The 4-Hour Workweek

by Tim Ferriss · read February 4, 2021


I found a lot of value from the book's perspective on reimagining and shaping life according to your own terms. At times in the book, this philosophy comes across as overly self-serving and empty, especially the (questionable) premise that life is just about doing what you want. I see the value of passive income, but personally wouldn't want to make a fortune selling something that people don't really need. Nonetheless, I found several of the practical tips helpful, and I enjoyed reading a different perspective.

My Takeaways

  • Spend more time thinking about what I really want to experience in life and believe that it's possible for me if I have enough creativity and courage.
  • Setting up a passive income stream is critical for reducing time spent working.
  • Identifying the 20% that produces 80% will help me simplify my life.
  • It's possible to travel without spending insane amounts of money.



Life is short, so dream big and fearlessly pursue those dreams. It's possible to live an enriched, exciting life — you just have to think outside of the box and take risks rather than settling for mediocrity. If you focus on accomplishing the most important things and creating passive income streams, you can free up the majority of your time to pursue interests and goals outside of work.


The gist: "Life doesn't have to be so damned hard."

How do your decisions change if retirement isn't an option? What if you could use a mini-retirement to sample your deferred-life plan reward before working 40 years for it? Is it really necessary to work like a slave to live like a millionaire?

Manifesto of a deal-maker — reality is negotiable

D — Definition

The gist: Instead of settling for a 9-5 office job, dream big and think outside the box to pursue a life you really want.

Focus on being productive instead of busy.

Question to ask about what to do — what would excite me?

Pareto's Law can be summarized as follows: 80% of the outputs result from 20% of the inputs.

Less is Not Laziness

Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is not laziness. This is hard for most to accept, because our culture tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.

What we fear most is usually what we need to do. As I have heard said, a person's success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have.

Dreamlining is so named because it applies timelines to what most would consider dreams. It is much like goal-setting but differs in several fundamental respects:

  1. The goals shift from ambiguous wants to defined steps.
  2. The goals have to be unrealistic to be effective.
  3. It focuses on activities that will fill the vacuum created when work is removed.

Living like a millionaire requires doing interesting things and not just owning enviable things.

Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.

The worst that could happen wasn't crashing and burning, it was accepting terminal boredom as a tolerable status quo.

Life is too short to be small. —Benjamin Disrael

E — Elimination

The gist: Use the Pareto principle to simplify your life and set clear boundaries with other people and yourself.

Here are two truisms to keep in mind:

  1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important.
  2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important.

From this moment forward, remember this: What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it. Efficiency is still important, but it is useless unless applied to the right things.

Effective: doing things to reach goals

Efficient: performing a task economically

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. —Peter Drucker

A lack of time is actually a lack of priorities.

The key to having more time is doing less.

Parkinson's Law states that work expands to the time you give it, so set tight deadlines and avoid work dragging on forever.

This presents a very curious phenomenon. There are two synergistic approaches for increasing productivity that are inversions of each other:

  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).

The best solution is to use both together: Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to income and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.

3 Types of Interruptions

  1. Time wasters: those things that can be ignored with little or no consequence. Common time wasters include meetings, discussions, phone calls, web surfing, and e-mail that are unimportant.

Limit your email consumption and production.

Screen incoming calls and direct other calls to what's important.

  1. Time consumers: repetitive tasks or requests that need to be completed but often interrupt high-level work. Here are a few you might know intimately: reading and responding to e-mail, making and returning phone calls, customer service (order status, product assistance, etc.), financial or sales reporting, personal errands, all necessary repeated actions and tasks.

Batch these small tasks so they take up less total time.

  1. Empowerment failures: instances where someone needs approval to make something small happen. Here are just a few: fixing customer problems (lost shipments, damaged shipments, malfunctions, etc.), customer contact, cash expenditures of all types

Communicate with your employee/employer to minimize micromanaging.

Set the rules in your favour: Limit access to your time, force people to define their requests before spending time with them, and batch routine menial tasks to prevent postponement of more important projects.

A — Automation

The gist: automate whenever possible to free up your own time.

Eliminate before you delegate. Never automate something that can be eliminated, and never delegate something that can be automated or streamlined.

Income Autopilot is about building an online business for passive income.

L — Liberation

The gist: Learn to live a meaningful life outside the constructs of work.

If you can work remotely, you're mobile.

If you must play, decide on three things at the start: the rules of the game, the stakes, and the quitting time. —Chinese Proverb

Too much free time is no more than fertilizer for self-doubt and assorted mental tail-chasing.

Man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind of labor by taking up another. —Anatole France

Worthwhile questions — the terms are clear and the answer can be acted upon

It still leaves the question, "What can I do with my time to enjoy life and feel good about myself?"

The benefits of becoming fluent in a foreign tongue are as underestimated as the difficulty is overestimated.


This isn't a problem, of course, once you realize that life is neither a problem to be solved nor a game to be won.

No one aspires to be the bland average, so don't water down messaging to appeal to everyone—it will end up appealing to no one.

Recommended books:

  • "The Magic of Thinking Big" by David Schwartz
  • "Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel" by Rolf Potts
  • "Less is More: The Art of Voluntary Poverty" edited by Goldian Vandenbroeck
  • "Six Months Off: How to Plan, Negotiate, and Take the Break You Need Without Burning Bridges or Going Broke" by Hope Dlugozima, James Scott, and David Sharp
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