The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss [Actionable Summary]

The Book In Three Or More Sentences:

Are you sick of your 9 to 5 job and your boss constantly nagging you about stuff? You feel overworked and severely underpaid? Tim Ferris is your go-to guru. This book offers step-by-step instructions that will help you work less and earn more so you can have more time in your life to travel and spend time with your family.

The Core Idea

The book is all about helping you join the New Rich – cult-like membership where people work when they want, and in most of the cases for themselves. Tim wants to convince us that we can earn a lot more money by doing half of what we’re doing now. How? Well, by asking yourself the right questions, applying some productivity jiu-jitsu, and doing work that excites you.


  • It’s not how much money you make per year, it’s how much you make per hour that matters;
  • Sometimes deciding what not to do is more important than deciding what to do. What you don’t do can determine what you can do;
  • The secret sauce of a 4-hour workweek is owning a business, not running a business. Or in other words, delegating more work to others;

Key Lessons from The 4-Hour Workweek:

Lesson #1: Work Complicates to Fill The Available Time

In order to reduce your working hours to 4, you first need to understand the idea behind one really famous concept mentioned in the book: The Parkinson’s law.

This law is part of an essay written by Cyril Northcote Parkinson in The Economist in 1955. The idea here is the following: “A task will swell in (perceived) importance and complexity in relation to the time allotted for its completion.” Or in other words, if you give yourself 5 days to complete a particular task, regardless of how big or small the task is, it will take you exactly 5 days to complete it. But if you allow yourself only 24 hours to do the same assignment, the time pressure will force you to work smarter, not harder.

On paper, a 4-hour workweek sounds impossible, but it’s actually more than enough to do your job properly.

So, when executing on a project or on a particular task, set shorter deadlines. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost always of a higher quality due to greater focus and the lack of fluff.

If you haven’t identified the mission-critical tasks and set aggressive start and end times for their completion, the unimportant becomes the important.” Tim Ferriss

Lesson #2: Define What Would You Do If There Were No Way You Could Fail

We love complaining. In most of the cases, we’ll spend more time explaining why we can’t do something rather than trying to find a solution to the problem. And do you know why? Because it’s much easier to bitch about something. You’d rather spend writing a 1,000 words Facebook status to explain why your current job sucks than trying to find another one.

Instead of listing all the reasons you can’t do something, why you can’t do it, and the level of impossibility, Tim suggests something different: Figuring out what would you do if there were no way you could fail?

This question prompts you to look above the possible setbacks and forces you to find a solution – regardless of how impossible the problem looks like.

Lesson #3: Becoming an Expert is Easier Than You Think

People often relate the word expert to some god-like creature that was born with eternal knowledge which is only given at birth. But that’s far from true.

You too can become an expert. Don’t believe me? Open YouTube or search something in Google, a bunch of 20-something-year-old state they know more than you.

So, it’s not a question of whether or not you can become a guru; the question is, how to become one?

First, let me tell you how Tim describes the word expert in the book: …”expert” in the context of selling products means that you know more about the topic than the purchaser. No more.”

So, you just need to know a bit more than everyone else on a particular topic to call yourself a guru. And these days it’s super easy to master a field. Actually, Tim shares a simple process that will help you become the expert you’ve always dreamed of:

  1. Join some sort of organization. The fancier the name, the better;
  2. Read the best-selling books on the topic you want to master;
  3. Visit seminars to see how it’s done and later host your own seminar;
  4. Write articles for famous websites;
  5. Create your own websites and share as you learn;

That’s it. You’re now officially an expert. See you soon on CNN.

Lesson #4: Create a Process-Driven Instead of Founder-Driven Business

Most entrepreneurs don’t start out with automation as a goal. This leaves them open to mass confusion in a world where each business guru contradicts the next.” Tim Ferris

I bet you can cook a better burger than what’s offered at McDonald’s, we all can. Still, it’s nearly impossible to compete with them. And do you know why? Because McDonald’s is more than cheeseburgers, fries and smiling staff, there’s a lot of automation happening in the background. A lot of systems and organizational hacks are in place that we’re not aware of. And such type of processes are behind every large organization. That’s how they can keep advancing.

The goal of every large corporation, besides growing, is automating things. Doing better work with fewer resources. And that should be your aim when you’re starting your own business.

To create a system that bothers you as little as possible. In essence, to design a self-correcting business architecture that runs itself. Of course, the question here is how?

In short, to start with the end in mind. To create a workflow that requires as little attention as possible on your end. Think in terms of creating a website that takes the orders and sends the information to a warehouse that handles the shipping. Thankfully, there are a lot of tools these days that will assist with the mundane tasks and leave you with more free time to do other things.

Lesson #5: Fill The Other 4 Hours With The Things You’ve Always Wanted To Do

Say you’ve done it. You have your own business running and you’re now working only 4 hours a day – or a week if you’re really lucky. Ok, but now what?

A lot of people get really depressed when they have too much idle time. And though this book is all about cutting your working day in half, it’s also to show you that there is life beyond work.

People dream about early retirements but they rarely think about what will happen when they no longer have to work. That’s why questions like, “What the hell should I do with my life?” haunt them.

Yes, going to the office and sitting in meetings that accomplish nothing is quite boring but it’s probably the best way to interact with other people. Actually, that’s the main reason people stay in jobs that pay nothing – because of the people working there.

But say you’ve done it, you’re on your own now. What should you do?

According to the author, you should do the following: “I believe that life exists to be enjoyed and that the most important thing is to feel good about yourself.” I know, it doesn’t really answer the question. Fortunately, he later adds two things you can do to fill the void:

  • Continue learning: Knowledge in the world is infinite. You can spend a lifetime behind books and still don’t know a lot of things about a lot of things. But if you focus on a particular subject, you’ll most probably master it.
  • Serve others: Do something that will improve other people’s lives. A good life is a life where you help others. That’s why most ultra-rich people donate millions of dollars to charity organizations. They want to give back.

If you don’t like the above two and you have a lot of time to spare, just focus on you. Yes, it might sound selfish, but hell, we have one life to live, why not spend it the way you like.

Love taking notes? Download the worksheet:

Actionable Notes:

  • Create a not-to-do list: Being more productive and achieving more doesn’t happen by adding extra things on your to-do list, it’s actually the opposite. It’s done by eliminating the non-essential so you can have enough time for what’s truly important. So, create a not-to-do list. A list of things you should avoid doing at all costs.
  • Act differently: If you don’t like your current lifestyle look at what you’re currently doing and ask yourself, “What would happen if I did the opposite of what I’m doing right now? What will happen if I continue on this new track for 5, 10, or 20 years?”
  • One sentence presentation: When advertising a product, you should come up with one, only one, really good sentence that holds all the main benefits of what you have to offer. Avoid long texts when trying to grab someone’s attention, be straight to the point. Follow this rule from the book: “The main benefit of your product should be explainable in one sentence or phrase. How is it different and why should I buy it?”
  • Define your nightmare: You’re too afraid to start your own gig? Define the absolute worst that could happen if you did what you’re considering. List all of your fears. This will help plan for the worst and boost your confidence, thus motivate you to actually start.
  • What excites you? Contrary to what most gurus are saying, Tim says that you shouldn’t ask yourself, “What do I want?” or “What are my goals?” Rather, you should focus on answering the following question: “What would excite me?” You’ll be truly happy only if you do things that excite you.

Commentary And My Personal Takeaway

The 4-Hour Workweek is considered as THE book about escaping the 9 to 5 job and retiring early. And though a lot of people troll Tim and say he’s a douche, you’ll find quite a few good practical tips inside the book.

But don’t get me wrong, the information inside isn’t new. It revolves around figuring out what you want to do and starting a business about this – like any other business book. Still, there are a lot of great questions asked in The 4-Hour Workweek that will prompt you to think critically and eliminate the fluff that is only wasting your time.

The most notable question in the book for me is the following: “What would excite me?” If you figure out what stimulates you, you’ll be able to set clear goals and eventually live a happy life.

Notable Quotes:

It is more profitable to be a big fish in a small pond than a small undefined fish in a big pond.” Tim Ferriss

What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” Tim Ferriss

Our goal isn’t to create a business that is as large as possible, but rather a business that bothers us as little as possible. The architecture has to place us out of the information flow instead of putting us at the top of it.” Tim Ferriss

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