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The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss.
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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...

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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...

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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...

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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.

“Fear-Setting”

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...

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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?

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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...

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Shortform Exercise: Brainstorm Dreams

The first step of dreamlining is to brainstorm.


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

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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...

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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...

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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?

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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

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...

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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.

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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...

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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?

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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...

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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?

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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...

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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?

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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...

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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...

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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.)

Fear-Setting

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...

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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%.

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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...

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Table of Contents

  • 1-Page Summary
  • Part 1: D: Define Your Dreams | Chapter 1: Choose Your Lifestyle
  • Chapter 2: Break the Rules
  • Chapter 3: Face Your Fears
  • Exercise: Start to Fear-Set
  • Chapter 4: Sketch Your Dreamlines
  • Exercise: Brainstorm Dreams
  • Part 2: E: Eliminate Activities That Waste Your Time | Chapter 5: Learn the Laws
  • Chapter 6: Ignore Unimportant or Unactionable Information
  • Exercise: Learn Selectively
  • Chapter 7: Minimize Interruptions
  • Exercise: Batch Monthly
  • Chapter 8: Take Control of Your Schedule: Work Remotely
  • Exercise: Transition to Remote Work
  • Part 3: A: Automate Time-Consuming Activities | Chapter 9: Get a Virtual Assistant (VA)
  • Exercise: Delegate to a Virtual Assistant (VA)
  • Chapter 10: Find a “Muse”
  • Exercise: Find Your “Muse”
  • Chapter 11: Automate Your Muse
  • Part 4: L: Liberate Yourself from the Rat Race | Chapter 12: How to Leave Your Rat Race Job
  • Chapter 13: Mini-Retirements
  • Exercise: Apply the 80/20 Rule to Your Belongings
  • Chapter 14: What to Do With All Your Newfound Time