4-Hour Workweek – Summary

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss is a book about productivity, or more specifically, how to increase your output with the same amount of input. The book outlines strategies for achieving this, primarily through reducing time spent on unimportant tasks. This can be done through what the author calls “latticework”—i.e., removing intermediary steps in certain processes and reducing the number of tasks one must complete to achieve a given result (e.g., checking email just once rather than multiple times per day).

Whatever you may have heard about this book, it’s not advice on how to get away with working just four hours per week. In fact, Tim Ferriss stresses that if you’re reading this book because you think it will help you spend even less time at work than you currently do… Well, stop reading now! Instead, he encourages his readers to view their work as a growth opportunity and treat work as an asset that they can leverage for personal gain rather than something they need to superfluously check off from their to-do list every day.

Strategies for Becoming a 4-Hour Workweek Person

Tim Ferriss outlines two strategies for becoming a 4-hour workweek person:

  1. Identify nonessential tasks
  2. Replace nonessential tasks with structured breaks (i.e., mini-retirements).

To identify nonessential tasks, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Is this urgent?
  2. Is this important?
  3. Will this matter in one year?

If you answer “no” to any or all of these questions, you probably shouldn’t be doing the task.

The second strategy is to take mini-retirements—i.e., set aside a few hours each week to completely detach from work and do something unrelated to work.

Eliminate Time-Wasting Activities

Tim Ferriss suggests a 3-week rule for deciding which activities to eliminate.

  • For the first week, record every 15-minute segment of time that you spend.
  • For the second week, record only instances where you have a clear start and end to a given task.
  • For the final week, only record instances where you feel absolutely compelled to do something.

From this data, you can determine which activities are nonessential and therefore worth eliminating. Along these lines, Ferriss also recommends using an “if this, then that” (IFTT) list for recording recurring tasks that you can automate or eliminate.

For example, whenever you receive an email from your accountant, you might write “put email from accountant on IFT list.” Then, you can use the IFT list to decide whether to respond to the email or forward it to an appropriate person.

Just Say No to Meetings

To begin, Tim Ferriss outlines three types of meetings:

  1. Status meetings
  2. Operational meetings
  3. Strategic meetings

For each type, he provides a formula for deciding whether it is worth having a meeting or not. The main takeaway is that if you can accomplish what you need to in a meeting in three minutes or less, it’s worth having a meeting. If it takes longer than that, it’s probably not worth having a meeting.

Next, he provides a “rule of three” for determining whether a meeting is worth attending. If a meeting:

  1. Has a clear objective,
  2. Has three or fewer people, and
  3. Will take no longer than 60 minutes,

then it is worth attending. Otherwise, skip the meeting.

Leverage the 80/20 Rule

First, it’s important to note that the 80/20 rule is not a constant, but rather a spectrum of disproportionality. Whatever percentage of your work you spend on a given task, you can use it to approximate the 80/20 ratio.

For example, if you spend 10 hours per week on a certain task, you can approximate that task as 20% of your workload. Throughout the book, Tim Ferriss stresses the importance of leveraging the 80/20 rule to identify the disproportionate tasks that make up your workday.

For example, he suggests keeping a “weekly review” spreadsheet in which you record the amount of time spent on each task. By visualizing your workflow over the course of a given week, you can more easily identify the disproportionate tasks that take up the majority of your time.

Build Shredders Into Your Workflow

For example, every day you could write a list of things you need to do the following day. Then, at the end of each day, you can review your list and cross off items as you complete them. These lists allow you to free up mental energy and make sure that nothing falls through the cracks.

Another strategy is to decide on an end time for each day, after which you will not take on any new tasks. This can help you avoid the temptation to take on too many new tasks—which, in turn, will leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Next steps

Buy The 4-Hour Workweek on Amazon (It’s an affiliate link. I’ll earn a modest amount from it. Would greatly appreciate it!)

Read on: Book Summary of The Lean Startup (Lean startup is a methodology that was popularized in the tech world around the time of the Great Recession. It has since become more widely used by software startups and other smaller businesses as they look to reduce risk, cut costs, and increase efficiency before market entry. In short, the perfect book if you want to bring the tactics Tim Ferriss talks about into practice.)