give them new definitions. For instance, those part of the New Rich don’t see retirement as their ultimate objective. Instead, their golden years are the present. They live for what Ferriss describes as “mini-retirements”, prolonged breaks in between periods of work, and strive to incorporate that into their working lifestyle.

Defining your goals, or “dreamlining” them, will give you a clear perspective on how and what you should aim for in order to live the life you want. By dreamlining your goals—calculating daily expenses—you can work out what kind of muse you need to set up in order to finance your lifestyle.

Ferriss shares a dreamlining calculator and worksheet on his website which you can access here.

Elimination

The next step encourages you to learn how to disregard the things that aren’t important or aren’t helping you to grow. As there is only so much time in the day, by eliminating things that distract us or aren’t worthy of our time, we will be able to spend our working hours more productively.

An example of this is the excess of information available at our disposal that most of us spend perusing on a regular basis. Instead of reading every single thing online through various websites and publications, limit your information intake and restrict yourself to just one source, once a day. This is what is known as the “low information diet“.

Another way is to implement the Pareto principle. Also known as the 80/20 rule, it’s a notable concept in economics which asserts that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. In other words, that 80% of your successful sales comes from only 20% of your customers, or that 80% of your profits comes from only 20% of your efforts. So focus only on the 20%.

The process of eliminating distractions forces you to prioritize your tasks and to evaluate the activities that are helping or hindering your endeavour. By doing this, you’ll figure out the ones that are essential to maintain and the ones that you can say adiós to.

Automation

Now that you’ve eliminated the time-wasting activities, it’s time to go one step further to reducing your work hours by turning your muse into an automated revenue stream.

To earn a passive income, take a look at the tasks at hand and see what can be delegated and outsourced. In this digital age, reliable virtual assistants and teams are not so hard to come by. Delegating responsibilities and the daily operations of your business is what will free up your time and enable you to reduce your working hours to the ideal four per week.

Liberation

The last step requires you to break away from location and create freedom of movement. This basically means that you should avoid tying yourself to one spot and instead, be free and wander around the world as many times and as often as you want.

Most people stuck in the rat race are tied down to a specific location—an office, a desk—and therefore don’t have the freedom to move around. Their livelihood depends on a particular location. As part of the New Rich, you are not confined to any particular place. Your flexibility and mobility are your capital.

Animated drawing of a moving character

5 takeaways from the 4-hour workweek

The 4-Hour Workweek is a reflection of Ferriss’s experiences and insights on lifestyle development and how to implement automation into your business. While for some, saying goodbye to your 9-5 and transitioning into the 4-hour workweek is what you’ve always been looking for, it may be a bit extreme for others.

The suggested formula for escaping the daily grind isn’t a plausible solution for every single desk-bound jockey. What needs to be highlighted is that the author himself didn’t find success straight off the bat. Remember, Ferriss had put in the hours, working tirelessly seven days a week for BrainQuicken. When he started developing his system and automating his processes, his muse was already well and truly established.

So, unless you have a lucrative muse that can market itself and accumulate revenue on a regular basis, then making the switch to the 4-hour workweek could be met with a bit more adversity than you may expect.

Another observation worth nothing is what Ferriss regards as “work”. It’s been noticed that “work” to him is considered those obligatory and monotonous tasks that you don’t want to do, but are essential to the upkeep and success of your business (i.e. admin). They’re the tasks that you’d prefer to delegate to others and not the more engaging “conference-speaking-book-touring-influencer-marketing” type of stuff, which arguably makes up the bulk of your hours/week.

If you adhere to that interpretation then it’s a little easier to deduce how you can reach success with this method. Nonetheless, regardless of your stance and whatever kind of work situation you are striving for, there are still some things we can all takeaway from it:

  1. Don’t defer your dream lifestyle until retirement: the light doesn’t have to be at the end of the tunnel, it can be constant and reoccurring.
  2. Value your time: eliminate distractions and time-wasting activities so that you get the most out of your time whether you’re working or pursuing other ventures.
  3. Delegate, automate, and outsource whenever possible: some tasks can easily be handed off to others which allows you to focus on the more creative and strategic sides of your business.
  4. Being busy doesn’t mean you’re more productive: shift the image of productivity from the hours spent working to how much output is being generated.
  5. You don’t need a million bucks to live that kind of lifestyle: having flexibility and mobility is a commodity as valuable—if not more—than money itself.

The lure of having your hours reduced by 90% and not be financially penalized is enough for anyone to get on board. However, keep in mind that Ferriss’s intention for the 4-hour workweek is not a “get rich quick” scheme. Breaking away from the rat race requires developing a profitable product where most of the business can be placed on autopilot and then fine tuning it so that it flourishes enough to provide you the lifestyle you want.

The end goal is not to necessarily become an entrepreneur, but to be in charge of a business that will enable you to spend most of your waking hours pursuing other ventures that you are passionate about.

Cheers,

Dinnie and the Zenkit Team