Some things I’m trying to do differently after reading The 4-Hour Work Week

by Jeff Hilimire on January 16, 2014

Over the holiday I blew through the book, The 4-Hour Work Week, by Tim Ferriss in about three days. It’s interesting because a great deal of what he talks about doesn’t apply to me. For instance, he gives rather compelling advice on how to create small businesses, automate them and then travel the world most of the time. Cool, but not something that I’ll be doing any time soon.

I did, however, grasp several concepts that I’m trying to implement in my life at the moment. Here they are:

Don’t let email control you. I’m bad about this. Since I read the book I’ve picked 2-3 times a day for email, blocked them out on my calendar and only done email during those times. I turned off email alerts on my phone and even moved the email icon (GASP) off of my homescreen. I have no idea if I’ll be able to stick to this, but so far I’m enjoying the freedom of not having to check email constantly.

It’s ok – in fact it might be better – for your “job” to be something that fulfills you immensely. With starting Dragon Army, one of my top goals was to not let my mind think about the company ALL THE TIME. In the past I attributed that to my job meaning too much in my life and that being a problem. Now, instead of trying to hope my job isn’t essentially also my hobby, I’m embracing that but I’m compartmentalizing the time I spend on it. This allows me to spend more, focused time with my family which is the most important thing to me. Not checking email all the time is making a big difference with this particular effort.

Observe the 80/20 rule. Ferriss talks a great deal about the 80/20 rule. Things like: You wear 20% of your clothes 80% of the time. 80% of the wealth is held by 20% of the population. 20% of the things you do at work produce 80% of the results. That last example is something I’ve started working on. I’m focusing on how I spend my time each day and trying to make sure the things I do are the important things, the things that produce the most value. It’s an interested exercise to evaluate how you spend your time and really assess which things are moving the needle and which efforts are just “busy work”.

Use my calendar to assess how I spend my time. This isn’t something Ferriss really talked about but his book inspired me to do it. I’m going to share more on this in a later post, but essentially I spend time looking at my calendar for the current week and the following week, noting the different types of activities I have slotted and making sure I’m spending my time efficiently.

Start each day not with email but with thinking about the big things I want to accomplish that day. Each morning I’ve tried to a) blog, b) look at my calendar and think about the big things I need to do, and c) read a little. I try to do all these things before I look at email or start doing “busy work”. So far I’ve been good about a) and b), but rarely have I found the time made sure that I read. I want to read some because I think it will help my mind start thinking rather than just reacting.

If you want to read more about Tim Ferriss and his inspiring stories and tips/tricks to be more productive, check out his blog.

  • Greg Horowitz

    You know, I was originally dismissive of the 4HWW, both for the reasons you cite as well as the fact that it seemed really faddish, but in the last month a few different people whose opinions I respect have recommended it, so I may need to check it out. One friend suggested I get the audiobook — apparently the actor who does the voice-over is really motivating.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    I do recommend the 4-hour work week if for nothing else to get you thinking about how you spend your time and how you can rethink your priorities. Even if the plan he prescribes isn’t perfect for you, it will get you thinking.

  • Joe Koufman

    For your second to last point, I wonder if there is an app for that (sort of like credit cards categorize your spending).

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Hm, maybe, but I like the purposeful review of my calendar so I’m not sure I’d want it automated, I like having to go in and change the colors of my appointments to coincide with the type of activity. Makes me think ;)

  • TS

    I’m surprised you haven’t mentioned the idea of hiring a virtual assistant to offload the time-consuming, but tedious, small tasks that build up in one’s life.

    Ever since I read 4HWW last year, this idea has intrigued me, even from a perspective of being an employee, needing to produce different deliverables at work. How nice it would be to have someone to pass that work to, have it worked on while I was off of work and while I was sleeping, then receive the deliverable (at least a draft of it) before I got to work the next morning.

    I know from a personal perspective, there are many things that go into operating the family “machine” that would be nice to pass to someone to do the legwork for. Find a vacation destination that meets certain criteria. Monitor travel prices and make arrangements. Find new school clothes for the kids and send links, research various things and send back recommendations, etc. Lots of potential uses for a virtual assistant on the personal side as well.

    It’s something I’d like to try, to see how much benefit I could get out of it.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    I was SO enamored with the virtual assistant after reading 4HWW. I’ve been trying to figure out how to test it out. Wanna try to share one as a test?

  • Ricardo Diaz

    Sorry, totally late to this, but I ended up in a link swirl in Hilimire’s blog here :)

    Rescue Time ( is a great app. It’s exactly what Jeff described he DOESN’T want down there, but it’s awesome that it’s automated, runs in the background and gives good detail.

  • Jeff Hilimire

    Wow, do you actually use Rescue Time? I’d love to hear more about that!

  • Ricardo Diaz

    Yep, I do use it and I go back and look at it every couple weeks to get an idea of where my time is spent.

    I like that you can set goals and such, categorize things into fairly large buckets like Unproductive, Neutral, Productive, etc.

    It’s good for looking back and seeing how much time you waste on Facebook, email, etc :)

    Obviously, it doesn’t help for meeting time wasting, but maybe you can run Solitaire during meetings and mark the time as unproductive :D

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