Timothy Ferriss’ book, The 4-hour Work Week, is definitely motivational, is full of practical ideas and tips. But after taking me on an exciting journey, it somehow it left me back where I began.
The premise of this book is there is no need to be trapped in the 9 to 5 drudgery, and that the life we want is waiting for us to come and grab it. We can stop wasting our precious time on menial tasks by becoming extremely efficient, and outsourcing much of our time consuming routine. By making your work ultra efficient, and mobile, you develop the freedom to see the world and fulfill your dreams. Simple.
I am economist, so the idea of maximising utility is no stranger to me. Timothy Ferriss, in my mind, is the ultimate homo economicus. He designs his life to fulfil his own goals, and ignores the need for social convention and traditional work routine – he should really be on the cover on of economic text book! But before I get into my thoughts on particular parts of the book, let me present some of my favourite quotes.
Retirement is worst-case scenario insurance
Less is not laziness
The timing is never right
Ask for forgiveness, not permission
Emphasise strengths; don’t fix weaknesses
And that’s all by the second chapter. One point I would like to develop is the distinction Tim makes between effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is doing things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task in the most economical manner. This idea resonated with me (I had never heard this distinction made before), as I believe I naturally think in terms of effectiveness.
Two other little gems from this book the 80/20 rule, and Parkinson’s Law. The 80/20 rule is a restatement of the non-linearity of our inputs and outcomes. For example, 80% of our output might come from 20% of our time, while 20% of sources might cause 80% of my problems. It allows one to optimise by isolating and eliminating (another key point of Tim’s) wasteful use of your time.
Parkinson’s Law dictates that a task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allocated for its completion. Just like those university assignments, a long deadline give too much time to think about the unimportant parts and delay hitting the key tasks in the head. Combining these two principles is the secret to heightened productivity. As Tim states:
Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20)
Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law)
Couldn’t agree more - but I've never been able to express it like that. As well of these little gems of advice, the book is packed with actual practical advice, such as email templates, examples of courteous phone messages explaining how you won’t be answering y our phone much anymore, and phrases to use when negotiating remote working arrangements with your boss. Oh, and there’s plenty of links to website dealing where particular issues covered in more detail.
In the end, I feel like I am already living the 'lifestyle design' mentality of the new rich espoused by Ferriss. While his advice is extremely helpful, and quite motivating, it leaves me back to the existential conundrum I had at the beginning. If we can have anything we want out of life, and I believe we can, what is it that I want?