I took notes from The 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris and thought of sharing them here. I only took the parts relevant to me, the less extreme parts. If you haven’t read the book, yes, some parts can be quite extreme especially for us who are so used to living the 9-5 work life.
I like few approaches recommended by Tim Ferris to increase our productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency becasue –
To enjoy life, you don’t need fancy nonsense, but you do need to control your time and realize that most things just aren’t as serious as you make them out to be.
1. Pareto’s Law (The 80/20 Principle)
Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant. Being selective – doing less – is the path of the productive. Focus on the important few and ignore the rest.
80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. 80% of the results come from 20% of the effort and time. 80% of the company profits come from 20% of the products and customers.
So the goal is to find our inefficiencies to eliminate them and to find our strengths so we can multiply them. Have more time by doing less!
There are 2 paths getting there:
- Define a to-do-list
Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?
- Define a not-to-do list
Which 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness?
2. Parkinson’s Law
How is it possible that all the people in the world need exactly 8 hours to accomplish their work? It isn’t. 9-5 is arbitrary.
Parkinson’s Law is based on the magic of imminent deadline. If we’re given 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure forces us to focus on execution. If we’re given 1 week to complete the same project, it’s six days of making a mountain out of a molehill. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost inevitably of equal or higher quality due to greater focus.
So identify few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.
3. Low-Information Diet
Be selectively ignorant. Ignore or redirect all information and interruptions that are irrelevant, unimportant, or unactionable.
- Go on an immediate one-week media fast. No newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, or nonmusic radio. No news websites. No television, except one hour of pleasure viewing each evening. No reading books, except one hour of pleasure reading. No web surfing unless necessary to complete work. (*I’ve been doing this for some time so if you’ve been following me here or on Facebook, perhaps you’d notice that I took my sweet time replying to comments at times.)
- Will you definitely use this information for something immediate and important? Focus on just-in-time information, instead of just-in-case information.
- Practice the art of non-finishing. Starting something doesn’t automatically justify finishing it. (*One example, I always made sure I finish the book that I read despite not liking it. But now I’m more open to putting it aside if I don’t enjoy it.)
4. Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal
An interruption is anything that prevents the start-to-finish completion of a critical task. There are usually three principal offenders:
- Time wasters – things that can be ignored with little or no consequence, including unimportant meetings, phone calls, web surfing, and email.
- Time consumers – repetitive tasks or requests that need to be completed but often interrupt high-level work, including making phone calls, responding to email, financial or sales reporting, personal errands, all necessary repeated actions, and tasks.
- Empowerment failures – being unable to accomplish a task without first obtaining permission or information, often a case of being micromanaged or micromanaging someone else.
So how to deal with these three interruptions?
To deal with time wasters
It is about limiting access and funneling all communication toward immediate action.
- Limit e-mail consumption and production.
- Turn off audible alert.
- Check e-mail twice per day. Never check e-mail first thing in the morning. Complete the most important task before 11.00 am to avoid using email as a postponement excuse.
- To screen incoming and limit outgoing phone calls.
- If someone calls, presume it is urgent and get straight to the point. No chitchat.
- To master the art of refusal and avoiding meetings.
- Given the non-urgent nature of most issues, steer people toward e-mail, phone, and then only in-person meetings.
- Streamline e-mail communication to prevent needless back-and-forth. For example: Instead of “Can we meet at 4.00 pm?“, say “Can we meet at 4.00 pm? If so, …. If not, please advise three other times that work for you.“
- E-mail or get the other person to email you with an agenda to define the purpose of a meeting.
- Define the end time of a meeting or call which forces people to focus instead of socializing, commiserating, and digressing.
- Don’t permit casual visitors in your cubicle or office.
- Ask permission from your boss to excuse yourself from a meeting and achieve more outside of the meeting.
To tackle time consumers
Tasks batching. Grouping similar tasks together and batching them. There is a psychological switching of gears that can require up to 45 minutes to resume a major task that has been interrupted. So batch your work, instead of making bill payments five times a week, do once per week.
To avoid empowerment failure
- For the employee, the goal is to have full access to necessary information and as much independent decision-making ability as possible
- For the entrepreneur or boss, the goal is to grant as much information and independent decision-making ability to employees as possible
5. The Choice-Minimal Lifestyle
Set the rules in your favour: Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects. Do not let people interrupt you. Find your focus and you’ll find your lifestyle.
The bottom line is that you only have the rights you fight for.
I love these rules to achieve more output and become less overwhelmed.
- Set rules for yourself so you can automate as much decision making as possible
- Don’t provoke deliberation before you can take action – don’t scan work inbox on Friday or over the weekend when the work problems can only be addressed on Monday (!!! Help me enjoy the weekend more ah)
- Don’t postpone decisions just to avoid uncomfortable conversations (I count 5 4 3 2 1 and just do it)
- Learn to make nonfatal or reversible decisions as quickly as possible
- Don’t strive for variation – and thus increase option consideration – when it’s not needed. Routine enables innovation where it is most valuable
- Regret is past-tense decision-making. Eliminate complaining to minimize regret
Here is the Not-to-Do List. 9 Habits that we should stop now:
- Do not answer phone calls from unrecognized phone numbers
- Do not email first thing in the morning or last thing in the night
- Do not agree to meetings or calls with no clear agenda or end time
- Do not let people ramble
- Do not check email constantly – batch and check at set times only
- Do not over-communicate with low-profit, high-maintenance customers
- Do not work more to fix overwhelmingness – prioritize
- Do not carry a cell phone 24/7
- Do not expect work to fill a void that non-work relationships and activities should
All in All
Some tips in The 4 Hours Work Week can be extreme but if you pick your lessons well, you can apply them in every part of your life. And that’s what I do. I just love the effectiveness and efficiency tips, i.e., Pareto’s Law, Parkinson Law, Low Information Diet, Interrupting Interruptions, and the Choice-Minimal Lifestyle, and I’ve been trying incorporating them in my life since early this year. It’s still a work in progress but they do improve my work life.
So now, time to continue figuringgitout.
3 thoughts on “What I Learn & How I Apply The 4 Hour Work Week in My Life (the Non-Extreme Way)”
I agree with your point of view, your article has given me a lot of help and benefited me a lot. Thanks. Hope you continue to write such excellent articles.
Reading your article helped me a lot and I agree with you. But I still have some doubts, can you clarify for me? I’ll keep an eye out for your answers.