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Does the 4-Hour Work Week Really Increase Productivity?

12 years ago an American writer named Timothy Ferriss took the entrepreneurial world by storm with the publication of his first book, entitled “The 4-hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich.” The self-help book sold more than 1.3 million copies worldwide, was translated into more than 35 languages and spent over 4 years on the New York Times’ Best Seller list. The ideas presented in the publication are still considered relevant today, though not everyone agrees with Tim Ferris’ views, which have attracted many doubters over the years.

But why is this book so revolutionary that it still manages to stir up conversation 12 years later, and can it actually help you increase your productivity? Read on to find out the juicy details:

What’s the DEAL with the 4-hour workweek?

After summarizing his personal entrepreneurial journey which led him to make the dream of the 4-hour work week become a trustworthy reality, Tim Ferriss introduces four basic principles that will help you revamp your own life. The author of the book proclaims that by following his 4-step process, which he refers to as DEAL, virtually anyone can remodel their traditional way of tackling work-related projects in a way which can lead to only working four hours in any given week.

The acronym’s first letter stands for ‘definition’. In the author’s opinion, the first step before making any sort of changes is doing a bit of honest introspection in order to properly identify one’s goals in life and in business and to decide what’s important. The “E” in DEAL stands for ‘elimination’. This basically refers to eliminating everything from one’s life which doesn’t in any way assist the reaching of one’s defined goals. Tim Ferriss recommends setting distractions aside (this includes social and traditional media consumption, multitasking and checking one’s email every five minutes) and not being afraid to say no to people or situations which do not contribute in any meaningful way to the end result.

The third letter of the acronym, “A” is continuously repeated throughout the entirety of the book and stands for ‘automation’. The author believes that once we’ve set up our stable business, we can outsource nearly all our tasks to others, so we’ll only need to oversee the project instead of doing everything ourselves. Lastly, the “L” in DEAL refers to ‘liberation’. In this part of the book, Ferriss explains that after completing the first three steps, all that’s left to do is to enjoy our greatest asset, which is our time (not our money) and do the things we’ve always wanted to do but never had enough time for because of work.


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Skepticism and controversies

Since it was first published right before the massive economic crash of ’08, Tim Ferriss’ book has been a hot topic among naysayers claiming that a 4-hour workweek just isn’t feasible in reality. While the debate is still going strong, it’s important to note that the author doesn’t consider his efforts of being a podcaster, writer or public speaker actual work, because he loves doing them. So if we want to be really honest here, it seems that not even Tim Ferriss himself sticks to merely working 4 hours per week!

Another thing that has attracted plenty of negativity throughout the years is the author’s encouragement of delegating tasks and outsourcing projects to people working in developing countries where the wages are lower. His goals of merely being the middleman who reaps the success and most of the profit whilst others do his job for him has also attracted controversy.

How to increase productivity with the 4-hour workweek system

Despite the controversies, Tim Ferriss still manages to inspire readers with a wide variety of tips and tricks that anyone can implement to become more productive in their work day. His take on prioritizing truly important tasks over insignificant ones on your to-do list is definitely worth noting. Another fantastic point he makes is that entrepreneurs shouldn’t hesitate to ask for help, because nobody can do everything by themselves. Hire a team of professionals, outsource a few projects which are only holding you back or hire an assistant to help keep you on your trajectory.

Learning to ignore distractions and say no to people and projects that do not help you in your goals is definitely a recipe for success. Other great productivity-inducing tips include reducing clutter from your life, responding to emails more efficiently and even doubling your reading time. Writing out your to-do list the evening before can help better visualize the tasks at hand and plan out your following work day with a better grip on how it will all play out.

Compared to other high-profile entrepreneurs, like Elon Musk, who advises that a person needs to work between 80 to 100 hours a week in order to be successful, Tim Ferriss suggests the exact opposite. He firmly believes that life is meant to be enjoyed and downtime helps our brains restart, which leads to increased motivation, focus and creativity at work. Furthermore, he recommends making the most of geographic arbitrage, which basically means to make money in a strong currency and then spend it living in a place with a much weaker currency.

Key takeaways from the 4-hour work week

In conclusion, the book presents many fantastic ideas to work less and live more, however all tips need to be considered with a grain of salt. Just because these are the steps Tim Ferriss took to succeed, that doesn’t mean that your entrepreneurial journey will look the same. Only implement strategies that you think would work for you personally.

Don’t aim for a four-hour workweek at first. Instead, focus on increasing your undisturbed attention to complete your tasks more quickly, and give yourself permission to outsource some projects to others, stop working if your concentration is broken and unwind after work so you can start the next day with a fresh mindset and a better attitude.

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