Reading “The 4 Hour Workweek” is like having Tim Ferriss grab you by the hair, shake you, and say WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?! YOU NEED TO USE THESE TIPS TO BE MORE EFFICIENT!! Also, the tips work. GTD fans, entrepreneurs, and basically anyone who reads this site will learn tons from The 4-Hour Workweek.
I absolutely loved this book. In fact, within 2 hours of reading it, I had completely changed the way I handle email — and I already thought I was efficient.
Three days later, I had changed the way I handle followups and meetings. The book is about creating an infrastructure so you can work only 4 hours a week (a colorful metaphor) and use your time to serve you, instead of the other way around. Tim’s insights about email, outsourcing, and business use take it to a new extreme. For example, he suggest checking your email twice a day. Now, I’ve heard this suggestion before, but usually it was a failure of the last mile for me: I didn’t know where to start.
Tim goes the extra step and provides the text of the auto-response email he uses, which basically says ‘I check my email infrequently, so here’s an FAQ you can read that will probably answer your questions. Otherwise, here’s my phone number, or be patient and I’ll get back to you.’ And, in the smartest line in the book, his autoresponder includes this line: “Thank you for understanding this move to more efficiency and effectiveness. It helps me accomplish more to serve you more.”
Who could argue with that?
Do you remember when I described how I set up my financial accounts? That article was one of my most popular because it described, step-by-step, how my personal-finance infrastructure worked. Tim describes that for his entire working style, including something fascinating I had never really considered: virtual admins. (See a related Friday Entrepreneur review here.)
He uses multiple virtual admins from around the world. As he writes, “Indian and Chinese VAs…will run $4-$15 per hour, the lower end being limited to simple tasks and the higher end including the equivalent of Harvard or Stanford M.B.A.s and Ph.D.s.” Then he goes on to describe exactly how to work with virtual admins, including how to give instruction, how to pick the best ones, and — this goes the extra mile — the best URLs for finding virtual admins.
Why would you need a virtual admin? Think about all the mindless things you do every month: Booking reservations, calling up Wells Fargo to question some account activity, researching some minor point, writing a complaint letter, proofreading, scheduling, reminders, and more.
Frankly, when I first thought about it, it sounded ridiculous. But then I thought about things like scheduling things and dealing with tons of tiny requests every month (“Fix that typo on that site!”), I realized how great it would be to be able to just send a quick email to a virtual admin to handle it — especially if they were good. This advice (and the links provided to the best admin sites) are worth the price of the book alone.
There’s more in the book. Here are some the other key insights I took away:
- “Don’t ever arrive at the office or in front of your computer without a clear list of priorities. You’ll just read unassociated e-mail and scramble your brain for the day.” (This alone has saved me about 35 hours since I finished the book 2 weeks ago.)
- “Being busy is a form of laziness–lazy thinking and indiscriminate action”
- How to end a meeting on time
- How to convince your boss to let you work at home on Fridays
- And a great lesson he illustrates:”For all four years of school, I had a policy. If I received anything less than an A on the first paper or non-multiple-choice in a given class, I would bring 2-3 hours of questions to the grader’s office hours and not leave until the other had answered them all or stopped out of exhaustion. This served two important purposes:1. I learned exactly how the grader evaluated work, including his or her prejudices and pet peeves
2. The grader would think long and hard about ever giving me less than an A. He or she would never consider giving me a bad grace without exceptional reasons for doing so, as he or she knew I’d come a’knocking for another three-hour visit.Learn to be difficult when it counts. In school as in life, having a reputation for being assertive will help you receive preferential treatment without having to beg or fight for it every time.
Tim is kind of a weird playboy. In fact, for half of the book, you’ll be shaking your head saying “Is this guy for real?” He’s a Guinness record-holder in Tango, a national champion in kickboxing, and runs a business that makes supplements “scientifically engineered to quickly increase the speed of neural transmission and information processing,” which makes me more than a little suspicious. Some of the tactics he recommends are frankly sleazy. And other people have wondered if he has a real job besides self-promotion; Tim admits in his book that he was fired from most of them.
But I’ve met him and I liked him. Also, even though this book is in some ways opposite of my philosophies on personal finance — he’s not a big fan of saving for retirement — I have to respect him for thinking through his position and teaching me concrete things that I put to work within a matter of hours.
He embraces entrepreneurship and uses the book to share street-smart tips for simplifying your life, automating your work, being more effective with your email/communications, cutting down on interruptions, and using your time to actually achieve something meaningful. I can’t recommend this book enough. In fact, if the highest praise you can give a book is that you changed the way you do things because of it, then this book gets a great review.
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