I finally came around reading the controversial 4-hour-Workweek by Tim Ferriss. I did not quit my job, stopped doing meetings or emails, nor did I engage in multiple mini-retirements. So is there a point in reading if I engaged in no life-changing experience? Did I change anything at all? The 4-hour workweek is much more than that.
Is it real?
You have to start the book with an open mind for learning. A bit like I read Gina Ford 2 months after I had Little Girl C. She is obsessive about hours, routines, light and feed times. I absorbed what could work for us as a family, I tweaked around the edges and left out what was not for me.
That is how I decided to approach this book. Because at the extreme, it is all about living a life of a 4-hour-workweek. But for me, it was about creating space for what matters and get out of overwhelmed. Much like the Essentialism . What fits in, rather than what should be excluded. What do I want to do, rather than what do I fill time with. How to focus on what matters, even within the remit of a 40 hour workweek. His book was visionary and probably controversial and misunderstood at the time. But he has since built on his newly found time and transformed his life the way he wanted it to be, dedicated to many successful projects and investments.
So how does it relate to my own life?
The Power of Automation… if worth it
Many think the answer is in productivity and automation. So you can do MORE. But let’s face it, before you automate, you can take a step back and determine if it is worth it. Whether you are talking about process improvements, automation or outsourcing, it is only worth doing if you ultimately value the outcome. We are often too quick to maintain low value repetitive tasks just because we are used to it. So yes, there is power in processes and automation but there Is even more power in eliminating unnecessary work.
“What you do is infinitely more important than how you do it”Tim Ferriss
Efficiency is still important, but it useless unless applied to the right things. So what are you really going to automate?
Going Back to Pareto
As an economist, I have been multiple times tested in Pareto’s law and his theory of economic distribution. But not enough.
You may think every thing you are doing is so important. And that is hard to keep things off your list. I myself often spoke about the 80/20 rule. But I thought more about something being good at 80%, or “good enough” rather than the uselessness of the remaining 20%. We all speak widely of the 80/20 principle but how many of us really know what it means? I looked at my self
- 80% of my worries com from 20% of things
You can translate it into your own life
- 80% of revenues come from 20% of clients
- 80% of problems come from 20% of products
With this in mind, what do you eliminate? And what do you double down on. Don’t automate if it is useless.
A favourite – batching
This is a widely spoken “productivity hack”. Widely spoken one but hard to keep in practice. It is so easy to get carried away.
A few years ago, I started reserving Monday nights for family admin. I would keep a record in my journal of all the things that would accumulate during the week and handle them all in one go. Recently, I get a reminder in my phone for all the monthly payments that can’t be a standing order (after months of wishing they could be). This means it takes me under 15 minutes to go through all of these manual payments of the month. Batching harnesses the power of efficiency – after all, you only need to get into your banking app once.
But there is more in this batching. By knowing (and respecting) that you have a dedicated moment for certain tasks and noting them all down as they come along (or keeping paper bills in a single basket), you are also keeping them out of your mental load. For me, that is enormous. My mental load is heavier than anything else I carry. Including my cluttered handbag.
Finally, batching addresses one of the core problems of multi-tasking. It helps you fight off abstractions and focusses on what you really want to do. Now, I am not going to say I am moving to checking email 2x a week like Tim, but I have definitely moved 90% of my email reading to batched times, when I am lower on energy and at defined times of the day. It has helped wonders with focus (even before I read the book, but now reinforced by it)
Since the early days of considering motherhood and a career, I always knew outsourcing would have to play a great deal in my life. A full time nanny has been part of the picture since I was pregnant (yes, you read well, I hired before the baby was out). And whilst many times I feel I am overly dependent, this outsourcing gives me independence. To do what I choose to do. I am privileged that I can do it on my own terms and adjust to the different stages of my life (and the kids lives). I mother all the time, but I do house-work as needed or wanted. And by the way, she takes good care of me as well, which is a nice feeling for a change.
Since reading the book, I have been actually framing my next stage of outsourcing. A virtual assistant. I dwell between help with house admin (bills, forms, trips, birthdays), help with the blog stuff that I know is important but I will never get to (formats, tags and SEO) and even the charity (slides or research). I have spoken to the first virtual employee company in India now, and whilst they were not convincing enough for me, I know this will be a step for 2023. Each time I do a bit of admin now, I wonder if someone else could be helping me with it.
From thinking outside the box to living outside the box
“Anyone who lives within their means suffers from lack of imagination”Oscar Wilde
Let’s face it, some of Tim’s ideas are radical. Remember he wrote well before any pandemic and ideas of remote working, way before the world was so globalized and connected. Before the iphone!
More than his ideas being radical, the disconnect for me is in what he does with his newly found time. The concept of mini-retirements as he becomes a tango or MMA champion. These are not appealing to me and immediately make me question the value of all these theories. But he also admits that he does more than a 4-hour-workweek, but only on projects he chooses to do or enjoys starting. That resonates more.
Would I have projects and endeavors I could pursue with more time? Hell, yeah! Or so I think at least. In the last few years, I have added immensely to my life while sleeping and exercising more and also spending more time with the children. I designed my life differently and intentionally. And I look forward to ways to have a life with less overwhelm, more space to be, longer periods of disconnect.
Come to think of it, I no longer postponed my life-long dream of living in Lisbon. So whilst I did not engage in a mini-retirement adventure, I kind of did. I like Tim’s view that bigger goals have the benefit of being a bigger motivation to go through high hurdles. Plus, they have less competition. Not many people are willing to live outside the box.