Four Hour Work Week

The purpose of The Four Hour Work Week is to serve as a guide for reinventing yourself, or becoming a member of the New Rich. Using the acronym DEAL, the author takes you through a series of steps, which are summarized below.

Step I: D is for Definition

Cautions and Comparisons

The Four Hour Work Week begins with a story explaining the difference between the New Rich (NR) and the Deferrers (D). The author, Timothy Ferriss, explains that the New Rich tend to have options, or mini-retirements, while the Deferrers tend to save all of their money for the end. He states, “the new rich can be separated from the crowd based on their goals, which reflect very distinct priorities and life philosophies” (Ferriss 30). Ferriss then lists important differences in the New Rich and the Deferrers. For example, Deferrers work for themselves; while the New Rich have others work for them. This chapter also points out that power comes with the ability to choose using the freedom multiplier, which says, “money is multiplied in practical value depending on the number of W’s you control in your life: what you do, when you do it, where you do it, and with whom you do it” (Ferriss 33). The chapter concludes with the notion that taking control of your life can allow you to become more efficient while spending less time.


Rules That Change the Rules

The first chapter stated that we must replace existing assumptions. This chapter follows by analyzing those assumptions. By testing existing rules, new rules may transpire. However, this does not mean that you have to be different to make a statement. Ferriss says, “different is [only] better when it is more effective or more fun” (Ferriss 39). Ferriss then describes ten differentiators of the new rich which are as follows:

1.     Retirement is worst-case-scenario insurance

2.     Interest and energy are cyclical

3.     Less is not laziness

4.     The timing is never right

5.     Ask for forgiveness, not permission

6.     Emphasize strengths, don’t fix weaknesses

7.     Things in excess become their opposite

8.     Money alone is not the solution

9.     Relative income is more important than absolute income

10.  Distress is bad, eustress is good


Dodging Bullets

Quitting your job and chasing after your dreams can be scary, but you will never conquer your fears if you do not try. Ferriss states, “most people will choose unhappiness over uncertainty” (Ferriss 49). This chapter illustrates how Ferriss defined his fears over time. After starting his own business, Ferriss later discovered the difficulty associated with selling his business. He decided to go on a yearlong sabbatical after defining his fears related to leaving his business in the hands of others. When describing fear, Ferriss says, “most intelligent people in the world dress it up as something else: optimistic denial” (Ferriss 51). As described in the chapter, things do not improve by themselves; therefore, you should face your fears and take the leap of faith.


System Reset

Ferriss begins this chapter by describing a challenge presented to students at Princeton University upon completion of his lecture to the class in 2005. The challenge was to contact three hard-to-reach people and get one of them to reply. No one was able to complete the challenge, explaining that it was too difficult and other students would outperform. It is hard to believe that “ninety percent of people in the world are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre” (Ferriss 56). Moreover, Ferriss explains that there is less competition for bigger goals, as the majority of people tend to compete for more realistic goals. He points out that realistic goals are more time consuming and do not give the adrenaline rush that is found with unrealistic goals. Therefore, when chasing after goals, Ferriss says we should ask the question, “What would excite me?” He then goes on to explain the fat man in the BMW, which is a term he uses to describe people who work long hours and chase after realistic goals in life. In order to get on the right course, you must set unrealistic goals with identifiable steps, or dreamline. It is not impossible to reach these goals. Ferriss states, “the most important actions are never comfortable” (Ferriss 68). The ability to make it through uncomfortable challenges is a key element towards reaching your goals or getting what you want.


Step II: E is for Elimination

The End of Time Management

Most employees work nine to five because that is the social norm, not because they need to be working eight hours a day. People have different ways of expanding their workday to fill in those eight hours in order to feel productive. The key difference is between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is the ability to do things in the shortest amount of time possible, whereas, effectiveness is rooted in making progress towards your goals. The key point ending time management is the realization of the 80/20 rule. This states that 80% of productivity or results come from 20% of workers or processes. The notion is to eliminate everything that is not part of the productive 20%, which means that you will be spending all of your time and energy on the things that are yielding the highest results. Over time you will be able to profile activities that are in keeping with that top 20%, and only include them if they match. This theory shows itself in both the professional and personal arena. For example, 80% of your sales can come from your largest clients, or you may get 80% of enjoyment and encouragement while spending time with 20% of your friends. The key aspect of this theory to remember is that 80% of people, activities, and clients are dragging you down by wasting your time. Ferriss closes this concept by stating, “focus on the important few and ignore the rest” (Ferriss 76).


The Low-Information Diet

Eliminating irrelevance is the name of the game. We waste so much time gathering useless information that we do not need. The idea is to eliminate filling time with learning things we do not need to know or will not use in the immediate future.  To make this idea completely relevant, put yourself on an information fast from media sources for a week. Instead of spending your time engorging on media news and information, talk to people. This will prove to be an improvement towards the use of your time. If anything is happening in the news, it will most likely come out in the conversations you have with others. Another point of the low information diet is to only intake valuable information, as the quality of information is extremely important. It is much more effective to get information from first hand sources than second hand sources. You will increase both efficiency and effectiveness by talking to the source. Low information intake means that you are actively searching for exactly what you need, which is more efficient than taking in large amounts of information and hoping that what you are looking for is included. Entrepreneurs benefit from the low information diet because it both frees up time and continues to allow them to focus on more important, relevant, and effective aspects of their day.


Interrupting Interruption and the Art of Refusal

As described by Ferriss, “interruption is anything that prevents the start-to-finish completion of a critical task” (Ferriss 95). There are three categories of interruptions, which include time wasters, time consumers, and empowerment failures. Time wasters are anything that can be ignored with no detriment. They include email forwards, useless meetings, as well as web surfing and chat. Time consumers are repetitive tasks that have to be completed, but are a nuisance. Examples of time consumers include responding to emails and phone calls, as well as filling out paperwork or reports. The third common interruption is empowerment failure, or the need for approval to make something small and insignificant happen. There are a few key steps in minimizing the amount of time wasted by interruptions. First, eliminate unimportant time wasters. You should only be participating in activities that are contributory towards your goals. Step two is to consolidate repetitive tasks. There is no reason to check your email multiple times a day, as most people can wait. Checking your email twice daily will allow you to free up more unobstructed time and stay at high performance for an extended period of time. It is also important to implement this batching approach to other repetitive tasks. Each time you start a task and later change to an unrelated task, there is a certain amount of start and stop time. By grouping similar activities together, you can minimize this time, freeing up more time for critical activities. An example of batching is buying all your Christmas gifts while you are already out to avoid multiple trips. This is the same start up time you would be saving on filling out paperwork by using the batching technique. Lastly, it is important to limit empowerment failure. Empowerment failure can be very simply avoided by eliminating unnecessary bureaucracy, getting in the way of other’s jobs. It has been shown that giving your employees responsibility increases their IQ and allows them to think for themselves, which will save you time and annoyance.

Step III: A is for Automation

Outsourcing Life

It is very important for the New Rich, or those seeking to be New Rich to understand the importance of outsourcing. There are many organizations of VAs or virtual assistants. These VAs can be applied many businesses and are capable of nearly anything. The one constraint is that VAs cannot do anything that requires them to be physically present in a face to face situation. In today’s business environment and the shift towards online social networking, this exclusion applies only to a handful of assignments that could not be managed by a VA. Moving towards a VA is a learning process. It is important to learn from former bosses and apply those lessons to your current role as a leader. It is also essential to maximize the VAs usefulness to you and your business. VAs are a powerful tool that can be adapted to fit or fix nearly any situation. They are cost efficient and very dedicated to you, as most are paid on a performance basis. VAs can be used just as you would use a personal assistant without the hassle of them being outside your office. Perhaps the best part is that VAs work during different hours of the day; therefore, you can be productive around the clock.

Income Autopilot I

The emphasis of this chapter is on maximizing wealth with minimal effort. Whether that be reselling an existing product, licensing, or even creating a new product, the ultimate purpose is to make easy money. The book gives several helpful steps for developing the framework of this philosophy. Step one states that one must pick an affordably reachable niche market. This means that your first thoughts should be on the market itself, and the book highly recommends staying within markets that you are affiliated with. An example described in the chapter was a woman who designed a baby stroller and saw it fail before her eyes. The woman had no children of her own; thus, she was not familiar with the market and what new mothers were looking for in baby strollers. First, look at yourself and realize what niche markets you belong to, and then go from there.  The second step is to brainstorm (do not invest in) products. This simply means that before you even consider developing a product you must look at the target market you have selected and find what they need, not what you think they want. The book states that it is much easier to find something that is desired by the customer rather than trying to sell them something you think is a good product. Two other key factors that were apparent in this chapter are to not be afraid to sell at a premium price, and that the most valuable thing to sell is information. Some people seem to shy away from premium pricing, but when it is broken down, it can benefit in many ways, none more important than the battle against imitators. If you sell your product at a premium, it makes it much harder for imitators to encroach on your profit. According to the Ferriss, information is the most valuable thing you can sell. People will always need information, and once it is created, it can be sold for minimal overhead in most cases. If you are an expert in weight training, develop an informational product that relates to that. If you are not an expert, find someone who is and learn it yourself; it’s as easy as that.

Income Autopilot II

As a continuation of the previous chapter, the book refers to the third step of development as micro-testing your products. This is a vital step in determining if the product will be a success, and through certain resources it is easier than you would think. With the growth in online business, it has become a much easier process to test your potential market, without physically having any product. The book gives an example of Sherwood who is ordering French sailing shirts from the manufacturer for resale in the United States. A creative (and cheap) way that he chose to test the success of this product was to offer it in a 72 hour eBay auction. Though he did not physically have any product, it was relevant to see how many people made it as far as the purchase page to get a more accurate read of demand. Though it might be somewhat misleading to the customer who is informed at the purchase page that there is a “back order” on the shirts, it is vital to see who would actually buy it. The book emphasizes the importance in testing what the customer will buy, not what they like. Based on these numbers, Sherwood could determine if it would be profitable before purchasing a single shirt. At the end of the 72 hours, you can do the cost revenue analysis to see what you could have made. Fortunately, the sailing shirts saw 14 customers who made it to the purchase page, which did not make a substantial profit, but a profit none the less. Sherwood ordered a dozen shirts at first and sold them in the first five days, then ordered two dozen shirts which he sold in 12 days. The orders have been progressively larger with a keen eye on demand to make sure he does not overshoot his target. Having been able to do all this in his spare time, Sherwood is now considering leaving his full time job if the profits keep rising. The main point of this chapter is that testing is extremely important, and contrary to what most people think there are effective ways to go about it without spending a fortune.

Income Autopilot III

This chapter emphasizes the importance of a remote-control CEO, starting with the end in mind. The book gives an example of a man who owns his own company that has grown 30% every year since his opening. The incredible thing is that he only spends one day a week doing actual business. So the question presents itself, how do you become a remote-control CEO? And the answer is developing architecture of your business with automation as the main goal. Obviously, in the start-up phase of a company it is very common to see the founder acting as the jack of all trades, involved in every facet of the business. Yet, once you start to see steady profit there has to be a shift in responsibility or you will find yourself with too much on your plate. It is only then that you can eliminate the daily/hourly problems and questions that are presented to you. An example is giving your employees decision power up to a certain dollar amount. If the problem exceeds that then they can contact you for advice, and as they prove themselves to be a decision maker you can gradually raise the dollar amount. Giving out higher decision power will eliminate the constant phone calls and emails, and at the same time free you up to spend time on more important aspects of the business such as financials. The main point of this is to take you out of the day to day operation while still maintaining a vital role in the company.

Step IV: L is for Liberation

Disappearing Act

This chapter refers to escaping the office. More specifically, how to take your nine to five job and do the same work independently. Sherwood offers a five step process as an example of how he was able to take his office job and do it from home. Step one is to increase investment, meaning you want the company to invest as much as possible in you so that the loss is greater if you quit. This can be accomplished by taking on larger responsibility, recommending extensive training seminars that are relevant to the business, etc. Step two is to provide increased output offset. In Sherwood’s case he called in sick for several days to prove to himself that he could be more productive from home. Any opportunity to test your productivity for yourself is vital and creates a stronger stance when approaching the boss. By documenting his productivity in those few days to bring back to work, Sherwood is much more prepared. Step three is to prepare the quantifiable business benefit. This is where you sit down and look at all cost and benefits, both tangible and intangible. In Sherwood’s case, he found that he was twice as productive from home as compared to the office. Step four is to propose a revocable trial period. This is where you will actually approach the boss with your idea of a “trail” run to work from home where you are sure and have viable proof that you can be substantially more productive and effective. Negotiation skills are vital in this step because you will have to articulate each and every benefit, as well as positively respond to the thoughts and concerns of your superior. It is important to emphasize that it will be a test trail that your boss can choose to veto at any time; just get your foot in the door. Lastly, step five is to expand remote time. Once you have documented your success from working at home, it is now a matter of convincing your superior to allow you more remote time. Again, negotiation is vital and it is imperative that you get all the boss’ concerns out in the open so you can assure him that he is making the right decision for the company. After this step, you will find yourself becoming more productive with less stress and more flexibility than you ever imagined.

Beyond Repair

Ferriss begins by stating, “some jobs are simply beyond repair” (Ferriss 213). This chapter discusses how to decide if this is the situation you are in and what the next step is. Ferriss states that getting fired is often a blessing in disguise for an employee. Some people would never leave a job they were unhappy in, so being forced to leave gives them the kick start they need to look for more successful opportunities. Ferriss examines the issue of pride as it relates to people leaving jobs. He notes that “being able to quit things that don’t work is integral to being a winner” (Ferriss 214). It is important to begin projects knowing the difference between worthwhile and wasteful and recognizing when you have reached the latter. Situations are fundamentally simple, but it is human emotions that add a degree of complexity to otherwise simple decisions and situations. People run into several fears as they are considering leaving their jobs.

  • Quitting is permanent: There is nothing saying that you could not start again with another company at a later date.
  • I won’t be able to pay the bills: Ideally you quit with another job lined up, but if this is not the case, there are always options, which include budgeting and making cutbacks.
  • Health insurance and retirement accounts disappear if I quit: These are not good reasons to stay at an unfulfilling job, as both of these can be continued with minimal effort.
  • It will ruin my resume: Future employers are more concerned with what you do in your down time then why you had down time to begin with. Do something incredible between jobs and it will actually help you in subsequent interviews.

Ferriss describes two types of mistakes many people make. The first is a mistake of ambition, and this is encouraged because it means you are trying and you simply did not have all of the facts. The next is the mistake of sloth. This mistake is when you simply do nothing, and it can propagate bad circumstances to bad lifestyles.


As stated by Ferriss, “there are fundamental changes I and most others put off until absence forces them” (Ferriss 221). This illustrates the importance of getting away from the workplace from time to time. Why leave simply for a vacation? Ferriss is adamant that people should take mini-retirements, a sort of extended vacation. He uses a quick parable to teach us that there is no point in working our entire lives so that we can relax and do what we can do right now.  Extended travel is no longer something only extremely successful people can do. Extended getaways are surprisingly affordable in certain foreign countries, making mini-retirements more feasible. Ferriss thinks that we should “take the usual 20-30 year retirement and redistribute it throughout life instead of saving it all for the end” (Ferriss 224). In order to do this, we would relocate to a foreign place for six months and then move on to either a different unknown place or home. This longer process allows us to experience the new cultures at a speed that lets it change us. To do this, we must leave behind all routines we are comfortable with and realize how tied down we are by the constant motion of our daily lives at home. It is time for us to slow down and get lost in the unknown. The most eye-opening part of this idea is that it makes sense financially. Ferriss uses Buenos Aires and Berlin to show a comparison of how many US dollars it takes to live comfortably, even a bit lavishly, in these countries and the numbers are mind blowing; for about $1500 one can experience a new lifestyle for a month. Many people express fears about travelling, especially with children. Often times though, this is just an excuse not to try the unknown. Considerable time is spent talking about decluttering your life before a mini-retirement. All of the material possessions you have managed to accrue over the years have become a burden that are weighing you down, and by purging yourself of these things you will find yourself happier and with a clearer mind. Ferriss lists many steps that should be taken before travel and advises us on what to bring with us, suggesting we bring the bare necessities and build an allowance into our budget to buy things once we arrive in our destination. We are also given a plethora of websites to aid us in our travels.


Filling the Void

Many people who are finally able to make the leap out of an unfulfilling job find themselves with so much down time that they are unsure what to do with themselves. Ferriss says, “this is normal among all high-performers who downshift after working hard for a long time” (Ferriss 252). People must make the mental shift from “time famine to time abundance” and appreciate it. People who find this new freedom are usually initially excited about it, but soon find themselves needing guidance. It is essential for these people to get away from the mindsets about success that drove them in previous years, and instead search for a new focus. In the quest for a new focus, many difficult questions will come up but Ferriss’ big take away from the book is this: “If you can’t define it or act upon it, forget it” (Ferriss 255). This will keep most philosophical distress out of your life. Ferriss suggests that two fundamental components of life after work are continual learning and service. Learning languages is of specific interest to Ferriss and he thinks it is one of the best things you can do to hone clear thinking. Service can mean different things to different people and to Ferriss it means “doing something that improves life besides your own” (Ferriss 258). He goes on to say that when it comes to service pick something you enjoy, do it your best, and don’t concern yourself with the butterfly effects of your actions. Here is a list of ideas Ferriss has for how to get started: revisit ground zero: do nothing, make an anonymous donation to a service organization, take a mini-retirement in combination with local volunteering, revisit and reset dreamlines, and test new part- or full-time vocations.

The Top 13 New Rich Mistakes

This chapter briefly outlines a few of the pitfalls that many people succumb: losing sight of dreams and falling into work for work’s sake, micromanaging and e-mailing to fill time, handling problems your outsourcers or co-workers can handle, helping outsourcers or co-workers with the same problem more than once, chasing customers when you have sufficient cash flow to finance your nonfinancial pursuits, answering e-mail that will not result in a sale or that can be answered by a FAQ or auto responder, working where you live, sleep, or should relax, striving for endless perfection rather than great, whether in your personal or professional life, blowing small problems out of proportion as an excuse to work, making non-time sensitive issues urgent in order to justify work, viewing one product as the end-all and be-all of your existence, and ignoring the social rewards of life. Finding yourself guilty of any of these is natural, but if you are able to resolve these problems, you will find yourself living a more fulfilling and productive life.


Ferriss, Timothy. The Four Hour Work Week. Expanded and Updated ed. United States: Crown

Publishers, 2007. 1-331. Print.



  • NR: New Rich, characterized by numbers
  • D: Deferrers, those who save it all for the end only to find that life has passed them by
  • VA: Virtual Assistant, usually based in a southeast Asian country such as India

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