The 4-Hour Work Week in the Real World

I should say that when I first saw Tim Ferriss speak at SXSW this past March, I didn’t like the 4-Hour Work Week idea.   Of course I liked the idea of working only 4 hours, who wouldn’t?  Ã‚   I just didn’t like his over simplification of what it would take to do that.

But after giving his book a fair read, I was excited to see that the book was not so much about working 4 hours as it was about how to break free from the prison our daily reality places us in.   Since I recently sold a company and now work as a consultant, I’m not the best example of the typical working stiff.   I don’t get up at 7 AM, put on a tie, sit in traffic only to end up in a cube in some florescent lit office.   Thank god!   But I also don’t have the luxury of walking out the door at 5 PM to go home and not worry about work.   Everything has it’s downside.

But still, I’m someone who in many ways has painted myself in the same corner as Tim.   After reading Tim’s book I realized that Tim was not in the typical working stiff category either.   He owned his own small company, but had created it in a way that it couldn’t easily be sold, nor really run without him.   I know this feeling.   He solved it by simply taking a leap of faith and learning on the way.   He took off one day and left his employees in charge.

Thankfully Tim put a lot of what he learned into a nice book, so people like me can benefit from his mistakes and experiences.

After reading the book I was also overcome with optimism that I might be able to lead this new rich lifestyle Tim spoke off.   I could travel more, work less, make more time for my son and have a better quality of life.   And just like in books like Rich Dad, Poor Dad, that optimism is what makes the book worth it’s weight in gold.

I quickly booked a ticket to Costa Rica for a short (less than 1 week) trip.   Tim would not have approved of the shortness, but I’m certain he would approve of taking a small leap.   My international travel has been extremely limited, so it was nice just to get to another county and look around.   The short time frame made it difficult to relax, but I did my best.

While on my trip I checked email 3 times per day (also not something Tim would have approved of) and spent some time in the evenings online doing some work.   But for most of the day I was free to wonder around a foreign country.

While the trip was good, it really inspired me to travel even more.   I decided to take my next trip for at least 1 week to Hong Kong.   After some research I found that November is a good time to visit, so I set my sights on that timeframe.

Since I’m now free of the day-to-day headaches of USWeb, my life has gotten a lot easier.   I’m getting new clients, but being very, very selective.   Of course the clients I think would be ideal are always more difficult to get, while clients that are willing to pay big money, but would clearly be a headache are always abundant.   The transition has been a little more stressful than I thought it would be, but overall things have gotten a bit less stressful in my life.

With my Honk Kong trip coming up, I started to look at what my next trip will be, and how long I can do it for.

Being a parent I obviously have to keep my trips somewhat short.   But after some thought I was able to come up with a solution.   I can go on several trips each year and spend a solid month in each destination.   I will plan these trips around my son’s vacation, so that I can have my son join me for part of the trip.

For example I have decided my trip following Hong Kong will be to New Zealand/Australia.   I will spend a full month there.   I will first fly to New Zealand and spend 10 days touring around.   I will then go to Australia where my son will join me after 5 days.   We’ll go to the great barrier reef wile he’s there, as well as check out some koala bears and kangaroos.   Then I’ll send him back to the US while I spend a few more days there and maybe stop in Fiji for 3-4 days on the way back.

This way I get a full month of travel in a destination, but I’m not away from my Michael for over 2 weeks, and he gets a short trip as well while not interfering with school.

So now that I have travel out of the way, what about my normal work day?   That has proved to be a bit more difficult.   There are a couple of differences between Tim and I.   One of the biggest is that I really do enjoy my industry.   I am a geek at heart and enjoy being on the Web, which always leads to me working a bit.   Even writing this blog post is an admitted self-indulgence, but does have a little to do with my work.

This is obviously a good thing.   Enjoying your work is like not having to work, which is partly why I didn’t want to stay with USWeb.   I like being a consultant much more than being a CEO.   With NetResults I don’t have a huge staff, and I get to spend my time with clients, or doing cool stuff for them that I actually enjoy.   But, I still need to find that separation of work and home.

So this is what I have come up with.   I put in 3 – 4 hours per day right now doing actual work.   I then push myself away from my desk and go do other things.   Watch TV, go shopping, hang out with my son, etc…   Then at night I usually hop on the computer again and start working for a couple more hours.   The fact that my mind seems to work better at 2AM has always been a problem, so I’m trying to not fight that and put it to better use.

The next step I have to take is to not offer work up on the weekends.   This is a bad habit from my USWeb days.   I’ll be working on something and decide I’ll “finish it up† over the weekend.   This is now a no-no.   Short of an emergency, I will no longer be working on the weekends.   That may seem like a simple thing to many , but for me it’s a difficult habit to break.   I still find myself committing to things for the weekend.   But no more.

The next step will be t shave a day off the work week.   I’m trying to figure out the best day and I’m leaning towards Friday or Wednesday.   The goal here may be to get down to working only Monday, Wednesday, Friday.   That way no email or phone call goes unanswered more than 24 hours.

One thing that is became obvious is that there can be no absolutes in this plan.   I can not say “I won’t work on these days† because I have an obligation to my clients to be there in case of an emergencies.   And unlike Tim, I do get emergencies that I really need to fix personally.

So this is my plan so far.   I would love to hear from others who might be trying out this lifestyle.   Let me know how it’s working for you, and anything you have learned.
timothy ferriss, 4-hour work week, new rich, NR, travel


  1. I’ve also read the book (listened actually, audiobook) and was really psyched by the book.

    I’m in a similar boat: work at home, my own business (custom software), and have clients who have emergencies.

    I’m finding that if I’m on top of my projects, I get very few calls and emails. So, it’s so much easier to only check email twice a day. And I can focus and get so much more done that it’s amazing.

    Also, not checking email first thing in the morning is great. I feel guilty, but still feels great.

    Extended travel, though, will be tough until I can build a better support infrastructure that runs itself, but without employees. One of my next big hurdles.

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