Book Review: The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss

30 04 2008

I finished reading the 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss last night. I enjoyed reading the book and it has left me with plenty to do and think about. I finished the book in only a few days which is rare for me and shows (for me anyway) a) how easy to read it and b) how interesting and valuable I found the content.

Broadly speaking, the first half of the book (although not prescriptively) focuses on productivity. On reading the book you see that Ferriss is very consistent in his message with the key notes, talks and clips there are on YouTube. He looks at the 80/20 principle (Pareto Efficiency – 20% of input produces 80% of output) and Parkinson’s Law (the theory that tasks will expand to fill the time allowed). Ferriss’s style and explanations make the subject matter clear, it is easy to apply and is concise though not basic. Much of the items discussed in this part of the book (and you will have heard some of the principles) make you think “Yes, you are right – why aren’t I doing that now!” There are similarities in some of his points with Covey’s 7 Habits – such as beginning with the end in mind.

The rest of the book broadly deals with creating more time for yourself. Ferris is known for making people aware of the concept of ‘Personal Outsourcing’. [You will see from my other posts that this is an area I am currently experimenting with and I found out about this fascinating area of lifestyle management through Ferriss’s blog and other sources quoting his approach.]

There is a useful but moderately mind-blowing section on ‘income automation’. It all sounds so easy and yet so hard at the same time. I think this is the section I will re-read to get a grip of (not because I didn’t understand it, but because I want to use it). Ferriss also reveals the business model he has used for this; fascinating for a past Business Student such as myself, but by no means a boring text book explanation. Whether I will be able to do this myself remains to be seen, but I am certainly not going to knock the approach until I’ve tried it.
The ‘mini-retirement’ ideas are truly inspiring. However, the steps to release yourself from your current job, though well argued and valid, are made to seem easier than I believe they would be for many people. Without giving too much away here, I could work at home more as I am able to create that flexibility in my job but I have an operation and service level role that would very quickly expose me if I was doing it secretly from the other side of the world. However, Ferris does argue his points well, and his direct but not dismissive approach outlines the common pitfalls, excuses etc. A constant message throughout the book is that we are all accountable to rules that ultimately we are able to control ourselves.
There are a number of life lessons and observations that again are well conveyed. I particularly like the brief note on ‘Decluttering’ which again, far from being prescriptive, is well justified and suitably concise.
The narrative style of Ferriss is direct but rather than Ferriss saying “Do this or you are stupid” his concepts make you think “Why am I being stupid and not doing this”. The book is well written using plenty of case studies, examples and quotes to get the clear message across.

In conclusion, Ferris has an interesting perspective on areas of our lives that have a major impact on our lifestyles. Whilst you may not apply all of concepts to the letter, you can easily select those elements that will bring you the most benefit in your personal lifestyle. Remember that you are the master of your own destiny and this book offers you suggestions and tools to help – ultimately their application is up to you.
As a final note I’d like to address the title “The 4-Hour Work Week”. Ferris did market research to work out the title for his book that would sell the most copies. A 4-Hour work week is a very attractive goal, but perhaps an more extreme example or goal for most people.

Highly Recommended.

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