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1-Page Book Summary of The 4-Hour Workweek

Many people want to retire as millionaires, but they don’t actually crave a million dollars; what they want is the millionaire lifestyle. They want to be able to travel, learn new skills, and spend their time doing whatever they want instead of working. There are two schools of thought on how to achieve this lifestyle:

  1. Deferrers follow the conventional system of working for 30-40 years of their lives and then retiring. They use up the prime physical years of their life working, and either run out of money or run out of things to do with their money while they’re traditionally retired.
  2. The New Rich live the “retired” lifestyle throughout their lives, alternating periods of work and fun. Their goal is to spend as little effort and time to make as much money as possible.

The 4-Hour Workweek teaches you how to live the second lifestyle. The 4-hour workweek (4HWW) lifestyle is a specific version of the New Rich lifestyle in which you create a business called a “muse” that makes you money while not taking up a lot of time.

You can achieve the 4HWW lifestyle by following a four-step process with the acronym DEAL: define, eliminate, automate, liberate. First, you’ll define what you want to spend your time doing. Then, you’ll free up that time by eliminating unnecessary activities and streamlining your 9-5 job and life. Next, you’ll automate your 9-5 job and chores and create your muse. Finally, once your muse is earning you enough money, you can leave your 9-5 job and do everything you defined.

D: Define Your Dreams

The first step to living the 4HWW lifestyle involves addressing your fears and defining what you want to do.

Mitigating Fear

Once you’ve embraced the idea of the New Rich lifestyle, it’s time to figure out what might hold you back—for most people, it’s fear of uncertainty. People are so scared of the unknown that they choose to be unhappy instead, because at least they know what that’s like.

To assess how much your fears are holding you back, consider:

  • What are the things you’re not doing because you’re scared?
  • What are you missing out on by not doing those things?
  • Why aren’t you doing those things? Timing’s not a legitimate answer. There will never be a perfect time to do anything. If the answer is fear, continue to the next set of questions.

To get past your fears, when considering doing something (such as leaving your job), ask yourself:

  • What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen?
  • If the worst happened, how would you fix it?
  • What’s the most likely thing that would happen? (It’s not the worst thing.)
  • If you wanted to go back to how everything was before you made a change, how would you do it?

Once you know exactly what it is you’re worried about, it will seem less frightening and easier to mitigate.

The things we’re most scared to do tend to be the things that are most important or rewarding to do.

Define Your Personal New Rich Lifestyle

Next, it’s time to define what the ideal 4HWW lifestyle would look like for you. Do this with a dreamline—a timeline applied to a dream. There are two general things to keep in mind with dreamlining:

  • It’s easier to do big things than medium ones. Most people aim to do average things because they seem more achievable. Therefore, there’s more competition in the middle than the top. Also, medium things aren’t as inspiring as big things, so they won’t motivate you the way a big project would.
  • Ask yourself only one question—what do you find exciting? Don’t ask yourself what would make you happy—happiness is vague and changes from day to day. Seeking happiness might lead you to complacency or boredom.

You can create dreamlines on a three-, six-, or twelve-month timeline. Here are the seven steps to dreamlining:

  1. List five items for each of the following: things you want to have, do, and be. They should be specific.
  2. Translate the items on the to-be list into to-dos.
    • For example, if you want to be well-read, what you might do is read specific books.
  3. From the fifteen dreams you wrote down, choose your top four.
  4. Figure out the amount of money per month you’d need to do all four. If your dream is a one-off goal, divide the total cost by the dreamline timeline.
  5. Add 30% to the number you calculated to factor in savings and setbacks. This will be your “Target Monthly Income” that you’ll achieve in the later steps.
  6. Come up with three action items for each dream. The first you should do today, the second tomorrow, and the third the day after.
  7. Do the first action for all your dreams right now.

E: Eliminate Activities That Waste Your Time

The second step to living the 4HWW lifestyle is to eliminate things that take up time you’d rather use for something else. Stop doing unimportant things and learning unactionable information, and cut down on time spent on email, calls, and meetings. Finally, if you’re an employee, transition to remote work so you have full control of your own schedule.

Do Only Important Things: Efficiency Does Not Equal Effectiveness

Most of us probably approach our chores and tasks by managing our time, prioritizing, and finding efficient ways to get things done. However, the best way to save time is to only do things that matter, and stop doing everything that doesn’t.

There are two principles to keep in mind:

  • The 80/20 rule (Pareto Principle). This rule states that 80% of results come from 20% of effort. Therefore, if you stop doing some of your activities, you’ll cause only a small or negligible effect on your results.
    • For example, imagine you’re selling magazines. 80% of your orders come from 20% of your customers. If you completely ignored any customer who wasn’t in the top 20%, you would lose customers. But you’d still retain 80% of your orders, and you could use all the time you saved to do something else that made you money or to do a dreamline.
  • Parkinson’s Law. This law states that a task will take up as much time as you give it, and the more time you give it, the more important it will seem.
    • For example, if you have five days to write a paper, it’ll take you five days. If you have two hours, you’ll get it done in two hours.

In order to stop doing things that aren’t important, apply both laws—only do the 20% of your tasks that give you the most return, and give yourself short deadlines for those tasks.

Ignore Long-Winded or Unactionable Information

Ignore newspapers, radio, and TV—all media. If something important happens that will affect you, you’ll hear about it from someone else.

If you need to learn about something, ask other people who already know about it to summarize it for you. If you don’t have a friend who can advise you on the subject, get a brief overview of the topic by reading a single book on it and then contacting experts and asking good questions.

Only learn information as you need it—if you learn something too far in advance, you’ll forget it by the time you need it, and have to spend time relearning it. And if you start learning from a particular resource and it’s not helpful, stop. There’s no need to finish everything you’ve started.

9-5 Time-Consumers

When you work an office job, there are three categories of things that take up time: busywork and distractions, routine work, and work that requires approval or additional information. You can eliminate the first and expedite the last two:

1. Busywork. To avoid busywork, limit people’s access to you. People will try to access you in three ways:

  • Email. Only check your email twice a day and set up an auto reply that explains this to anyone who emails you. Include a phone number so anyone can get in touch with you about anything urgent.
  • Phone. Set up two numbers, one for urgent inquiries and one for non-urgent. Answer the urgent number and set the non-urgent one to go straight to voicemail. Only check your voicemail twice a day, same as your email, and record a message that explains this, same as your email auto reply.
  • In person. Avoid meetings, especially those that don’t have a clear agenda or end time. Meetings should only be used to make decisions and shouldn’t take longer than half an hour. If someone tries to get you to go to a meeting, suggest they email you instead, claim you have another commitment, or go and then leave early. Also avoid informal chats in your office or cubicle. Put up a do-not-disturb sign, listen to or pretend to listen to headphones, or pretend to be on the phone.

2. Routine work. Routine work needs to be done but isn’t very high-impact, such as going grocery shopping. The most effective way to deal with these kinds of tasks is to batch them—do them all at once at a scheduled time instead of doing them as they come up. This cuts down on set-up time.

  • For example, if you grocery shop every day and it takes you 20 minutes to travel to and from the store, that’s 140 minutes/week. If you only shop once a week and bought everything at once, you would only spend 20 minutes/week on set-up.

3. Work that requires approval. Work that requires approval can eat up your time whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur. The best way to deal with these kinds of tasks is to create rules or an algorithm that covers as many situations as possible.

  • For example, if employees need a manager to approve a return, employees waste time waiting on the manager, and the manager is interrupted. To avoid this, the boss could put in place a blanket rule that if a refund would cost less than $20, all employees can make the call themselves.

How to Transition to Remote Work

When you work remotely, you don’t have to physically report to an office for 40 hours a week. As long as you get your work done, no one will know how long it took you to do it. Once you’re remote, do all your work tasks in as little time as possible Then, use the time you’ve saved to work on your “muse” (a specific type of business) or do something fun.

There are two methods for transitioning to remote work, the five-step and the hourglass:

  • Five-step method. Here are the steps:
    1. Make yourself more valuable to your company. If they’ve invested time or money in training you, they’ll be more reluctant to lose you.
    2. Prove that you’re more productive outside the office. Call in sick for two days and work from home. Be far more productive than you ever are in the office and keep a record of how much you got done. This is also good practice for working remotely and will allow you to sort out any logistical or technical issues.
    3. Pitch remote work to your boss. Frame the request as a good business decision (you were super productive because you weren’t in the office) and emphasize that it’s only a trial and your boss can change her mind whenever she wants.
    4. Trial remote work. Be far more productive on your remote days than in-office days. It should be easy to be more productive without supervision because you now know how to leverage step E (Eliminate). Ideally, do the trial during a time that you’re indispensable to the company.
    5. Extend the trial. Keep extending the trials until your boss has agreed to full-time remote.
  • The hourglass method. There are three steps to the hourglass method:
    1. Go full-time remote for two weeks. Invent a reason to leave the office (for example, a personal issue) and tell your boss you'd like to keep working during this time. Be extra productive during these two weeks.
    2. Go back to partially remote. Do steps c and d of the five-step method.
    3. Extend the trial, just like in step E (Eliminate) of the five-step-method.

If you can’t get your boss to agree to remote work, quit or get yourself fired. You won’t be able to create your muse unless you have more free time. Therefore, not quitting your job is effectively quitting your dreams. Doing nothing can be a much larger mistake than doing something imperfectly.

A: Automate Time-Consuming Activities

The third step to living the 4HWW lifestyle is to automate everything you don’t want to do. That way you can spend your time doing whatever you want while still having money come in. To do this, you’ll hire a virtual assistant, start your muse, and then automate your muse.

Get a Virtual Assistant (VA)

You should get a virtual assistant (VA) regardless of whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur, and regardless of whether or not you think you need one. Getting a VA teaches you to manage, teaches you the value of your own time, and reinforces step E (Eliminate)—if you’re waffling about eliminating something, you’ll cut it loose once you have to pay someone to do it.

Any tasks you delegate to your VA should be important, time-consuming, specific, and remote-friendly. When delegating:

  • Give simple, specific directions and ask your VA to rephrase your directions to confirm clarity.
  • Ask your VA to get back to you in a few hours with a status update.
  • Give short deadlines in accordance with Parkinson’s Law.
  • If you send more than one task at a time (don’t send more than two), tell the VA which is priority.

You might be wondering about security concerns, and the good news is that information abuse is rare. When it does happen, it’s reversible. To protect...

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The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Part 1: D: Define Your Dreams | Chapter 1: Choose Your Lifestyle

Most people think they want to be millionaires so they can stop doing a job they don’t like, travel, buy nice cars, spend time with the people they care about, or practice a passion or vocation. However, there isn’t a direct relationship between money and lifestyle. If you have a lot of money but don’t have any control over your time or who you spend it with, you probably won’t be happy.

For example, an investment banker might work 80-hour weeks and make a lot of money but never have any time to use it. A freelancer might work 20 hours a week for a fifth of the banker’s salary, but while she might have less money, the money she does have has more practical value. She’ll be able to use it to do whatever she wants, with whomever she wants, and whenever and wherever she wants (4Ws). You don’t need to be a millionaire to live your dreams—you only need the amount of money they require.

Paradoxically, you can increase your income by decreasing whatever it is you’re doing now. Day jobs and conventional businesses are set up to funnel everyone through the traditional lifestyle—work for three or four decades straight, and then retire for the rest of the years you have left. This is an uncomfortable, inefficient system, and Tim Ferriss challenges it in The 4-Hour Workweek. The book lays out a four-step process for starting a “muse” business that makes you enough money to escape the 40-hour workweek of the rat race. Throughout this summary, this end goal will be referred to as the 4HWW lifestyle. (Shortform note: The 4-Hour Workweek offers suggestions on how to significantly reduce your working hours. The goal doesn’t appear to be to work exactly four hours every week. Ferriss himself works more than this.)

The four steps to achieving the 4HWW lifestyle are define, eliminate, automate, liberate (DEAL). Part 1 will address step D: Define Your Dreams. The other parts will be addressed in subsequent chapters.

(Shortform note: The original edition of this book was written in 2007. This expanded and updated edition was published in 2009 and includes new content such as excerpts from the author’s blog, resource recommendations, and many case studies.)

Deferrers vs. the New Rich

There are two types of people, Deferrers (D), and the New Rich (NR). Type D people follow cultural conventions. They work for 30-40 years of their life and then retire. Type NR people reject these norms. Instead, they alternate work and periods of rest. The 4HWW lifestyle is a specific version of the New Rich lifestyle.

There are several differences between Deferrers and the New Rich:

  • Deferrers want to work for themselves, while the New Rich want others to work for them.
  • Deferrers want to work on their schedules, while the New Rich don’t want to do any work they don’t have to.
  • Deferrers want to retire quickly, while the New Rich want to have “retirement” periods throughout their whole lives, with the goal of doing exciting things during these times rather than simply not working.
  • Deferrers want to be able to afford everything they want, while the New Rich want to do and be everything they want. (The New Rich can buy things if they want, but they don’t focus on material items.)
  • Deferrers want to be the boss, while the New Rich want to be the owners—this way they can disengage from work.
  • Deferrers want to make a lot of money to have money, while the New Rich want to make a lot of money so they can use it to do something they want to do.
  • Deferrers want more of everything, while the New Rich want quality over quantity.
  • Deferrers want a big payday, while the New Rich focus on daily payday.
  • Deferrers want to stop doing things they don’t want to. The New Rich want this too, but they don’t simply want to not do things, they want to live their dreams.

For example, Olympic skier Dale Begg-Smith is a member of the New Rich. When he was thirteen, he started an IT company with his brother to finance his ski training....

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 2: Break the Rules

Why does everyone follow the conventions and “rules” of life when they push us towards an inefficient system (the rat race) and something (deferred retirement) that isn’t actually going to make us happy? If the “way it’s done” isn’t working for you, do it differently. For example, for a long time, high-jumpers jumped over the bar using a straddle technique. Dick Fosbury came up with a new technique of going backwards over the bar. Using this technique, he won the event in the 1968 Olympics. The technique was effective, and eventually, all high-jumpers started doing it. The 4HWW lifestyle may currently be uncommon, but that’s no reflection on its value or effectiveness.

Note, however, that you can take this concept too far. Being different just for the sake of being different isn’t useful. For example, only wearing clothes that are different shades of red isn’t going to achieve anything. You want to look for a new solution only when the current practice isn’t working.

Ten Rules for Breaking the Rules

There are ten rules for breaking the rules:

  1. Treat traditional retirement as a back-up plan. Instead of working towards retirement as an end goal, work towards it only as a Plan B, in case something goes terribly wrong in your life and you become incapable of working. Prioritizing retirement is a bad idea because:
    • You use up all the time that you’re most physically capable doing something you probably don’t like.
    • You probably won’t be able to save enough money to create the standard of living you dream of. Retirement can last decades, and inflation takes a cut of it every year.
    • If you do manage to save enough money, it was probably because you were ambitious, so when you hit retirement and its endless free time, you’ll be so bored you’ll probably end up working again.
  2. Alternate periods of work and rest. Working too hard too long is bad for you. Instead of spending most a large chunk of your life working and another large chunk retired, do each in moderation.
    • For example, the author works for two months and then spends a month doing something he enjoys.
  3. Don’t worry about being “lazy.” Laziness isn’t what you think it is. Because it’s harder to measure productivity than time, people tend to use time spent as an indicator of how hard they’re working. Culture measures like this too—personal sacrifice is more rewarded than productivity. The New Rich focus on getting important things done rather than being busy, and they define laziness as being unwilling to change the status quo or search for meaning in life.
  4. Don’t wait for the opportune moment. There will never be one. If you dither, make pro and con lists, and wait for an ideal time, you’ll never do anything.
  5. Do first and apologize later. If doing something isn’t going to cause any major or irreversible damage, do it without asking for permission. It’s easier for others to say no to something before it gets started. Once it has started, they’re more reluctant to stop you.
    • For example, Dave Camarillo had just started working remotely. He wanted to go to China, so he did, without telling anyone. After working from China for over a month, he finally told his boss, who okayed it.
  6. Focus on your strengths. It’s a better use of your time, and more fun, to use your strengths instead of working on your weaknesses. Working at something you’re good at will be many times more effective than working at something you’re bad at—even if you spend a lot of time working at a weakness, you won’t get it up to the same level as a strength.
  7. Recognize that excess is a problem. When you have too much of something good, it can take on negative qualities. The 4HWW lifestyle teaches you to use your free time well, not create a big chunk of free time that you won’t enjoy.
    • For example, having a lot of countertop kitchen appliances can make cooking faster, but if you have too many appliances, they’ll take up so much counter space you can’t maneuver, which will ultimately slow you down.
  8. Remember that money’s only one part of a larger equation. In a way, money is a form of laziness and procrastination. Prioritizing money now for fun later lets you put off making changes that would help you be happier now. Money is simply a distraction—a powerful one, that affects nearly everyone—but still a distraction.
  9. Do some math. Money has more or less value than a dollar. There are two kinds of income, absolute and relative. Relative income is an important measurement, but keep in mind that your relative income must add up to an actual income you’re happy with.
    • Absolute income is simply the dollar amount. If you make $50,000/year, then your absolute income is $50,000/year.
    • Relative income takes into account time and typically looks at money on a per hour basis. Assuming a 2000-hour working year, you can make $50,000/year by making $25/hour...

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 3: Face Your Fears

The main thing that stops people from living the 4HWW lifestyle is fear. Fear of failure and the unknown are paralyzing, and facing these fears is so intimidating that most people would rather be unhappy.

Additionally, there’s a less-recognizable subset of fear of the unknown that affects many of us—optimistic denial. If your job isn’t absolutely awful, then you pretend it’ll get better or pretend you’ll get a raise and the money will make everything better. You’ll keep on pretending instead of doing something life-changing that would actually make you happier. To figure out if you’ve fallen prey to optimistic denial, think back to a month or a year ago. Are things better now than they were then? If they’re not, there’s no reason to expect them to improve over another year.


The best way to work through your fears is to define them, or “fear-set.” Once you have a better handle on what exactly you’re worried about, it becomes less frightening. Also, once you’ve quantified your fears into specific scenarios, you’ll be able to see ways to avoid negative consequences.

There are six questions to ask yourself when fear-setting. They aren’t simply a mental exercise; actually write out your answers. Go through the questionnaire twice, once while thinking of something you’d like to do, and the second time while thinking about quitting your job. The questions are:

1. What is the worst-case scenario? On a scale of 1-10, one being the lowest, what would be the permanent cost of your actions? How likely is it that the very worst would happen?

  • Shortform example: Burt wants to sail around the world. His business could fail while he’s away, someone might steal his stuff, and his boat might sink. He gives each of these possibilities a 5 because he can start a new business, buy new stuff, and be rescued by the Coast Guard.

2. If the worst did happen, how would you fix it? Consider how you’d get back to where you were before you changed anything. How would you get your finances back on track? Even a temporary fix is a good start.

  • Shortform example: Burt could take a temporary job to recover his finances. He could replace his stolen stuff or do without it for a little while. If he has a terrible time, he doesn’t have to go sailing again.

3. What are the more likely scenarios, and what are their outcomes? Consider both internal (developing your character) and external. On a scale of 1-10, what is the permanent cost of the actions? How likely is it that you would get a positive outcome?

  • Shortform example: Burt comes up with three more likely scenarios: his trip gets cut short because his mast snaps, his business struggles but doesn’t fold, or he has an amazing time. He thinks the first two are possible but not permanent and gives them both a 2. He thinks the last one’s very likely and the permanent “cost” would be his happiness. He gives this possibility a 9.

4. What aren’t you doing because you’re scared? Usually, the things that you’re scared of are the things that are the most important to do. (The author believes that one measure for success is the number of uncomfortable conversations we’ve had.) Accept that the worst-case scenario is a possibility, but risk it anyway.

  • Shortform example: Burt is scared to ask his boss for time off and go through the complex negotiations of buying a boat.

5. What are you losing by not acting? The previous four questions focused on the downsides of doing things; now focus on the downsides of not doing them. Later in life, will you consider this inactive time wasted? Inaction can be the worst-case scenario, because it can create a permanent (once your lifetime’s gone, it’s...

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Shortform Exercise: Start to Fear-Set

Once we articulate and define our fears, they’re less frightening.

Think of something you want to do but are scared to. If you do this thing, what’s the worst possible outcome?

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 4: Sketch Your Dreamlines

To fully embrace the 4HWW lifestyle, you need to find something to do with all your upcoming free time. When brainstorming ideas, don’t ask yourself what you want or what your goals are. Instead, ask yourself what you find exciting. The first two questions are too vague and don’t steer you toward the right course of action. You probably want something, or want to achieve a goal, because it will make you happy. But happiness is a vague concept—at different times in your life happiness might be as simple as having a good meal. After a while, happiness can morph into boredom, and boredom is even worse than failure. Excitement is a much more precise objective.

Aim High

Don’t restrict yourself to what seems reasonable or realistic. Interestingly, it’s actually easier to do really big things than moderate things. First, there’s less competition. Most people don’t think they can do big things, so they aim lower, creating a lot of competition in the low arenas. Second, a big goal with a big payoff gives you more energy and adrenaline. Small goals aren’t very exciting, so you’re not as inclined to put in enormous effort.

For example, when the author gave a lecture at Princeton, he challenged the students to contact three very famous people (such as George Bush) and get them to reply to one of three questions. Whoever got the most impressive result would win a round-trip ticket to anywhere in the world. The challenge seemed so difficult that in spite of the excellent prize, not a single student even tried. If someone had gotten even a half-baked response, they would have won by default.

The next time the author gave a lecture, he told the students about the results of the first challenge. This time, some of the students tried to contact the famous people, and plenty of them received responses.

The Perils of Not Knowing What You Want

If we don’t know what we want, we can fall into two traps: adhering to conventions, or trying to buy certainty.

The first trap is adhering to conventions. If we haven’t come up with an alternative to a conventional lifestyle, it’s hard to avoid it. As children, we’re allowed to dream, but as we grow up, people tell us to be practical and realistic. We’re told we should make choices that will allow us to live the conventional lifestyle of holding down a good job, starting a family, and buying a sports car. But you don’t want to be the kind of person who settles for boredom and the status quo. Becoming this kind of person should be scarier than anything else you might do.

The second trap catches us when we don’t know what we want. Until we figure it out, we decide to work until we have enough money to do anything and everything. If you haven’t decided on a use for your money, you’ll keep trying to get more so that when you do figure out what you want, you’ll have enough. You’re trying to use money to buy certainty. For example, the author’s company, BrainQUICKEN LLC, reached a point where it could run itself without any input for him. However, because he hadn’t come up with anything to do with his time, he kept working even though he didn’t need to.


“Dreamlining” is a method for attaching timelines to dreams. It’s similar to goal-setting but differs in these ways:

  • The dreams are clearly defined.
  • The dreams need to be unrealistic.
  • The dreams are things that you will do in the time you have once you’re no longer spending it working.

There are seven steps to dreamlining:

1. Brainstorm dreams. Create two lists, one for a six-month timeline, one for 12-month. (The author sets even shorter timelines for himself, from three to six months, because the farther you try to project into the future, the more likely you are to procrastinate.) List up to five things you want to have, five you want to be, and five you want to do in each of those time periods. Don’t worry about how you would get any of these things; just focus on what you want. And be honest—don’t put things that would make you look good that you don’t actually want (for example, discovering the cure for cancer). If you get stuck:

  • Think of something you don’t want, and then write the opposite.
  • Ask yourself what you would do on a daily basis if you had $100 million.
  • Consider what would make you really excited to wake up every morning.
  • Choose a place to travel to, a bucket-list type item, a thing to do daily, a thing to do weekly, and a thing that you’ve always wanted to learn how to do. (The to-do things tend to be harder to come up with.)

2. Transform the “to be” list into to-dos by finding a specific action that would demonstrate what you’ve become.

  • For example, if you want to be fluent in another language, your to-do could be to have a ten-minute conversation with a native speaker.

3. Prioritize your dreams. On the six-month list, choose your four most important and exciting dreams from all the columns. Do the same on the 12-month list.

4. Do some math: figure out the monthly cost of each of the four most important dreams (cost for classes, rent, and so on.). Think of things in terms of a monthly cost rather than a total cost. You can use the calculator on the author’s website to help.

  • For example, for a one-time expense like a trip to Peru that costs $3000, on a 6-month timeline, it’s $500/month.

5. Do some more math: calculate your “Target Monthly Income (TMI).” Add up the monthly cost for each of your four dreams and add an extra 30% for safety or savings. This number is your TMI. You can also calculate your daily income. Probably, the amount is lower than you think, and it’ll lower further as you choose more things to do rather than things to have.

6. Come up with three steps to achieve each of your four dreams. The three steps don’t have to get you all the way to...

Shortform Exercise: Brainstorm Dreams

The first step of dreamlining is to brainstorm.

What are some things you’ve always wanted to have?

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Part 2: E: Eliminate Activities That Waste Your Time | Chapter 5: Learn the Laws

Part 1 covered step D (Define) of the DEAL process and Part 2 will cover step E: Eliminate activities that waste your time. Step E explains how to start making the time to achieve the dreamlines you set in step D.

The 4HWW lifestyle requires you to reevaluate your ideas about time. First, note that unproductive busyness is bad. Busyness takes up a lot of time and it’s a form of procrastination. Doing unimportant things gets in the way of doing things that would actually have a high impact but are uncomfortable.

Second, abandon time management. Time management implies that you have so many things to do in a limited amount of time that you have to tetris things into your schedule. This isn’t a situation you want to be in.

Instead of being so busy you have to manage your time, decrease the number of things you have to do and decrease the amount of time you spend on them. If you want to get more done, you have to do less.

The Difference Between Effectiveness and Efficiency

Effectiveness is doing important things that help you achieve results. Efficiency is doing things (regardless of whether or not they’re important) in the fastest way possible.

Even though effectiveness is more productive, the conventional workforce focuses on efficiency because it’s easier to measure. Efficiency can be useful, but only when applied to things that actually matter. Remember that how long you spend doing something, or how well you do it, doesn’t have any effect on its importance.

Pareto and the 80/20 Rule

Italian economist Pareto discovered that, generally, 80% of results are generated by 20% of the effort. (In some cases the ratio can skew even further to up to 99/1.) This rule applies both positively and negatively. For example, the top 20% of your friends probably generate 80% of your social happiness. Your bottom 20% probably generate 80% of your problems. Therefore, you can use this rule to both win yourself time and decrease your problems:

  • Make a to-do list of the 20% of important things in your life that create results or happiness. (If you don’t know what the most important 20% of your activities are, pay attention to each of your actions for a month or two to determine which create the most results.)
  • Make a don’t-do list of the 20% of unimportant things that waste time or make you miserable.

For example, when the author learned about the 80/20 rule, he evaluated his company BrainQUICKEN LLC. Five out of his 120 customers generated 95% of his revenue and they always ordered regularly and professionally. The other 115 customers that generated only 5% of his revenue also generated nearly all his problems.

Realizing this, Ferriss immediately stopped approaching most of his unproductive customers. If they ordered, he’d fill the order, but he wouldn’t contact them. There were two rude companies who did contribute enough to his revenue to be mathematically worth pursuing, but they weren’t worth the toll on his mental health. He contacted both of them to say that if they couldn’t be polite, he wouldn’t serve them anymore. He didn’t really need their money; he just thought he did because workforce conventions told him so. One customer left, and the other changed its behavior.

Finally, Ferriss studied his top five customers and used the commonalities between them to find other, similar customers. He ended up with eight top customers that ordered regularly without him needing to intervene. His income went up and his hours went down.

Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law states that the amount of time you have for a project will dictate how important and difficult you think it is. You’ll use all the time allowed, even if the project doesn’t actually require it. In addition, you might actually do a worse job on the project than if you had less time, because the time pressure forces you to focus.

Employees fall prey to Parkinson’s law all the time. It’s not necessarily their fault—because they have to work 9-5, they find things to do to take up all this time.

Entrepreneurs, however, don’t have a set schedule, so if they’re using more time than they need, or giving themselves extravagant deadlines, they have no excuse. They’re either copying the status quo or caught up in a bad habit.

The Best of Both

To gain yourself the most time, you want to employ both the 80/20 rule and Parkinson’s law. Only do important tasks, and give yourself short deadlines to achieve them.

For example, Charney is a technology salesman with young children. To win himself more time to spend with his family, he followed the 80/20 rule. Three times a day he asked himself if he was being productive or just busy. If he was only busy, he stopped doing whatever he was doing and moved on to a task that was actually important. To apply Parkinson’s law, he took Mondays and Fridays off to cut down on the amount of time he had to get his work done. After five weeks, he was working 18 hours a week and being four times as productive as he had been working 40 hours.

Applying the Laws

There are several questions to ask yourself when learning to apply the 80/20 rule and Parkinson’s law to your job and life. While answering, keep in mind that you want to negatively affect your income as little as possible.

  • If you could only work two hours a day, what are the things you would do? Pretend your doctor’s forbidden you to work more than this and there’s absolutely no way to get around it.
  • If you could only work two hours a week, what are the things you would do?
  • Are you making full use of Parkinson’s Law? Do some or all of the following:
    • Try to minimize the amount of time you spend working. Take a day or two off per week, and leave at 4 p.m. every day. (There are more details about how to do this if you’re an employee in Chapter 8.)
    • Keep your to-do list short and give yourself short deadlines. This will help you ignore details.
  • **Do you...

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 6: Ignore Unimportant or Unactionable Information

Reading and informing yourself takes up a lot of time. If you want more free time, you need to drastically cut down on the amount of time you spend consuming information. Do this by ignoring anything that’s not important or that you can’t do anything about. For example, the author only reads newspaper headlines as he walks to lunch. He spends only four hours a month reading Inc. magazine and about ⅓ of Response magazine. He assumes that if anything really important happens that he has to do something about, he’ll hear about it from someone. In five years, his “ignorance” has never caused a problem.

The key to this ignorance is that it’s selective. Ignore whatever the world throws at you. When you do need information, seek it out, ideally in a more digestible format than the original. For example, Ferriss learned enough to vote in the last federal election by doing the following:

  • He asked smart American friends with similar values to his how they were going to vote.
  • He was living in Berlin at the time and asked his friends there for an outside perspective.
  • He watched the presidential debates.

Not only was this an efficient way to get all this information, it was also free.

If you don’t have friends who can advise you on a particular topic:

  • Read a book on the subject. Choose it based on reviews and authoritativeness. Only read the parts that are immediately relevant.
    • For example, when the author was trying to get The 4-Hour Workweek published, there were tons of books about getting published. He chose one by first-time authors, like himself, who had done the same thing he wanted to—sell a book to the world’s largest publisher.
  • Using what you’ve learned from the book, come up with good questions. Get in touch with experts in the field for answers. Not only will you get information, you’ll network.
    • For example, the author posed his questions to authors and literary agents.

Steps to “Selective Ignorance”

There are three steps to starting and maintaining selective ignorance:

  1. Ignore all media for one week to demonstrate to yourself that you don’t need to be spending time on it. No news, magazines, books, audiobooks, radio, or TV. No going on the internet unless you absolutely need to complete a task for a particular day (no advance research). You can still listen to as much music as you want, watch an hour of TV for fun, and read fiction for an hour. (And keep reading The 4-Hour Workweek.) Things to keep in mind while doing this step:
  • Spend the time you’ve freed with your family or studying The 4-Hour Workweek. (It may seem hypocritical to suggest reading The 4-Hour Workweek, but the author says it’s not because the book contains important information that you need immediately.)
  • Ask someone for a five-minute review of current events at lunch every day. Once you realize that current events don’t affect your life or decisions, stop asking.
  • Use web plugins to block certain websites.
  1. Make sure that, if you’re going to consume information, you’re going to use it immediately, and on something important. If you’re not going to use it immediately, you’ll forget it by the time you need it, and have to relearn it. Learn things only as you need to know them.

3. Don’t finish things if they’re not helpful. If you start reading a book and discover it’s boring or unhelpful, stop. You’ll save yourself time.

Speed Reading

Follow these steps to increase your reading speed in just a few minutes:

  • For two minutes, read while running your finger or a pencil under each line as you read it as fast as you can. This will help your eye jump to the next line without losing any time reorienting.
  • For three minutes, focus on the third word at the beginning and end of each line. This way you can move your eyes less. You can catch the beginning and end of each line with your peripheral vision. Indent further as you get more comfortable.
  • For three minutes, read as fast as you can using the above techniques for five pages. It doesn’t matter if you remember anything you read. Then, go back to a comfortable speed. You’ve...

Why are Shortform Summaries the Best?

We're the most efficient way to learn the most useful ideas from a book.

Cuts Out the Fluff

Ever feel a book rambles on, giving anecdotes that aren't useful? Often get frustrated by an author who doesn't get to the point?

We cut out the fluff, keeping only the most useful examples and ideas. We also re-organize books for clarity, putting the most important principles first, so you can learn faster.

Always Comprehensive

Other summaries give you just a highlight of some of the ideas in a book. We find these too vague to be satisfying.

At Shortform, we want to cover every point worth knowing in the book. Learn nuances, key examples, and critical details on how to apply the ideas.

3 Different Levels of Detail

You want different levels of detail at different times. That's why every book is summarized in three lengths:

1) Paragraph to get the gist
2) 1-page summary, to get the main takeaways
3) Full comprehensive summary and analysis, containing every useful point and example

Shortform Exercise: Learn Selectively

Step E (Eliminate) of the DEAL process involves learning to ignore any unimportant or unactionable information.

Think of the last time you needed to learn something. For example, perhaps you were trying to decide which kind of credit card to sign up for. How did you learn? How long did it take you?

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 7: Minimize Interruptions

An interruption is something that prevents you from finishing a task all in one go. The easiest way to deal with interruptions is to come up with a set of rules for yourself and others. Once you’ve set a precedent for not letting people waste your time and everyone understands the rules, you have a self-enforcing system that you never need to spend brain power on again. Your system will not only save you time—it’ll train everyone involved to be more efficient.

Three Types of Interruptions

This chapter will cover three types of interruptions: those that waste time, those that take time, and those that require outside help or approval.

Interruptions That Waste Time

Interruptions that waste time aren’t important and can be completely ignored. Often, the time-wasting interruption is a person wanting to talk to you via email, phone, or in person. To deal with these interruptions, limit people’s access to you, and when you do allow people to access you, make sure the interaction is as efficient and action-focused as possible. Make it known that email is your preferred method of communication, then phone, then as a last resort, in person. There are some steps to streamlining each method of communication:


Email is the biggest distraction and interruption of modern times. To control how people access you via email:

  • Turn off automatic send/receive and alerts.
  • Check your email only twice a day, at noon and at 4 p.m. (Most responses to your emails will have come in by these times. Additionally, if you don’t check in the morning and instead reserve that time for your most important activity, you can’t procrastinate by using email or lunch as an excuse.)
  • When you respond to email, try to anticipate all the options so you don’t have to answer any follow-up emails. For example, if you’re asking someone if something has been completed, ask the question, then write, if yes, do this, if no, do this. The “ifs” can direct people to someone other than you for help.
  • Create an auto reply to explain the new system to everyone who emails you. The auto reply will train people to reflect on whatever they have to tell you and whether or not it’s actually important. In the auto reply, tell people that you’re only checking at noon and 4 p.m. because you’re very busy, and if they need you urgently, they can call. Finish by thanking them for understanding and stress that your efficiency benefits them. Ideally, set up the auto reply without asking for permission (remember the rules of breaking the rules). If you feel you have to ask, approach your immediate supervisor and suggest it as a trial. Tell your boss you have a lot to do and it’s harder when you’re being interrupted. You can even blame the interruptions on spam or external emails.

To control how people access you via phone:

  • Have two phones or numbers, one for urgent matters, and one for non-urgent. Always answer the urgent number unless you don’t want to or it’s an unknown number. You can also let it go to voicemail and then immediately listen to the voicemail to judge if the message is actually important. This urgent number goes in your email auto reply. In contrast, never answer the non-urgent number. Turn off the ringer and set the phone to go straight to voicemail. Don’t carry your phone with you 24/7.
  • Check your voicemail twice a day, the same as you’re doing with your email. Your voicemail message should cover the same information your email auto reply did—at what times you’ll be checking voicemail, the urgent number, a thank-you-for-understanding phrase, and a note about how this system helps you serve people better. When possible, respond to voicemails via email.
  • When you do get on the phone with someone, treat them with urgency. Don’t waste time on small talk or how-are-you’s—as soon as the caller has introduced themselves, say that you’re busy and ask how you can help them. If they say they’ll call back later, don’t let them—make them explain the problem quickly. If they start to ramble, tell them you have a call in five minutes and ask them to send you an email.
In Person

You’ll probably offend some people as you cut down on in-person communication, even if you do it politely, but once people realize that it’s your general policy, they’ll accept it. To control how people access you in person:

  • Attend meetings only if they meet the following criteria: they have a scheduled end time, they won’t last longer than half an hour, and they’re being used to make a decision. Even if a meeting does meet these criteria, you can likely more efficiently address the agenda via a call or email. The author hasn’t attended a meeting in five years.
  • Countersuggest email whenever anyone suggests a meeting. If they don’t agree, suggest a call instead. Tell them you have other urgent tasks that prevent you from meeting. If they insist, ask them to send you an email with the meeting’s agenda in advance. Say that you want to know what the meeting will address so you can prepare, and thank them in advance for sending you an agenda. The advance thank-you will make them more likely to actually send the agenda. Once you have the agenda, you might be able to address all the points in an email, negating the need for a meeting.
  • Ask to be excused from a particular meeting “just this once.” Tell the meeting host you’re really overwhelmed and just this once you’d like to sit out the meeting. Promise to catch up on the information. While the meeting is going on, make sure you’re very productive and get more done than the meeting does. The next time you ask to sit out a meeting, mention how much you got done. Try to turn just-this-once into always.
  • Control the meeting’s time limit. A meeting shouldn’t take any longer than half an hour. To keep meetings short, don’t allow people to socialize or get off topic. If you can’t keep...

Shortform Exercise: Batch Monthly

“Batching” involves saving up a bunch of routine tasks to do all at once.

What is a routine task that you have to do every week? You can choose either a personal or professional task.

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 8: Take Control of Your Schedule: Work Remotely

A conventional 9-5 job takes up a lot of time. If you want more free time—and you’ll need free time to start your “muse” business in step A (Automate)—you’re going to have to reduce the hours you spend on your rat race job.

If you’re an employee, you’ll do this by transitioning to remote work. When you’re working remotely, no one knows how long you actually spend working; they only know if you finish all your work. Now that you know how to eliminate, you’ll be able to do your job in far less than eight hours a day.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you control your own schedule, no one’s holding you to 40 hours a week except yourself. However, entrepreneurs can still benefit from learning how to work remotely so that they can travel while working.

This tends to be the hardest part of the process for employees. You take control and have potentially uncomfortable conversations.

To transition to remote work, first you’re going to figure out how to do it, and then you’re going to convince your boss to let you.

How to Succeed at Remote Work

There are some logistics to iron out when transitioning to remote work:

  • Figure out how to do all aspects of your job remotely. When you come to a task that you don’t think you can do from outside the office, ask yourself if it’s really necessary that you do it. If it is, consider alternate ways you could do it, such as video chats, screen sharing, and so on.
  • Practice working in new environments. This will help you figure out how to be productive in a remote environment.
    • For example, try working at a library.
  • Create a workstation. Don’t work in the same space you sleep or relax. Don’t do anything except work in your workspace.
  • Get more comfortable hearing no. Practice activities that push you outside your comfort zone such as talking to strangers and haggling. If anyone refuses to give you something, ask what you’d need to do to get the answer you want. Also, ask if they’ve ever made exceptions and why or why not.
  • Plan for resistance. If you think your boss will resist you working remotely, consider why. If remote work is going to cause some sort of problem, figure out how to mitigate or avoid it.
    • Example #1: If you need to access software that’s licensed to your work computer, try remote desktop software.
    • Example #2: If you don’t think your boss will trust you to work remotely, review the earlier chapters of step E (Eliminate) to make yourself more productive. Or go remote first and ask for permission later (recall the ten rules to breaking the rules, and see the hourglass method below).

Two Methods

There are two methods employees can use to get out of the office: the five-step method and the hourglass method.

Five-Step Method

There is a five-step method to convincing your boss to let you work remotely.

1. Make yourself more valuable. You can do this by asking your company to pay to train you, so that if you quit, they lose that investment.

  • Shortform Example: Chidi is a blog writer. He asks his boss to send him to a blogging conference.

2. Prove that you’re more productive outside the office. Call in sick for two days and work from home. (Choose Tuesday and Wednesday so it doesn’t look like you’re pretending to be ill to get a long weekend.) Be twice as productive as you are in the office and keep a record of what you get done. Additionally, use this time to solve any potential remote work logistical problems such as technical issues.

  • Shortform Example: Chidi calls in sick on a Tuesday and works from home. In the office, he normally writes four blog articles a day. At home, he writes eight. He starts out working at his kitchen table but it’s too loud so he finds a quieter space in his house.

3. Spin remote work to be a benefit for your company. Note what and how much you got done while you were remote and why.

  • Shortform Example: Chidi will tell his boss that he was able to write twice as many articles from home because he wasn’t constantly being interrupted like he is in the office.

4. Ask for a trial period of one day per week for two weeks. Plan what you’re going to say, but ensure you don’t come off as too formal, or your boss might worry that you want a permanent change. Tell your boss how much more productive you were when you were “sick,” answer any of their questions about logistics, and ask for two remote days a week so if they say no you can counter with one. Start with this small ask because asking to go fully remote is such a big change your boss might refuse. Additionally, a trial also gives you a chance to practice working remotely, so that when you do make the changeover, it’s seamless.

  • Shortform Example: Chidi requests to work remotely for two days each week. Chidi’s boss asks him about how he would work on anything that required software on work computers, and Chidi tells him about a remote access program he used on his days away that worked perfectly.

5. Increase your trial period until it becomes the norm. Be exceptionally productive on your remote days. You can even be less productive on your in-house days to make the difference more obvious. Every time you ask for an incremental increase in remote work, stress the benefits to the company of you working remotely. Address any concerns and reassure your boss that the move is reversible. Keep requesting trials until you get to full-time remote. Ideally, this will be at a time when your company is in the middle of something they need you for.

  • Shortform Example: After Chidi’s two-day-per-week trial, he asks to move to four remote days a week. Chidi’s boss has some concerns—chiefly, he’s worried that Chidi wants to work remotely because he’s about to quit. Chidi reassures him that this is not the case—since he’s started working remotely, he’s much happier. Reassured, his boss approves the new trial.


Shortform Exercise: Transition to Remote Work

There are two methods for transitioning to remote work: the five-step method and the hourglass method.

What are some logistical problems you might encounter if you transitioned to remote work? Are there parts of your job that would be hard to do remotely?

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Part 3: A: Automate Time-Consuming Activities | Chapter 9: Get a Virtual Assistant (VA)

Part 3 will cover step A: Automate Time-Consuming Activities of the DEAL process. Step A, like step E (Eliminate), explains how to make the time to achieve the dreamlines you set in step D (Define). This step tends to be the most difficult part of the process for entrepreneurs because they tend to like having control, and in this step, they have to give it up.

To achieve the 4HWW lifestyle, find a way to replace yourself. Almost anything and everything you do could be done by someone else.

The first step to automation is to hire a virtual assistant (VA). You should do this regardless of whether you’re an employee or entrepreneur, and even if you have enough time to do everything yourself. There are a few reasons:

  • VAs teach you to manage. Having a VA teaches you how to communicate, how to lead from a distance, how to give directions, and how to deal with people who don’t follow them. If you get a VA for between two weeks and a month, it should only cost between $100-400, and the experience should pay for itself within another two weeks.
  • VAs reinforce step E (Eliminate) of DEAL. Once you have to pay someone to do something, it’s going to be easier and more motivating to eliminate unimportant things. Having a VA will also force you to come up with rules for interruptions that require approval.

People hesitate to pay other people to do things they can do themselves, especially if it’s more economical to do it themselves. However, you’re not trying to save money in this chapter, you’re trying to save time.

Where to Find a Virtual Assistant (VA)

Since VAs work remotely, you can hire someone from anywhere in the world. There are advantages and disadvantages to hiring someone local vs. someone farther flung. Consider these four factors when choosing a VA:

  • Agency association. VA agencies exist all over the world and the author recommends going with a VA from a VA firm, or a VA who has a team. Then if one VA isn’t available, there’s backup. Additionally, you get people with diverse skills working for you.
    • For example, VA agencies Brickwork and Your Man in India both use this structure. When you sign up with either agency, you’re assigned a personal account manager who corresponds with you, and then assigns your tasks to whichever person on their team is most suitable.
  • Time zone mismatches. If you choose someone who lives in a different time zone than you, this can work in your favor—if you ask a VA to do something at the end of your day, they’ll work while you’re sleeping, and you’ll have an answer first thing the next day.
  • Language. If you choose someone international, there may be a language barrier. Communication problems take up both your time and the VA’s time, which increases costs. When contacting a firm, ask for someone who has very good English and say that phone calls will be required, even if they won’t be. Request someone new if there are communication problems. If you choose someone local, you’re probably both native English speakers.
  • Cost. If you hire someone from a country with a weaker currency than the US, your cost per hour will be cheaper. The author says VAs from India, China, and other countries can range from $4-15/hour. $4/hour is for simple tasks, and $15 gets you PhD complexity. US or Canadian VAs tend to charge $25-100/hour. When comparing costs, consider total cost as well as hourly cost. If someone more expensive gets something done faster, your bill may be lower overall. Also consider the per hour cost of your own time—a language barrier might mean you have to spend more time answering questions or rewording your directions.

The best way to choose a VA is to trial people you’re interested in. Assign a one-off project or a small recurring task, ideally something daily. To work on your communication skills, choose non-native English-speaking VAs initially, but use local help for any language-intensive tasks.

What to Delegate

Regardless of whether you’re an employee or an entrepreneur, you can assign your VA both personal and professional tasks.

Regarding personal tasks: your non-working time isn’t free if you have other non-work obligations, and VAs provide all sorts of personal services ranging from voicemail transcription, to organizing your child’s birthday, to even emailing your parents for you.

Regarding professional tasks: VAs can help you out with anything that can be done remotely. If you’re an employee, as long as you don’t give the VA sensitive or confidential parts of your job, the author says there’s no legal or ethical reason to tell your boss you’re employing someone to do parts of your job for you. (Shortform note: You may want to check your employee contract and/or handbook before doing this.)

To brainstorm tasks you might be able to delegate, consider:

  • Whatever’s been on your to-do list the longest.
    • For example, a small business might ask a VA to help them update their website.
  • Anything that interrupts you.
    • For example, you might ask a VA to filter your emails for you.
  • Whatever causes you the most emotional strife.
    • For example, if you have anxiety around talking on the phone, you could ask your VA to make calls for you.
  • Something that’s fun.
    • For example, whenever Howard Hughes of The Aviator wanted to invite a woman to his table in Las Vegas, he asked one of his assistants to approach her for him and get her to sign a waiver before she joined him.

Assume the best of people—believe that they can do more than grunt work. But if a VA doesn’t do something well, remember that you can always take it back yourself.

Delegation Criteria

Once you’ve come up with some possibly delegatable tasks, test them against the following criteria:

  • Tasks must be important. As mentioned in step E (Eliminate), the first thing to do to save time is to stop doing unimportant things. Before you...

Shortform Exercise: Delegate to a Virtual Assistant (VA)

You can save yourself a lot of time by hiring a VA to do tasks for you.

What are some specific, time-consuming, remote-friendly tasks that you do in your personal or professional life?

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 10: Find a “Muse”

To get the time and money to have a lifestyle you want, you don’t want to run a business, you want to own a business. You want the business to run itself. The author calls this type of self-sustaining business your “muse.” Note—you’re not trying to create a business that will make a difference to the world or that you can sell for a lot of money. You’re just trying to build something that makes you money without taking up your time.

Muses must:

  • Sell a product, whether physical or digital. Other types of businesses, such as customer service or anything that runs on a pay-per-hour system, take up too much time to be muses.
  • Be cheap to test. It must cost less than $500 to test the product.
  • Lend themselves to automation. You should be able to start stepping away within a month.
  • Require little maintenance. Once the business is running, you shouldn’t have to spend any more than a single day a week managing it.

There are three steps to choosing a muse. Don’t manufacture anything until you’ve completed all three steps.

Step #1: Pick a Niche Market With Affordable Built-in Advertising

It’s best to choose a market that you’re a part of or have a good understanding of so you know its needs.

  • Think about what groups and organizations you’re part of, either professionally or personally. What products and subscriptions related to your market do you own? For example, when the author started his business, he was a student athlete, so he focused on that demographic.
  • Additionally, your target market isn’t necessarily limited to the people who actually fit your demographic, they’re also people who want to fit that demographic. For example, iPod ads feature people in their 20s and 30s, but a lot of people want to feel young and cool, so people of all ages buy the iPod.

It’s important to choose a niche market specifically, because if your market is too broad, there’s a lot of competition and a lot of free information, and it’s expensive to advertise to such a big group. For example, the student athlete market is large and scattered. The author chose to focus on athletes in specific sports, martial artists and powerlifters.

It’s also important that there’s a way for you to reach your market. You’re going to be advertising your product in magazines, so do some research:

  • Of the markets you’ve brainstormed, which of them have interest-specific magazines? Look at bookstores or in Writer’s Market to get a sense of the magazine options.
  • Call these magazines’ ad departments and ask for their rates, readership, and samples. Look in the back issues for ads by direct-to-consumer sellers. If you find that these sellers often take out ads in this magazine, that means that they’re making money from advertising in this specific magazine, and you can too.

Before moving on to the next step, confirm your chosen market meets the following criteria:

  • You’re familiar with it.
  • A full-page ad in its magazine costs less than $5,000.
  • The magazine has a readership of at least 15,000.

Step #2: Come up With Possible Products—Without Spending Money

There are two sub-steps to step #2: brainstorm product ideas and then evaluate them against criteria.

Sub-Step A: Brainstorm Products

There are three options for finding products and the last option is the one you’re probably going to want to use.

Option #1: Resell Something That Already Exists

Reselling is the easiest of the three options, and it’s quick to set up, but it comes with some disadvantages:

  • Reselling isn’t very sustainable because unless you have exclusivity (which is hard to get), you have to compete with other resellers.
  • Reselling isn’t very lucrative because when you buy wholesale, you usually only get 40% off retail. You also may need a business tax ID to buy wholesale. To get a tax ID, you’ll have to file for a business structure, which costs between $100-200. The author recommends an LLC structure.

However, reselling is a great option for certain products:

  • Back-end products. Back-end products are add-ons to something the customer already owns. For example, if a customer owns a phone, a back-end product is a phone case. Back-end products have no advertising costs.
  • Cross-sellable products. Cross-selling is selling someone a related product right after they’ve bought a different product. Again, you already have the customer’s ear, so there’s no advertising cost.

Shortform Extended Example—Edgar: Edgar is an architect. He wants to start a muse to resell hats made in Amsterdam. Edgar’s story will play out through the rest of this summary.

Option #2: License a Product

There are two ways to approach licensing. The first is to invent a product and then charge anyone who wants to sell it. Usually, you earn 3-10% of the wholesale price.

The second is to find someone who’s invented something and the license it from them. You have to give the inventor that 3-10% of the wholesale price, which leaves you with 90-97%.

Licensing involves a lot of legal work and contract negotiation, so the author doesn’t recommend it for your first muse.

Option #3: Come up With a New Product

A new product is the best option for most people. When brainstorming product ideas, keep in mind setup costs, minimum orders, and unit costs. Technology tends to have high costs in these areas so you probably want to avoid it.

There are three ways to create a product, and the third is usually the best:

Way #1: Find a generic product that you can tweak for a specific market.

Get a manufacturer to create the stock product and then put your own custom label on it. (This is called “private labeling.”)

  • For example, some health practitioners sell their own line of vitamins, but they’re the exact same product you could buy elsewhere. The only difference is the label.

**Way #2: Come up with a brand-new physical product....

Shortform Exercise: Find Your “Muse”

A “muse” is a self-sustaining business that sells a product.

The first step to finding your muse is coming up with a niche market you could sell a product to. What markets are you a part of? Consider your job and hobbies. How could you narrow these markets to come up with a niche market?

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 11: Automate Your Muse

From the moment you start planning your muse, imagine how it’s going to run itself without you. Your systems need to be scalable, i.e., when your business starts getting more orders, it must be able to handle the demand. Most entrepreneurs start out by doing most of the work themselves, which is what you’re going to do, too, but the key to automation is knowing when to tap out.

Phases of Automation

There are three phases of automation, determined by the amount of product shipped:

Phase #1: 0-50 Units Total

Initially, you’ll do everything yourself. As you work through this phase:

  • Take orders and answer questions. This will help you figure out the most common questions so you can put together a FAQ and create training materials for others once you bring them on.
  • Revise your ads and website if necessary. If you’re getting orders or questions from customers who don’t actually want what you’re selling or are taking up a lot of your time, be clearer about what you’re selling and they won’t approach you in the first place.
  • Pack and ship all the products. Figure out how to do both most economically.
  • Research opening a merchant account from your local small bank.
  • In addition to the usual stats, track cost-per-order (CPO), which includes everything from advertising to returns. If something’s important, track it.

Shortform Extended Example—Edgar: Edgar sets up a merchant account at his bank and orders 20 Amsterdam hats. He sells them via his website and answers customer questions via email and phone. He revises one of his ads.

Shortform Extended Example—Devi: Devi sets up a Yahoo store. She sends out her newsletter to everyone who signed up and asks them what they’d like to see on a DVD. After getting feedback, she makes the DVD and opens her web store. Some of the people who signed up for the newsletter buy DVDs.

Phase #2: Fewer Than 10 Units Per Week

In this phase, you’re going to add a local fulfillment company. As you work through this phase:

  • Maintain or increase advertising.
  • Add the FAQ to your website and keep collecting questions and answers.
  • Order more product when you need it, but don’t order in large quantities until the product is perfect. It might be cheaper to bulk order, but it’s better to order fewer products and test first. If there’s a problem, you don’t want 1,000 versions of it.
  • Find a local fulfillment company. It’s going to be easier to negotiate with companies that are small and need business. You want to find a company that will meet the following criteria:
    • No set-up fees or monthly minimums. If you can’t get this, ask for half off both and ask that your setup fee be an advance against later fees. If necessary, pit companies against each other anytime you ask for something.
    • The company must be able to respond to order status inquiries (ideally via email) from customers. You’ll give the company your saved responses from when you were doing this yourself so they can copy and paste.
    • No or low miscellaneous fees. Tell the company you’re a startup with a small budget and it would be better for both of you if you used the money you did have for advertising, which will create more orders.
    • Net-30 payment terms—you don’t pay until after 30 days of service.
    • At least three good references. When you check references, to get them to be honest with you about negatives, tell them your conversation is confidential and you know no company’s perfect.
    • Optional: exclusive distribution. If only one company is allowed to sell your product, no one will have to lower their prices to compete with others.
  • Create terms that work for you, don’t just go with the industry standard. If people want to buy your product, your distributors and resellers will have to buy it, so you have leverage. If you want people to prepay even though no other companies in your industry do this, insist on prepayment anyway. If people ask, tell them it’s company policy. You can apologize, but don’t ever make an exception.
  • Negotiate hard. Whenever you’re buying something, never make an offer. When the seller makes an offer, flinch and go silent, which should get the price dropped. Then ask them if that price is really the best they can do (you’re still not giving them a number) and they’ll probably drop again. Then, offer much lower than you actually want to pay, so that you can land on a number in the middle.

Shortform Extended Example—Edgar: Edgar sells more hats, earning enough cash to buy more advertising. He negotiates a discount on an ad in a magazine and puts his phone number on the ad so that people will call him with any questions. He buys more hats, sells more hats, and, emboldened by the success, he signs up for a new four-issue ad package with the magazine. He sends the magazine a check for the ads that’s 30% of their rate on the rate card. He calls the magazine to make sure they got the check, and because they already have it in hand and their deadline is coming up, they don’t fight him for the 70% he didn’t pay.

Shortform Extended Example—Devi: Devi keeps selling DVDs. Many people have questions about the DVDs because during the cool-down circuit, a truck went by while she was filming and the sound was garbled. Devi retapes the cool-down and makes new DVDs. She also adds some more detail about the cool-down to her online FAQ.

Phase #3: More Than 20 Units Per Week

In this last phase, now that you have more cash flow, you’re going to get outsourcers involved. Use outsourcers instead of freelancers because it’s easier to replace someone who works at an outsourcing company. As you work through this phase:

  • Research bigger fulfillment companies, ones that handle everything to do with orders including refunds and returns.
  • Research call centers and credit card processors. Ideally, you’ll go with whoever your fulfillment company is used to working with so that any...

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Part 4: L: Liberate Yourself from the Rat Race | Chapter 12: How to Leave Your Rat Race Job

Part 4 will cover step L: Liberate Yourself from the Rat Race of the DEAL process. Step L explains how to quit the rat race and live the dreamlines you came up with in step D (Define). If you’re an employee, your job is your day job. If you’re an entrepreneur, your job is your conventional company.

Once your muse is established, it’ll be earning you enough money that you no longer need to work a 9-5 job to bring in income. Quit your 9-5 job to give yourself more time to pursue your dreamlines.

You probably have reservations about leaving your job or company. You might think that it’s complicated. Most likely, you’re simply scared. To get past your fears, recall the fear-setting exercise in Chapter 3. Note and remember:

  • Quitting doesn’t have to be permanent. The second step of fear-setting is about how to get yourself back to where you were before you quit.
    • For example, job search before you quit. Put your resume on job sites and contact friends, family, or headhunters who might have leads. Take a sick day or vacation and search during your usual 9-5 hours because it’s practice for if you were unemployed.
  • You’ll be able to pay your expenses. Ideally, you have a new source of income before you quit such as your muse, but if not, you’ll be able to get through it. Consider selling some of your assets or temporarily decreasing your expenses.
  • You’ll be able to keep your health insurance and retirement accounts. You can get private medical coverage that covers all the same things your work insurance did for $300-500/month. You can transfer your 401(k) to a different company.
  • You can spin gaps in your resume to your advantage. If a job interviewer asks about a gap, tell them an amazing opportunity came up to do something exciting and you had to take it. They’ll probably be so interested that you’ll spend a lot of the interview talking about it.

There are two kinds of mistakes when it comes to quitting your job:

  • Doing something. Doing something is a mistake when it doesn’t turn out well because you didn’t know enough before you started. Not a problem. You can recover. Keep making these kinds of mistakes. No one will ever know anything in advance.
  • Not doing something. Doing nothing and staying mired in a bad situation is a mistake you make because you’re scared. Don’t let pride or sunk cost keep you from leaving a job you don’t like....

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 13: Mini-Retirements

The goal of the DEAL process is to gain ourselves enough time to do the things we’ve come up with in our dreamlines. The best way to live out a dream is to take a mini-retirement. A mini-retirement is a months-long hiatus from work during which you live one of your dreams. Unlike traditional retirement, you can have many periods of mini-retirement throughout your life.

The author spends most of his mini-retirements traveling, so from now on, the term “mini-retirement” will specifically refer to relocating to a new place for several months.

A mini-retirement is a better way to travel than a vacation or sabbatical because when you’re mini-retired you have enough time to truly experience a place. Vacations are so short they’re exhausting—to see a lot, you have to binge it. Sabbaticals are longer, but they only happen once or twice. Another advantage of mini-retirements is that they can be more affordable than vacation. Hotels and hostels are a lot more expensive than renting an apartment, so spending a month living somewhere else may not be any more expensive than a week-long vacation.

(Shortform note: The author both recommends that you disengage from work and gives advice on ways to work during your mini-retirement. The implication is that you can choose whether or not to work during your mini-retirement.)


You might be scared to go on a mini-retirement or find yourself coming up with excuses not to go. To get past your fears, recall the fear-setting exercise in Chapter 3. You might worry that traveling is dangerous, or fear for your kids if you have them. Here are some common fears and counterarguments:

  • Travel is dangerous. Most major US cities have more violent crime than many of the countries the author has visited. Traveling usually isn’t any more dangerous than staying home. Check the US Department of State for travel warnings and avoid places you’re not comfortable visiting.
  • My kids might get lost or hurt. A mini-retirement is safer than vacations because it’s more like regular life. On vacations, you’re constantly visiting different, crowded places, and there’s lots of opportunity to get split up.
  • If something happens to me, my kids will be on their own. If you’re worried about this, train your kids to be independent. Get them to memorize phone numbers and addresses so they can find their own way.
  • My kids might misbehave. If you’re worried about your children’s behavior, bribe them by paying them per hour of good behavior and docking them for bad.

To mitigate these fears:

  • If you’re traveling with your kids, take a short, practice mini-retirement first.
  • Whenever you arrive somewhere new, organize a week of language classes. Schools will often help you with logistics such as finding an apartment, and you’ll get to know people right away.

Airfare Tips

Because mini-retirements last on the order of months, you’re not necessarily concerned with the low-cost travel associated with binge vacations. Since you’re relocating somewhere for a considerable amount of time, having a less horrible travel experience is probably worth the extra money you spend on a direct flight. It’s always nice to get a deal, though, so do the following to save on airfare:

  • Buy tickets either three months in advance or at the last minute.
  • Leave and come back Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
  • Buy a ticket to the major airport closest to your destination. Once you arrive, buy a ticket to your exact destination with a local airline, which will be cheaper.
  • Use a credit card with rewards points for your muse expenses, and then use the rewards for flights.

What to Bring

Travel is a good excuse to narrow down your possessions because going away forces you to evaluate what you have—you have to either bring things or store them. It might be hard for you to get rid of things. Capitalism has trained us that if we bought something, it was valuable. But once you get momentum going, it becomes easier to let go of things. Having fewer possessions can also make you happier—less physical clutter means less mental clutter.

Don’t bring too much when you travel. How much luggage you have will significantly affect your trip. You’ll have to carry it and store it. Bring only things you really need. The author recommends bringing only:

  • A week’s worth of clothing.
  • Copies of important documents.
  • Debit, credit, and cash in the local currency.
  • A lock for hostels and lockers.
  • Digital dictionaries.
  • A travel guide.
  • IF you’re a writer, a laptop. Otherwise, if you need to access your computer while you’re away, use remote desktop software in an internet cafe.

Convince yourself to pack so minimally by:

  • Bringing a “settling fund.” A settling fund is money you’ve put away to buy anything you left behind and discover you do in fact need, or to buy anything annoying to bring such as umbrellas or sunscreen. Err on the side of bringing less, because you won’t need as much as you think you do. The author’s settling fund is $100-300.
  • Plan on borrowing things. For example, if you’re going on a whale watching tour, someone else on the trip will definitely bring binoculars, so you don’t have to.

How to Plan a Mini-Retirement

There are four steps to planning a mini-retirement. You may not have to do all the steps for each mini-retirement. Here are the steps:

  • Assess your finances. Write a list of your assets and how much they’re worth, incoming cash, and expenses. What can you get rid of? Consider how much you use it or if it creates more stress than it’s worth.
  • Fear-set. Fear-set one of your dreamlines or a one-year mini-retirement in Europe.
  • Choose where you want to go on your first mini-retirement. You can stay in your own country, but it’s easier to get out of the working mindset somewhere with a different culture. To find a place:
    • Pick a place to...

Shortform Exercise: Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Belongings

Having a lot of material possessions creates a lot of mental clutter.

Think about the material possessions that you own. What possessions fall into the top 20%? Consider which possessions make you happy, are useful, or allow you to do things you want to. For example, if you love to play the guitar, your guitar would be in your top 20%.

The 4-Hour Workweek Summary Chapter 14: What to Do With All Your Newfound Time

Congratulations! You’ve now significantly decreased your working hours and earned yourself lots of free time. To get started on living the 4HWW lifestyle, the author recommends you try:

  • Doing nothing. Take a total break from being efficient, rushed, and productive. You might try a silence retreat.
  • Donating anonymously to an organization. This helps you separate getting credit for your actions from the act of doing them.
  • Using your mini-retirement to learn and volunteer. The longer the better so you can focus on learning the local language.
  • Reviewing and tweaking your dreamlines after each mini-retirement. Come up with new dreamlines as you discover new interests.
  • Considering a vocation. A vocation can be full or part-time, just like work, but unlike work, it’s something that you really want to be doing.

Initially, you won’t have trouble living the 4HWW lifestyle. You’ll be doing all the things you’ve always want to that you’d been putting off. After a while, however, you’ll have more time than you know what to do with. You might feel bored or unhappy. This is normal. The author went through this period too—he had to make a to-do list that included things like “eat breakfast” so he would feel productive.

When you have free time, you also have more free mental time, and your brain starts trying to tackle existential questions. The author recommends the following:

  • Mentally disengage from work culture. Remind yourself that part of the reason you feel like you’re being lazy or undeserving is that you’ve been socially conditioned to believe that deferred retirement and the rat race are what you should be doing with your life. These are old ideas. What you’re doing is better.
  • Find a passion or vocation. When you’re focusing on something, it takes all your attention, so your mind doesn’t have the budget for life-choice doubts. Most people do this by doing one or both of the following:
  • Learning. While mini-retiring, the author recommends learning the local language and one physical skill. You should learn a language because you can’t understand a culture until you understand a language, and because learning a language helps you connect with your own thoughts. You should learn a physical skill because sports are good for making friends and for forcing you to practice your language skills. You’ll learn faster while traveling than you would at home because the conditions are so different.
  • Serving others or the planet. For the author, service is simply doing something that makes the world better. Philanthropy is more specifically making human life better, which you can do if you want, but keep in mind humans have created a lot of environmental problems. All that to say, you don’t know what overall effect your actions will have, so pick something you care about and do the best you can.
    • For example, when considering how to serve, ask yourself what makes you angriest about the world, what makes you scared for future generations, and what makes you happy and how can you help others get it?
  • Don’t stress about vague existential questions. If your brain asks you the meaning or point of life, don’t feel the need to answer. These questions are so vague and undefined no one could answer them, except by defining the word “life” from a dictionary. If you’re going to wonder about big questions, make sure that every word in the question has a clear meaning, and that once you’ve found an answer, you can do something about it. If a question doesn’t meet these two criteria, forget about it. This isn’t being irreverent or shallow, it’s about being smart.
    • For example, whenever you have a negative thought, ask yourself why three times and write down the answers. Writing them will both help you get them out of your head and force you to put them into words, which decreases any ballooning effect of ambiguity.
  • Make new friends. You probably regularly socialized with the people you worked with, even if it was only to send them cat videos. Make friends other than your coworkers.

Reducing Deliberation

Making decisions is exhausting because it takes time, energy, and attention. Note that it’s not the number of decisions we make that’s exhausting, it’s the number of resources we use deliberating. For example, when you’re buying something, the more options you have are directly correlated with the amount of buyer’s regret you’ll have, and with how happy you’ll be with your choice.

There are six ways to reduce deliberation:

1. Automate decisions by making rules. Treat yourself the same way you treat your coworkers and outsourcers—make rules regarding certain actions and follow them in every case so you don’t have to think.

  • For example, immediately delete any email that has the subject “chain letter.”

2. Don’t look for problems you can’t immediately solve. If you’re not in a position to do something about a problem (for example, it’s Friday night and everyone has left work for the week), avoid learning about it. If you find out about it, it’ll bounce around in your brain until you can fix it, distracting you from relaxing.

3. Don’t procrastinate decisions. If you already know your decision but are procrastinating giving it because it might make someone uncomfortable, stop. Give it now.

  • For example, if you don’t want to go for dinner with someone, say you’re pretty sure you’re otherwise occupied but if that changes, you’ll let them know.

4. Make non-critical decisions quickly. If a decision isn’t about something important, give yourself a time limit, option limit,...