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:
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.
The first step to living the 4HWW lifestyle involves addressing your fears and defining what you want to do.
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:
To get past your fears, when considering doing something (such as leaving your job), ask yourself:
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.
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:
You can create dreamlines on a three-, six-, or twelve-month timeline. Here are the seven steps to dreamlining:
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.
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:
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 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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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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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...
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.
There are ten rules for breaking the rules:
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?
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...
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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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.
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.
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...
The first step of dreamlining is to brainstorm.
What are some things you’ve always wanted to have?
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.
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.
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:
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:
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:
There are three steps to starting and maintaining selective ignorance:
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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?
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.
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 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:
“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.
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.
There are some logistics to iron out when transitioning 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?
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:
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.
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:
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?
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.
There are three steps to choosing a muse. Don’t manufacture anything until you’ve completed all three steps.
It’s best to choose a market that you’re a part of or have a good understanding of so you know its needs.
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...
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?
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.
There are three phases of automation, determined by the amount of product shipped:
Initially, you’ll do everything yourself. As you work through this phase:
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.
In this phase, you’re going to add a local fulfillment company. As you work through this phase:
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:
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:
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%.
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:
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: