I received an unusual telephone call a few months ago from my friend David:
“Whatever you’re doing right now, stop and go out and buy The 4-Hour Workweek,” he said from his cell phone. He was on the beach, reading Timothy Ferriss’s amazing, popular and controversial new book.
Where book recommendations go (and restaurants in foreign countries, too, for that matter), my friend is something of an expert. So I stopped what I was doing and bought Ferriss’s book.
I read it in one sitting the same day I bought it, and I’m recommending it to you because it contains valuable ideas about life, work, and how to radically change the relationship between the two.
Ferriss is many things – an internet entrepreneur, a champion martial artist, a scuba diver, beach bum and author. He claims to have spent more than 5 years learning the secrets of the “New Rich.” The 4-Hour Workweek is his thesis on what he learned, and how you can apply it to your life.
The traditional life plan is to work hard, day after day, so that you can eventually retire and enjoy the spoils of your lifelong labor. But why wait until you’re so old you can’t really enjoy it? Ferriss turns the traditional lifeplan on its head, and attempts to show that by making modifications in how you manage your work, you can have mini-retirements throughout your life, enhancing the quality of your life overall without sacrificing income. In fact, he claims, reducing work time helps you focus your efforts and produce more in less time.
The bias of the book is definitely toward using computer and internet technology to maximize your income and time. For example, he suggests that you stop keeping your e-mail browser open all day and responding to messages as they come in. Instead, you set up an auto-responder that tells each person who emails you that, to serve your clients more efficiently, you’ll only be checking e-mail twice a day – at 10 and at 4 – with instructions on how to call you if they have a need that can’t wait.
Checking e-mail just twice a day? I know people who check their e-mail more than twice every ten minutes. But Ferriss uses this method to groups tasks together more efficiently, allow you to focus more attention on individual projects without constant interruption, and to reduce unrealistic expectations about how quickly we can respond to every email that pops up on our screens.
Being in a service business makes it more of a challenge to schedule responses to e-mails, but reducing the habit even 50% pays off dramatically in increased productivity.
Despite being a child of the computer and internet age, Ferriss also reaches back in time to harvest the wisdom of thinkers from the past. For example, he revisits “Pareto’s Law,” a concept by the economist Vilfredo Pareto that posited the “80/20 principle” of the distribution of wealth in a society – that 80% of the wealth is possessed by 20% of the population.
Pareto observed this ratio in other areas as well … he found that 80% of the peas in his garden were produced by 20% of the seeds he planted, for example, as well as numerous other phenomena that seemed to follow this ratio. Ferriss uses this concept to evaluate his business. He examines his client list to find the 20% of clients who are producing most of his revenue, and profiles them so that he can focus his marketing efforts on prospects who share those qualities. He also applies the concept in reverse – trying to find the 20% of clients who are the most demanding and difficult to serve and therefore the least profitable.
Those of you who have been in business for years won’t find this concept to be very radical. But it’s an excellent reminder to consistently evaluate our client lists to identify the characteristics of our highest-leverage customers.
The book is packed with ideas for reducing wasted time, streamlining processes, outsourcing tasks that don’t directly produce revenue, delegating as much as possible, and staying focused and on task so that you’re producing maximum results in the shortest time possible. It also lists plenty of resources you can quickly access online.
I bought my copy for $19.95 at Borders. It’s also available on audio CD for about $5 more. You can learn more about Ferriss and his concepts at his website, www.fourhourworkweek.com