Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Book Nook: The Four Hour Workweek

I'm quite proud to introduce the first installment in a series of book reviews to be published over the next two months, written by piddix intern-extraordinaire Lara Schmidt of Fraserhead. These will all be the books that I've found helpful when creating and running piddix and will be read and reviewed by Lara. The first is from the first edition of "The Four Hour Workweek" by Timothy Ferriss. I think Lara has definitely found the gems in this one.

The Four Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich
Author: Timothy Ferriss
Pages: 308
Reviewed by Lara Schmidt

The mantra of this book is simple: There is no need to wait for the life you want and every reason not to. Its author, Timothy Ferriss, recognizes however that the barriers to personal fulfillment are both real and imagined—ranging from 80-hour work weeks to the undefined fear of not knowing what you want. His goal is two-fold: to help you identify your fears and passions, and to teach you to build efficient, automated businesses that will earn you money while you live the life of your dreams.

While Ferriss’ ego often upstaged his advice, he does have several valuable pieces of wisdom to impart. Here are the concepts I found most helpful:

Lifestyle Design: The art and science of creating luxury lifestyles by using the currencies of time and mobility. I found this definition too abstract but found the term itself immensely inspiring. Whereas the terms ‘life planning’ or ‘goal setting’ may feel obligatory and overwhelming, “lifestyle design” captures the whimsy and the creativity that should be present when imagining your perfect future.

Dreamlining: Applying timelines to what most would consider dreams. The chapter that covers dreamlining was, for me, the most fun but also the most daunting. As Ferriss says, “Dreamlining will be fun, but it will also be hard. The harder it is, the more you need it.” He gets the ball rolling by asking these questions, “ What would you do if there were no way you could fail? If you were 10 times smarter than everyone else?” I think the entire book hinges on these questions alone. He asks you to create two timelines, a six month and a twelve month, where you will list up to five things you dream of having, being, and doing—in that order. He encourages you to be honest. Don’t write, “Solve world hunger,” if “Own a Lamborghini” is actually higher on the list. The rest of the chapter walks you through six steps which involve setting priorities, determining a Target Monthly Income to support your dreams and identifying actionable steps that you can take immediately to get on your way.

The 80/20 Principle: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs. In other words: 20% of the work we do produces 80% of the desired outcome. Ferriss suggests you apply the 80/20 principle by asking yourself, “What 20% of sources are causing 80% of my problems and unhappiness? Which 20% of sources are resulting in 80% of my desired outcomes and happiness?” You can apply these questions to all areas of your life. What ensues is an elimination of the inessential or aggravating aspects of business and life. Ferriss recommends cleaning house this way as often as you reasonably can.

Parkinson’s Law: A task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion. In other words, if we’re given a week to write a paper, it will take a week. If we’re given a day to write a paper, it will take a day. Parkinson’s Law is the reason we say, “I tend to work better under pressure.” To increase productivity Ferriss says we should: 1) Limit tasks to the important to shorten work time (80/20); 2) Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law). In this way, 80/20 and Parkinson’s Law work synergistically to help us work better, not more.

In short, this book offers several great pieces of information. The tone, however, felt very much like a late night infomercial, which I didn’t appreciate. My recommendation is to skim through the chapters first to see what grabs you. The activities Ferriss recommends (dreamlining, life design, etc.) are worth far more than the advice. In this case, 80% of the most useful information came from 20% of the content, but at least we know his theories work.


Kara said...

I linked to your blog through the Piddix blog and just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading this review. My husband has been wanting to read the book and I shared it with him. We both loved your conclusion. Witty and well put : )

Anonymous said...

I've been wondering about this book! I love the review, Lara is a very talented writer! Summing up the book w/the 80/20 rule made me laugh out loud!

Now, I will try the dreamlining and perhaps the other 20% of the book too!


Lara said...

Hi Kara and Sara,

I just noticed that all of our names are the same, with a different first letter. Kara, sara, lara. Thank you, both, for the compliments.

Anyways. This book was very interesting. My feelings about it are strong but mixed, similar to my feelings about Atlas Shrugged, but that's a different matter.

If you do read it, be prepared to feel a lot of conflicting emotions. I'm still trying to sort out my reaction, which was equal parts inspired, incredulous, and judgmental. You'll see what I mean.

But the dreamlining is worth it. And since you only have to read 20% of the book, it takes no time at all.