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The Four Hour Work Week

By Stefanie Schenk

Just recently I read "The Four Hour Work Week" by Timothy Ferriss. That's right, the 4 hour work week not the 4 day work week. Unrealistic? Impossible? That's what I thought too, but he does it.

I really liked this book because it is well-written, amusing and gives great tips to make the most out of life.

But first off, who is Timothy Ferriss? Ferriss is a 29 year old serial entrepreneur and world-traveler who speaks 6 languages. He's been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic Traveler, Maxim Magazine, etc. He runs a multi-national firm selling body building supplements from wireless locations around the world. He is also a world record holder in tango, a national champion in Chinese kickboxing, and an actor on a hit TV series in Hong Kong. And, as you guessed it, he only works 4 hours per week.

How does he do it? By doing less. Ferriss points out that doing less is not laziness. He says our culture rewards personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity. We need to focus on being productive and not being busy. Firstly, forget about time management. Accomplish more by elimination. Focus on the important and ignore the rest. Lack of time is actually lack of priorities. He says our culture has agreed to shuffle papers between 9 and 5 and since you're trapped in an office, you are forced to create activities to fill that time. Since we have 8 hours, we fill 8 hrs. If we had 15, we'd fill 15. Scary, isn't it?

Here are some tips Ferriss gives for doing less and having more free time:

1. Have a short to-do list. Just 1-2 items max. Create it the night before so you're ready to go first thing in the morning.

2. Have a not-to-do list. In other words, say no to meetings, useless information, long phone calls, checking Facebook, etc.

3. Don't multi-task. If you prioritize properly, you won't have to. Do tasks separately from start to finish without distraction. Ferriss says multi-tasking results in frequent interruptions, lapses in concentration, poor net results and less gratification.

4. Do "batching". Batching means grouping repetitive tasks together. For instance, pay bills once per week all at the same time, instead of doing each one individually at different times. The same goes for groceries, laundry, etc. Ferriss compares it to the printing business where set-up time is the same whether the project is big or small.

5. Go on a low information diet. Ferriss never watches the news or buys a newspaper because he says most of it is negative, time-consuming, irrelevant to your goals and outside of your influence. If it's important, you'll hear about it. His method might be extreme but he suggests going on a media fast for a week and seeing how much extra time you have.

6. Practice the art of non-finishing. If you don't like a book, put it down. If the movie is bad, get up and leave the theatre. Stop consuming if it's bad. We've all heard it: Time is money.

7. Don't check email first thing in the morning. Do your most critical tasks first. He says most people are most productive before 11 am anyhow. If you check email first thing, you'll likely get distracted and use it as an excuse not to do your important tasks. Check your email only twice per day - at 12 noon and 4 pm. I actually tried this myself and had way more time on my hands. If you check emails at noon, you bypass all the back and forth emails.

8. Streamline your emails to prevent needless back and forth. For example, don't say "Can you meet at 4 pm?" Say "Can you meet at 4 pm? If not, please advise 3 other times that work." Also end your emails with "Thanks in advance". This motivates the recipient to respond. Some of you may have noticed that I have used this phrase on my emails when asking for information. It seems to work.

9. Outsource and delegate. Ferriss says you can get virtual assistants from India and China that run $4-$15 per hour. They can do a business plan between $2500 - $5000 instead of $15,000 - $20,000. Plus, because of the time difference, they work while you're asleep so you can often have the information ready by the time you get up. Ferriss gives a whole list of virtual assistant websites you can use. And you'd be surprised that some big companies use them all the time.

10. Avoid bad customers. Contrary to what you might have heard, the customer is not always right. Like bad food and bad movies, there are bad customers. They take up most of your time and give you the most headaches. Weed them out. If you have a good product at a good price, you shouldn't feel inferior. Make customers an exclusive club and treat members well once they've been accepted.

Ferriss is all about working from home or whatever it takes to make the most of your life. You can use www.gotomypc.com to access your computer at work from anywhere. There's also www.gotomeeting.com for remote meetings, video conferencing, etc. The new mantra is: Work wherever and whenever you want, but get your work done. According to Ferriss, the perfect job is the one that takes the least time. The goal is fun and profit.

As Ferriss says, it's too big a world to spend most of life in a cubicle. And as the American poet Robert Frost said "By working faithfully 8 hrs/day, you may eventually get to be boss and work 12 hours per day."

What do you want to do with your life?

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