The 4-Hour Work Week (Timothy Ferriss) – Book Summary10 min read

The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss Book Cover

Three Sentence Summary

Proof that it’s possible to escape the 9-5, live your dream lifestyle and accomplish your lifelong goals. This blueprint goes into detail of the basic plan to separate your personal life from your work and prioritise your passions. Read this book to give you the motivation needed to make your dreams a reality and live with the freedom we all crave.

My Top 3 Take Aways

  1. Define your ambitions with ‘Dreamlines’ establishing a figure needed to achieve this to make them feel achievable.
  2. Write out your fears and establish the risk vs reward by rating the worst and best outcomes from 1-10 in terms of how life changing they would be. Usually the worst possibility is more reversible than than first anticipated. 
  3. When establishing new businesses or streams of income plan for automation to make it easier to step away from and so attain more free time. 

Who Do I Recommend This Book For?

Have you ever thought about leaving your job, starting a business or just wanting more free time? Well this book is for you. This should help give you inspiration, motivation and new ideas in how to improve your work life balance and achieve the lifestyle you want.

Full Summary

Lifestyle Planning
Do you ever think what you could do if money wasn’t an issue? What if you had all the free time you wanted? What about being able to work anywhere in the world? This book outlines a plan to do all of the above so you can take back the hours lost grinding the 9-5 and put them into something more productive. This is all about designing the lifestyle of your dreams. The core plan of the 4-hour work week is centred around the acronym D.E.A.L. which aims to give you the parameters necessary to take back your time and get the lifestyle you dream of.
D.E.A.L. Lifestyle Plan
Definition – the fundamentals of this lifestyle.
Elimination – removing time management to create free time.
Automation – putting your life and business on autopilot to provide income without the time constraints.
Liberation ‐ removing the constraints of location to provide true mobility.
The majority of this book is written with specific examples. This includes software and business providers which may be outdated or not as applicable. For this summary I’m going to focus on the overlying message rather than the specifics.
This lifestyle of minimal effective dose working means focusing less on work and more on the things that excite you. Boredom after all is a silent killer that saps the joy and ambition out of many a 9-5 worker. Most people think if they work more and earn more money, they’ll be able to retire early however this strategy is not what many people really want. They don’t want to work longer they want to work on things they enjoy now without being told what to do. Take  spending 40+ years of your life working hard to then enjoy life when you’re old as an example. Can you guarantee your state of health or the responsibilities to other loved ones you may have acquired? If life tells us anything nothing goes quite to plan so gambling on a retirement with truly unlimited freedom is a risky proposition. A lot can change in a year never mind half a century. The aim of this new era of workers is to establish freedom to work wherever and whenever so you can take mini-retirements throughout your life. These retirements are not for being idle but for doing things that have and will bring meaning to your life. But what is that and how do you know when you’re capable to take this break? This is where the strategies of dreamlining and fear defining come in.
When it comes to retirement the free time can be overwhelming and result in procrastination and putting things off. After all you have all the time in the world now to do whatever your heart desires. This of course results in many things going unfinished. Dreamlines are for planning mini-retirements so not only will you have specific plans and ideas to fill your time but also the specifics of finance and what it takes to make your dreams a reality. This will also give you hard goals so that you know exactly it is when you’re capable to take a mini-retirement instead.
 The first step is to create two timelines one for 6 months and one for 12 months and write down the things that excite you. This should be 5 things you dream of owning, being and doing in that order. Be honest with yourself and make them specific and unrealistic. Don’t limit yourself or worry about how you’ll get there. Think BIG!
Highlight 4 out of the 15 dreams on both your timelines that would truly be life changing. These are your main priorities.
Finally research and determine the costs of these dreams. Go through each goal and write down all it’s associated expenses. If financeable write this down too. You’ll often find you’re dreams might not be as expensive as first thought. 
For your four life changing goals you then need to calculate your target monthly income (TMI). This is calculated by this equation:
Target Monthly Income (TMI) Equation.
Cost of your 4 priority goals + (total monthly expenses x 1.3) = TMI (÷ 30 for Target Daily Income).
Defining Your Fears
Once you see your dreams summed up as one number you’ll likely be excited but also fearful and doubt will likely start to creep in. This is when you need to specifically label your fear. Every time you’re scared of acting, write out what your fear is and what the worst possible outcome is. Scale this outcome from 1-10 with 10 being permanently life altering and compare this to the potential upside by also scaling it in the same way. Hopefully this will enable you to see that everything is usually a lot less scary as it first was and will get you back on task to making your dreams a reality.
The truth is that the core tasks in the majority of jobs can be completed in very little time. The issue is most people associate work with 8 hour days, five days a week and so the time gets filled with more and more unimportant tasks. The efficiency of completing these unimportant tasks then gets obsessed over resulting in further wasted time. Which although a lot of time is put into it does not make it important. In the end ‘what you do is more important than how you do it’. 
The 80/20 Principle - Pareto's Law
In order to decide what is high priority and what can be eliminated the 80/20 principle can be used. Simply put 80% of the output is a result of 20% of the input. In other words what are the 20% of sources that cause 80% of the desired results. Or in reverse what are the 20% of sources that cause 80% of your unhappiness. By identifying your priorities and what causes you a headache you can establish which can be eliminated and which can be completed more efficiently. This should be around two priority items a day set with short deadlines to force action.
Learning to Say No
Many problems solve themselves as long as you remove yourself as an information bottleneck and allow others to feel empowered. By removing these time wasting tasks and interruptions you will be able to solely focus on completing the high priority tasks.  This also goes for the creation of unimportant or low priority tasks. A great example is prepping for an event weeks ahead of schedule when you know you’ll have to reread the material anyway or it may not be necessary. Focus on the high priority tasks and the information you need for that this being the “just -in-time” information not the “just-in-case” information.
Learning to say no is also important. We all know that one person who says yes to everything then ends up spending all their time juggling tasks and paid the same just to be more stressed. This doesn’t me outright saying no but demonstrating your organisation skills by asking if its of a higher priority than your current deadline. This can be enough to get the job scrapped or able to be done at a latter date as to not interrupt your flow too much. As long as you produce the high priority work in a high quality and timely manner complaints should be scarce. For optimal focus, unavoidable low priority jobs should be batched as it can take up to 45 minutes to refocus on a major task after interruption. This means checking emails and messages at set times and turning off alerts so you are not distracted while on task.

This is the step that allows you to focus on the high priority work without having to worry about the minutia of tasks. There’s two ways of outsourcing. Firstly your personal life and secondly your business/work. Both ways work to ensure that tedious or time consuming jobs are completed in a way that is cost effective and requires little to no oversight. Deciding what to try to automate can be difficult especially in your own life or in a business you built yourself as you don’t want to let go of the control. A simple way to decide is to look at the numbers and is summed up by this quote by the author. “If you spend your time, worth $20-25 per hour, doing something that someone else will do for $10 per hour, it’s simply a poor use of resources.” Of course this is only worth it if you are going to fill the time with something that you deem more worthwhile or that not doing the task makes you happier. One other tip given before automation is to always ensure it is necessary first and that it couldn’t be eliminated all together. Automation should also be at the forefront of designing a new business as one designed for automation means less stress and a more reliable cashflow giving you more time to do what you want. Producing online products where the product is downloaded is a great way to start to keep costs low and the asset can then be resold after being created only once.


The final aspect of this 4 stage plan is to remove yourself from the equation. When this book was first published remote working was quite the rarity however nowadays with events over the past few years and improvements in technology its become a lot more common place. This means its easier than ever before to save time by ditching the commute and giving yourself more free time to pursue your passion. If you can start from a trial day a week and prove your performance is improved and it benefits the company, extensions and it being made permanent can follow. This will give you more time to design, produce, automate and scale alternative sources of cashflow resulting in you being able to replace your income. Once this is achieved leaving your job can be the next step resulting in you being able to achieve your dreamlines. Take a well deserved mini-retirement come back work on something new then go back to a mini-retirement. Of course this is a major oversimplification but in the end putting in the time at first can result in your own 4-hour work week, you just have to take your first step.

Making it Actionable!

This was a very interesting read for me as the internet has made many of these ideas extremely realistic and more viable than ever (maybe I’m just an optimist). Of course a lot of the specific strategies and suggestions are a bit outdated but many can be adapted for 2023 and beyond. For me the easiest way to make  this actionable is to start at the beginning with my ‘dreamlines’ and put a figure to what I want to achieve. The tasks given at the end of each chapter are also well worth giving a go to improve confidence and gain experience. After this getting into the world of online business and selling online will be the easiest way to begin setting up some alternative ways of business and learn this as a new skill. I think the hardest part is getting started but once I’m in and learnt the ropes, I doubt I’ll want to stop.



If you’ve read this book already I’d love to know your thoughts and how you’ve implemented its strategies. Let me know down below!

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