The 4-Hour Workweek: Fact, Fiction or Fantasy?

Hey, hey, hey! It’s Week 11 here at Library Life Hack and we’re going to talk about some extreme productivity hacking, courtesy of one of the first books to seriously tackle this topic: “The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss.

Timothy Ferriss is a 35-year-old American business and lifestyle writer. “4-Hour Workweek” came out in 2007 and was an enormous success, especially considering the fact that he was a completely unknown author. The book became a New York Times #1 bestseller and remained on the Times’ bestseller list for four years. Since then, he’s published two additional books: “The 4-Hour Body” and “The 4-Hour Chef” (which we took a look at in Week 9.)

“4-Hour Workweek” met with wildly contrasting reviews. Some people thought he was brilliant, some thought he was crazy, and many were convinced he was lying (you can find an especially scathing post on the blog of career writer Penelope Trunk). But … most everyone sat up and took notice of him. I’ve wanted to read this book for quite a while, and I challenged myself to try bombing through it in a workweek.

And?
Well, for starters, I can easily see why it was so successful. Even though it’s 297 pages, it’s a remarkably easy and engaging read. Timothy Ferriss is a very compelling story teller. And I don’t mean that in a negative way. The ability to tell a good story is a rare – and extremely powerful – skill. The storytelling is coupled with the ability to lay out big ideas in a simple way and make the reader believe that he or she is perfectly capable of replicating the business success described by Ferriss.

It’s also highly action-oriented. Each chapter has questions to ask yourself, action steps and challenges. In this way, it’s more of a workbook than a book.

Forty to Four
If you want a four-hour workweek, Timothy Ferriss believes that there are two paths to follow:

  • Become an entrepreneur. Find an easy-to-manufacture product that can be sold for a significant markup, develop solid marketing and once your sales are established, completely automate the business so that you don’t have to be onsite.
  • If you don’t want to become an entrepreneur, hone your productivity in the office to razor-sharpness and then negotiate a remote working arrangement. Once that’s established, take yourself and your arrangement out of the country and start living large.

Simple Enough. And Yet…
I do believe that the four-hour workweek is perfectly achievable for a disciplined entrepreneur, although I think that it’s realistically preceded by a lot of workweeks that are about 20 times that long.

But I’m not 100% convinced that those of us who are employees can whittle our workweeks down that low without raising some serious eyebrows in our offices (or just inviting additional work to appear, in order to fill in that unsightly gap.)

But He’s Not Completely Crazy
Can you effectively work from another country? And would it be fun? I have a tiny bit of experience here. Three years ago, I went on a two-week holiday to England. The day before we were leaving, a volcano in Iceland blew its top and grounded all air travel in Europe. My fourteen-day vacation started to stretch. And stretch. And stretch.

When it began to look like I’d be there past the three-week mark, I started emailing my office back in Canada to see if there was anything urgent that needed my attention. There were a few things, and I began spending about two hours a day in the local internet café. In many ways, it was quite pleasant. Since I was paying for internet time by the hour, I got right down to business and got my work done quickly. And the rest of the day could be spent guilt-free in the pub, or shopping, or doing whatever I wanted.

So Why Not Give It a Try?
We’ve tried out all kinds of other things here at Library Life Hack. So why not some of Timothy Ferriss’ productivity techniques? And some of the other challenges? (Although I’m balking – just a little — at the one that involves telephoning celebrities.)

I started yesterday with his hack for handling email. This involves answering email twice a day, in a batch, at noon and 4 pm. It’s … interesting. We’ll do a check-back next week so I can tell you how it went.

The Numbers
In the meantime, let’s look at the numbers for this week. I haven’t figured out exactly how you put a value on the time savings involved in the Timothy Ferriss productivity hacks. Maybe that will come to me as I work through them. The book sells for $17.78 on chapters.indigo.ca and $16.89 on amazon.ca. That averages out to $17.34 saved by using your library card.

Here are the details on the book:

The 4-Hour Workweek
Written by Timothy Ferriss
Published by Harmony
Released December 15, 2009
ISBN 0307465357

And that’s it for this week. Have you read “The 4-Hour Workweek”? Have you tried out any of Timothy Ferriss’ ideas? If you have, drop me a line at LibraryLifehack [at] gmail.com. I’m especially curious to see if these ideas are appealing to anyone over the age of 30. Next week, we’re going to … you know, I don’t actually know what we’re going to do. So it’ll be a surprise for both of us! In the meantime, have a great week!

P.S. Update on Week 8’s sweater: I’m still knitting. : )

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3 thoughts on “The 4-Hour Workweek: Fact, Fiction or Fantasy?

  1. I haven’t read his 4 hour work week but if it was anything like his 4 hour body, I would assume that it was … unsustainable for most people. Very engaging read, very well written but when you stopped to analyze it, it’s not very workable. Not that certain things can’t be gleaned from it! I’m just not sure that it is worth the read, unless you check it out of the library!

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    • He has suggestions like doing three (I think) minutes of squats after every time you eat. His anecdote of running to a public washroom to do this and doing them in a cubicle while his friends asked him what was wrong is cute but only that. Not everything he suggests is unworkable or unsustainable but I think he very much plays into the obsessive, unrealistic approach towards “fitness” that prevails today. Note that I say “fitness”; I’m not convinced actual health has anything to do with his book. What put the final nail in the coffin for me was his graphic about eating and volume (which I admit is a problem for a lot of people). He shows a full body x-ray of a thin person, whose gut is empty and a fat person, who has stool in their body, then goes on to talk about how disgusting it is to have stool in you. An anorexics nightmare (or dream, I guess)! He does not have decent info on body ratios (fat to muscle) or that you can be thin and still unhealthy, with very little muscle mass. He also does not discuss the very real differences between male and female physiology. It is truly all about looks. Unless you want to become obsessive about working off calories the minute you ingest them -which is a red herring – this is not the book for you.

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