You are using an outdated browser. Please upgrade your browser to improve your experience.

Tim Ferriss and the Four Hour Workweek

Written by: Sandra Lewis

Angel investor and corporate activist, Tim Ferriss, penned his best-selling self-help book, The 4-Hour Work Week after his girlfriend left him, blaming his 24-hour-a-day obsession with work. Despite the fact that his dietary supplements business was incredibly successful, he chose to step back from work in order to gain some sort of perspective on why he worked the way he did and how he could change it.

What Ferrisss realized was that he needed to re-design his working style and life priorities. He calls this ‘lifestyle design’ and asserts that and ‘there are no longer any boundaries between personal and work life, unless we specifically create them.’ When he created the first boundary — checking his email only once a week — he was surprised to see that his business didn’t crumble into disrepair without his constantly checking in.

Ferriss chalked it up to economist Vilfredo Pareto’s 80/20 Principle to explain this particular scenario.  i.e. 80% of your benefits come from 20% of your efforts. Basing his theory of the 4-Hour Work Week on this 80/20 concept, Ferrisss constructed an approach to redesigning the work vs. life balance, using the acronym, DEAL, to explain the 4HWW:

D: Definition

Ferrisss explains that before you can redesign your lifestyle, you need to do a deep-sighted assessment of your life: from its day-to-day practicalities, your work ethics/style, relationship priorities, personal values and goals. Examine yourself honestly to pinpoint the fears holding you back, and the societal expectations you believe you ‘should’ conform to.

Once you’ve defined all the above, you can move on to designing your own unique definition of what it is you want from your life and future – in work, play, love and health. At this point, you need to calculate the exact cost of what it will take you to reach your desired goals.

E: Elimination

This is all about time management. By applying the Pareto Principle of 80/20, you focus only on those specific tasks that add the most significant value. Ferrisss emphasizes effectiveness over efficiency, basing this on Parkinson’s Law which states that ‘work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion’, thereby limiting the time spent working. So, spend your time on the things that matter the most, and have someone else manage the other bits.

A: Automation

Passive-income techniques such as automation, Google AdSense, AdWords and drop-shipping help to build an automatic and maintainable flow of income. This is also where Ferrisss proposes that outsourcing is absolutely key in successfully automating one’s work process and lifestyle. When your virtual assistants are working, you don’t have to.

L: Liberation

Once your work systems and lifestyle have been successfully automated, the ability to free yourself from the previous restraints of ‘norms’ defining working hours, job titles and office location. Attaining liberation means you can now move freely within the open space you have redesigned for yourself, and achieve your dreams and goals – in your way.

Though Ferriss’s assertion about the effectiveness of outsourcing to virtual assistants is very valid, his specification that the outsourcing should come from lower-income, developing countries like Bangladesh or India has been questioned about its moral integrity. Additionally, outsourcing to call-centres has definite drawbacks, such as the impersonal lack of continuity between you and too many assistants, resulting in an unprofessional and ineffective case of “broken telephone,” like the childhood game.

But you can have the best of both. Boldly offers both options where you can either hire one dedicated VA – or a managed account so you are assured of maintaining consistent, reliable contact with a single account manager who oversees all of your virtual projects and virtual staff.


Updated on March 8th, 2018

About the author: Sandra Lewis is the Founder and CEO of Boldly. She's passionate about helping founders move their business forward with the right skills and resources. Setting an example of the efficiencies gained working virtually, she manages her entire team on a virtual basis.