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Is the 4-hour week really possible? Can it raise productivity?

By 21/02/2017April 8th, 2022Business

When Timothy Ferriss published the 4-hour work week in 2011, it quickly became a cult business classic. With a tag line that reads ‘Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich’, there’s no surprise it went on to become even more popular beyond it’s first year of release, either.

Ferriss works on the principle that anyone can design their own ‘luxury lifestyle’ by seismically reducing the number of hours they work each week while increasing both productivity and income (the latter, considerably).

On the face of it, the concept sounds ridiculous. When it comes to business, four hours barely makes up an entire day, therefore the thought of being able to work solely for that amount of time in order to become more successful than you would be sat at a desk for five days of the week is faintly ludicrous.

The former data storage company salesman invested heavily in the 80/20 rule which relies on specific actions to ensure that anyone can produce 80% of their work from just 20% of their time. However, the problem with the 80/20 rule is that there’s still a remaining 20% of productivity left over, which takes up 80% of one’s time.

Ferriss was smart enough to realise that by eliminating that remaining 20% of productivity, one could be far more efficient.

The 4-hour work week is divided up into four principals:

1) Define your objectives. What’s important to you both personally and professionally? Set some goals based around your objectives by asking “what do I really want?”.
2) Eliminate distractions. It’s easy to be distracted in the modern world, but if you eliminate the sources of interruption and stuff that easily diverts your attention on a daily basis, you’ll free up huge reserves of time.
3) Cash flow automation. By outsourcing elements of your working life to virtual assistants and software, you can create a business that runs on autopilot.
4) Liberate yourself from the expected. The modern job should be designed to increase mobility. For example, why work every day in the same office for the same length of time when you can instead mix your time between home working, the local coffee shop or even foreign shores that offer favourable exchange rates?

We know what you’re thinking – this all sounds incredibly well-meaning and delightful in principle, but is a 4-hour working week really possible?

This post argues that it is possible for the following reasons:

It chimes perfectly if you have entrepreneurial spirit

‘Entrepreneurial spirit’ is a bit of an ethereal concept, but it’s one that, when latched onto, offers something of a lightbulb moment. The skills, experiences and working practices developed by entrepreneurs enable them to achieve location-independent lifestyles that allow a far more healthy approach to work.

The idea, therefore, of working a 4-hour week will chime perfectly with such individuals, because they’re focussed on never being tied to one location and in turn being able to work anywhere in order to achieve maximum productivity.

Only one form of acceptance is required

Mention to anyone that you’re investing time in building a 4-hour working week ethic and, unless they’re of a similar mindset, they’ll likely laugh it off or suggest you may have gone slightly loopy.

The same thing can happen when you decide to start working for yourself. There’ll be plenty of encouragement from certain quarters, while others will sow seeds of doubt into your mind by suggesting that you could be throwing away a standard 9-5 career that you simply won’t be able to claw back if things go wrong with your solo venture.

In truth – and as important as support from those closest to you is – the only acceptance you need is that from yourself. Providing you accept that a 4-hour working week is possible, you’ll do everything in your power to make it so. It simply doesn’t need acceptance on a massive scale; if you can achieve your best work in that time and earn good money doing so, that’s all that matters, right?

You don’t have to (and shouldn’t) be alone

Despite the 4-hour week only requiring acceptance from you, there is absolutely no reason to go about this venture on your own. In fact, you shouldn’t, for this way of working requires solid partnerships to be built if it’s to be successful.

To achieve maximum productivity in a much shorter space of time, you’ll need to outsource certain tasks. They may be the mundane (invoicing, for example), in which case a virtual assistant would be best suited, but they may also be related to the work you do. A web designer, for example, may decide to partner with a graphic designer so that she can focus on the code.

These mini partnerships are crucial to making the 80/20 rule work for you, and means you can share your ability to be ultra productive and successful with others. It’s an inclusive, friendly and collaborative space in which to work.

It relies on old methods of communication

If you start a business and rely solely on email and instant messaging in order to reach out and speak to potential new clients and partners, you’ll waste an awful lot of time. The 4-hour work week relies instead on a combination of those modern forms of communication and the more traditional.

For example, almost everyone has access to the phone, and people who have found success by leaning on the advice offered by Ferriss haven’t been reluctant to pick up the receiver and speak to people rather than send multiple text-based messages.

If you rely solely on the latter, your time will quickly evaporate during both the construction of the messages themselves and the subsequent follow-up.

Customer focus is the central theme

Entrepreneurs and small business owners often make the mistake of focusing on the peers and gurus within their field rather than the people that matter most: customers.

We’ve already revealed that strategic partnerships are an essential element of the 4-hour week, but they’re not much use if a solid, reliable and fully engaged customer base isn’t present. Without customers, there is no work, after all.

Equally, if you’ve never had a customer, you certainly don’t need a business guru to help you out; you need a solution for your target market, a desire to proactively find customers and the will to constantly ask questions of those that you find. What ticks their boxes? What other questions do they have that remain unanswered?

Turn your customers into the guru you think you need, and you’ll rarely need top-level support from anyone else when it comes to providing your market with the answers and solutions to their problems – quickly.

Conclusion: Strip it back, and it’s about working hard

We’ll finish on this point, because it is by far the most important. When stripped back and devoid of fancy acronyms, mythologies and research data, the 4-hour work week is about one thing: working hard.

Chances are, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re already a hard worker. Otherwise, why would you be interested in drastically changing your work week in order to get things done?

If you’re already someone who enjoys hard work, the 4-hour work week is perfectly geared towards satisfying the innate desire you have to be productive. Not everyone has that, therefore you’re already streets ahead of the 9-5 pack when it comes to mindset.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the 4-hour working week isn’t for everyone, nor can everyone that tries it be successful. It is possible, though – providing you can relate to each of the points above and have the good, old-fashioned hard-working ethic it requires.