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Is the Four-Hour Workweek Possible?

Nov13
Tim Ferriss, author of "The Four Hour Workweek," was once hailed as a cross between "Jack Welch and a Buddhist monk" by the New York Times.

If the pictures on his website are any indication, Ferriss, 35, is also a dancer, a skydiver, an archer, and a martial arts enthusiast.

He’s able to live this life of semi-leisure because, as the title of his book suggests, he figured out how to whittle his workweek down to four hours, and he believes anyone can use his system to achieve the same results.

Ferriss lore paints him as a former workaholic who diligently followed the American model of “work hard now, save and/or invest wisely, and then relax upon retirement.” He was working 14-hour days running his online company, which sold a performance-enhancing drug called BrainQuicken, for three solid years.

Then, in 2004, he hit his breaking point. After realizing he was sacrificing relationships and his quality of life to his frenetic work pace, Ferriss took a three-week vacation to Europe that would change his outlook on, well, just about everything.

Ferriss, who refers to his time-saving methods as “lifestyle design,” experimented with how infrequently he could check his work email account while on vacation and still keep his business afloat. To maximize efficiency, he advises people to outsource and automate as much as possible.

The Four-Hour Workweek for You

So what does outsourcing and automation mean for you, exactly?

Much like how companies today are outsourcing sections of their business to save money and become more efficient, you too can outsource your day-to-day tasks. Try hiring a virtual assistant from a site like GetFriday.com to tackle both personal and business-related tasks such as checking email, creating reports and spreadsheets, and paying bills. Get Friday has a variety of packages available – the price of a virtual assistant ranges from $7-$15 per hour.

Set up an automated email response that notifies people how often you (or your virtual assistant) check your inbox and provide emergency contact information. That helps manage the expectations of those you’re communicating with.

Become a lean, mean productivity machine by figuring out which tasks produce the most results in the least amount of time. Perform similar tasks at the same time – a process called “batching” – to maximize efficiency.

Finally, chill out on your information consumption. If you know checking in online as you start your day will result in a two-hour trip down the Internet rabbit hole, don’t do it. Start your day without going online first.

Making it Work in the Corporate World

Ferriss’ tips are definitely useful for those who are self-employed or who work from home. While a true four-hour workweek may not be within reach of most workers, the concepts involved can be applied to a small, medium, or enterprise-level business. One of the main ideas Ferriss champions is to focus on proving the empirical value of your performance versus your presence. In doing so, you can shift the conversation from how much time you are spending in your cubicle, to how much value you are providing for your employer.

Have you had any success in implementing any of Ferriss’ tips in your everyday work life? Let us know in the comments below.