Is the 4 Hour Work Week a real concept and actually possible to implement into our lives? This is the question many ask after reading Tim Ferriss’s “The 4 Hour Work Week.” We have many who agree with Ferriss and his idea of working as little as possible. And then we have people like Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, Tesla and SpaceX, who works like a dog.
The amount you should be working is personal. You should evaluate your work and time and then decide what’s possible.
To understand these two sides of the work spectrum, let’s dig deeper into each side and see the positive and negatives.
He’s been quoted for saying, “You should be extremely tenacious and then just work like hell.” You just have to put in 80-100 hours per week. His idea is that if others are working 40-hour weeks and you’re putting in 100 hours, then you will achieve in four months what it takes them a year to achieve.
It makes sense, right? Working 2-3 times harder will get you there faster. Except we aren’t robots or computers… we’re humans. I agree that you need to focus during your work hours, but if you’re constantly doing this for 80-100 hours a week, it’s not sustainable.
First of all, productivity has a limit. Your productivity actually drops once you’ve worked for more than 50 hours in one week. This is considered a fact among productivity researchers. It’s not about the time you put in, it’s about the quality of the work.
Working hour after hour kills your productivity because your brain really can only focus for 90-120 minute increments. This is known as your ultradian rhythm. Your brain has limits just like your body does.
Tim works four hours a week and yet he’s built an empire upon this four hour principle. He has other books, “The Four Hour Chef”, “The Four Hour Body”, a successful podcast, he speaks all over the world. People believe he really only works for four hours and yet he’s done all of this. They take that idea and run with it, that you don’t really have to work hard to build something substantial.
While I agree with some of his strategies, Tim and I aren’t always on the same page.
Tim suggests that you should become an entrepreneur who essentially works as a middleman. Now, there’s nothing wrong with being an entrepreneur who’s a middleman except it’s not as easy as he makes it out to be. It relies really heavily on being able to sell the product, so high doses of salesmanship and quite frankly, getting in the right market at the right time, so a lot of luck. Anyone who has started a business knows it’s not as simple as he makes it sound and it’s certainly not easy enough to do with four hours a week.
Tim’s idea also relies heavily on passive income -another way of saying ‘throw a product out there in the market and make money while you sleep.’ But is that really doable? I’ll be honest, for me, sometimes I wake up and yes, I’ve sold products while I sleep. But that’s only because I work really hard during my waking hours to make that happen.
He is an advocate for automation, and many of you may already know I also love automation for staying on top of things and being successful.
Another great strategy for being more focused during your working hours is Tim’s suggestion to turn off notifications. This is something I’ve been an advocate for as well. Doing this for your phone and email will work wonders for your concentration.
Also, try batching your tasks. Getting things like personal errands, customer service, reporting- things he calls ‘time consumers’- can be done in one block of time.
Tim says to also be sure to empower others around you – and I totally agree. For example, letting your co-workers make choices on your behalf, like ordering office supplies within your budget or teaching them how to respond to client inquiries.
Tim and I are in a disagreement when it comes to eliminating certain distractions, though. He says to never ever read the news. He says if it’s important, others will talk about it and you will find out. Same goes for television, except for one hour of pleasure viewing – or for reading a book – only one hour. It’s not that realistic to expect people to be able to do this. You should have some freedom in deciding how you want to spend your downtime.
Overall… yes and no.
Yes, it’s absolutely realistic to cut out many of the distractions and eliminate all that extra noise and clutter in your life. After all, that’s what season 2 of the podcast is all about. But it’s not really realistic to believe you’re going to be able to build something big by only working four hours a week.
It’s important to understand though is that Tim Ferriss defines work as something primarily financially driven that you would like to do less of. And he actually loves doing what so many other people would call work. Things like public speaking, recording videos, his podcasting, he doesn’t really count those things work.
What I really hope you get from this is that it is possible to focus in on what’s important. Look at how Tim has created this amazing empire on what he says is four hours of work week, right? But it’s really only four hours of the things he doesn’t want to do, the rest of it he’s pursuing something that he loves. It’s possible but it’s not the hours you spend, it’s the way that you spend it. Quality always wins over quantity. We don’t have to work 80-100 hours a week like Elon Musk to make great things happen. Lasering in and thinking you can possibly spend fewer hours on the tasks that you call work is possible and it’s possible to find work that you don’t consider work.
What can you do to implement this? What I would recommend is starting with episode 004 of the podcast. If you haven’t listened to that already, that’s where we talk about laying your foundation and figuring out your purpose. Figuring out what you want to do and what things are important to you. Then you can really start implementing some of the streamlining into your life, not just as work but also at home.
Focus on what matters most, so you can spend just a few hours each week working on the drudgery that you consider work and the rest of your work really is focused on the things that you love and the things that matter the most to you. That’s what I’m most excited about.