How the 4-Hour Workweek Changed My Life (10 Actionable Takeaways)

Many years ago on a plane ride home from a fabulous couple of weeks relaxing in sunny Cyprus, I read the Four Hour Workweek. We’d just spent time with some friends who appeared to be ‘living the dream’ and had recommended the book.

As I immersed myself in the pages and read it cover to cover I knew my life was about to change irrevocably.

Within a few months, my husband (then boyfriend) & I had sold everything we owned (which wasn’t much), and with our 4 year old daughter under our arm jumped on a plane back to Cyprus. We were house sitting for our ‘dream life’ friends who were travelling Europe for the summer.

On that balcony near Paphos, overlooking the sea caves, our online adventure was born.

white houses surrounded by green trees near the edge of the hill and body of water
Our apartment in Cyprus

Since that time we’ve travelled and lived in 40+ countries, have built, launched, sold, failed and succeeded at multiple online businesses, have raised our daughter in Phuket, Thailand, and in just a couple of months from now when she finishes school (she’s now almost 18), we’ll set off to travel full time round the world for the foreseeable future.

Along my journey, I’ve met many online entrepreneurs who attribute Tim Ferriss’s – ‘The Four Hour Work Week’, as the book that changed their life.

It certainly did mine!

If a nomadic lifestyle sounds like the kind of life you’d love to live and you haven’t yet read the book, do it!

Even after all these years, it’s still extremely relevant and Tim updates it from time to time to keep the content fresh and in tune with the evolving digital landscape.

four workweek book image

Before you run off to grab your copy though, let me share some wisdom from the trenches.

Having lived this lifestyle for the last 14 years, here are the most impactful, actionable takeaways from the book that you can start applying today.

Actionable Ideas from The Four Hour Workweek

1. Embracing the New Rich (NR) Philosophy

Tim Ferriss’s concept of the ‘New Rich‘ (NR) is a game-changer for anyone feeling trapped in the traditional work-till-you-retire model.

Tim defines the New Rich as those who have the greatest control over the 3W’s (what he calls ‘the freedom multiplier’).

  • What you do
  • When you do it
  • Who you do it with

This philosophy flies in the face of the deferred-life plan of working tirelessly for future retirement.

Instead, your goal is to restructure your life now to prioritise immediate and fulfilling experiences, after all, we’re only on this planet for a finite amount of time. Why wait?

It’s a call to live your dream life now, not when you’re too old to fully enjoy it.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Audit Your Lifestyle: Take a hard look at your current lifestyle and identify what ‘living fully’ truly means to you. Is it travelling to new countries, learning a new language, or perhaps dedicating more time to a long-lost hobby? List these out and consider how you can integrate them into your current lifestyle.
  • Redefine Success: Instead of measuring success by financial wealth or job title, redefine it in terms of the freedom to pursue your passions. This might mean working remotely, starting a side business that aligns with your interests, or even taking sabbaticals to explore the world.
  • Leverage Time and Mobility: Start small by automating or delegating tasks that tie you down geographically or consume disproportionate amounts of your time. This could be as simple as hiring a virtual assistant for mundane tasks or using technology to manage your responsibilities more efficiently, freeing you up for more meaningful experiences.

Adopting the NR philosophy means you’re taking concrete steps towards a life of freedom and adventure, not just dreaming about it.

family photos with the fat mamas mascot
Fat Mama’s in Cyprus – Our First Few Weeks Away

2. Embracing Mini-Retirements

So this was the concept that we took to another level.

In the book, Tim introduces ‘mini-retirements’ as an alternative to the traditional notion of working until old age for a distant retirement.

The idea is to intersperse your working life with multiple, meaningful breaks that allow you to pursue personal projects, travel, or learn new skills. Overall the philosophy encourages living your retirement dreams in intervals, ensuring a life rich in experiences and learning.

However, I didn’t just want ‘mini-retirement’. I wanted to live my retirement dreams full time!

Not one for doing things in half measures, I wanted the entirety of the New Rich lifestyle and full control over my 3W’s!

However, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend my course of action (i.e., selling everything and jumping on a plane). It depends on your risk tolerance levels and the lifestyle you want to live.

If you want to start a bit smaller and dip your toe into the waters of the New Rich lifestyle, here are some takeaways;

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Plan Your Mini-Retirements: Start by envisioning what your ideal mini-retirement looks like. Is it a three-month cultural immersion in Italy, a deep dive into learning a new language, or maybe a project you’ve always wanted to tackle? Sketch out the basics: where, what, and how.
  • Budget and Save: Mini-retirements require financial planning. Begin setting aside a portion of your income specifically for this purpose. Consider ways to reduce expenses or increase income to fund your mini-retirements without compromising your financial stability.
  • Make It Educational or Growth-Oriented: Ensure each mini-retirement has a component of personal growth or learning. Whether it’s acquiring a new skill, volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about, or exploring a new business idea, the goal is to enrich your life and return with more than just memories.
  • Start a Side Hustle: By starting a side hustle now, from the comfort of your existing life, you can begin to build a monthly income that can fund your New Rich lifestyle. When you’re comfortable you can quit your job or life and head off into the great unknown!

Of course, if you’re like me, you can just do as Mark Twain said;

mark twain quote

3. Confronting the Definition of Fear

Something that most ‘how to’ articles, blogs, and gurus rarely cover is the fears associated with making massive life changes.

Sure we all want freedom over what we do, how we do it, etc, but getting from where we are now to where we want to be isn’t just a tad scary, it’s bloody terrifying!

When we left the UK all those years ago, with no fixed abode, minimal cash, and a 4 year old to consider, there were times when I felt like I’d had a neurotic break!

That’s why I love the practice Tim introduces called ‘fear-setting’.

Akin to goal-setting, fear-setting is a deep dive into the worst-case scenarios that might occur if we pursue our dreams. This exercise often reveals that our fears, when truly scrutinized, are less intimidating than we initially thought, empowering us to take calculated risks with more confidence.

Here’s how it works;

  1. Define: Begin by listing your fears, specifically the worst-case scenarios that hold you back from taking action. This could range from personal anxieties to professional hurdles. For us, it was the very real likelihood that we’d run out of money and would have to go and get a ‘real’ job!
  2. Prevent: For each fear listed, identify strategies to prevent your worst-case outcomes or at least reduce their likelihood. Simple preventive measures can significantly decrease the chances of your fears becoming reality. For us, it was the realization that we might need to live with family members or significantly reduce outgoings in order to increase our runway to build a business (that’s when we discovered Thailand!)
  3. Repair: Consider solutions for repairing the damage if the worst-case scenarios were to occur. This step involves thinking about recovery strategies and support systems you can rely on.

You can watch his Ted Talk on it here;

Tim also talks about how important it is to recognize the potential benefits of taking action, even if it leads to only partial success, vs taking no action at all.

If you consider the long-term consequences of avoiding decisions or actions, you’ll get a clearer understanding of the significant impact inaction can have on your life.

By defining and confronting your fears head-on, you’re not only preparing yourself for potential setbacks, but also bolstering your courage to pursue what truly matters, making calculated risks less daunting and more manageable.

NB: Another great book on this subject is Dale Carnegie – ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’.

4. Mastering the 80/20 Principle

The 80/20 Principle, also known as the Pareto Principle, is a core concept in the book.

This principle suggests that 20% of your efforts typically lead to 80% of your results.

The magic lies in identifying and focusing on those high-impact activities that drive the most significant outcomes.

So coincidently along come Ferriss with another nugget of wisdom just this past week that encapsulates this process;

facebook post by tim ferriss about productivity

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Answer the two questions above;

What 20% of things you do cause 80% of your problems and unhappiness?

What 20% of things you do are resulting in 80% of your desired outcome and happiness?

(Or what things would you love to be doing to be moving towards your desired outcomes and happiness?)

  • Create Your To Do List – more of what will move you towards your goals
  • Create Your Not To Do List – this is a bit more challenging as there may be some responsibilities which you simply cannot change right now, however, by identifying what they are, you can start to put in plans to potentially delegate, eliminate or find alternative ways to accomplish them.
  • Focus and Streamline: With your lists created, where possible, focus your energy on what truly moves the needle. Streamline your work & life processes to maximise efficiency and effectiveness in the most important areas. This could mean setting aside dedicated time blocks to do more of what will move you towards your goals. It may also mean making some life changes and tough choices.

Either way, by applying the 80/20 Principle, you actively choose to work smarter, not harder, ensuring that every effort you make counts towards your most valuable goals.

NB: This is a GAMECHANGER if you can truly let this sink in and be rigorous in applying it.

5. Outsourcing for Greater Freedom

In the book, Tim champions the transformative power of outsourcing to create freedom.

By delegating mundane and time-consuming tasks to virtual assistants and other services, you get to focus more on activities that match your passions and strengths.

This was a real eye opener for me, particularly back in 2010, and coming from a corporate background. The realization you could hire people to do one off jobs or only work a few hours a week was completely alien and totally life changing!

These days freelancers make up over 50% of the nomad workforce and you can easily and affordably find talent for literally any and all tasks.

Actionable Takeaways:

  • Identify Delegable Tasks: Review your daily and weekly tasks to identify which ones you can outsource. These might include scheduling appointments, managing emails, or even personal errands. The key is to recognize tasks that don’t require your unique skills or personal touch.
  • Choose the Right Platforms and Services: Explore platforms like Upwork, Fiverr, or dedicated virtual assistant services to find the right fit for your needs. Look for individuals or services with strong recommendations and a track record of reliability and efficiency.
  • Start Small and Scale Up: Begin with a small set of tasks to outsource and gradually increase as you build trust and efficiency with your chosen helpers. This approach allows you to adjust and find the right balance without overwhelming yourself or the people you work with.
fiverr landing page

Outsourcing effectively transforms the way you work and live, freeing up valuable time for higher-value activities and personal interests. This ensures you’re focusing your energy where it truly counts.

Other Actionable Takeaways

The post will get too long if I go through every takeaway in detail, but here’s a summary of some of the other important points in the book;

6. Testing and Validation

Tim emphasizes the importance of ‘dipping your toes in the water’ before committing fully to new business ventures or lifestyle changes. By introducing the concept of low-risk experiments in his book, he encourages validating your business ideas or life changes incrementally. An example would be to launch a minimal viable product (MVP) to test a business concept or spend a few weeks in a new city before deciding to relocate.

7. Income Autopilot

In his discussions on creating automated income streams, Ferriss introduces ways to earn without constant active work, focusing on products or services that continuously deliver value. A practical step might involve setting up a digital course that sells over and over or leveraging affiliate marketing to generate passive income with minimal day-to-day input.

8. The Art of Non-Finishing

Tim champions the liberating concept of abandoning tasks that don’t bring value. This idea could translate into giving yourself permission to stop reading a book that isn’t engaging or to pull the plug on a project that’s no longer aligned with your goals, freeing up time for more meaningful pursuits.

9. Selective Ignorance

With the overload of information in today’s world, Tim advocates filtering out the noise and focusing on what’s truly impactful. This could mean unsubscribing from unnecessary newsletters or limiting news consumption to specific times, allowing you to focus on information that directly benefits your personal and professional growth.

10. Comfort Challenges

Ferriss suggests stepping out of your comfort zone through ‘comfort challenges’ to push beyond personal limits and stimulate growth and resilience. A practical approach might be to strike up conversations with strangers to improve social skills or to embark on a solo weekend trip to an unfamiliar city to broaden your horizons and increase self-reliance.

11. The Dreamline

This is a method for making your ideal lifestyle attainable through ‘The Dreamline,’ a tool for breaking down your dreams into actionable steps. You start by mapping out what you want to have, be, and do in the next six months to a year, and then work backward to establish the steps needed to achieve these goals, making your dream life a tangible reality.

two pair of feet in front of the beach

Wrapping Up

It sounds crazy, but books really do hold the power to transform our lives, and often arrive just when we’re ready to embrace their lessons.

Like the old saying – ‘when the student is ready, the teacher will appear!

The teachings in the Four Hour Workweek however are simply a ‘muse’. (Another subject Ferriss touches on in the book). Ultimately, it’s our actions that turn our dreams into reality.

Embracing the wisdom within the pages is just the beginning. The true magic happens when we apply what we’ve learned and step boldly into the life we envision for ourselves.

So if you’re ready, go grab the book, sketch out the blueprint for your ideal life, and start taking the steps to turn it into a tangible reality.

The power to design and live your dream life lies squarely in your hands.

Make it happen. 😀

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