Thursday, September 18, 2014

The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (Book Review #90 of 2014)

I listen to Ferriss' podcast and have often been amused at the "living life hacker." I also hear his confessions about his habits, struggles, addictions, and how sometimes he gets razzed by his friends for still working a 60 hour week. The point of the book, he said recently, is that you can get 40 hours worth of work done in a time closer to four hours than 40. After reading the book I'd say the main thesis is that you can gain "freedom from what you dislike, freedom to pursue your dreams without reverting to work for work's sake (W4W)." You can be among the "New Rich" that gave up their high-paying desk jobs and commutes and found ways to delegate and automate their activities and now travel the world, partying and learning languages or whatever strikes their fancy.

"Less is not laziness...doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness."  Ferriss stresses doing the "minimum necessary for maximum effect ('minimum effective load')." This type of thinking is missing from the theology of work literature. How about a theology of productivity and efficiency?

Ferriss gives plenty of tips for how to get this done. Find ways to automate routine tasks, like responding to emails or processing orders. Outsource some menial activities to virtual assistants in India (I followed his tip and outsourced a menial task to someone in Pakistan this week, was a good decision). Schedule your day--focus on accomplishing two separate tasks and do not allow distractions during their completion. Compress your tasks with tight deadlines so that you rev up your effort (if you had a gun to your head, you would do everything faster and more effeciently). Check email once or twice a day, never answer voicemails. Follow the 80/20 rule: Elminate the 20% of your customers that create 80% of your headaches, focus on the 20% that generate 80% of your revenue.

Give free lectures on your local university campus, put that on your CV, list yourself places where journalists can find you, give interviews and write books and articles that will lead to greater fame and income. Don't invent things and make yourself busy to feel important. Busyness is not productivity or desirable. Stop reading the news and be selectively ignorant. If you do read, follow his tips for reading faster. Find ways to get out of meetings, don't hold them yourselves, and negotiate with your boss for permission to work remotely.

Once you go remote, make it abroad. Learn languages, party, and enjoy life.

"Retirement is worst-case scenario insurance." People work hard, save up, and then retire hoping to do activities to "enjoy life" when it would have been much more enjoyable in their 20s and 30s when they had health. Why not do it now, is his point. Ferriss' advice is most applicable to those who sell a manufactured product-- he sells fitness pills-- where the manufacturing, order processing, and customer support can be outsourced to Asia. If you're in the service sector or are an independent consultant than his advice is harder to stick. If you're a carpenter or some other manufacturer that focuses on custom design and quality, then you're also not going to gain much help from this book.

There is a great deal of selfishness is Ferriss' thinking. While he gives examples of people who have kids, most examples--including his own-- do not; there appear to be no considerations of love in his life other than to satisfy his own physical desires. He has never had to wake up at 3am to change a diaper or sacrifice his time to sit with a sick daughter-- you can't delegate or outsource those activities, and they have a major impact on all else that you do. He does not appear curious about the meaning of his work, or the purpose of life. I believe everyone looks to be part of a cause greater than themselves in some way, which is why we respond to leadership. There is no aspect of that in this book, it is basically how to lead yourself into being an island (albeit a very productive one) to one's self. While Ferriss fills his time with accomplishments in martial arts, cooking, language, and dancing one wonders if he's not just trying really hard to fill a void in his soul that others fill with relationships, family, and community.

I have read 90 books so far this year because I've found ways to make my day more efficient. But I free up time for personal enjoyment in activities-- like reading the news-- that Ferriss says I should avoid. I also have a family that is dependent on my success for health insurance but is also demanding/deserving of a large chunk of my time that I would love to selfishly spend elsewhere. That's what love is, and that's what is missing from this book.

So, I enjoyed the book and recommend it with the above paragraph as my caveat. 3 stars out of 5.I will check out his other books on fitness and cooking for some tips.


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